The Corporate Apartment Group (CAG) was established in 2014 with the view to delivering a fresh outlook on providing a turnkey solution for corporate and leisure travellers seeking short stays or longer-term accommodation in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The group owns half a dozen properties across high-demand neighbourhoods including Rivonia, Bryanston and Rosebank, each with dozens of 1 to 3 bedroom corporate apartments. They are an innovative leader in the serviced apartment sector in South Africa and technology has played a major part in their growth.
Tailoring stylish solutions for corporations, families and individuals alike and providing the comforts of home with the convenient services of a hotel has not come without challenges and we spoke with CEO Nick Cooke about how they are using tech and data in all the right ways.
Old school frustrations
“We used to have a rudimentary PMS and did all our Revenue Management through it. But in 2017 we decided to switch to the Mews PMS because of all the integrations and the Marketplace in particular. That same year we became one of the first users of Pace - in fact I think we were the third Pace integration and all done via Mews!
I’m not originally from the hotel industry and when I started using Mews they realised I was data hungry when it came to running the business. I was an industry outsider and I found Pace Revenue via the Mews Marketplace - it spoke to me about how to look at the business through the prism of data. To be honest, Pace even taught me about how rates work.
But the pandemic struck and we had to shelve Pace temporarily…we revisited Pace eighteen months later and saw that the platform had evolved even more. Pace’s machine learning and AI is brilliant and I’m really looking forward to future iterations when Pace can explicitly tell us things like when to close out a certain OTA or channel. That’s clearly where things are going product wise.
The system is also very intuitive, which is a major draw. Several people internally are now able to regularly use the platform as, frankly, it’s easy as chips to use. Furthermore, I think it took half an hour to onboard our first property and then within two weeks of that the rest were all done. We now have six properties on Pace automation and pricing is always working up to 365 days out, which is amazing!”
“The system has worked great for us and we have seen excellent ROI. Ironically, back when we switched pricing automation on at our first property it was pretty nerve-wracking. For example, normally we would sell one bed units for ZAR 950 -1000 but Pace was recommending ZAR 1250 or up to 30% more! We were really worried…until we realised they were all selling!
In one month our ADR shot up 20% after switching on Pace automation, which is funny because I had actually been worried about the risk of dropping through the floor beforehand! Pace started recommending prices much higher than we had thought possible previously and they were selling fast! More recently we have been even selling those same units for ZAR 1750 through Pace - that’s almost double what we used to do.
To give you another data point, during COVID our occupancy dropped like everyone else’s but our revenue actually held as our ADR was higher thanks to Pace. Nowadays occupancy is back again while our revenue is creeping back to our record 2019 levels.”
“My default analytics product is always Pace and not Mews. We use a lot of the Pace forecasting functionality for setting our targets. What is my budget going to be next month? We always use KPIs from Pace and the forecasting is very close. At the end of the day, we are still mainly focused on ADR, occupancy and revenue. But the quality of the night is also important…
To cut a long story short, we trust Pace absolutely and I’m constantly circling back to the system to get data. In my opinion, many hoteliers are still looking at the wrong data…”