Major provider looks to the future with big investment

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 March, 2011, 12:00am

The spectre of competition from new players entering the luxury serviced apartment sector has prompted a HK$25 million renovation programme of 50 studio apartments at one of Hong Kong's most established providers.

After initially testing the market by transforming a 790 sqft unit into a deluxe studio, Gateway Apartments is now embarking on the renovation of 49 more units at Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui.

'Most of the supply coming on to the market in the past year has been studio accommodation, particularly luxury boutique - and, to stay competitive, we are making this investment,' says Rene Holenweger, assistant general manager at Gateway Apartments.

Gateway brought in designer Liz Leung, of Lumsden Leung Design Studio (L2ds), to give the apartments a completely different look from their traditional carpeted luxury, while maintaining the 'cosiness' enjoyed by longstanding tenants.

'We tried to create a more modern living space with a better utilisation of space with a comfortable feel,' Holenweger says. 'Previously, it was covered in carpet, but will now be wood flooring, which is the current trend and it is what the customer wants.'

One distinguishing feature of the new studios is a discreet sliding door separating the bedroom section from the living area. 'The privacy provided by this separation would qualify most places as a one-bedroom unit but, for us, it's a studio. It means, for instance, that the spouse can sleep in the bedroom while the other watches TV.'

Now, another 'mock-up' to test the market for one-bedroom corner units is getting under way as Gateway continues its drive to stay ahead. 'These will also be modern units which can be turned into a 'one-plus-one', with a second room formed to be a study or child's bedroom,' Holenweger says.

Tsim Sha Tsui has been undergoing a revival with not only the ICC and Elements above Kowloon MTR becoming landmarks, but the iSquare tower of shops, upmarket restaurants and offices adding to the luxury brand stores of nearby Canton Road.

With some international banks relocating from Central to the ICC Tower, there has been a surge of boutique serviced apartments targeting management staff moving into the area seeking accommodation.

'Competition is tough now, but we have the advantage with larger space and so attract senior management staff at the executive level - the top guys,' says Holenweger of Gateway's clientele.

'We have a competitive edge due to economies of scale, high level of service and decor - so we don't want to lose that.'

Among the facilities that would help Gateway Apartments maintain that edge is the Pacific Club on one of the quays beside Victoria Harbour.

Recreation opportunities range from tennis to a gym, that Gateway boasts is the best equipped in Hong Kong, to a bowling alley and restaurants including a new Italian eatery that is just being completed.