The Sands of Time

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Where does the time go? I swear it was January 26th only a few days ago  when I hesitantly  approached The Spires, a quaking bag of nerves that was daunted yet exhilarated by the thought of encroaching ever so closer into the real adult world of work. However, somehow my calendar is informing me that it is the 27th of April which means I must have been working for 3 months and am therefore at the half-way point through my placement. Consequently, I feel it is a very fitting time to start blogging again and to reflect on what has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience thus far.

So much has been going on at the firm in recent weeks and I expect the action is only set to heighten as important developments like the launching of the new location and “The Apartment Collection-By The Spires” get increasingly underway. One of the things I have enjoyed the most at The Spires is how I get to carry out tasks that are in relation to these projects, such as helping to design the web content for the new website or looking for potential business prospects, as it makes me feel like I am playing even the smallest of parts in helping these important tasks come to fruition. I am really pleased that I joined an organisation that is so focused on expansion, and in such diverse ways, because it is really beneficial to be in a fast-paced dynamic environment that is pro-active and embraces change. I definitely feel there is a lot I can take away from being a witness to this, even if it is just realising the smallest details that have to be considered when opening a new business location.

In the past few weeks, my main tasks have consisted of helping to design the new website, from a content perspective, as well as creating new dedicated social media channels for “The Apartment Collection-By The Spires”. As a result, my social media workload has increased as I have to post as two different accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. I am genuinely worried there is a chance I may get a split-personality disorder! I am really excited getting to start the social media from scratch, as opposed to building on to the established channels that existed when I started, because it gives me a chance to see how strong I really am at social media. This makes this endeavour equally daunting because obviously if the follower numbers are not what I hoped, I may have to take a subtle hint from that! I do have to remember that it will be a struggle for the first few months as it will take a while for awareness and interest to grow, but that is what makes the challenge exciting and it will be really engrossing to see how things progress.

Overall, I do feel I have grown a lot from Day 1 in terms of skill and confidence. It really does feel like I have worked here longer than 3 months so when the day comes in 3 months that I no longer walk here bleary eyed and yawning at 8.30am, it will be a weird day. Let’s not get ahead however, 3 months complete still means 3 months to go and I am exceptionally excited to see what they bring.

Till next time,

 Alex

P.S. Help a desperate intern out by liking and following us on Facebook  and Twitter. Thank you :)

Image: www.siddarthwrites.com

The Bard & Birmingham

Shakespeare

As the mighty man himself wrote, “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late”-now is the time to walk in Shakespeare’s footsteps.

It has been quite an unusual chain of linking events this week. Firstly, yesterday in the mail we received a rather mysterious envelope complete with some rather exotic stamps and a letter informing us of how we had been voted “Top Choice 2015” by Lianorg; a professional tourism information site for Asian tourists. As a result, we now have a medal that we are proudly wearing at our Aberdeen HQ and we are now featured on their website. I have to say it is rather intriguing to see The Spires written about in Chinese, even if I am not entirely sure about the translation (thank you Google Translate). It is definitely an achievement to see how we have made even the smallest of foot-steps into the international arena, especially considering the language barrier which makes it really hard to market yourself; particularly as a smaller organisation.

Linking on from our exciting news was how Birmingham, one of our respective locations, has announced that Hainan Airlines is to operate two weekly flights between July 3 and 28 August flying from Birmingham to Beijing; hopefully blazing the way for a regular service. Between the flights expected to carry almost 4,000 Chinese tourists to the UK, and coupled with our online presence on Lianorg, this hopefully will help us to open up to a wider international market. Both of these developments are very exciting if this could potentially pave the way for us spreading our cultural wings and having the chance to welcome an increased number of international guests-particularly from growing economies such as China.

Finally, this then linked on to how Birmingham is re-branding itself as “Shakespeare’s Airport” in China due to the tourism pull that Shakespeare has for Asian tourists and the proximity of Shakespeare’s home to Britain’s Second City. Already the cogs in my brain were turning in regards to writing a blog about the Birmingham-Shakespeare connection, but then it turned out that today is actually National Shakespeare’s Day, making this day of all 365 days in the year the most fitting time to write about the UK’s most renowned playwright and poet. Coincidences eh?!

Stratford-upon-Avon is the fond childhood home of Shakespeare and is located about an hour’s drive or so away from Birmingham. No visit in Stratford-upon-Avon could be complete without a visit to the house where some of the ideas and inspiration behind some of the greatest plays and poems in history potentially began to form; Shakespeare’s Birthplace. Between the house itself where Shakespeare grew as both a boy and a man; the beautiful gardens and the Shakespeare Exhibition, there is much to be explored. The house is even more iconic in that it did not just welcome the great literary mind of Shakespeare; it also opened its doors to the likes of Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens. Stratford-upon-Avon is home not just to Shakespeare’s childhood residence, but also to his wife’s (Anne Hathaway’s Cottage), his mother’s (Mary Arden’s Farm) and his eldest daughter Susanna’s (Hall Croft). Whichever property you visit, if not all, each is glowing in beauty and heritage, with Anne Hathaway’s Cottage even being known as the most romantic cottage in the country. However, from Shakespeare’s birth to his death, Stratford-upon-Avon has witnessed it all as Nash’s House and New Hall formed the background to the final chapter in his life and now Shakespeare and his wife rest in the stunning parish of Holy Trinity Church.

Shakespeare's Birthplace
Shakespeare’s Birthplace

Of course, what is paying tribute to Shakespeare without having an opportunity to see his great works in action? Today, the world’s most widely known theater company, the Royal Shakespeare Company, performs at its resident home in Stratford-upon-Avon where thousands in their droves assemble and while Shakespeare is not the only playwright on the list, with contemporary pieces being performed too, it is still a definite stop on a Shakespeare tour.

Therefore, it is abundantly clear that Stratford-upon-Avon is the place for any literary, Shakespeare or Tudor fanatic. Most people associate Shakespeare and his hometown with London; however Birmingham is a lot closer and more conveniently located if you wanted to balance out a city-break with a bit of historical and cultural enlightenment. Similarly, if you cannot afford the day-trip, there is always The Shakespeare pub in Birmingham!  There are so many reasons why you should visit Birmingham, from Cadbury World to the Bullring to the Jewellery Quarter, and now visiting the birthplace of one of the UK’s most iconic historical figures should be headlining that list also.

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Is Shakespeare not your literary fix? Well, a famous author also descended from Birmingham itself, the man behind the hobbit, J.R.R Tolkien. You can pay a visit to Sarehole Mill where Tolkien spent many a happy moment in his youth playing and see some of the Birmingham sights which are reputably responsible for inspiring him when writing his globally beloved novels. However, whatever your motive for visiting, we are always more than eager to accommodate you and all the family and friends you bring with you.

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Sarehole Mill

Had he been immortal, today on National Shakespeare Day (April 23rd) Shakespeare would be the rather youthful age of 451 years old. However, while he has not lived to see that mighty age, his globally beloved works have, making a day-trip from Birmingham to Stratford-upon-Avon a timeless venture which I am sure will live on and on throughout future generations.

With regards to the two literary legends covered in this piece, I feel it would be rather fitting to let them have the last words:

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”-William Shakespeare

 “All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost.”-J.R.R Tolkien

Images: Wikipedia & Birmingham Mail

Meet the Team: A Day in the Life of Fiona

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Name: Fiona MacLennan

Job Title: Front of House

Location: Aberdeen

How long worked for the company: Just over 5 months.

What your job entails: General administration. We’re the face that the customers see when they first come in. It’s our job to make sure that the customer is happy and help solve any issues they have. This includes being on call out of hours for any emergencies. I’ve also started helping in the running of our new housekeeping team which seems to be going pretty well.

Any funny or interesting stories that have happened to you while at work: The first time I was on the early shift on my own, Jackie had forgotten to give me the code to get in the back door. I stood there for a good few minutes before I called her to ask. When I finally got in, Craig was just sat there at his desk so all I needed to do in the first place was knock on the window.

 What do you like most about serviced apartments? : It feels more like home and as if you have your own space because you have a whole apartment instead of just one room.

 Favourite flavour of ice cream? Anything with caramel in it. The Ben and Jerry’s core ones are my favourite.

 Favourite actor/actress? Eddie Redmayne never fails to amaze me. In his current film ‘The Theory of Everything’, you actually believe that he has MND.

 Tea or coffee? When I’m in the office I’ll drink fruit tea but otherwise coffee.

 What can’t you leave home without? Shoes.

 Serviced apartment or hotel? Serviced apartments are far too handy when you have a big group of friends.

2015: The Year a Watch May Become Your Favourite Travel Sidekick

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If I were to ask you what the core function of a watch is, undoubtedly your response would be that it is to keep you informed of the time. Whenever you see someone glance at their watch it is inevitably due to them checking the time or perhaps they are just admiring it if it happens to be a particularly stylish, desired watch brand. However, this may be set to change. As powerful as it is to dictate the time, and therefore people’s schedules, watches are set to become even more influential this year as they too are “smartified”; opening them up to a whole range of new potential functions. Yes, as you may be aware, one of the most hotly anticipated products of the year has to be a certain Apple Watch which is to be released near the end of April (there may be a queue beginning already; sleeping bags and coffee flasks at the ready!) and it is set to revolutionize the travel industry.

You may wonder how the travel industry and a watch fit together? Well unfortunately, technology still has not progressed to a level where time travel has become reality and so the ability of the smart watch to transport you to another time, past or present, is sadly not the case. However, what is true is that even though the Apple Watch has not been released yet, already many an app from major firms has been designed for it. The likes of Uber, Evernote, Expedia, Trip Advisor, KLM and easyJet have all invested in designing an app and consequently, this is where the impact of the watch on the travel industry can begin to be inferred.

So, what changes can we expect? There is the potential that room key cards are set to become old-school as giant hotel brands like Starwood design apps that allow guests to use their watches to check-in and to even let them into their room. Similarly, if you happen to be following a person who may be radiating tourist signals and who is happening to be glancing down at their watch every other street, it is quite likely that they are using a navigation feature on their watch to help them find their way.  Likewise, you may walk into an airport to see everyone looking down, not at their phone, but at their watch as they look at flight apps which will be reflecting live-time departure and arrival times; delays and the length of the line in security. Inevitably, watches will even become the new form of boarding passes and checking-in to flights as apps are already in progress regarding this. The watch could even become a real gift for business travellers as apps like Evernote will allow them to dictate all their notes, thoughts and plans into the watch so it can be transferred to that renowned Cloud and then be accessed later on a different device.

Above all, the watch could revolutionise the industry due to the way it will totally transform the customer experience and how travel companies deliver their service. As was reported by TNOOZ, Air New Zealand has already designed an app which allows guests in their airport lounges to order drinks, just reflecting the potential the watch could have in keeping companies in touch with consumer’s movements and needs.

It is crazy already to think of the potential power that a mere watch could hold over our lives although it has been reported by the Telegraph that only 25% of British citizens think that wearable technology will enhance the quality of their life. It will definitely be an exciting development to watch unfold (no pun intended) and to see the impact it will have on the serviced apartment industry. Even though I am really intrigued to see just how far the watch’s power could stretch, it is a little sad to see another piece of technology that will be added to people’s digital portfolios alongside Kindles, Phones, Laptops, Tablets etc. It feels like everything is getting “smartified” and that there is already an abundance of devices that consumers are hooked into without adding a classic staple like a watch in the mix; particularly as watches tend to be bought for significant relations on special occasions or are passed on as heirlooms-they can have sentimental value.

Consequently, being one of those classed as a technology “laggard” when it comes to product innovation, I am sure it will take a few years for me to be persuaded otherwise to invest in a smart watch. Personally, my regular average watch seems to be doing a pretty good job at getting me on time to places as it is, and at a mere fraction of the price. Conversely, my manager is eagerly awaiting the great unveil of the Apple Watch; reflecting the diverse range of opinions regarding technology’s latest baby. Therefore, we are intrigued to hear what all our followers and readers think; will you be fighting your way towards the front of that queue on Apple Watch launch day?

Sources

http://clapway.com/2015/03/27/travel-apps-apple-watch123/

http://www.tnooz.com/article/Apple-Watch-travel-personalised/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/11483729/Apple-Watch-Britons-still-not-convinced-by-wearable-tech.html

http://www.travolution.co.uk/articles/2014/12/18/9540/wearable-tech-set-to-take-travel-to-the-next-level.html

 Image: http://blog.worldmate.com/2015/03/what-do-you-need-to-know-before-developing-apple-watch-app.html?utm_content=buffer724c2&utm_medium=social&utm_source=plus.google.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Meet The Team: A Day in the Life of Laura.

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Name: Laura Aird

Job Title: Front of House

Location: Glasgow

How long worked for the company: 4 years

What your job entails:  Dealing with day to day reservations. Checking guests in and out – seeing to guest needs and making sure they have a comfortable stay.

Any funny or interesting stories that have happened to you while at work:

One time I had to witness a policeman take a fingerprint from our front door – quite interesting to see the whole process. It felt as if I was on an episode of CSI.

What do you like most about serviced apartments? I prefer working in apartments as it’s more personal than a hotel – you get to know your guests better.  If I am going away to stay anywhere I will always try to book an apartment first now as they give much more space and comfort than staying in a hotel. Similarly, you have the convenience of a kitchen so you aren’t always having to eat out and if you are away in a group you can all comfortably stay together.

Favourite flavour of ice cream?  Ben & Gerry’s Carmel Chew Chew.

Favourite actor/actress? Johnny Depp – or as I like to call him – my future husband ;)

Tea or coffee? Neither – I prefer wine!

What can’t you leave home without?  My mobile.

Serviced apartment or hotel?  Serviced Apartment.

Business and Leisure Travellers of the Future

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The old adage goes: “the children are our future”. However, in the travel world, Millennials are the future. While sounding like a futuristic robot or alien race that has been sent to take over the world, or even just a scientific experiment, Millennials are actually normal beings that walk amongst us; they may even be unaware of their “Millennial” status. This is because Millennial, or Generation Y, is simply another term for the generation that was born in the 1980s to early 1990s and is used to classify them seeing as like previous generations, they have characteristics that commonly typify them. For instance, having been brought up in the technological era of the nineties and the noughties, Millennials are predominantly known for their tech-savviness and how they have a constant need to be connected.  How do I know this? Well apart from numerous studies to back this, I myself am a Broadband Baby (that is as close as you will get to discovering my age!) and am well aware of the desire to be consistently connected online. Social media forms a major part of my internship after all, only testifying to my Millennial status.

Why are Millennials so important to the travel industry? Well, as illustrated by STA Travel forming a Travel Management Company and creating a specific brand for Millennial business travellers, it is clear that they are becoming a lucrative travel market with increasing numbers of younger persons engaging in business travel and having a unique set of wants and needs that businesses have to cater for. According to the Harvard Business Review, Millennials will account for 50% of the world’s working population by 2020, and already they may comprise the majority in certain firms. Consequently, it is clear that Millennial business travel will only be on an increasing surge and so it is pivotal to satisfy their requirements to capitalise on their market potential. In the US, it has been reported that Millennials are set to become the most populated generation in the nation as well as having $226 billion to spend on travel in 2015; making them desirable in terms of both market size and disposable income.

As can be seen, Skift (a Travel Marketing Intelligence firm) and SACO have both done some investigation into Millennials and the characteristics that tend to differentiate them from other generations (which can be viewed here):

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Considering the range of characteristics that tend to be reflected by Millennials, serviced apartments such as The Spires (not to name drop ourselves or anything!) are the perfect accommodation choice to satisfy them whether they travel for business or leisure.  Obviously, top of many a Millennial’s Accommodation Wish list is that all-important accessory that we need like air; Wi-Fi. Thankfully, here at The Spires we can accommodate this with the provision of high-speed Wifi.

Likewise, many Millennials are all about cost-effectiveness and saving money so that they can spend them on experiences instead, something which serviced apartments can greatly help with as we highlighted in a previous blog (https://thespiressuites.wordpress.com/2015/03/09/serviced-apartments-the-cost-effective-alternative/). Through cooking their own food and sharing the apartment with other co-workers or friends, not only can they cut on costs, but they can simultaneously satisfy their desire to stay in a “social” location and to fuel their healthy diets. Linking to the social aspect, Millennials are really eager to participate in networking and have a preference for “blended” living areas such as having their own bedroom but with shared areas such as open-plan kitchens and lounges. This can be accounted for when it is considered how Millennials are twice more likely than preceding generations to consider serviced apartments as being a “social” accommodation choice.

Moreover, Millennials are always on the go and are looking to stay in locations that are conveniently located near all major attractions and business hubs. This is a need that The Spires can particularly help with due to our extremely city-central locations in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Birmingham and Edinburgh alike. When travellers stay with us, they are not more than a minutes’ walk from all the entertainment and action that these busy cities have to offer. A particular trend that STA noticed and is trying to cater for by creating a specific brand for Millennial business travellers is how 69% of 18-35 year old mix up their business trip by adding a leisure component to it. This fits with how Millennials tend to be characterised by their passion for travelling and having experiences. Consequently, serviced apartments like The Spires are an even more perfect match for their requirements. The likes of our Birmingham, Aberdeen and Glasgow apartments are perfectly situated in business hubs which also boast a wide array of attractions and scenery as well as the bustling city life associated with such historic but modern, dynamic and cosmopolitan cities.

However, no matter how old we are and what generation we happen to be classified under, a comfy, warm bed is always our main priority and here at The Spires, you can always trust us to provide that!

A fellow Millennial signing off….

 Sources:

http://www.sacoapartments.com/blog/redefining_the_term_social_network

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-millennials-hotels-20150329-story.html

http://www.travelpulse.com/news/business-travel/sta-travel-launches-new-business-travel-brand-aimed-at-millennials.html

https://hbr.org/2010/05/mentoring-millennials

http://www.bighospitality.co.uk/Trends-Reports/Infographic-How-Millennials-are-shaping-the-future-of-business-travel?utm_source=AddThis_twitter&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=SocialMedia#.VRq1CHVQQek.twitter.

Image: www.cnbc.com

Travel with Confidence: Quality Assessment Programmes

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Recent years have seen the introduction of new online accommodation platforms such as Air B&B where individuals can put up any property they own and travellers can choose to rent it out as part of their holiday experience. The surge in popularity for Air B&B probably stems from how it helps to cut costs as well as offers a unique accommodation experience which cannot be found by going down traditional accommodation routes e.g. treehouses can be rented; you cannot get more unique than that. It is even starting to make waves into the business travel arena although the BridgeStreet IQ report: Business Travel Insights 2015 reflects how only approximately 30% of Business Travel policies allow it as an accommodation source. This could potentially link to the pertinent issue of Air B&B in that there is no guarantee of quality. As owners put up their local properties for rent, there is no inspection for them to make sure that the facilities and experience they will be offering will be of an acceptable standard. To surmise, there is no essence of quality assurance.

If you are travelling, either for leisure or corporate, undoubtedly you will have invested some money as well as stress and you will want your stay to go as smoothly as possible in order to have the optimum travel experience. In effect, you will want to travel with confidence and know that wherever you are staying has your welfare in mind as the priority. Quality Assurance plays a pivotal role in developing that confidence because it entails the inspection of accommodation properties to make sure they are meeting the defined standards and benchmarks of the industry.

If you happen to scroll down to the depths of the bottom of our rather beautiful web pages, you will find a logo that you will probably be unfamiliar with. This logo represents how The Spires is part of a Quality Assessment Programme which is implemented by the serviced apartment’s key industry body: The Association of Serviced Apartment Providers (ASAP). So, what does this mean?

Quality Assurance ASAP

Under ASAP’s Quality Assessment Programme, we receive an internet review analysis, a mystery shopping initiative and an annual quality assessment visit. Most critically is the annual assessment which includes the assessor staying overnight so they can fully experience the service standards on offer and see just how comfy the beds are (in all seriousness, the comfort of the bed is genuinely graded!). When grading, assessors take into account core scheme requirements which covers essential legislative compliance, such as in regard to health and safety (electricity, fire risks, heating and lighting) and accessibility, as well as critical features which although may not deter bookings in their absence, are held highly in regards to guest expectations e.g. emergency contact details and an adequate ratio of bathrooms to guests. After the basics and essentials are covered, the Quality Scoring Mechanism is taken into account which considers the quality not just of the apartment offering itself, but also of the firm and its members. Therefore, grading begins to be generated based on everything from location to lighting to furnishing & fixtures to cleanliness. The whole guest experience from the booking and arrival processes are all taken into account and compared against ASAP’s high standards in regards to quality and security so no stone is left unturned; online guest satisfaction reviews are even considered.

Therefore, it is clear that the assessment is a rather rigorous process but it is one that is most definitely worthwhile because we can vouch to our guests that the experience we advertise, is the one they will receive. The only surprises they should get should be good ones! Service, integrity, efficiency and smiles are all part of The Spires’ values and consequently we wear our ASAP Quality Assessment badge with pride as testament that we abide by these values.

There is so much stress associated with holidays at it is, why make it worse by travelling with that niggling anxiety in the back of your mind that maybe that hotel or serviced apartment you booked might be a little bit sketchy? Trip Advisor is a great source for obtaining objective perspectives of a particular accommodation; however, nothing can quite determine the quality of a property like an official Quality Assessment Programme.

Moreover, Quality Assurance should be part of your purchasing decision-making process because it is only set to become increasingly pertinent with it being expanded globally (the US Corporate Housing  and Providers Association are interested in grading) and with the consideration of differentiating apartment firms by quality banding underneath the Quality Programme. Numerous reports discuss the rapid growth of the serviced apartment industry, particularly in recent years, and through quality assessment programmes such as ASAP’s, it is hoped that a benchmark of quality can be set for the industry so as to keep standards high and guests happy. As published in the March/April issue of Buying Business Travel, ASAP is really hoping this year to publicize the importance of accreditation to business and leisure tourists alike; something that we hope this blog will help with.

Sources

ASAP: http://theasap.site-ym.com/page/V2_qualityassess/? 

http://www.relocatemagazine.com/articles/fiona-murchie-03-d3-2015-shaking-it-up-changes-in-the-serviced-apartments-sector

http://buyingbusinesstravel.com/news/0523497-serviced-apartment-body-unveils-accreditation-logo