Spoiler Alert: Synergy thinks so! The three keys to a successful evolution within the alternative accommodation industry. 

By Henry J. Luebbert

In a recent CHPA seminar, I had the esteemed pleasure of speaking with four of corporate housing’s brightest minds. We discussed guest and buyer behavior, the intersection of hospitality and technology, and industry-wide standards. In my time with these brilliant people, I saw the spark of promise not only for Synergy as one of the world’s leading serviced accommodation providers but for an industry on the precipice of an evolution.

It is clear, as an industry, we must work together if we are to meet the evolving needs and demands of the business consumer. We must interlink our services, bring about modern-day ease of use to the guest experience, and the thing that gets me most excited, package it all with exceptional hospitality. 

The evolution of the industry is bright because our sector is embracing the importance of “duty of care,” guest health and safety, data and privacy security, and GDPR requirements.

“A look backwards at the lodging industry in America.”

So, what is it going to take to meet the changing needs of the mobile business consumer? Below, I share three major themes, leveraging the intellect and insights from my esteemed co-presenters, which I believe will help position our thinking, planning, and building towards a brighter future.

Now more than ever, the Supplier and Buyer must be agile in their approach to solving the needs of the guest.

We don’t know what we don’t know. And the guest doesn’t know what they don’t know. As one of our panelists Ms. Rina Montalvo, Director—Special Projects—Global Mobility, Immigration & Taxation for News Corp, shares when she was planning for a recent temporary housing stay, she didn’t know what would be best for her until her provider’s (Synergy) guest associates began inquiring into her location needs and her personal goals for the stay. Through this personalized collaboration, the representative recommended a location that met her needs and challenges.

“An assignee perspective.”

Often, we as suppliers and buyers look to the bottom line to guide our decisions. We can’t forget we are dealing with people, and people matter—hospitality matters. Mrs. Jennifer Breen, President, and Founder, Suite Home Corporate Housing, said it best, people may want to look at inventory via technology. However, once they decide, they want that familiar, knowledgeable human-to-human contact to support the rest of the guest-journey.

“People want familiar.”

This critical need for support is why it is imperative hospitality and technology worked in unison. When providers get this right, the guest has the necessary support, care, and information throughout the guest journey.  

Professionals in the industry with daily buyer contact who have a front-row seat to the business consumer’s changing needs—like Synergy’s Mr. Craig Partin, EVP of Sales & Marketing—know neither technology nor hospitality alone can solve the challenges facing our industry.

“Neither technology nor hospitality alone is the answer.”

This leads us nicely into my second theme.

The alternative accommodation space is exceptionally versatile and uniquely positioned to meet the various demographics and changing needs of the business consumer. 

Curation isn’t what it used to be. Gone are the days of simply setting up an apartment near a corporation’s address and calling it a day. Now, the consumer is accustomed to “choice” and “options” and a very personalized living space that caters to their needs. To answer this, I believe we must speak to various demographics instead of lumping the guest profile into one company category. Put simply; different generations have different requirements and preferences. We cannot forget to personalize our services to reflect those differences as we solve for tomorrow’s business consumer.

“Choice and options for personalized living.”

We must use the tools and services available to bring a deeply personal and tailored guest experience to the forefront.

“A total experience for the guest.”

One of the lessons we’ve learned from the pandemic is the power of using available technology to better connect with guests and establish a connection. This connection makes the guest experience personal and opens the door to let the bounty of hospitality do its magic.

“Silver linings.”

Pondering the versatility of our space brings about a surge of optimism and possibility for the future. But, the one thing we must get right, and must all agree on, are the standards of guest care, health, security, and privacy. Standards will unite the industry and bring about the required guest confidence and assurance.

This brings me to my third and final theme. If both the client and guest are looking to us, the providers, to establish a framework of trust, a platform, if you will—where confidence in product quality, care, security, and privacy exists—how can we as an industry deliver it across the board, globally?

Alternative accommodations are a part of the larger travel ecosystem. If we as an industry plan to evolve and grow market share, we must act in a complementary manner. 

How do we do that, you may ask? Standards and accreditation.

Industry-wide standards matter because they form the foundation for expectations, and expectations are how we build client (i.e., buyer) and guest confidence. As Mr. James Foice, CEO of the Association for Serviced Accommodation (ASAP), one of the earliest proponents of industry-wide standards, states, the type of standards that provide the necessary confidence for a guest to feel at “home” while in our care.  

“Ask ourselves, why do we feel safe at home?”

As James encouraged attendees to do in his presentation, if we put ourselves in the place of the guest, how do they know their accommodation is safe and secure? And if different providers are toting different duty of care plans, what does that say to the guest? A guest who wants to feel the same safety and security they feel at home in their temporary accommodation…

I will tell you how it feels. It feels disingenuous. It feels like the guest or client must take up the burden of safety and security because we as an industry aren’t united in our approach to the delivery duty of care.  

“it is never more important to provide the organizations with confidence.”

A united industry is why associations like ASAP and CHPA are crucial to our industry’s’ future evolution. If we are to evolve and bring our product and services to the next level, to meet the changing needs of the business consumer… well, I’ll let James say it because he does it best.

“Our duty…”

In closing, I’m invigorated by my co-presenter’s passion for the theme of our presentation, home. As our industry builds towards our future, I can’t think of a better target than the concept of home. If I take a moment to contemplate what “home” means, I’m filled with a sense of possibility, comfort, security, and opportunity.

“The great reset.”

If there is one group of partners capable of answering Mr. Partin’s call—delivering the physical and emotional side of “home”—it is the alternative accommodation space.