NASHVILLE -- Despite accounting for a relatively small slice
of the hospitality pie, the apartment-hotel sector, which aims to bridge the
gap between a traditional hotel and a short-term rental, is booming.
Alluding to a wave of recent entrants into the space,
including homesharing giant Airbnb, Eric Anderson, vice president of marketing
for apartment-hotel company Stay Alfred, said, "We're a little in awe of
how, in even just the last few months, this apartment-hotel segment has really
come on the radar. We definitely think there's room for more than one player in
the market, and we expect to see multiple winners."
Launched in Spokane, Wash., in 2011, Stay Alfred has emerged as one
of the apartment-hotel segment's better-established startups. With more than
2,000 units across 33 U.S. cities, the brand has agreements with residential
developers to either lease an entire building or a sizable portion of a
building, then convert that space into professionally managed private
accommodations that are compliant with short-term rental laws.
A third, smaller-scale option has Stay Alfred taking over as
few as six units in a complex.
According to Anderson, however, the partial-building model
is the one that has proven particularly appealing for developers, guests and
residents alike. He cited the success of the company's Stay Alfred at 505
complex, which operates 140 units on 10 floors of a 45-floor luxury residential
building in downtown Nashville. Opened in 2017, it has the company's largest
footprint within a single building.
One-bedroom units at the Stay Alfred at 505 average about
$225 per night, excluding fees, for June.
"Stay Alfred at 505 is an example of a location where
we're operating at enough scale that it's efficient for us to have the full
staff there 24/7, a front desk and a separate lobby to make things easier for
residents," Anderson said. "Rather than surreptitiously sneaking into
a building, we've made it a priority to have good relationships with residents.
We introduce ourselves, answer questions about safety and start a dialogue."
The units at Stay Alfred at 505 feature full kitchens. Photo Credit: Christina Jelski
The company also offers residents perks such as a "green
ticket," which gives them a 15% discount at any Stay Alfred.
Indeed, a general sense of goodwill between guests and
residents was apparent during my own recent two nights at the Stay Alfred at
505. Residents were friendly, engaging in polite small talk on elevator rides,
and despite Nashville's reputation for being a party town, guests were
remarkably well behaved.
On one evening during my visit, a small concert was held on
the building's pool deck, offering both guests and residents a chance to mingle
over cocktails, hors d'oeuvres and live music.
Communal events aside, I credit much of the peaceful
cohabitation to the sheer number of on-site building staff readily available.
Throughout my visit, the front desk and valet area were always staffed, and
employees could frequently be spotted throughout the common areas, making sure
shared space was spotless and pool rules were strictly followed.
When Yelp reviews proved overwhelming, Stay Alfred staff
pointed me to a respectable barbecue joint, and when I briefly locked myself
out of my room, a lobby attendee was quick to come to my rescue.
A flyer slipped under my door even informed me that Stay
Alfred staff could collect and store my bags upon checkout. In fact, the only
discernible staffing difference between the Stay Alfred at 505 and a
traditional hotel was the lack of daily housekeeping.
Of course, what Stay Alfred touts as its primary
differentiator is its apartment-style accommodations. I stayed in a one-bedroom
unit equipped with everything you'd expect to find in a well-managed, short-term
vacation rental: a full kitchen with basic cookware, dishes and utensils; a
dining table seating four; a separate living area with a television; a
coffeemaker; and an in-unit washer and dryer.
The split between hotel and short-term rental appears to
have struck a chord. Anderson estimated that some 31% of Stay Alfred's guests
have booked with the brand more than once, a high return-guest rate, while over
the past year, the share of direct online bookings grew from 20% to 35%,
suggesting growing brand awareness.
"Our goal, really, is to add no more than six more
markets in this calendar year," Anderson said. "In the long run, we
see ourselves adding no more than 15 to 20 more markets domestically, and then,
for reasons of operational efficiency, it makes sense for us just to grow
within that footprint."
The pool deck at the complex, which also offers a tennis court, pickleball court, putting green and dog run. Photo Credit: Christina Jelski
He added that the company is also focusing on building its
corporate travel business and is open to working with travel advisors. Stay
Alfred already lists units on OTAs as well as on Airbnb, HomeAway and
And Anderson said Stay Alfred isn't ruling out overseas
contemplating Prague as our first point of entry," he said. "In
general, our strategy in Europe will be to focus on great destinations that are
a little bit secondary. So rather than go into Berlin first, we'd probably go
to Dresden. Cities where there's a lot of opportunity, but it might not be as
difficult from a regulatory standpoint."
Correction: Stay Alfred launched in Spokane, Wash.