ASAP has been offering accreditation to agents and operators – and buildings themselves – since 2014, to reassure a standard of safety, duty of care and quality across accommodation, and now has the majority of its members accredited.
James Foice, ASAP Chief Executive, outlines why the accreditation is critical for the serviced apartment and aparthotel sector, and how important this will be going forward.
Serviced apartments are a relatively unknown entity which is yet to be experienced by the majority of guests looking for overnight accommodation. It is our objective to change that by differentiating the risk the sharing platforms clearly bring so a guest can stay with confidence. We are striving to ensure a guest arrives at an apartment delighted with the product rather than being disappointed. For this to happen, we prioritise and promote the due diligence and duty of care responsibilities any accredited organisation complies with as part of the process.
At ASAP we absolutely believe that our Quality Accreditation Marques are a vital part of the industry.
The serviced apartment is a relatively new concept for the consumer, and is seen as an alternative form of accommodation, as something separate from hotels. In fact, rental apartments already make up more than half of all rooms available across the major OTAs, and the sector itself has been growing for over a decade.
But it is only fairly recently that it has started making inroads with both leisure and business travellers, partly on the back of the sharing economy.
But while there’s no denying that the homeshare platforms have done some work for us in promoting the idea of accommodation outside traditional hotels, introducing consumers to the convenience of catering for themselves and the freedom to relax without interruption from hotel staff, there’s still insecurity around the sharing economy.
Many people have used these platforms to find wonderful accommodation options in countries around the world, rented from charming and caring hosts. But just as the experience can be cost-effective and successful, there are no guarantees that the place you rent from a stranger on a third-party platform will be as good as it appears online, or that it’ll be safe, or hygienic – or in some cases, that it isn’t already rented out to three other parties at the same time! There really is no guarantee of safety or quality, and the consumer doesn’t always have the confidence that there’s someone they can call if they hit problems, other than their immediate host – who may be the problem in themselves.
Traditionally of course, the hotel sector has been built on a star rating system, and consumers have come to have a certain understanding and confidence in that. And those stars have had their place in assuring some standards. But in fact, the system has been comparatively unchanged since it was set up in the 1800s to advise motorists on suitable hostelries along their journeys. And although there’s a general belief that higher ratings imply a guarantee of standards and cleanliness and service, in fact it’s sometimes more about the number of chairs and coffee making facilities.
I spent many years myself as part of that ratings system, and know that as much as 30-40% of a final star rating is based on facilities – in the old days trouser presses, and nowadays the availability of 24-hour hot food service – that make up the ratings, far more than actual quality. There are currently many hundreds of checkpoints covered in the pursuit of a 5* rating! With no assurance that the customer will have an unforgettable experience – although of course many hotels provide superb service.
But while a star rating doesn’t necessarily guarantee everyone’s perfect stay, the system does at least indicate the facilities a consumer can expect. Our own accreditation for serviced apartments and aparthotels gives the consumer the confidence that they operator or agent has met our stringent quality assurance standards, which are examined from the consumer’s own point of view – based on an actual physical stay by our assessors, around quality of sleep, customer service and amenities, as well as other standards of health and safety and due diligence responsibilities.
Our member brands are real people, with customer service operators and are there to help. Not that we anticipate issues. But it’s vital to know that when you’re trying something new and possibly untested that there’s someone there to help if you do have questions.
We definitely don’t have star ratings. But we do intend to work towards all ASAP members operating under our accreditation marques as soon as possible – and we are working with members and newcomers to the sector to make this a reality.
Only when serviced apartments are seen as part of mainstream hospitality across the world, will we feel we are doing right by our members – for whom we are opening up the sector’s reputation with the consumer, and on whose behalf we are lobbying for recognition and equality.