As the holidays come to a close, a trend that caught on when Covid 19 caught up with Kenyans is the idea of doing vacations differently. Because of fear of catching the disease, restrictions of travel and lessened income, it became necessary for people who still wanted to have holidays to do them differently. People had staycations, the kind of vacation that is mostly local, without having to travel too far.
Airbnb, where regular people rent out their homes to travelers, continued to grow in popularity over hotels, as people continued to party indoors when bars and restaurants were closed. The hotel industry suffered heavy losses because even as restrictions were eased, it took time for people to start booking them again, as people had discovered other ways to have vacations.
While airbnbs got popular, there was one thing they lack that was missed – the service that comes with hotels. As a result, one concept began to rise in popularity, as it was the sweet spot between airbnbs and hotels – the concept of apartment hotels.
“An apartment hotel is a hotel that offers you basically all the same services that you would find in a normal hotel. The only difference is that instead of staying in a small, cramped room, you stay in a fully furnished, spacious apartment, but you still have all the services that you would find in a hotel,” says Eric Mbugua, head of marketing at The Spartan Group Hospitality (SPG). SPG manages The Curve by the Park, which is an apartment hotel.
In an Airbnb you live in a full apartment but with no service, and in a hotel you only have a room but with all hotel services, in an apartment hotel you get both.
“If you want to cook you have all the utensils, cutlery, cooking equipment – everything you need is provided, same as every other room, which has everything you would find in a home. Fully furnished means everything is there,” says Mbugua.
Since they are not just apartments but apartment hotels, you also get all hotel services such as housekeeping, front office (meaning there is someone to check you in and place your luggage in the room), concierge (someone in charge of making sure you have checked into your room and taking care of your luggage, arranging excursions in the area in which the hotel is located), restaurants where you can dine in.
You also have room service, which means if you don’t want to cook in your apartment’s kitchen you can order food in your apartment, you also have a bar, leisure facilities like pool, gym, steam sauna and probably massage services as well.
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Apartment hotels have also become popular with families because they are cheaper. “If you need three rooms for your family, you would have to book three separate rooms in a normal hotel, unlike booking one three-bedroomed apartment in an apartment hotel,” says Mbugua.
“It is also more cumbersome for you because if you are a family, you have to agree on what time you will meet outside your room. If you don’t manage to get three rooms that are adjoining you might even be on different floors depending on how occupied the hotel is at the time you are booking, whereas in an apartment hotel you will all be in the same apartment with bedrooms. Families find that cheaper and more convenient.”
To get this level of convenience in a normal hotel, where the place you’re staying is an actual fully furnished apartment and not just a room, you would usually have to book the presidential suite. The equivalent of a presidential suite in an apartment hotel would be, say, a penthouse where your apartment occupies the whole floor.
Some apartment hotels have duplexes and even triplexes. In a duplex, for instance, you would have two floors with stairs within the same apartment.
Another advantage that has made them rise in popularity is that in apartment hotels you are not governed by a schedule, unlike in regular hotels where mealtimes are at a certain time but you don’t have to rely on the hotel’s catering service as you can cook for yourself.
Just like Airbnb, apartment hotels witnessed an upsurge in bookings when Covid 19 restrictions were placed in Kenya and people could not travel much.
While they became popular for staycations, most apartment hotels also host long-term guests such as those staying six months, for the simple things that remind them of home like relaxing in their sitting room, fixing themselves a snack in their kitchen and other little things that you usually wouldn’t find in a regular hotel.