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Apart hotels have a part to play


Sydney Paulden experiences a Citadines property close to Trafalgar Square

I was introduced to Joanna Fisher at the Citadines Apart Hotel in Northumberland Avenue, Central London. Joanna took on the responsibility of Regional Director of Sales & Marketing for The Ascott Limited about six months ago. This is the company that is playing a leading role internationally in the establishment of Apart Hotels, properties that offer hotel rooms and suites with kitchenettes. The group now has properties in 70 gateway cities in 20 countries in Europe, Asia Pacific and the Gulf. Headquartered in France, Citadines has its largest concentration of Apart Hotels in Paris. There are half a dozen in London.

I’ve long been aware of Apart Hotels as a genre of accommodation, but I’ve never been convinced that they fit snugly into the MICE sector – and I said so to Joanna. It was a point of view that she obviously could not let pass unchallenged. She explained that there are many instances where an Apart Hotel is more suited to a guest’s needs than a conventional hotel. She also explained that costs can be kept lower and mentioned, for example, that the 187-apartment property in which we were having the conversation was at that very moment probably being run efficiently by a staff of no more than four or five. Linen was not changed unnecessarily. Except for a simple breakfast available in the hotel, f&b was self-catering or in one of the many restaurants close by. ‘Waste is reduced to a minimum’, she emphasised. ‘and people enjoy the freedom they gain from having heir own facilities’. Of course, this all led to the need for me to add the Citadines Prestige Trafalgar Square to the ranks of the properties that we have visited in our special series ‘ITCM Slept Here’. So, ITCM has now experienced a night in a Citadines and can speak from at least one personal experience of the genre. I still feel that a good quality Apart Hotel is not in the mainstream of conventional accommodation for corporate meetings and incentives. It is however very suited to particular types of guests and purposes. I have come across many people who have had to stay for lengthy periods in a city away from home and, surprising as it may seem, they can rapidly become tired of living in a hotel. In a quality hotel, guests feel required to keep up appearances, when they would dearly love to slob out on occasions. Meals also become something of an ordeal, especially for an unaccompanied female guest.

In those circumstances, one’s own kitchen is a blessing, so that you can eat more simply if you wish, or indulge in a surfeit of your favourite snacks, or simply eat whilst lounging around not fully dressed or whilst watching tv.

In the MICE sector people may be in that situation when away to prepare for a big event or an exhibition, for example.

The same benefits apply if someone is travelling with a family. Youngsters are much better in an environment when meals can be eaten at different times, more simply and away from the public gaze. And, of course, more cheaply.

Without being an expert on the Muslim religion, I can imagine that preparing and eating one’s own food in total privacy might be a major benefit, especially for women. That would also apply to other travellers with strict dietary requirements.

Privacy is a major factor in Apart Hotels, I would suggest, because for some reason guests in a normal hotel are frequently interrupted by staff with this or that service to perform, such as mini-bar inspection, evening turn-down and so on.

ITCM had a very large end-of-the-corridor apartment and I estimated it would otherwise have cost a small fortune to enjoy so much space in a 4-star location that was 50 steps away from Trafalgar Square, close to Charing Cross Station and a walk across Hungerford footbridge to Waterloo Station.

Was there a downside? Of course. The lobby area often had an affinity to a backpackers residence. People seemed to mill around, not least because this was one of the Ascott properties in London that has a free coffee machine on the ground floor. Very popular. It also meant that I had on several occasions to share a comparatively small lift with guests, adult and children, who were carrying supplies of hot coffee to their rooms.

The property has access to neighbouring meeting rooms and in close proximity there is a range of function spaces in other hotels and venues. It would be very convenient for delegates to be accommodated in the Citadines Trafalgar Square if they had a preference for an apartment or if they were being cautious with a budget in Central London.

The Ascott Limited is aiming at 40,000 apartments by 2015. They will suit many, but may not be right for others. But there is no doubt that if an Apart Hotel is your preferred choice in Central London, then the Citadines Prestige Trafalgar Square should feature very high on your shortlist.

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