Apartment accommodation is a growing sector with many online players. Travel Daily spoke to Only Apartments to get a feel for the market and where it is heading.
Can you tell us a bit about Only Apartments?
Only Apartments has been around for 10 years now. It was first a website that covered apartments in the Old Town in Barcelona and had a varied approach, with apartment owners mainly reached by word of mouth. As the recession continued and apartment owners wanted to make more money from their properties, we added further destinations around Europe and our visibility increased.
The business model is different to others, although we do consider ourselves to be a travel agent in the service we offer. It is 100% instant bookings on the website, the customer comes online and can book directly from our site like they would with Expedia or Opodo. But we wanted to be different so have a 24-hour customer helpline and we help with all enquiries even if a customer has a flight problem (even though we do not sell them).
The number of apartments goes up day by day and there are now more than 22,000 apartments on our site. Our portfolio goes up by 3,000 a month and by the end of the year we hope to reach 50,000. We are the only site that updates availability in real-time and we see that bookings are made that second.
How has the apartment sector switched to the leisure market?
In the last 12 months, the apartment sector moved more into the tourism side rather than corporate travel and that is growing faster as more tourists use apartments as their accommodation choice.
This is due to a mix of factors, more apartments are becoming available and are being distributed in different ways, and owners are becoming used to adjusting prices to seasons. Around 60% of guests are families, as it gives them the possibility to experience the city and the destination in a more convenient way.
We have definitely seen an increase in bookings for this type of client; the number is going up month by month.
Are there any destinations where apartment availability is growing?
The major growth destinations for new apartments coming online are in the USA, South America and Asia.
Major cities like Rome, London, Florence, Prague and Madrid are seeing growth but we are also seeing increases in US and South American cities like Los Angeles, New York, Buenos Aires and Santiago.
You recently launched your mobile website. What has the interest around this been like?
We know that the number of people using their mobile to search for accommodation is increasing. Mobile is the way that customers are searching, particularly while they are travelling or walking around a city themselves. It is a really important way to surf and look for accommodation – even if the mobile device isn’t used to make the booking itself.
There is more traffic to our site from mobile devices; we saw a 20% increase in traffic at first that turned into a 40% rise in conversions.
We also have plans to launch an app soon to further increase those conversions. This will be for both tablets and smartphones and will be crucial as we look to boost our presence and expand.
What other developments do you have in place?
There is a huge plan to increase brand awareness and conversion and a major part of our strategy to do that is to build our own content.
It is what we need to grow – our aim is that by building better content about destinations and travel, clients will find us more easily and see our business in a different way.