WhyHotel - not just any old hotel

Pop up hotels in multi-family apartments is WhyHotel’s value proposition and it’s working for guests and developers. Pamela Whitby spoke with the company's CMO who is speaking at EyeforTravel next week

Walk around any major city at night and chances are you might notice newly built swanky apartment blocks standing gloomily in the darkness. Designed for generation rent, multi-family apartments are sold as an affordable form of housing where multiple units are contained in one or several buildings within a complex. However, while demand for these properties continues to grow, it can take anywhere from a year to 18 months to fill the units, and this isn’t great news for the property developers.

Enter US-based WhyHotel to fill a gap. WhyHotel CMO Miguel Oliveira, who is speaking at EyeforTravel North America next week, explains that during this “lease up phase” they transform approximately 100-150 units into a fully operational hotel. The units are furnished to exacting brand standards and fully staffed to check in guests and take care of their every need. At the end of this period, when the units are fully let, there is a wind down period, before WhyHotel clears out and closes down. The aim, he says, is minimal impact.

We are expanding rapidly and there is a lot of interest and demand

So far the group has opened five properties throughout Northern Virginia, the Washington DC Metropolitan area, Baltimore, Maryland and Seattle. Of those three have already closed, but within the next few months, six new properties will open and there will be 15 within the year.

“We are expanding rapidly and there is a lot of interest and demand,” Oliveira says. Right now the focus is on North America, but the group is open to expanding elsewhere in the future.

Putting the best foot forward

The target audience is segmented into leisure (20%), business and extended stays (50%) and groups and families (30%). Guests may stay from a night to a week to several weeks.

“The beauty and value we offer to our guests is driving our marketing and distribution strategy,” explains Oliveira.  

In each location, there is a dedicated sales force that builds relationships prior to hotels opening with companies based in the area. These can be everything from corporate housing organisations to relocation companies, who try to place individuals. The group is also connecting with corporate travel managers whose employees may regularly travel to the locations in question. Highly valued are the recommendations from business travellers to fellow employees who may visit the area in the future, as they help to build occupancy, and drive revenues.

“Our properties can offer so much more than a hotel room,” says Oliveira, something that is increasingly being acknowledged by travellers staying for extended periods, who value having amenities like a washing machine and cooker.

The secret of our marketing activities is ensuring that our properties are visible on our own channels and other digital channels

Distribution is across a range of channels including WhyHotel's own website and the usual suspects, the OTAs, and those selling alternative lodgings. Time is spent “putting the best foot forward,” to tell a clear story about why this not just any hotel. “The secret of our marketing activities is ensuring that our properties are visible on our own channels and other digital channels,” Oliveira explains.

Understanding the booking curve, so that people are reached in the right moment, and expanding the sales force at the right time has been another focus. Oliveira explains that it is important to have the right individuals with the right connections to create the right value proposition in the market. “We have that team ready, with boots on the ground for two to three months before we open, to show the collateral, and the pictures,” he explains.

Reviews are encouraged too, and typically guests have scored the properties 4.4 out of 5, which is “much higher than a typical hotel”.

Although one might think there is a risk that all that effort might be wasted, Oliveira says there is still plenty of scope for multi-family property growth in the regions the group is currently working. “We are building knowledge, experience and brand awareness and the idea is to expand on that make the next property even more successful,” he says.

Join us at the EyeforTravel North America 2019, Chicago, October 28 – 29, where leaders from world leading hotels, airlines, casinos and car rentals unite to win bookings, deliver personalized customer experiences and upsurge revenue

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