Big difference in small cosy apartments

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2007, 12:00am

Small is beautiful and this concept is starting to takeoff in Hong Kong thanks to the rise of intimate boutique serviced apartments in recent years. Discerning business travellers and tenants today prefer a more private place to stay.

They are looking for something different from the larger, mainstream serviced apartment.

Typically boutique serviced apartments are furnished in a themed, trendy, cosy and contemporary manner with a small number of units.

These are usually operated by individuals or small-sized companies, and located in prime and convenient districts.

Many of these serviced flats are converted from commercial buildings or purpose-built.

Given their relatively small scale, there are no on-site recreational or clubhouse facilities, but most offer membership to nearby fitness clubs and gyms.

One of the leading players in this segment of the market is home2home Lifestyles, which operates trendy boutique serviced apartments such as Ovolo in Arbuthnot Road, Central, Erba in Queen's Road Central and Abeo in Aberdeen.

Heddy Li, director of operations and business development with home2home Lifestyles, said boutique serviced apartments were flourishing as the government and Hong Kong Tourism Board had successfully promoted Hong Kong to visitors.

She said Abeo was created as a boutique hotel and serviced apartments, catering for overnight accommodation and for those who wanted to stay longer in Hong Kong.

'In the years to come, this concept will grow and the market prospects are positive in Hong Kong. Hotel stays are never short of demand and the requirement for longer term stays is always growing,' she said.

Ms Li said home2home Lifestyles was expanding rapidly and it expected to open more new serviced apartments to further tap the market.

The lucrative business of serviced apartments has attracted a number of new operators. One of them is VCC Land, which is actively building up a portfolio of boutique serviced apartments in prime locations under the 'V' brand name.

Camille Ng, corporate communication manager of VCC Land, said the market showed good potential for growth despite the increased supply of serviced apartments. 'We have seen quite a number of new serviced apartments over the past few years.

'But each property is different and they are catering to the different needs and preferences of guests,' she said. 'We are confident of the leasing prospects, especially when many local and multinational companies are still in the mood to expand.'

The company's first property is V Happy Valley, which has been in operation for more than a year.

V Wanchai is due to open at the end of the month, while another new project is V Causeway Bay.

Ms Ng said high standards of personal service were ensured with the use of different themes and styles. 'We put a lot of emphasis on the interior design and decorations to create something different,' she said.

'The apartments are mainly adorned with European furnishings.

'Our guests can stay in different properties with us when they come to Hong Kong, and they will get a new experience every time.'

The 48 serviced apartments of V Happy Valley range in size from studios to three-bedroom units. Guests are mainly expatriates and corporate tenants.

V Wanchai was converted from a commercial building and offers 25 serviced flats, designed in a hip, modern style. V Causeway Bay will have 130 serviced apartments in a trendy, practical design.

Ms Ng said the company aimed to provide a value-for-money accommodation to customers and the leasing package included fitness club membership and special discount schemes at local restaurants.

The monthly rental rates at V Happy Valley ranged from HK$10,000 to more than HK$30,000, while those at V Wanchai were HK$26,500 to HK$39,500, she said.

Ms Ng said she expected to see a further strengthening in the rental market for serviced apartments given the strong underlying demand.

The company is also planning to open another new property in West Kowloon, which will provide about 90 serviced apartments.

Home2home Lifestyles' Ms Li said the rental market in Hong Kong was unpredictable, but its serviced apartments always maintained an occupancy rate of 95 per cent or above. Its rental rates varied from property to property. The rental for Ovolo ranged from HK$50,000 to HK$60,000 per month, Erba between HK$30,000 and HK$45,000, and Abeo's monthly rent was HK$15,000 to HK$25,000.

According to Ms Li, Ovolo targets the high-flying expatriates, Erba caters for the young professionals while Abeo is designed for guests from all walks of life and people who enjoy chic resort living.

Today, guests wanted to be pampered and taken care of by their host, and boutique serviced apartments referred to something exclusive with personalised services, she said.

'Each of our properties has its uniqueness - ovolo means 'eclipse' and the apartments are well furnished with European fittings and furniture,' she said. 'Erba means 'earth' and is a true Manhattan-style apartment. Abeo means 'relax' in Italian, and its apartments are styled like a modern resort with sweeping views of the Aberdeen Harbour.'

Ms Li said home2home did not compete with other players in the market as it provided unique products for customers.

The company is also looking into possible projects in Dubai and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in the near future.

In an extension of its serviced business, the company will launch a serviced office and storage property in Hollywood Road West next year.

A similar project in Aberdeen is also being developed to meet the needs of the growing business community in Hong Kong's southern district.