Ngor Houai Lee Ngor Houai Lee, Managing Director Europe, Ascott Group.

What lessons have you learned from the crisis for long-stay accommodation?

Ngor Houai Lee – During this difficult period for tourism, it is interesting to see that the hotel residence sector has proven to be much more resilient than the traditional hotel industry. For example, three quarters of our European establishments remained open, which is quite significant when you consider what happened globally. Similarly, from the second half of 2021, the recovery was strong and rapid. The activity of our luxury residences in Paris has even surprised us. Last May, we were still hesitant to open our three The Crest Collection properties during the summer, because of their dependence on international tourists. Finally, we believed in it and I have absolutely no regrets since these residences have outperformed our 3* and 4* establishments and received many Americans and clients from the Middle East. Because of the autonomy and comfort they offer, the residences are well suited to the hazards that may have arisen during this pandemic. In Asia, some have been used as quarantine or drop-off locations while waiting for test results.

Has the fifth wave, which is hopefully coming to an end, affected this recovery?

N. H. L. – The momentum is certainly a little lower than at the end of last year, but the trend is still good. We are reaching our budgets. We are no longer in the situation we were in previously, and we feel that there is no collapse in demand. In the UK, since the measures were lifted, our residences are doing very well. The Netherlands, Spain and Ireland are all reducing their restrictions. The climate will become more and more positive. Hopefully, of course, we won’t see any new problematic variants.

You mentioned resilience. Has this greater resilience to a major shock like the pandemic we went through changed the way we look at the supply of long-stay accommodation?

N. H. L. – In a way, the pandemic has pushed our segment into another dimension. We see this on the one hand through all the projects signed by our group, with Ascott recently announcing a new record with 15,000 new units expected worldwide, and on the other hand in our attractiveness to alternative clienteles who were able to discover us during the health crisis. But above all, it is the number of requests we are receiving from investors, their growing interest in our apartment-hotel brands. Before, out of 10 projects, only one was related to hotel residences. Today, that demand has risen to 3 or 4 out of 10 projects.

<img src=”” alt=”Citadines Sloterdijk Station in Amsterdam, one of the first establishments developed under franchise in Europe.” width=”700″ height=”467″ />CitadinesSloterdijk Station in Amsterdam, one of the first establishments developed under franchise in Europe.

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You had already begun a new phase of development by turning to franchising before the crisis. Is this strategy strengthened by this new interest?

N. H. L. – This is one of the major axes of our development worldwide, and especially in Europe, where this model is very dynamic. Today, we have six residences in operation under franchise and four others under development. We will continue to focus on this growth model, especially since many operators have told us that they want to franchise the Citadines brand. Most of them already work with large international hotel chains and, given the resilience we have demonstrated, they are now looking to have apartment hotels in their portfolio


In a way, the pandemic has pushed our segment into another dimension

This will, at the same time, enable you to expand your network beyond the major cities where you are essentially present.

N. H. L. – Indeed, franchising will enable us to explore new territories where, with our investment strategy, we did not previously go. This will also enable us to strengthen our network in France. For example, we have opened franchised establishments in Nantes and Strasbourg

under the Citadines brand, and we expect another in Toulouse in 2023. In addition, we are studying other projects in regional cities. My wish is that 60% of our development in the coming years will be based on this model.Citadines Eurometropole Strasbourg.Citadines Eurometropole Strasbourg.

Does this strategy, which focuses on franchising, replace your investment projects?

N. H. L. – We still have an appetite for investment, and this area will also be strengthened. The Ascott group has structured itself in such a way as to raise funds in order to continue to invest in major cities, in premium locations. In this way, we will continue to set up new flagships for our various brands. Moreover, if we are developing our first lyf residence in Europe in Paris, it is thanks to the acquisition of a former printing works in the 20th arrondissement, which is about to be converted into a lifestyle residence.

What are the strengths of this new lifestyle and coliving brand?

N. H. L. – A lot of brands today are surfing on this lifestyle, modern demand, with establishments that offer the possibility to live an experience. With<a href=”

lyf-ascott-expansion-20200817.html” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”> lyf,

we are in this trend, but this lifestyle dimension is still connected to our apartment-hotel DNA. The lyf concept, launched a few years ago, aims to provide a hybrid accommodation solution that offers the best of aparthotels, hotels or co-living apartments, and is designed for the new generation of travelers, looking for flexibility and community aspects. lyf Gambetta Paris’ offer will consist of double rooms, twin rooms, studios with fully equipped kitchens, and twin rooms with private bathrooms and shared kitchens. The lyf offer is based around numerous common spaces such as, for example, a shared kitchen where clients can prepare a meal together, but also a bar and a gym. The idea of community, the word “sharing” is very important in this experience…

The lyf concept aims to provide a hybrid accommodation solution that offers the best of aparthotels, hotels or co-living apartments

This differs from the classic model of residences that emphasize the comfort of apartments, the “home away from home” aspect.

N. H. L. – Indeed, a little different from the Citadines concept, the lyf concept aims to allow our clients to leave their rooms to come and work and live in the common areas, but also to attend events and activities, for example conferences, yoga classes and other activities. And all this in connection with the neighborhood, the local actors. Via our ASR (Ascott Star Rewards) loyalty program application, people outside the hotel will be able to consult the schedule of events and register for them, but also offer to organize them.

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This is

how life is created, as the name lyf (pronounced laïf) emphasizes.

lyf Funan, à Singapour.lyf Funan, in Singapore.

However, lyf’s offer is not that of a new generation youth hostel, but is positioned at the top end of the market. So the concept targets business customers?

N. H. L. – We saw this with our first lyf opened in Singapore in 2019. The establishment receives many business travelers, but also project groups attracted by the idea of coliving and coworking. The lyf concept actually includes three- or four-bedroom apartments, all with private bathrooms to ensure traveler privacy, which are grouped around a common living room and kitchen. This allows employees to work in groups and have dinner together. The concept is very popular. These solutions are always taken by storm by our business accounts. The lyf brand is on a roll with 17 operational addresses planned worldwide by 2025


Employees can work in groups and have dinner together. The concept is very popular.


ow is the Ascott Group addressing the major trends of today, whether it’s coworking, sustainability or digital?

N. H. L. – With the health crisis, more and more business travelers have moved and worked remotely and the notion of “remote” work has appeared. Telecommuting does not necessarily mean “working at home”, but remotely, and therefore potentially within a residence. This idea is well integrated in the evolution of our products. For example, the Lyf Gambetta Paris

will offer a coworking space and meeting rooms, but also “cabins” where people can isolate themselves for discreet exchanges. Another important point on which we are focusing in our evolution is the sustainable development part. Today, all our projects aim for environmental certifications of excellence. The support of technology helps us to optimize consumption. For example, the Citadines Islington in London, one of our pilot sites, has sensors that detect the presence of guests in the rooms or windows that are open, to automatically adjust the heating or air conditioning. We can also monitor water consumption. These are things that are going to be deployed on all our projects. And we’re going to upgrade existing residences on these points as we renovate them, four of which are planned this year in Europe, those of Citadines Kurfürstendamm Berlin and London Holborn, and two Citadines in Paris, those of La Défense and Les Halles, which will become one of our flagship residences.Citadines Trocadéro ParisCitadines Trocadéro Paris

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What new features are you offering in terms of digital technology?

N. H. L. – The Ascott group has taken advantage of the year 2021 to redesign its website. Thanks to an improved and more intuitive user experience, customers can easily find their “home away from home with Ascott” while discovering their next travel destination. Today, the booking process is much smoother with just a few clicks. In addition, the customer can find all of our establishments, as all of our brands have been grouped under a single global reservation platform: This is a revolution for Ascott, as this site is now accompanied by an application to which new features have recently been added. Check-in can now be done directly from the app. In lyf and the new Citadines residences, guests can even activate a mobile key to access their apartments. And this will be the case in all our new establishments as well as other residences as they are renovated. Through these dig

n addition, Discover ASR loyalty program members can also take advantage of preferred rates and manage their points. As part of this, our loyalty program also allows business customers to receive benefits and be rewarded for their loyalty.