Irish player disrupting the traditional hotel sector

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Irish player disrupting the traditional hotel sector


Sean Farmer, CEO and president of accommodation-finder BridgeStreet
Sean Farmer, CEO and president of accommodation-finder BridgeStreet

The old model of the business-focused hotel dominating the lodging sector is changing as the job-for-life model heads for the scrap heap along with pension plans and nine-to-five days.

Sean Farmer, CEO and president of global apartments-finder BridgeStreet Global Hospitality, knows better than most about how the sector has shifted in recent years.

With a career at the highest levels of the hotel industry – he led teams at the giant Wyndham Hotel Group and Interstate Hotels & Resorts – Washington DC-based Farmer says BridgeStreet is a “disruptor” in the sector. It’s not alone: the UK on its own is getting 9pc more accommodation stock this year from the major names in the sector.

Hailing from Galway, his company’s online platform matches clients to suitable suppliers, and is expanding globally, he says typically in business centres such as London, Sydney, and major US cities such as New York, Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

“We have over 140,000 properties on our platform for extended stays and will have 200,000-plus in the next six to 12 months,” he says. The key difference to hotels is that executives tend to book traditional rooms for stays of up to five days – beyond that, they look to an aparthotel lifestyle.

And it’s not just being fuelled by a younger workforce, with Farmer believing older workers are more open to non-traditional trips: “Look at Airbnb – one of the biggest users are baby boomers,” he said.

He feels BridgeStreet has an advantage in that the company can connect clients to the platform and have their policy requirements – price, facilities, etc – loaded into the system, typically within 30 minutes.

Farmer sees growth being fuelled by younger travellers due to the changing nature of work. “The average millennial will have 10 to 12 jobs in their lifetime and they’re looking for experiences,” he argues.

“Look at all the tech sector in Dublin and elsewhere – our experience of that and other high-value types of jobs is they’re looking for ‘what’s in it for me?'”

He believes that, typically, younger workers want frequent relocation, with around two years per city, then “they’re done and then on to the next life experience”. Cities like Dublin are in demand because of increasing light connections to other cities worldwide – “wherever there’s that connectivity”.

But he’s blunt about the accommodation situation here for executives looking for short stays or something longer: “Dublin? There’s just not enough there.”

Echoing the views of other rivals in the market, he said: “It’s more demand than supply in Dublin, and the supply that’s there doesn’t necessarily mean it’s built for our purpose.”

There’s a whole industry built around etiquette, and with growing export opportunities in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific, the craic of the Irish might just not cut it when doing business.

Expedia – the world’s largest online travel company – has just released a quick guide to doing business in 18 of the most-travelled countries in the world, with some fast tips to avoiding offence in the boardroom or when socialising in foreign cities.

Some of the oddities include that while timekeeping is vital in the likes of France, Japan and the United Arab Emirates, where it’s considered polite to arrive early or on time to someone’s home, in Mexico this is seen as rude.

And when it comes to waffling away with small talk at meetings, it’s a good thing in Turkey or the UK, but not so appreciated in Germany or the US. And if you’re constantly interrupted during presentations in the likes of Brazil, relax, it’s standard practice.

Hainan Airlines’ Ryan Zhang told this column last week that it’ll be looking at opportunities for expansion on its Dublin-Beijing route in due course – and already it’s looking like the carrier will be tinkering with the service, which only commenced on June 12.

For a short period – and perhaps a sign of things to come – it will switch from its current A330-330 to Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

The jetlag-busting modern Dreamliner will be in operation from July 1 to July 19 this year, before switching over to its older B787-8 aircraft from July 20 to October 27, 2018, airlineroute.com reported.

Apart from the more modern cabins, the Dreamliner has the advantage of legroom – 74 inches of pitch compared to the A330-300’s 64.

Sunday Indo Business

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