The AHC catches up with Merilee Karr, CEO - UnderTheDoormat
4 June 2019
With a potential market size of £3.5bn in London alone, the home accommodation market is firmly part of the hospitality landscape. It will feature on the programme at The AHC this October when founder and CEO of UnderTheDoormat, Merilee Karr, joins a panel session discussing Alternative Accommodation. In advance of the session, we sat down with Merilee and talked about the importance of accreditation throughout the sector and the remarkable pace of growth.
The AHC: Where did the inspiration for UnderTheDoormat come from?
Merilee Karr (MK): “I saw the need through my own travels and wanted to create an environment where people could enjoy a home space but with the professionalism of a hotel. Home accommodation is going through the same revolution hotels did over the past 30 years when hotel brands became beacons for consistency, security and quality.
Born in 2014, UnderTheDoormat delivers reliable brand standards for those people seeking a home accommodation offering. We have essentially built a distributed hotel across London with over 250 properties and promise to deliver the same quality regardless of location, length or purpose of stay. My background as a property manager with Shell where I managed the maintenance of over 12,000 petrol stations across 43 countries – itself a dispersed network of properties – puts me in a good position to manage the technology, property and logistical requirements for UnderTheDoormat.
The AHC: How do you ensure the standards you promise are delivered?
MK: Through my other role, as Chair of the UK industry body, the Short-term Accommodation Association, we have established an accreditation scheme which provides accreditation for companies or hosts of home accommodation. A significant part of the accreditation process is extensive inspections from third parties which is how we ensure quality standards have been validated. UnderTheDoormat is naturally part of that accreditation scheme. My vision is for everyone who offers home accommodation services across the UK to become accredited. I believe the industry as a whole and customers would benefit from consistently delivered standards and this scheme is a significant step towards ensuring this.
The AHC: Where does this segment of the industry go next?
MK: I expect in five years’ time every hotel group will have a home accommodation offering. I anticipate this happening through a mix of organic growth and acquisition, the latter occurring as the industry matures. We are observing trends where hotels are trying to change their offers to be more like a home with shared communal spaces, increased flexibility and individual design styles clearly showing a response to the customer demands.
The AHC: And the future for UnderTheDoormat?
MK: In addition to our branded home accommodation product, we are also growing a marketing and distribution service to help smaller property managers be at the top of their game and reach a broader and wider network of customers. We’re delighted to have welcomed StayCotswold as the latest addition to this platform who we can support with our technology, infrastructure and distribution expertise.
It’s a really exciting time. We’re helping meet the needs of consumers as travellers continue to tell us they want an authentic experience – home accommodation is perfectly positioned to provide this.
Don’t get me wrong, hotels serve a brilliant purpose and I don’t believe that will change. But home accommodation, with flexibility, security, quality and consistency is now mainstream and eager to grow, both from consumer demand and host participation. I’d love to see hotels and home accommodation talking as one voice for the hospitality industry. I wouldn’t be surprised if UnderTheDoormat was part of a hotel group one day but let’s wait and see on that one.
Merilee will be participating in Alternative Accommodation on Thursday 10th October at 9.05am. To join Merilee, a host of other inspiring speakers, industry friends and colleagues both old and new and a cracking conference, please register below.
If you are a hotel operator, you are likely to be eligible for the Hotelier Rate of £250.00 plus VAT to attend The AHC on the 9-10th October 2019. This rate is available to owners of up to ten self-operated properties. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with details of your properties to request this rate.