Zoku brand fuses hotels, serviced apartments
Zoku brand fuses hotels, serviced apartments
10 JUNE 2015 8:02 AM
New brand Zoku is walking the line between serviced apartments and traditional hotels and is doing so with more than a liberal splash of social interaction.
GLOBAL REPORT—Zoku, a new accommodations concept, is blurring the lines between the hotel and the serviced-apartment space.
The idea for the brand was twofold: Design a room that can cut down on construction expenses, and is able to be used for sleep and meetings (with the loft-style bed space “disappearing” behind a screen and steps that can be pushed away into storage space) that is appealing for the extended-stay guest but fits into something resembling a normal hotel room and its space limitations. 
Secondly, it will have a serviced-apartment/extended-stay concept in a hotel box that includes a decided emphasis on social connectivity and functions. 
“The first challenge was to create an extended-stay apartment in a normal room size, with a table, a kitchen and office supplies … and we saw something that is our biggest distinction: that the bed stops people coming in for meetings,” Hans Meyer, a managing director and co-founder of Zoku, told Hotel News Now.
“(Zoku) has efficacy of space, the value for square meter being better than others, which is good for developers,” Marc Jongerius, Zoku’s other managing director and co-founder, said during the same call with HNN. He declined to mention the exact costs involved.
The brand concept, whose originators have history launching and developing the CitizenM brand, attempts to merge serviced apartments and a new generation of hotels hot on social lobbies and guest interaction.
Pricing will be between the 3- and 4-star price point with a target of a five-day length of stay. However, there will be no minimum length-of-stay requirement.
Defining the segments
“The United Kingdom is only now beginning to catch up with the aparthotel dynasties that have been prevalent for the last 15 years,” said Jo Layton, managing director of group commercial sales at extended-stay online travel agency The Apartment Service, who added that she sees no discernable difference between aparthotels and extended-stay hotels. 
The apartment/extended-stay product can be split into two sectors, according to Arlett Oehmichen, director in the London office of HVS.
  • Corporate housing: “Self-contained apartments in residential building, managed by a single individual or legal entity.”
  • Aparthotels: “24/7 managed reception on site with room telephone connection to the front desk.” 
Other differences apply, with aparthotels leaning more to the hotel market and corporate housing leaning more to the residential market, according to HVS’s July 2014 report “The European serviced apartment sector: Growing up.” Oehmichen attributed the information to the 2014 Serviced Apartment Summit, which was held last July in London. 
According to the HVS report, a critical component of an aparthotel unit is that it is “essential that it is possible to work, cook/eat and sleep in each self-contained unit.” 
With Zoku’s design able to hide beds, sources said, its rooms can revert to either a meeting or living room, thus blurring more the serviced-apartment model into the hotel-market one.
And the concept is drawing praise from other industry leaders.
“Zoku is cool,” said Cody Bradshaw, Starwood Capital Group’s senior VP and head of European hotels, during the recent Boutique and Lifestyle Hotel Summit. 
“Yes, (the rooms) need extra ceiling space to make (the) concept work, as the bed is up on a loft, and the stairs to it fold away, but it is very cool,” Bradshaw said. 
Growth strategies
The first Zoku property opens in Amsterdam this fall under a long-term lease agreement, but management agreements might be considered. Zoku executives do not plan for the company to own any assets.
“Demand is increasing for such a product. In Amsterdam, the (serviced-apartment) sector already accounts for 25% of all stays, and look at supply, it is very low, the same in Paris and London. We developed a network over the last six years, with and around our target audience,” Zoku’s Jongerius said.
As for expansion plans, executives are looking at key European gateway cities such as Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen and London, Jongerius said. The first five Zoku products will appear in the next few years, and a rollout outside of Europe is likely, too.
“We want to grow. We are ambitious and flexible,” Meyer said, adding the biggest challenge is finding good conversion locations. 
Decisions on growth will have as their focus what provides the most value for guests at the least cost, he said.
And what type of guests does the product target? The millennial crowd—who Meyer and Jongerius believe are not interested in traditional business relationships, but rather one of creative collaboration—is firmly in the mind of Zoku’s creators. The design company CitizenM hired, Concrete, is Zoku’s designer, too.
“Zoku is built around millennial mentality. The way those people work is different, more international, more open to collaboration, and the social part of the community will be elevated. The work part is very important, but they want a strict division between work and play,” Meyer said.

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