Germany: Last week, leaders and delegates from the hospitality industry gathered in Berlin for International Hospitality Media’s annual Serviced Apartment Summit Recharge.
The two-day serviced apartment, apart-hotel, extended stay and short-term rental business event brought together 140 prestigious leaders and delegates aiming to make long-lasting connections and encouraging a way of thinking to challenge the business status quo.
The Recharge event included a day of touring serviced apartments around Berlin and taking part in an Escape Room experience before a day of quick-fire talks, debates and group exercises, hosted at Colonia Nova.
However, there was also a section specifically dedicated to talking about short-term rentals in a debate format. The debate, entitled “The end of alternative”, led with the motion, “Private accommodation is transforming global accommodation”, and was hosted by IHM CEO Piers Brown.
Proposing the motion at Recharge were Plum Guide head of internationalisation Will Smith and Christoph Kasper, CEO and founder of the Homelike. Meanwhile, VP of international development at Marriott International, Markus Lehnert, and managing director of Oakwood Asia Pacific, Dean Schreiber, opposed the motion.
On hotel standards at short-term rentals:
Will Smith, Plum Guide: People expect hotel-like quality and standards from short-term rentals. The private accommodation market is doing very well and rather than being just a second home, these are places that you can stay in for 46 weeks a year.
Christoph Kasper, the Homelike: Business travellers have to suit corporate needs. They would rather live in private accommodation than in a hotel but the supply side and operators are catching up so everyone is adapting. Rentals are starting to replicate hotels in terms of cancellations, bookings, check-ins and outs. Everything is to suit the needs of the guests and if you need to check out an hour before the reservation, it’s no problem.
Christoph Kasper: Guests will want specific accommodation and dates. They will look for it and they will find a way to look for it. Thanks to technology, it has enabled each player in the space to have a go at the wider, “big boys” market.
Markus Lehnert, Marriott International: Overall, guests want availability and no hassle. They just want a smooth booking process, which is the biggest challenge we’ve faced in the last five years, especially in a city like Berlin.
Dean Schreiber, Oakwood: The proliferation of regulations show that private accommodation is a growing trend but it will still have to be regulated. You just won’t be able to check in like you do with serviced apartments and therefore there is not the same duty of care when it comes to short-term rentals.
Markus Lehnert: Regulation will dampen this crazy growth and anarchy. There will be good things but eventually we will sail into calmer waters.
On diversification and disruption:
Markus Lehnert: There will be diversification but it is important that you have regard for a guest’s purpose of journey. A bad Airbnb choice can be a disaster and lead them to choose a hotel instead.
Christoph Kasper: To be successful, you must be consistent but also retain some element of inconsistencies to keep that sense of intrigue and a journey into the unknown. Ultimately, disruption is good as it will bring us further down the line.
The result of the Recharge debate saw the motion being opposed by two votes.
As well as the short-term rental debate, there were group discussions centring on “Socialising the Box”, to get people talking about how their experiences in the hospitality sector can benefit others while learning how best to cater to their guests.
The first discussion, led by Here to Stay TV’s Glenn Haussman and Dexter Moren’s Paul Wells, offered an opportunity to explore how alternative accommodation is changing our urban environment as we move away from working strictly in office spaces towards an approach that favours co-working and co-living.
Factory International’s Travis Todd spoke about how technology can be a facilitator for communication in a community and when discussed in groups, it was determined that the most vibrant communities arise from organic communication, when people connect over shared interests. As a result, this engenders a sense of belonging that can go some way towards creating a positive guest experience .
Meanwhile, Marc Jongerius of Zoku expanded on that point by explaining that authenticity which is not imposed is important in hospitality. As such, a community can be defined by integrating people with similar interests who share a common purpose, rather than a shared status.
With Recharge now over, entries for the “best short-term rental platform / operator” category at the annual Serviced Apartment Awards are still open until 31 January. The fourth edition of the awards night will celebrate the achievements of 16 award winners and shortlisted guests at a glittering ceremony at London’s Park Plaza Riverbank on 14 March.