By John Dalton
Only a small percentage of the traveling public knows condo hotels exist. Many tourism insiders are unaware of the category, while others seem to totally ignore it or group it with hotels, condos, or vacation rentals.
That is why our group, the Onsite Property Management Association (OPMA), and its membership are knocking on as many doors as possible to show everyone why condo hotels should be recognized as an individual category.
The objective is twofold:
- To reduce the confusion experienced by travelers seeking condo-type accommodations with onsite hotel-like service
- To level the playing field for condo hotel management companies listing on online travel agencies (OTAs)
The Definition of a Condo Hotel
A condo hotel is defined as a multiunit property legally classified as a condominium, in which each unit is individually deeded.
Generally, units are collectively placed into transient hotel rental operations, offering most of the services of a hotel, such as front desk operations and maid service. Condominium units are usually larger than hotel rooms, ranging in size from studios to four bedrooms, with fully equipped kitchens and laundry facilities. They are geared for transient use of thirty days or less.
What makes condo hotels different? And why should they have their own category?
- They provide the spaciousness of vacation rental condos or homes with full kitchens and separate bedrooms and bathrooms.
- They provide an onsite 24/7 service on behalf of unit owners to serve the guests.
- They provide the onsite amenities and operating functions of hotels.
- When checking in, guests experience the convenience of a front desk on the property.
This offers the best of both lodging worlds. Furthermore:
- Condo hotel properties average 1,105 units—far more than the average number of rooms in a hotel.
- Hotels are limited in their ability to expand to multiple rooms. Space is limited.
- Condos do not have the managerial ability and resources within their properties to offer guests a wide variety of amenities and services onsite.
- In the most frequently visited vacation destinations in North America, there are more condo units than hotel rooms.
- Condo management companies create jobs in these destinations.
- In the market, condo hotels generate more taxes than other lodging companies to support the local economy.
- Condo hotels abide by the safety standards established within each community.
Playing such a leadership role in the most-visited markets differentiates the condo business model from almost every other type of lodging offered. The management companies’ contributions need to be recognized by all stakeholders in the communities where condo hotels operate.
Advertising Condo Hotels
There is another major concern: condo hotels are not being advertised to the traveling public as much as other accommodations.
When travelers go online to seek accommodations, there are a variety of categories from which to choose. They may select one of the following, each having its own definition: hotels, motels, homes, condos, timeshares, cottages, lodges, cabins, townhouses, RV parks, bed-and-breakfasts, apartments, and, yes, even single rooms. Condo hotels are rarely identified in the accommodation options.
In a Google search for “types of accommodations” or any other search that does not mention a specific type, you will find results that exclude condo hotels. Veesko lists fifty-seven types of accommodation, and condo hotels are not among them. Vacayholics shares definitions for fifteen types and makes no reference to condo hotels. A search for “vacation rentals” yields several types, but condo hotels are nowhere to be found. Keep searching, and you will see how many sites do not consider condo hotels a category. This is why OPMA wants to help the tens of millions of vacationers annually who already stay at condo hotel properties and the millions who are still seeking the best of both worlds.
Without using the words “condo hotel,” these consumers are finding it very difficult or almost impossible to book the accommodations that best suit their lifestyles. This leads me to another Google search. If I enter “condo hotel accommodations Myrtle Beach, SC” and then select the list “The 10 Best Condo Hotels in Myrtle Beach,” I find that Sleep Inn, Quality Inn, Fairfield Inn, Red Roof Inn, Courtyard by Marriott, and even Super 8 and Knight’s Inn are masquerading as condo hotels. In fact, the list contains more than 200 properties, and only a handful are true condo hotels. This is only one example of why vacationers and condo hotel companies are frustrated by not having a specific condo hotel category.
Whose site did I access in that web search? TripAdvisor’s. As you know, it provides reviews along with its listings. The reviews next to several of the hotels listed under “The 10 Best Condo Hotels in Myrtle Beach” were anything but complimentary. This leads consumers to believe condo hotels are not providing the services they promise. Nor do the hotels provide the spaciousness, kitchens with full-size refrigerators, and multiple TVs that condo hotels do, which is what the prospective vacationers are seeking.
Condo Hotels and OTAs
Which leads me to the second objective OPMA needs to achieve: leveling the playing field for condo hotel management companies in OTA listings.
Annually, OTAs spend millions of dollars on marketing to attract travelers to their sites. The marketing messages are focused on providing the lowest price. The moment prospective travelers touch a mouse and begin to browse, they are preconditioned to seek those prices.
Not having their own category, condo hotels are lumped in with hotel listings on one side and vacation rentals on the other. As consumers scroll through the hotel listings, the condo hotel rates are higher than the hotels. Few consumers realize that the hotel price is based on one room, while the condo hotel price is based on a studio or two bedrooms with a full kitchen and multiple TVs.
On the vacation rental side, the condo hotel rates are higher than those of off-site condos and other properties. Most consumers have no idea that the condo hotels rates include front desk check-in, 24/7 onsite maintenance and security, housekeeping, and other amenities not provided by facilities in many of the other categories.
There is no “apples to apples” comparison. It is more like “oranges to bananas” and “figs to grapefruits.” Now is the time to start making it easier for people to book vacation rentals by being more specific in the online listings. No wonder so many people are saying they spend endless hours online planning their vacations.
Condo hotel pricing is all about value. The pricing represents management teams that have combined the hotel and condo operations into one. That is why we say that OPMA is more than a collection of properties—it is a collection of minds.
The management teams at condo hotels have mastered the complexities that both hotel and off-site companies encounter. The onsite services delivered each day are self-contained and not outsourced, providing a more immediate response to guests’ requests. This justifies the higher rates they charge and explains why condo hotel guests say the rates are worth it.