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LOS ANGELES-Temporary housing provider Oakwood Worldwide has broadened its reach into international markets with the creation of the Worldwide Alliance Network, an international affiliation that spans six continents. Through its partner firms, Oakwood can now assist clients who need housing in locations in which it does not currently have a presence.

The move formalizes the locally based company’s existing relationships with various firms around the globe. Oakwood–which was founded as an apartment developer in the 1960s and shifted to being a provider of furnished apartments in the 1970s, and then corporate apartments in the ’80s–expanded overseas a decade ago when it opened its Asia Pacific division. It opened a London office in 1999. Today, the firm has 20 properties in the Asia Pacific, 19 more in London and 22 in various stages of construction from Dubai to India.

“But as much as we’re growing and as much as those properties are meeting the demands of our clients in the cities in which they’re being built, we had been serving a number of key clients through a referral relationship,” says Gavan James, Oakwood’s senior vice president and general manager of operations. “For several years, we’ve been using providers that meet our standards in cities around the world that we’re not in. We’ve actually been doing this around the world for several relocation companies in the US.”

While Oakwood had an informal network “behind the scenes,” says James, the firm didn’t advertise it on its website or market it extensively to its existing client base of 22,000-plus companies. So the firm decided to expand the offering, and establish a dedicated department and increase staffing to handle those reservations through call centers.

As part of the effort, Oakwood clients now have flexible billing options and online tools to track bookings, 24/7 support teams and, most importantly, a single point of contact. Rather than a revenue-sharing system, Oakwood receives payment similar to a booking commission from its partner organizations.

“When you book through Oakwood, 88% of the time around the world, you’re in one of our apartments, and we take care of everything from booking to departure. It’s the other needs that we fill in with our partners,” explains James. “In those cases, we’ll arrange the arrival, get the information, we confirm all the details–we basically handle the guest until they arrive at the door of the property. They hand their credit card over at the front desk and pay for the accommodation there. And then, we serve as a liaison–if there are any issues that arise or they have any questions, and if we can help with their next booking–that’s where we stay close with the desk.”

For the Alliance partners, teaming with Oakwood greatly increases their visibility and access to customers, and boosts their marketing capacity and administrative infrastructure. Oakwood already has cornered the market on temporary housing; the company services 75% of the relocation market with 85% of third-party relocation providers.

With more than 300 network partners, Oakwood now has some 23,000 apartments in more than 4,000 locations in North America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. Many of those partners are in Europe, but Asia in particular is an area that’s rapidly growing, says James. Our number-one booking area is Europe, but Asia Pacific is catching up fast,” he says. “Temporary housing is just exploding in China and India, and it’s growing beyond the typical markets.” As such, the company is continuously looking for new partners, having recently signed a deal with a developer in Hong Kong. The EMEA region is another area of strong demand, and South America is a burgeoning market as well, he adds.

With the properties under construction, Oakwood is doubling its asset count. That, James states, “is going to take care of a lot of the demand in the key markets. And the alliance partners really help round us out. For instance, we don’t have buildings in Johannesburg, South Africa, but we have a partner with two first-class properties there.”

Yet while the firm is expanding, it’s doing so on a careful and measured basis. “We’re doing it at a pace where we’re careful because our service standards and guest experience requirements are high,” says James. “As much as we want to be everywhere our customers might want, we’re very sensitive about going too fast.”

It’s that mentality that’s also keeping Oakwood from making any acquisitions for now, despite being in a rapidly consolidating industry. The firm’s expansion strategy has always been through organic growth. “We’ll flag a building or go out and acquire one and expand our corporate apartment offices as we see fit in the locations with the highest demand,” says James. “The acquisition of a competitor or another firm is not something we’re permanently opposed to, but it’s just not in our strategy at the moment.”

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