Each region of Belgium has different rules about renting rooms under P2P arrangements, for example in Flanders, even private accommodation providers have to have an authorisation, which may only be granted after inspection, and the property has to meet much the same requirements as for domestic rentals e.g. smoke detectors. The Cabinet of the Premier of Brussels, responsible for Tourism, Rudi Vervoort, enforced on the spot checks in the Brussels region late last year to ensure that standards were being met. Further to this, Brussels region hosts are now also required to register with the Brussels Economy and Employment service. In Flanders business operators will be required to register online with the General Tourism Commission, CGT.
What knock-on effect do these new “tourist accommodation” regulations have for the short-stay market in Brussels? We spoke to Joël Vanmellaert, Managing Director of BBF Serviced Apartments to hear what impact these rules have on the industry and how it may affect the consumer.
First of all, the registration procedure is incredibly complicated. AirBnB have already complained that the regulations are too complex. At the beginning of the year an estimated 2,000 of the 7,000 people offering accommodation had registered their status with their municipality. The impact of this is that the supply will likely dwindle. When supply decreases, the only outcome is an increase in price of accommodation – not good for the consumer.
Secondly, when the “landlord” or owner is being asked to pay tax on their earnings, the one who suffers is of course the end-user, who sees an increase in price, despite the fact that a private let rarely offers the same level of quality that professionally managed accommodation does. And although the newly minted ‘summer agreement’ states that working persons can now earn up to €500 per month untaxed, someone with a nice room on offer can quickly surpass that amount, which means they will have to pay these taxes anyway.
Thirdly, and not at regional level but at local municipal level: there are also municipal taxes to be paid on furnished rentals. Any landlord renting out their property as furnished must register this with the municipality and pay tax accordingly. For example, in Sint Gilles the tax on a furnished accommodation is set at €200 per year. Of course, this is ultimately paid for by the tenant.
The regulations enforced that the beginning of the year will come under review after the initial implementation period, however how will the industry deal with the changes in the meantime? Will this see a welcome resurgence in hotel stays as opposed to internet P2P bookings? Only time will tell.
Going back to the roots of good old customer service
What has been lacking in the era of online reservations, self check-in and quite a number of AirBnB interactions, is a prominent level of face-to-face customer service. This is a key element of the hospitality industry and the power it wields is not to be ignored. It makes the difference between repeat customers, solid reputations and can be the deciding factor in tourist’s choices, as well as those guests providing a steady income for hoteliers: the frequent flyer. Thusly we are seeing a change in AirBnB’s approach with Experiences. Not only are AirBnB hosts able to let you experience their home town by letting out their house, apartment or room, they can literally play host to various experiences that will enrich your journey and ensure you engage with your surroundings such as a truffle hunt, an aquatic interaction or a solid favourite: wine tasting. In competition with this new functionality from AirBnB, hotels that distinguish themselves from the pack by delivering quality customer service every time and ensuring unique attention to detail will be the winners in the months to come.
Based on the concept of Capsule Hotels – which were originally developed in none other than the space poor Osaka, Japan – by stripping away unnecessary amenities hotels make best use of limited space. Providing the guest a place to sleep, wash and of course log on. Most pod hotels are wholly on the grid, offering in-room climate control, pre-check-in viewing preferences, breakfast ordering and most importantly mood lighting. These pod hotels have come a long way from the idea of sleeping in a fibreglass box and there are more and more pod hotels popping up in the most crowded of cities, offering this state of the art in-room technology to distract from the lack of space. Many pod hotels also offer fantastic communal areas such as cafés, vape bars and even hot tubs, encouraging guests to ditch the pod and interact. Most recently, the vision of “cross-pollinating” is starting to surface where non-pod hotels integrate pods on the ground floor. A further example of this type of cross-pollination follows…
Hotel meets Student Dormitory
Fusing luxury short-stay with student style accommodation and then topping it off with long stay options, these new hives of communal activity are popping up in every university city across the globe. Balancing out their high-end guests, who are usually a seasonal treat with the reliable source of funds, that long-stay student lodger ensures these hotels some staying power. Also boasting stunning communal spaces that encourage guests of all backgrounds to interact and exchange ideas, workspaces are a key part of the build and are not just limited to a desk, a chair and a WiFi code. These hybrid hotels encourage workshops, gatherings, lecture series or an area to just contemplate. For the “stay a while” guest there are communal kitchens, bicycles for hire, laundry rooms and a genuine feeling of home.
We’ve heard of Smart Cities, Smart Roads and even Smart Parking. It’s now time for Smart Hotels. When we talk about Smart Hotels images of George Jetson inspired gadgets and gizmos flash before us, the whole room powered by a tap on an iPad. That’s not what’s being referred to here. Smart hotels are more about the intelligent use of space and the ability to plug a guest into the local information grid, making best use of real time data and therefore providing the ultimate stay – not forgetting all this at an achievable price. In the US especially the rise of mobile working is opening up space once used for offices and now providing the hotel industry with the bare bones of urban chic hotels. Millennial business travellers are not after five star luxury like our bawdy ancestors were, they are looking for pared-back décor, an authentic experience and tend to shy away from over-the-top branding and superfluous logo usage.
As all online businesses are experiencing, those that can offer dynamic pricing (also known as time-based pricing) see increases in their profits and better utilisation of their product. Dynamic pricing is the real-time adjustment of rates based on supply and demand. Hotels conduct the majority of their business online and can take advantage in occupancy fluctuations, seasonal changes and employ dynamic pricing structures to offer competitive rates that meet the ever-changing demand. We have seen dynamic pricing work for other industries such as the parking industry (basically hotels for cars) with incredible success. This type of revenue management strategy can be uniquely precise, changing rates daily or hourly based on sophisticated technology and the trusty old internet. However, hoteliers-be take note: this kind of pricing strategy can alienate corporate guests by restricting negotiations on corporate rates as dynamically priced rooms can work out to be more expensive than the agreed corporate rates.
Add-ons and up-sells
It’s definitely the perks of a hotel that make it stand out from the rest, and refining the skill of providing guests with the extra option that will make their trip unforgettable will be one to watch for in 2017. Hotels will have to work harder in 2017 to ensure their establishment offers top-notch loyalty programmes, where guests don’t have to spend a fortune to earn one measly point. The fact that AirBnB has launched Trips is a clear indicator to hotels that they need to be playing host to their guests in the most generous manner. It’s not just about a bed and a shower anymore. It’s about providing a complete travel experience. Organising bespoke tours, workshops, local events and enabling guests to feel as though their host city is their city, all important factors in providing a total guest experience. Especially with online bookings, or hotels that use apps for reservations, the trick here is to ensure that the potential guest is not distracted by a rainbow of events and services prior to tapping in their credit card number. Patiently waiting until the reservation is made, the guest is more likely to add once the booking is secure as they can be distracted during the booking process. Add-ons such as a bottle of champagne or a breakfast buffet make the guest feel special and takes advantage of all a hotel can offer. Packages are also crucial to this trend, and hotels can be as creative as they like to entice guests: free airport pickups for those booking on weekdays, free concert tickets for guests booking for periods in advance, or free dinner vouchers at the hotel restaurant for a booking of three consecutive nights or less are great examples of creative incentives.
Servicing the Local Community
An interesting niche in the market that hotels don’t usually latch on to are the services they can provide for the local community. Hotels are usually viewed as places for out-of-towners, only for those visiting the area and gone within a few days. A trend to look out for is the mobilisation of services that a hotel can offer their next-door neighbours: this can be as simple as holding packages, or advising on the best places in town to eat, drink and be merry. There are a plethora of services that hotels can offer local residents and we anticipate that 2017 will see hotels becoming community hubs more than they have ever been before.
Travel agents are making a comeback!!
Yes, once the internet took over we turned our backs on the local travel agent and pieced our own journeys together, just as we wanted. However, we didn’t realise just how much hard work that would be. Online travel agents are making a comeback and showing us just how much expertise is involved in organising that “once in a lifetime trip” or making that tricky connecting flight work. The overwhelming options available nowadays are often too much for the not-so-well-seasoned traveller. Do we lose time or do we lose euros when deciding how our itinerary should look. The expert traveller who has been there and done that all before, is more likely to be looking for unique experiences that are sometimes out of layman’s reach. Let’s not forget also that it is quite often about who you know in the industry and travel agents can be a fantastic way to secure an exclusive price on a well researched and fuss free trip.
Whatever type of stay you’re after, there truly is something for everyone. Be sure to look up our outstanding accommodation providers by visiting: