BACKGROUND Go Native claims to offer the “Largest network of serviced apartment operators in the UK, EMEA [Europe, the Middle East, Africa] and India”, with more than 13,300 units in the UK and another 11,000 in EMEA and India. Travellers can book accommodation directly through gonative.com with a range of providers, but it also manages 450 of its own serviced apartments across London for short- and long-term stays.
Since 2009, one particular highlight of booking through Go Native is the option of filtering properties that have been given an eco rating by the company. Each apartment operator is sent a questionnaire that asks them to state how they are reducing waste, conserving energy and building sustainably, and at the moment there are more than 300 eco-rated (not exclusively Go Native) properties in the portfolio.
In order to achieve the eco rating, a serviced accommodation operator or landlord must by able to answer “yes” to at least three of these questions…
- Does your apartment have recycling facilities within the building?
- Does your apartment prioritise the use of renewable energy sources?
- Has your apartment (in whole or part) undergone an external party review of it’s energy efficiency performance? (This may take the form of EPC certificates in the UK, or ISO 14001 or its equivalent, LEED certified, or the like)
- When your facility was constructed, was there a priority to use either mainly renewable materials or locally sourced construction products?
Go Native also provides a star rating system to give you a better idea of the kinds of standards and facilities you can expect from your apartment. For example, a one-star property “Must be fully furnished, have a fully equipped kitchen, maid service with a full change of towels and linen at least once per week, and be decorated to a basic standard”, while a five-star, “Must have a 24 hour concierge, daily maid service, room service, a restaurant, gardens or a roof deck, an MP3 plug-in facility and access to a swimming pool and/or health club. They must also be decorated to a very high modern standard”.
WHAT’S IT LIKE? I was staying at a Go Native-managed flat on Hosier Lane in the City of London – it had been eco rated and given four stars, so I was to expect it to be “Furnished to a very high standard – usually with wooden floorings throughout, maid service provided multiple times during the week, parking either on-site or very nearby, air conditioning, and access to either communal outdoor space or a private terrace or balcony. Concierge services, fitness centres and pool are often provided on-site”.
The property was smart, modern and secure, with a general 24-hour concierge for the block (not exclusively Go Native) on-hand on the ground floor. Guests gain access with an electronic key fob and then take the lift up to the apartments. Those people looking for long-term accommodation that they can make their own will like the fact that this feels very much like a private residence but there are drawbacks to this.
When guests arrive, they have to have arranged a certain time to meet a member of the Go Native team, who will then give them a set of keys, let them in and show them around the apartment. The same has to be set-up for check-out. But, personally, I found it inconvenient not to have a member of Go Native staff on-hand in reception at all times – the concierge didn’t know anything about my booking when I arrived and when there were problems I had to phone the Go Native office to get help, much like you would if you were renting a flat and had to get in touch with your landlord.
A good example of this was when, in the morning, I found the water was not working in the bathroom or the kitchen. I called the concierge and was told he was unable to help. As it was before office hours (7.30am), I called the Go Native emergency number that had been clearly provided in the operating manual left on the table in the apartment, but there was no answer, despite repeated attempts to get through. I tried fiddling with some of the buttons on the boiler panel in the cupboard by the front door in case it had been put on a timer but to no avail. After about an hour, just as I was about to get a taxi home to get a shower before going into work, the water came back on.
After I complained to Go Native and told them what happened, this was the explanation I was given: “The issue with the water was caused by the header tank (supplying the entire site) overflowing and the water had to be disconnected. The Go Native Operations team were on-site with the building manager while the water was off to ensure a resolution for our guests. Most guests were affected after 8.16am. This unfortunate incident was out of Go Native’s control but was managed closely and effectively.
“In terms of Go Native’s out-of-hours response team, the company had just (literally two days prior) installed new software, which diverts calls through a hunting group of on-call personnel. The reason for this was a managed move to iPhones, which give our personnel greater access to our online systems to aid guests with any issues. There was a 42-minute glitch that unfortunately coincided with the above issue.”
Although I am sure that this was an unfortunate one-off, it did highlight the pitfalls of staying in a property that is more like a regular apartment than a “serviced” apartment. That said, not all the accommodation in the Go Native portfolio is like this – in larger properties concierges will be available to help guests and check them in.
WHERE IS IT? In the City of London, down a small, quiet side street very close to Smithfield meat market (smithfieldmarket.com) and within five minutes’ walk from Farringdon, Barbican and St Paul’s tube stations. It’s great for business people working in the area during the week, but it is extremely quiet at the weekend. For a Four-Hour guide to the area, click here businesstraveller.com/city-guides/europe/london-clerkenwell
APARTMENT FACILITIES My one-bedroom apartment was on the sixth floor, and was contemporary in style with inoffensive (if somewhat bland) furnishings and décor (magnolia) throughout. The simple but clean bathroom had a combined bath and power shower, two sets of hand and bath towels, and a selection of toiletries and soap, while the compact bedroom had a double bed, a chest of drawers, two side tables with lamps, and a wardrobe.
The main room was an open-plan living room and kitchen with wooden floors – the lounge area had two sofas, a glass coffee table, a DVD player, small flatscreen TV, bookcase, and a portable air conditioning/heating unit, while the fully equipped kitchen had a circular glass dining table and four chairs, and all the amenities (including pots, pans, plates, bowls, cutlery and glasses) you would expect (Siemens fridge, cooker, dishwasher, washing machine and dryer etc). There was also washing-up liquid, bin bags and sponges to hand. No food or drink (bar a couple of bottle of mineral water) is provided unless pre-requested. There are a couple of supermarkets within five minutes’ walk.
Although the windows in the flat opened, the view was not very inspiring, looking down on to an inner courtyard below and adjacent buildings. There was no access from my apartment to a communal outdoor space or a private terrace or balcony, although ten of the other Hosier lane residences do have balconies. Broadband wifi and wired internet is available. As I was only staying a couple of nights I didn’t bother, making do with my iPhone for checking emails.
The operating manual states that should you wish to recycle, you should contact the guest services manager – surprising for an “eco rated” property, as I would have thought that bags for plastics/paper/tins etc would be provided as standard*. However, there was a print-out on the kitchen table dictating ten ways to reduce your environmental impact, with points including do not leave the TV on standby, keep the fridge full, take a shower instead of a both, make sure the dishwasher is full before you put it on, close your curtains to stop heat escaping and turn off the tap when brushing your teeth. These suggestions are all pretty obvious to most people so I would have been more interested in seeing a print-out about why my apartment has been eco rated.
Go Native has since told me: “The Hosier Lane Property is within the City of London Corporation jurisdiction. All City residents are provided with a clear sack recycling service for the collection of paper, cardboard, glass bottles and jars, tins and cans, and plastic bottles. Occasionally, we do run short on supplies and this may have been the case during your stay. You should not have to contact a guest service manager in order to make this happen – this was an oversight.”
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES None.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS None.
LEISURE FACILITIES None.
VERDICT A decent, affordable option for a business person looking for medium- to long-stay accommodation in the City. The downside for some might be the lack of on-site staff facilities in the way of restaurants, a gym and meeting rooms, but on the upside, you get a private apartment you can treat as your own home.
- HOW MANY APARTMENTS There are 124, the majority of which are studios.
- APARTMENT HIGHLIGHTS The central City of London location, the private “home from home” feel, and the well-equipped kitchen.
- PRICE Minimum stay is three nights. As a guide, rates for one to 14 days are £195 per night, whereas stays of more than 180 days work out as £180 per night.
- CONTACT Go Native, 10 Hosier Lane; tel +44 (0)845 601 2028; gonative.com