A friend of mine recently did something quite out of character.

I’ll call her Sam, in case she happens to see this although there’s nothing embarrassing in what I’m going to say, and she probably won’t see it as she has nothing whatsoever to do with the hospitality industry anyway.

But what she did, and especially something she said, made me think hard about our own Association.

Because Sam is not someone who books a lot of trips overseas. I know she went abroad a few times when she and her then-boyfriend were younger, maybe a few package holidays for a week or two somewhere hot with a beach and a pool. And I’m sure they had a good time.

But since they got married and started a family, their holidays have tended to be much closer to home. Usually in groups or with family, sharing cottages and the driving and the childminding – I think that sums up a lot of us!

And the few times they have packed up the baby accoutrements and buggies and favourite bunnies and crammed it all on a flight; everything was always arranged right down to the last meal out or the last theme park ticket by the travel agents on their local high street.

Nothing wrong with that, of course. But it made it more of a surprise when this week, Sam popped in and started telling me about this amazing trip they had booked – and they’d arranged everything themselves! Flights, transfers, accommodation (a serviced apartment, as it happens, although she didn’t know it was called that!), day trips, a few dinner reservations – all of it done themselves, online.

So I couldn’t help asking. From someone who admitted she was a bit inexperienced at travel, this was quite an undertaking. Well done! I said. It sounded amazing.

But what was it that has suddenly made her quite so confident in doing all the arranging herself?

And what she said made clear what we’ve been missing as an Association while we’ve been growing our membership, without having the time to explain clearly to the consumer what we’re about.

‘Everything will be fine,’ she said, serenely, ‘because they’re all ABTA’.

And that was it. Revelation! If someone who was as inexperienced in arranging her own travel as my good friend Sam could feel confident in doing something so out of character, just because she believes utterly in a trade body’s ability to sort out any problems, and give advice if anything did go wrong, we could do  the same for consumers booking a serviced apartment with one of our Members or anyone with ISAAP Accreditation – simply because ‘they’re all ASAP’.

We have set a five-year plan for the Association, some of it based purely around numbers – new Members, providers and operators being Accredited, business partners, articles in the media, chapters sited around the world – but outside that, around the value that we can offer to our sector.

  • Our Global Alliance of Serviced Accommodation (GASA) seeks to partner with other such bodies across sectors and regions, to become a truly powerful body.
  • We will be embarking on campaigns, initially for three months but potentially ongoing at least throughout this year, actively to raise profile for the serviced apartment and aparthotel sector with the consumer.
  • We will be conducting wide-ranging research and delivering impactful whitepapers outlining the results.
  • We will be promoting our sector as the accommodation of choice in creative and attention-catching ways.
  • We will be rattling the cages of traditional hospitality and the sharing economy, by becoming a positive but proactively disruptive proponent of alternative accommodations.
  • We will be launching our own new web presence and a new communication channel, disseminating engaging content on a daily and weekly basis to keep our subscribers aware of what we and the wider world are achieving and talking about.
  • We will define once-and-for-all the terminology and reason for existence of serviced apartments, so we can as a body bring all our messaging into line and gain power and credibility that way.

And ultimately, we want every consumer to enjoy not only the confidence in booking a serviced apartment, but also the excitement, simply because ‘it’s ASAP’.

Thanks, Sam! What a year this is going to be.

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