Host for Business accommodation Or Tourism ?
I regularly get enquires from businesses or companies looking for accommodation for their staff who are visiting Belfast for work. Sometimes it’s a single person like a technician or manager coming to oversee a project or help in an office for a while. Think big multinationals like Citibank or BT. Sometimes it’s for teams of workmen or builders working on a local site. The prices I quote are always based on the standard of accommodation I offer to them.
Our short-term apartment rental is the highest quality, best located and best reviewed in Belfast city. It’s primarily aimed at the tourist market so we have built up a stock of properties that leisure visitors love. They are well decorated, close to tourist attractions, near supermarkets and shopping areas. On top of that, we provide the best customer service. All of this comes at a premium. Our average rate for a 2 bedroom holiday apartment is around £150 per night. This is for between 4 and 6 people sharing and at least 2 people have to share a (king-size) bed. Tourists accept this and there is never an issue as groups are generally families or friends
However, I was frequently encountering difficulties placing some of the corporate travellers in these properties. There are several reasons for this. The budget for corporate accommodation in Belfast is generally a lot lower than that of tourists. This is often due to the length of time they are in the city, and often because the accommodation costs seem to be an afterthought for the people who decide to send their staff to the city. A business of any size will not pay for a single technician to stay in an apartment that costs £150 per night for 6 weeks. Likewise teams of builders do not like to share beds. This is frequently their only caveat or ‘red line’ in the enquiry.
What Each Customer Expects From Their Accommodation
A general rule of thumb is that companies expect to pay between £25 and £35 per person per night. At £25 pppn, 6 people could stay in an apartment that costs £150 p/n. However, obviously each bed can’t be shared, which makes these apartments (with 3 beds) effectively only suitable for 3 people. £75 p/n is quite a drop in income!
Of course, I always offered a reduced rate per night for longer term bookings as it is certainly beneficial to have reduced cleaning and changeover costs and guaranteed occupancy but it is difficult to find the sweet spot. Is it better to secure a 30 night business accommodation booking at £75 p/n and know that £2,250 is in the bank and that the month is taken care of? Or should we continue to aim at the customers our properties are designed for and try and sell those nights at £150? Tourists come for shorter stays and because there are a lot of other properties available, chances are we probably won’t sell every night. Add on the extra laundry and cleaning costs that come with an increased number of shorter stays.
Belfast: Perfect For Both Business and Leisure accommodation
It is worth remembering that Belfast is a desirable city break destination: tourists do come here all year round even with a significant dip in numbers during the winter months. It’s much easier to reduce prices to accommodate corporate bookings in the winter, but during the rest of the year I found myself constantly turning away business because they couldn’t afford our properties. I knew I was missing out on lots of opportunities.
This year I decided to change that and brought several dedicated corporate accommodation properties online. These are specifically designed with the corporate traveller in mind. They have single beds so no-one has to share. The finish of the apartment is more neutral instead of our quirky, distinctive luxury apartments. Because corporate guests will often have a van or will take taxis to their office, the location does not have to be as central as the others. These visitors are often used to being on the road and are effectively living in the apartment. Therefore, they require much less input and customer service from us. All this means we can offer a massively reduced rate.
Since bringing these properties to the market I have been blown away with the uptake. They allow us to quote highly competitive rates and secure incredible corporate bookings in these properties while not sacrificing income in our luxury, tourist apartments. Of course, there is some cross over of guests. Some corporate guests do still want the luxury we offer in our other properties and some tourists are willing to stay a little further outside the city for a reduced rate. But we now have products aimed directly at specific customers instead of trying to make 1 product fit different groups.
It also allows us to offer options to our clients when they bring us properties to manage. If we are offered a property which might not tick all the boxes for a luxury tourist apartment then we might still be able to offer a service to the owner by aiming at the corporate market. Yes there is a drop in income, but the costs are greatly reduced and there is a significantly lower cost to get the property ready for guests.
The Belfast tourism industry continues to go from strength to strength and there will always be people coming here for a holiday to see what we have to offer. But it’s important not to forget or ignore the thousands of corporate visitors that come here more frequently and for longer periods of time.