Travel Trend 2019: Aparthotels
Aparthotels are on the rise, bringing with them a new way to travel and an experience-filled approach to staying in a city as if you are a local.
What if there were a place as reliable as a hotel, but with the warmth and character of a home? In 2014, this question set San Francisco’s Francis Davidson and Lucas Pellan off to direct their company, Sonder, into procuring, designing and managing alternative hotels around the USA, London, Rome and Montreal.
Far from the sterility of copy-paste rooms and amenities, Sonder is about the experience of ‘living’ rather than ‘staying’ at a place, with each property situated in an authentic neighbourhood rather than a could-be-anywhere city street.
A bad Airbnb experience, in which Davidson and Pellan were unable to get hold of their host (and then found the home in a less-than-savoury condition) had originally pointed them to a gap in the market.
They needed to feel like they were living freely and socialising like locals, as with Airbnb, but also wanted the guaranteed service and quality standards – cleaning services, reception, dining options – that come with a hotel reservation. And so Sonder developed into just that: short-term design-focussed rentals in hip suburbs, with 24-hour access to a concierge.
The Rise and Rise Of Aparthotels
Other companies have followed suit, democratising the accommodation industry even further with ‘aparthotels’ offerings.
Says Neil Markovitz, MD of Newmark, the company managing both properties: ‘The format of aparthotels encourages guests to potentially spend more time in their suites or apartments. You feel like you are walking into a hotel, experiencing all the amenities that hotels have to offer, such as restaurants, gyms, spas and pools, but at the same time feeling like you’re in a space that provides the comforts of your day-to-day life.’
Each unit in one of these aparthotels comes complete with a full-on kitchen, a dining table and comfy sofas: the point is that you never feel too far from home, whether cooking for new friends, spread out on the couch bingeing on Netflix or stepping out to the neighbourhood supermarket before popping in for a drink at the building’s buzzing bar.
The Capital Hotels & Apartments, another local market player, has aparthotels properties in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban.
At The Capital On The Park in Sandton, visitors can enjoy happy hour on the pool deck, a dip in the Jacuzzi, free exercise classes and trying their hand on a virtual golf range. A grab-and-go-deli, and valet and porter services add doses of convenience, while the Champagne bar and weekend DJs bring the fun.
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Bigger hotel groups are, too, recognising this need for a more invigorating social vibe connected to the city in which their hotels operate. Radisson RED, opposite Cape Town’s Zeitz MOCAA, places guests near art, fashion and design locations, and its rooftop bar – a destination in its own right – is a buzzing place to meet locals.
Last month, the Hilton group announced that it will bring its first Canopy hotel to Africa in 2021. Canopy by Hilton Cape Town Longkloof, located in the Longkloof Studio precinct near the Company’s Garden, aims to bridge that gap between guests and the local community.
Gary Steffen, global head of Canopy by Hilton, says, ‘Canopy by Hilton was created to redefine the lifestyle hotel space for travellers who want an upscale hotel to help introduce them to desirable neighbourhoods around the world. Our Longkloof property will be no exception, capturing the dynamic vibe of the precinct and its reputation as a trendy hangout for Cape Town urbanites.’
Markovitz has the same take on Stock Exchange: ‘It speaks to the surroundings and has completely integrated Woodstock’s flavour in the guest experience.’ Stock Exchange’s interiors, designed by local design champion Tracy Lynch, reflect its suburb housing many of South Africa’s top designer-makers, and it offers a walking tour of the area, which includes a stopover at a craft brewery and viewing the hood’s famous street art. This makes for a very different stay to one in a traditional hotel, where lobbies resemble office reception areas and there is little to no entertainment.
Markovitz believes that purpose-built hotels – read: aparthotels – focussed on unique experiential offerings are the way forward. ‘Building up a guest’s history and information on specific likes and dislikes, and personalising their experience, I believe is the future,’ he says.
With this new approach to out-of-town ‘living’, it would appear that whether you’re into joining the local running club or prefer after-work drinks, your normal way of life can be integrated anywhere from Joburg to Rome. Home really is just an aparthotels booking away.