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

There is No Place like Home

Some questions, such as in mathematics, have a set answer to which it can only be classified as right or wrong. However, some questions are a bit more subjective and can have any number of potential responses. The question on our lips today falls more into the latter category unless you can tell me otherwise that there is a definitively correct answer to the question; where is home to you? The reason behind the subjectivity of this simple question is that it is an incredibly personal question which will undoubtedly garner a whole host of varying answers. No one person will have the same answer as the other, particularly if you answer the question with a very specific answer that details the exact house number, street and postcode of the residence in which you can currently inhabit (which is probably what the dictionary definition would have you do).

When it comes to thinking about where home is, a saying that typically comes to mind is “home is where the heart is” reflecting that sense of how a home is somewhere you belong-where you can be yourself. Consequently, it conjures associations that a home is where your nearest and dearest are, such as your family and friends, because it is those who you should feel the ability to be yourself with and where you feel safe. Home could be where the true essence of you lies and is that one place you can rely on. Maybe it is not even a particular place; maybe it is more abstract and is your country of residence or even a person. Similarly, it is also said that “a house is not a home” which also goes to reflect how a home is not necessarily a physical object, it is more of a feeling or a sentiment. Therefore, a home does not have to be a permanent building; we can make it wherever we go as there is more to it than just bricks and cement.

Why am I getting all philosophical on this Friday afternoon? Well, recently I have taken to uploading old (maybe it is more fashionable to say vintage) videos of The Spires and one that particularly caught my attention was one where we asked 50 people one supposedly simple question: where is home? To us at The Spires, home is so important because obviously we are part of the hospitality industry and therefore no matter how briefly our guests stay, we want our apartments to feel like a home to them. Some of our guests can stay for multiple months due to a business project or even just due to a temporary relocation, and so in these cases it is even more critical for us to make our guests feel like The Spires is their home away from home. That is why we fit our apartments with fully-equipped kitchens; spacious lounges; comfy beds and a familial decorative touch so as to create a warm, inviting atmosphere which guests feel comfortable in and are excited to return to. The atmosphere that an apartment provides cannot be matched by that of a hotel where due to the limited space and freedom, it is incredibly hard to make your room your own and feel fully comfortable there.

Consequently, I hope you all enjoy watching the video (which you can view here: https://www.facebook.com/TheSpiresSuites/videos)  and that it causes you to ponder where exactly home is to you to the same extent that it has to me. On that note, I suppose it is only fair and fitting for me to finish off by providing my own answer to our pressing question of the day. To me, home is a safe haven and is that aforementioned feeling of belonging. Consequently, in my perspective, you can have more than one home as there are numerous places and persons with whom you can go home to at the end of the day and feel totally free and comfortable. Whatever it means to you, there is no denying the importance of the concept of the home. Therefore, I hope that no matter who you are or where you are, somewhere or someone is a home to you because as that old saying from the Wizard of Oz goes; there is no place like home.

P.S. We cannot help but love this response as to where home is…

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Image: http://weknowmemes.com/

Image:  www.digitalclaritygroup.com

Spread the Happiness: 10 Things Making us Smile at The Spires

It is undeniable that sometimes the world can be a bit of a dreary and dark place, however, you need to experience the dark to see the light. Therefore, whilst it is important to focus on the serious things in life that are burdening us, we also have to focus on the things that bring us joy and a smile to our faces. That is why, we need to do as Google says and join the party for a happy planet because today is the third official International Day of Happiness as designated by the UN. Initially created by the UN in 2012 to encourage member states to prioritise happiness as a fundamental “human goal”, the International Day of Happiness is now held annually on March 20th and means if at least for one day of the year, we should consider the things that make us rejoice.

Consequently, I present to you our lovely readers, the ten reasons as to why The Spires is happy on this International Day of Happiness (warning: cheese alert for what is to follow!):

1. Customer Satisfaction

-being in the hospitality industry, one of things that makes us smile the brightest is going as far as we can to deliver the ultimate guest experience and to know that we have succeeded in making our guests smile in return. That is why Trip Advisor reviews are such a key reason for our happiness as it is great to hear first-hand how our guests stay was and what made their stay (hopefully!) enjoyable. It helps us to determine what to keep on doing and what to improve upon.

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2. The Apartment Collection

-this is the latest development at The Spires and sees us become a serviced apartment agent as well as a serviced apartment operator. As a result, we are now a one-stop-shop for all our customer’s serviced apartments needs and so whether they want to stay in the UK or even in far-flung locations like Asia or Australia, we can make it happen. Therefore, we are happy to be expanding our business in such a new way and to be in a better position to satisfy our guests.

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3. The Spires in Edinburgh

-a fellow exciting new development for The Spires is the upcoming summer opening of our Edinburgh location. Getting to be located in the city centre of Scotland’s stunning capital which is frequently awarded with accolades for things like being Europe’s Leading Destination, is definitely a reason to smile as we can accommodate an even wider pool of guests.

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4. New Arrivals

-whether they are new guests or loyal customers, happiness always stems from the arrival of guests to The Spires. It is a new chance to make another positive impression and to hopefully make another happy guest.

5. Social Media Interaction

-every ‘Follow’, ‘Like’ or ‘Retweet’ makes us happy because it gives us a chance to successfully engage with our guests. That is why we try to cover as many social media channels as possible so that whatever our guests are into, whether it is being a Twitter mastermind or a prolific Pinterest pinner or even a passionate blogger, we can reach out and talk to them. It may be misplaced vanity, but every new follower we get makes us feel like we have done a job well done and that we are appreciated (hint: follow us please, it helps spread the happiness!)

6. Snack Table

-it is the foundation of every office across the nation: the snack table. No office is complete without one and no office productive. Whenever we are feeling down, tired or just plain ravenous, it is our never-ending stashes of biscuits and tea/coffee that we turn to so as to restore our joy. As they say, there is nothing that a good cup of tea and a Kit-Kat cannot solve!Click here to read more about everyone’s favourite table: https://thespiressuites.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/the-snack-table-2/

7. Travelling

-being under the umbrella of the tourism industry, travelling is something that we all love to engage in. Whether it is going to exotic locations like Dubai to liaise with potential suppliers on a business trip or even just taking mini-breaks to one of our respective locations like Birmingham, there is always happiness in escaping from reality and getting to experience new places and faces.

8. Spring

-today is not just the International Day of Happiness but also the first day of spring. What can bring more smiles to your faces quite like warmer weather, beautiful daffodils, lighter mornings & nights and of course; the mighty generous Easter Bunny. When chocolate eggs are on the horizon, there is always a reason to be happy.

9. Friday Afternoon

-it is the universal holiday around the world; Friday afternoon. Whether it is simply a relaxing weekend spent at home or an activity intensive mini break, the weekend is a time to detox and de-stress from the week and re-charge our batteries. Now there is no one who can say the weekend does not make them happy!

10. Working at The Spires

-I warned you that the cheese was coming and here it has arrived in all its cheesy glory! I cannot speak for everyone, but working at The Spires definitely makes me happy because I have the chance to work with some of the loveliest people who are passionate about what they do and I have the chance to learn things which should hopefully serve me well for the future.

We told you what makes us happy, now tell us what makes you happy!

Remember to spread the happiness 🙂