Deep dive with Olivia Immesi, MD, Native Places

In the wake of lifestyle aparthotel brand Native Places unveiling ambitious expansion plans, we caught up with the UK-based firm’s MD to see what form this will take.

Olivia Immesi reveals how the chain will achieve its target of five further sites by the end of 2025.

What does Native Places’ aparthotel pipeline currently look like?

We have increased our portfolio for both Aparthotels and The Apartment collection by over 40% over the last two years with the introduction of our aparthotels in Edinburgh in 2021 and Kings Wardrobe in 2022. The apartment collection also continues to grow with the addition of The Marlo building on Marylebone high street and Verso in Bankside. Now as we see the travel industry stabilising and the high profitability of aparthotels within the sector, we are seeing numerous opportunities for Native Places.

How did you arrive at your target of five additional hotels within the next two years?

This is based on the numerous opportunities for this growing aparthotel sector within the hospitality market as we see the travel trends change post-pandemic. Travellers want more flexibility and real experiences within their destination. But they are also much more aware of the impact that travel has on the planet and are looking for more sustainable travel solutions which in our very nature is what our brand of aparthotels provides. 

Why in particular are you looking at Birmingham, Cambridge, Cardiff, and Oxford as prospective locations?

We see the location of the property as an amenity too. So we look at the location’s travel trends based on our target markets. 

Will you consider expanding internationally in the future?

While the focus has been expanded nationally, we would very much like to expand our footprint into Europe.

Do you tend to prefer newbuilds or conversions?

The fluidity of our brand lends itself to all types of property. Our focus with any of our buildings is to celebrate the history, bring the buildings to life and embed ourselves in the local community.  

Do you think the demand for aparthotels will continue to grow?

Travel trends have changed, traditional boundaries continue to blur and have given way to customers moving to more flexible offerings, which is what an aparthotel provides. It brings together the best of two worlds (hotel and apartments). The shift within travel trends to more mixed purposes trips, that of both business and leisure, allows the consumer more time in the location, creating the perfect opportunity for us. Our apartments are the same size as a traditional suite in the hotel world. They are so spacious and allow that increased level of flexibility that travellers are now looking for, combined with the luxury and service of a hotel – it just ticks every box for the traveller.

Do macroeconomic factors typically influence your development decisions?

Absolutely, seeing where populations are growing, and areas that are seeing more development and investment is key.

Do you usually use the same hotel suppliers for each site or is every location individual?

We work with a handful of designers that understand us as a brand and the building that we are occupying. All the furniture and fixtures are based around the design of that building and are part of the story and history of the spaces. We source locally as we celebrate the creators and artisans in each area so that our customers can have real experiences during every visit. Our customers want to inhabit spaces that provide connection and originality and somewhere with a social consciousness and that is what Native provides. For us luxury must be sustainable in every aspect of what we offer.

What criteria do you use to select each project’s suppliers?

Throughout the portfolio we try to source locally as much as possible and look for artisanal and independent suppliers. Breadwinner Bakery, located in the western suburbs of Edinburgh, provides all our baked goods including pastries and breakfast items. Red Squirrel Coffee – located in Gorgie, 1 mile from the Edinburgh hotel – package all our coffee in reusable, degradable bags and deliver them to the aparthotel by bicycle.   

How do you see the Native Places’ brand and portfolio developing beyond 2025?

We will continue to expand throughout the UK, and possibly into Europe, while also working towards our business mission of becoming a net zero hospitality operation by 2035. Apartment living is, by nature, more eco-friendly. A stay at Native uses less water, energy, and materials compared to a hotel stay, and we want to tread even more lightly on the planet.