Firms expand their horizons
When choosing suitable locations for new serviced apartments, operators are increasingly looking for sites beyond Hong Kong's traditional core areas.
In part, this reflects the shift of large corporate employers from offices in Central or Tsim Sha Tsui to less pricey districts across town. It also signals the general buoyancy of the sector, with demand sufficient to spur new investment in properties that have all the expected facilities, yet offer something a little different from the standard city lifestyle.
'We start by looking at areas from a general demographic point of view,' says Daniel Kerr, director of operations for Ovolo Group, which has six developments in Hong Kong and is keen to keep expanding. 'Our brand is about effortless living, so we look for convenience, good local amenities, and the chance to work with residents who represent different markets.'
As an example, the company's apartments in Sham Shui Po are popular with people who work in the textile trade and for design colleges. The block at Shek Pai Wan in Aberdeen deliberately has a more 'out-of-town' feel and attracts quite a few university staff, IT and digital media types.
In adding to the portfolio, it is particularly important to track changes and anticipate needs. These relate to the broader corporate requirements and the way people want to live. It also means giving value for money, especially at a time when employer budgets and personal allowances are likely to remain under pressure.
'At the moment, Kowloon offers a lot of opportunity for us,' Kerr says. 'With the decentralisation of office space and so many companies moving to areas like Kwun Tong, it is a great market to come into. Also, the expansion of the MTR to the west and south of Hong Kong Island will give us the chance to expand our presence there.'
With every sign that Hong Kong will maintain its pre-eminence as a business centre and regional hub, Kerr is confident of strong, continuing demand for serviced apartments. Operators and developers may well find themselves competing more intensely on various fronts, though that does not cause him undue concern.
'There may be more competition for locations and residents, but it just makes sure we stay on top of our game,' he says. 'Overall, we welcome the idea of there being more serviced apartments in more areas.'
Pilar Morais, CEO of Chi Residences, is similarly on the lookout for new locations. Usually, the company refits existing buildings, but its most recent development - near Wan Chai MTR station - is being designed and built to order.
'Convenience is always an important factor; this hasn't changed over the years,' Morais says. 'The locations we choose must be easily accessible, but also provide an authentic Hong Kong experience for our residents.'
A subsidiary aim is to create an environment which can serve as a retreat, when necessary, from the hustle and bustle of the city, while being near the heart of the action.
'For us, having out-of-town apartments is not a priority,' Morais says. 'We do, though, see a move [by employers] to choosing accommodation away from the Central, Admiralty and Mid-Levels areas.'