AB Apartment Barcelona transitions to medium-term stays

Barcelona: Property management company AB Apartment Barcelona, which manages touristic and long-term rental apartments, has said it expects to maintain an occupancy rate of between 45-90 per cent above the rest of the market in Barcelona until at least April 2021, having transitioned from short- to medium-term stays during the pandemic.

The renting of tourist apartments has been and continues to be one of the sectors that has been most heavily affected during the last few months due to Covid-19. However, many companies that manage tourist apartments have had to reinvent themselves to try to rent out as many apartments as possible during these months of uncertainty.

AB Apartment Barcelona, which was founded in 2006 and now operates more than 700 apartments in the city, has transitioned its business model since the beginning of the pandemic by renting many of its apartments with a tourist licence [one to 31 days] in the medium term [32 days – roughly three months], helping the company to achieve a higher occupancy rate and greater profitability for owners. With this strategy, the main objective of the agency has been not to depend solely on the rental demand of tourists coming to Barcelona.

David Aguilar, founder and CEO of AB Apartment Barcelona, said: “At the beginning of the pandemic we were clear that we should try by all means not to depend 100 per cent on international tourism. We saw a very clear opportunity in the transition from short to medium stays.

“The truth is that this measure was very well received by the owners and they have been very satisfied with the results. The fact that we managed more than 300 long-term rental apartments before the crisis, made this transition much easier and quicker for us,” he added.

According to the Catalan Federation of Tourist Apartments [Federatur], the turnover of Catalan tourist apartments is expected to fall by 85 per cent this year due to the coronavirus crisis. Despite this, AB Apartment Barcelona said it had continued working so that its future clients can reserve an apartment with total peace of mind.

The measures taken by the agency include making cancellation policies more flexible, new cleaning, safety and prevention protocols, and online check-in systems and self check-in, where customers can directly access the apartment with digital keys, without needing to be in contact with anyone.

Customer service manager Eva González said: “It is a relief to our clients who can directly access the apartment. Many have thanked us, as they have felt much safer during their stay.”

During these months, the agency has also been working to improve the experience of the customer. It has just launched a customer area from which their guests can manage their bookings, check-in online and access many other services, without the need to download an app.

Marketing manager Sandra Roig said: “We had been working on this project for a while and we are very happy with the end result. We wanted to personalise the experience of the customer during their stay with us, offering all our services from the same place.”

The agency obtained between 50-59 per cent occupancy in the tourist apartment market in Barcelona during July, August and September, some of the most critical months after the nationwide lockdown in Spain. At that time, data provided by AirDNA suggests the market average remained between 33-39 per cent occupancy.

Through its positioning in search engines such as Google, AB Apartment Barcelona’s direct bookings have exceeded 50 per cent in tourist rentals and 65 per cent in long-term rentals; factors which have been key to the high occupancy rate of the agency.
Aguilar said: “The fact of not depending so much on OTAs, severely affected by the Covid-19 crisis, and having so many direct bookings, has helped increase occupancy and profitability for our owners.”
According to data provided by Transparent, the future occupancy of AB Apartment Barcelona is predicted to be between 45-90 per cent above the rest of the market for tourist apartments in Barcelona for the next six months, until at least April 2021.

Aguilar said: “Since the pandemic started, we have not stopped working to ensure that our owners did not have to have their apartments vacant. The key is to stay ahead of the market trend and be prepared for any change.

“It has been a hard few months, but it has also enabled us to improve and come out stronger,” he added.