The disruptors: Fran Milsom and Mark Hudson of Air Agents
STRz talks to Fran Milsom and Mark Hudson, co-founders of disruptive London property management company Air Agents.
• Can you give us some career background and tell us about the formation of Air Agents?
MH: “Air Agents is a London-based Airbnb and short-lets management company, managing properties on behalf of corporate clients and individual owners. We founded the business in October 2015, starting out with a single unit in Islington.”
FM: “After years of travelling whilst working, me in PR and marketing, and Mark in finance, we decided to set up Air Agents. Our business is growing rapidly, we currently have 300 properties and this is set to grow to 1,500 by the end of the year.”
• What is the Aura Collection and what was the thinking behind its launch?
MH: “We were approached by the new owners to transform a tired block of serviced apartments into chic new accommodation. Using our designers, Breaad Interiors, we wanted to create a home-from-home with all the essentials needed for modern day living, as guest stay for as little as one day to three months.”
FM: “Customer service is the core of our business, we are there to check-in clients face-to-face and available to support them throughout their stay. As part of our offering, not only do we do the basics, but we provide guests with a tablet which gives them the opportunity to book taxis, restaurants and theatre tickets. Furthermore, we are just about to launch community events offering yoga and personal training for guests.”
• Are you looking to attract a predominantly business travel audience with your serviced apartment properties such as the former City Marque units in Kensington?
FM: “Of course there will be business travellers because of its proximity to central London, but we have also had couples and families visit. It’s a 50/50 split at the moment.”
• And do you have any similar properties in the pipeline?
MH: “We will have more properties coming through via the Aura Collection, but this launch has created a lot of disruption in the sector and we are speaking to some big names in the property space who are looking to collaborate. We are currently in talks with investors, there is an appetite for community-led serviced apartments. So, the next few years will be exciting.”
• What do you think would make a building owner opt for your services above a traditional serviced apartment operator?
FM: “We’re a modern company who is focused on service which in turn leads to five-star reviews, increased yields and higher occupancy. Unlike other Airbnb management operators, we meet all of our guests and give them great local info, we have a 24/7 team who are there to answer any queries and if there are any maintenance issues arise we aim to get them fixed within an hour (unless it’s major work obviously). Our high touch service means we are always in the buildings, looking after them, as well as driving yield through positive reviews.”
• What was it about your company that led Airbnb to name you as one of the first three UK members of its professional host programme, and what were Airbnb’s criteria when choosing?
FM: “We were named the world’s first professional co-host which we are incredibly proud of. We achieved this accolade as Airbnb recognise the high level of service we offer to our guests and the number of five-star reviews we have are testament to this. Airbnb want to support property managers who are driving great experiences for guests, but who are also able to grow at a fast pace. There is a strict criteria, including, abiding by local regulation, a high level of five-star reviews and growth by a minimum number of units every quarter.
• What are your three and five-year plans for Air Agents?
MH: “The next three years we expect to see 10X growth year-on-year, and in the immediate future we expect another round of investment, with a clear pipeline ahead. We have a number of game changing collaborations too, working with serviced apartment providers, PRS developers and big London landlords.”
FM: “We will also be tripling our staff count, including executive management. And this year, will also have a pop-up shop and we will be releasing onboarding technology which will transform the speed of service, especially for our corporate clients.”