Two Dark Horses Have Emerged In the Coming Competition Between Multi-family Apartments and Extended-

By William A. Brewer III Managing Partner, Bickel & Brewer | January 14, 2010

In One Corner: Extended-stay Hotels Are All Grown Up, Attracting the Business Traveler and Becoming Upscale Alternative Accommodations

Modest Beginnings

Extended-stay hotels have come a long way. In the eighties, these alternative economy accommodations catered to families and budget travelers in off-the-beaten-track locales. From the start, Extended-stay hotels became popular by providing travelers with a home-away-from-home experience. Amenities like kitchenettes and laundry facilities at discounted rates allowed travelers to save on food and other expenses during their extended stay. This feature, as well as increased quality and emerging upscale property offerings, have made Extended-stay hotels as popular as ever, even in a challenging economy. In fact, while amenities vary depending on the property, this rapidly growing segment of the lodging industry still shows no sign of slowing down.

Gaining Popularity and Attracting the Business Traveler

In 2007, nearly three-quarters of all hotel guests were away from home on business. Extended-stay hotels are attracting these business travelers, with Extended-stay hotel guests increasing rapidly, especially among mid-price and upscale properties in targeted markets with strong Extended-stay demand. Cities with a significant transient element account for the highest number of Extended-stay hotel rooms with Atlanta leading the U.S. Extended-stay market followed by Houston and Washington, D.C.

This guest segment sees a home-away-from-home experience as a welcome change to the standard business hotel. The increase in popularity has resulted in improvements in quality and amenities. Many budget hotel chains have entered the Extended-stay arena. Choice Hotels International, franchisors for name brands like Comfort Inn and Quality Inn, have opened Extended-stay properties. In addition, the more upscale element hotels, Westin's newly unveiled eco-conscious chain, are ensconced in the suburbs of several busy business hubs where demand for Extended-stay hotels have grown in recent years.

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Hotel Spa: Oasis Unplugged

The driving force in current hotel spa trends is the effort to manage unprecedented levels of stress experienced by their clients. Feeling increasingly overwhelmed by demanding careers and technology overload, people are craving places where they can go to momentarily escape the rigors of their daily lives. As a result, spas are positioning themselves as oases of unplugged human connection, where mindfulness and contemplation activities are becoming increasingly important. One leading hotel spa offers their clients the option to experience their treatments in total silence - no music, no talking, and no advice from the therapist - just pure unadulterated silence. Another leading hotel spa is working with a reputable medical clinic to develop a “digital detox” initiative, in which clients will be encouraged to unplug from their devices and engage in mindfulness activities to alleviate the stresses of excessive technology use. Similarly, other spas are counseling clients to resist allowing technology to monopolize their lives, and to engage in meditation and gratitude exercises in its place. The goal is to provide clients with a warm, inviting and tranquil sanctuary from the outside world, in addition to also providing genuine solutions for better sleep, proper nutrition, stress management and natural self-care. To accomplish this, some spas are incorporating a variety of new approaches - cryotherapy, Himalayan salt therapy and ayurveda treatments are becoming increasingly popular. Other spas are growing their own herbs and performing their treatments in lush outdoor gardens. Some spa therapists are being trained to assess a client's individual movement patterns to determine the most beneficial treatment specifically for them. The July issue of the Hotel Business Review will report on these trends and developments and examine how some hotel spas are integrating them into their operations.