Apartments, an untapped market

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NEW YORK -- Metro-Home, based here, markets apartments as an alternative to hotels for corporate or leisure travelers, and it pays agents 10% commission.

However, Linda Coughlin, founder, president and sole owner of the business, said she gets only about 10% of bookings from travel agents, down from 20% to 25% a few years ago, because she has not promoted aggressively to the trade for a long time.

She aims to turn that around, urging agents to keep the apartment option in mind when a client needs housing for an extended stay in New York. Besides, clients also can rent Metro-Home apartments for a few nights or only one night.

Based on her per-night rates, Coughlin estimated that the apartments produce, on average, a savings of 20% off the cost of traditional hotels.

Metro-Home also offers specials based on a three-night minimum, starting at $99 a night for a studio apartment; $189 for the Family Escape in a one-bedroom with pullout sofa in the living room; and $249 for the Luscious Lovers Escape in a one-bedroom; and $320 for a two-bedroom.

Metro-Home holds the lease on all the apartments it markets, mostly in rental buildings, although some are in condos. They are located on the Upper West Side, in Midtown, in Greenwich Village and in Soho.

The apartments, Coughlin said, are generally of two types. One is the A-plus category, in new buildings, more expensive, but they are very vanilla.

By contrast, Metro-Home has 55 units in prewar, art deco apartment houses, which have more character, more space -- and older bathrooms.

And there are a few quirky ones, Coughlin added, such as those in a former factory downtown, with big windows and circular staircases.

It is important, she said, to gauge client preferences for apartment type, though the more modern choices are often the preference of business travelers. Coughlin said about 60% of her business is corporate.

Among corporates, she added, about 80% are domestic travelers. However, because overseas travelers are more accustomed to staying in apartments and homes, she said, international guests account for about 60% of the leisure business.

Metro-Home frequently is asked to accommodate or coordinate accommodations for groups of travelers, such as the entire cast and crew for a Broadway show. Coughlin organized housing in March for the production crew of The Apprentice TV show.

Agents can view apartment choices at www.metro-home.com and use e-mail ([email protected]) or the telephone, (800) 987-1235, to book.

Agents need to identify themselves (generally with ARC or IATA numbers), and they have to invoice for their commissions; this can be done electronically, Coughlin said.

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to Nadine Godwin at [email protected].

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