Berkeley Scott in Conversation: Helia Lotzfeldt

We were privileged enough to chat to Helia Lotzfeldt, Group Director of Sales at edyn, regarding how they were impacted by the pandemic and their exciting future expansion plans.

Helia Lotzfeldt

For those who may not be aware, can you tell me a little about edyn and its respective brands?

edyn is a group of Serviced Apartments and Aparthotels, currently in the UK and Amsterdam, with massive expansion plans into Ireland and Continental Europe for now.  It started 22 years ago as SACO, a privately owned Service Apartment company, head quartered in Bristol, which grew over the past twenty years to various locations across UK and very much London.

Just under 3 years ago we launched our Locke brand which is a lifestyle Aparthotel brand. SACO and Locke are our two core brands, and in addition we have the Wittenberg a standalone beautiful aparthotel in Amsterdam and The Moorgate, which is a boutique collection of top-end luxury serviced apartments in the City of London, right by London wall.

edyn was born a year ago as an umbrella across the brands. Our purpose is to provide sanctuaries to anyone who needs a place to stay, whether that is for one night, a week, a month or longer. edyn focuses on delivering hospitality which genuinely touches the soul with much more than just a roof over the head. Particularly our Locke properties have a very strong link to the local community. For example, our food and beverage outlets are operated by local restaurateurs, and coffee roasters, which gives a feel for the local area when you are staying. We have local artists in residence and lots of activities such as local trainers offering yoga classes, running courses, our F&B partners offer supper club experiences and cocktail making, you name it. It is really all about connecting to that local community and giving our guests an experience that is a lot more localised, more than just accommodation, to really feel you are one with the location you are staying in.

What is the impact of the Covid-19 on the edyn group its employees and its properties?

Very quickly we had to change our focus with our corporate clients not booking much with us and we started working closely with key workers. The list of key workers from the Government was really quite extensive. It included a lot more than the NHS and emergency services, so we have been a home to anything from construction workers, IT support staff, the fire brigade, the military and of course the emergency services and NHS as well. We have worked very closely with the NHS and emergency services particularly in Manchester, but we were able to provide a sanctuary in all locations for anyone who was simply stuck and could not go home to where they come from.

In terms of trading it obviously presented some significant challenges, we saw immediate disappearance of most corporate business which was and hopefully will again soon be a significant part of our business. We did however decide to stay open, closing a handful of properties temporarily, but I am really pleased to say the last 2 opened on August 1st, which are The SACO Manchester and SACO West India House in Bristol. Yes, we closed a few but decided for the main part to remain open, as we feel that it is very strongly aligned with our cultural belief to provide sanctuaries to those who need it.

The sales team had to quickly switch focus to accommodate guests from those the sectors who were still working, such as, construction, entertainment production and of course the government. These are sectors we have previously worked with to an extent in the provinces, but not significantly and less so in London.

How do you think it has impacted the extended stay sector compared to short stay/ hotels?

Feedback from corporate clients and tendency in the industry press indicates that it may have a more significant impact on transient travel that extended stay accommodation. We are seeing a higher proportion of Longer-Stay enquiries, but also transient travellers now showing a preference for self-contained accommodation. Some sectors such as construction and professional services will stay with us for the duration of a project.

We have seen some of our relocation business stop with people not really moving from one country to another, but that is starting to pick up again as well.

With the UK reopening of course we saw some key workers business fall away. However we are now experiencing demand from leisure travellers, with many UK holiday makers opting for staycations, some in London but to a greater extent for some locations outside of London such as Edinburgh, Manchester and Bath. This is really supporting us through July and August, and then were hoping that will see some uptake again in the corporate sector from September with feedback from some B2B partners being a tendency towards fewer but longer stays, not only reducing the number of trips for safety reasons, but also from a cost perspective.

Do you feel having properties with self-contained accommodation rather than rooms only is an advantage in the current climate?

Signature pink sofa living space at Leman Locke

It is an enormous advantage; many guests are very conscious still about social distancing and self-contained accommodation is an advantage in that respect. Some corporate clients have been approaching us now wanting to include Aparthotels and Serviced Apartments on their traditional transit hotel programmes, mainly to offer their travellers the option not to have to go a restaurant or a bar but be able to cook within their own space. All our apartments include a fully equipped kitchen, so you can live completely autonomously.

How has customer experience changed post Covid-19?

Most guests still tend to be quite conscious of social distancing and we have put a range of different measures in place in terms of cleaning, disinfecting and social distancing. We have taken advice from ASAP, The Association of Serviced Apartment Providers, as an IISAP accredited member, and we follow their “Stay with Confidence” criteria.

Has the pandemic had an impact on the scope of your role as Group Director of Sales?

Absolutely, it presented a sudden change to our strategy and the focus of the sales team. Moving from a very corporate focus with sales team members being used to working with a large global corporate clients across multiple properties, they quickly had to adapt and switch their focus onto specific key worker sectors and at a more localised level. It has been a significant experience to suddenly have to change the focus of the team and now gradually changing it back again.

What have you learnt from the changing landscape and how will the extended stay and hospitality industry as a whole recover?

It is a difficult question; how it will recover. There is a continuous stream of different surveys, articles and industry publications coming out, but with every new article or survey, it seems that confidence in travelling is increasing again overall, although this varies from one organisation to another. Some business is best done face to face, and in terms of leisure activities, as humans we are social animals, so I believe we will recover. At the moment, the Serviced Apartments and Aparthotels sectors are seeing the benefit of offering the self-contained accommodation.

What next for edyn?

Living space at Bermonds Locke

We still maintain our expansion plans. edyn was acquired by Brookfield Global Asset Management two and a half years ago with strong investment and with significant expansion plans. We currently have new properties planned in London, Cambridge, Dublin, Munich, Berlin, Lisbon and Copenhagen. These plans are still going ahead, whilst our acquisitions team are continuously seeking additional opportunities for new properties in key European cities. Our next property, the beautiful Bermonds Locke in London, will open on the 11th September and around New Year we have 2 properties opening in Dublin, 2 in Munich, and the Kingsland Locke in London.

Find out more about edyn: www.findingedyn.com