Sunday 19 November 2017

Apartments chain aims to mix business and pleasure in Dublin

IAG CEO Willie Walsh, who oversees low-cost carrier. Photo: Bloomberg
IAG CEO Willie Walsh, who oversees low-cost carrier. Photo: Bloomberg
Mark Evans

Mark Evans

The blurring of business and leisure - dubbed bleisure - has seen a rise in corporate travellers staying on for an extra day or two in a destination city and enjoying it as a tourist when their work there is done.

Millennials are more likely to want to savour a city experience, with a subsequent shift in booking patterns.

While corporate travellers of old were content to stay in a chain hotel and get out when the job was done, their younger counterparts are looking to have their own short-stay apartment and experience city life as a local.

UK serviced-accommodation provider Saco is one of the chains aggressively expanding to meet this demand - and bought the former Zanzibar pub on Dublin's quays as part of this growth.

"In 2019, we open our first property in Dublin, the reason being it's such an under-supplied market," Ben Harper, commercial director of Saco, told the Sunday Independent.

"There's not enough serviced apartments to meet demand. We see Dublin as exactly the same as London - housing the Googles, Netflixes and Amazons of the world."

Harper sees massive potential in Dublin, its first outing outside the UK, where Saco will brand the Zanzibar apartments as Locke, its "lifestyle aparthotel" brand, coming on-stream at the same time as a new Locke in Amsterdam.

"Locke offers us access where the tech guys hang out. Our model appeals to customers who want direct access to leisure facilities and there's no length-of-stay restriction." He adds that Locke is "respectful of the local community", with clients being directed to local bars, restaurants and other amenity suppliers.

The purchase of Zanzibar raised eyebrows given the multimillion price tag, with others, including the Dalata Hotel group, not keen to splash the amount of cash rumoured. But Harper believes it's a good bet.

"Dublin's been at the top of our list for a long while - mainly due to the fact that it's a tech hub and the cost of real estate is right." With the buying power of Oaktree Capital Management's serviced apartment platform, CL Serviced Apartments, behind it, Harper says the company can buy quickly without waiting for funding.

■This column has a big issue with laptops being banned from airline cabins, but warmly welcomes the news that federal regulators in the United States are withdrawing a proposal to allow passengers to use their mobile phones at high altitude.

The 2013 proposal aimed to roll back a long-standing ban on the use of cellphones on planes over concerns that cellular signals could interfere with pilot radios.

Take it from me - the ban on phones has no basis in science, according to any aviation insiders I've ever met, and pilots who have told me over the years that the useless ban will go eventually.

The proposal would still have forced passengers to keep their phones turned off or on airplane mode during takeoff and landing, but they could have switched them on at cruising altitude.

But now Federal Communications (FCC) chief Ajit Pai has come out to call the plan "ill-conceived".

He added: "Taking it off the table permanently will be a victory for Americans across the country who, like me, value a moment of quiet at 30,000 feet."

Pilot unions and flight attendants support his stance, and - for now - the rest of us can enjoy a flight in peace without a Dom Joly-style fellow passenger roaring into their handset.

■The reported 15,000-plus sale of tickets on Norwegian's flights from Ireland to the US shows that there is a pent-up demand for low-cost flying across the pond.

Even more impressive is the news that IAG's new low-cost transatlantic carrier Level (its answer to Norwegian) has sold more than 100,000 tickets since its launch on St Patrick's Day.

IAG - parent group of British Airways, Aer Lingus and Iberia, among others - says the new brand got over 700,000 hits on its website, flylevel.com. IAG boss Willie Walsh called the sales rush "incredible".

For now, Level will be plying its trade from Barcelona to Los Angeles, Oakland, Buenos Aires and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

But watch this space - Level is more than likely to start offering services from Paris Orly and Rome's Fiumicino, which are well served by IAG's European low-cost carrier Vueling, which would serve as a feeder to the transatlantic services.

Sunday Indo Business

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