Operators add helpful touches

Increased competition has prompted upgrades, improved services and value added extras, writes John Cremer

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 November, 2012, 3:14am

With the choice of serviced apartments in Hong Kong steadily on the rise, established operators are responding to the competition with upgrades, enhanced services and a variety of value-added extras.

The prime aim is to give residents a sense of home, a space where they and their families have access to all the comforts and convenience of modern city living. But beyond that, there is more - a desire to anticipate changing needs and add the thoughtful touches that can transform a stay of any length from good to something special.

"As part of our total package, we provide a lot of extras on a complimentary basis," says Rene Holenweger, general manager of Gateway Apartments in Tsim Sha Tsui. "It is important to listen to residents, understand what they want and be ready to meet ever higher expectations."

Those extras include purpose-built children's furniture with special bedding and baby amenities, a pillow menu, and a choice of Asian or European dining sets. In addition, a major renovation programme is set to upgrade apartment interiors, with studio and one-bedroom units getting a comprehensive makeover to improve use of space and overall functionality.

Studios, for example, are to have a sliding door to create a separate bedroom when required. The option of a "1+1" layout will allow for a study or child's room in a one-bedroom apartment. And responding to feedback, all newly refurbished areas will feature high-quality wooden flooring.

"Our residents also enjoy access to the exclusive Pacific Club, which has just undergone extensive renovation and offers the finest recreation and dining facilities," Holenweger says.

New attractions include a children's playroom and an Italian restaurant. The indoor swimming pool, tennis courts, spas, sauna and state-of-the-art gymnasium - along with the bar, grill room and Chinese restaurant - are already well established favourites.

"The club is a haven where residents can relax and entertain," Holenweger says. "It is also a way for us to offer that little bit extra."

With similar intent, Pilar Morais, chief executive of Chi Residences, is overseeing several initiatives this year and next. Rooftops have been given a new look, with outdoor furniture and garden areas where residents can sit out and unwind.

There will be new facilities to encourage recycling and a more efficient process for check-ins and payments.

"Technology can quickly become outdated, but we make sure the systems we install can progress with the times," Morais says. "That means standard services now include complimentary Wi-fi and internet, with connections also available on in-room TV screens through our 'smart communicator' system."

Alert to the needs of young families, the company has made special efforts to create "baby safe" apartments. Combined with a pre-arrival shopping service to stock the kitchen with essential groceries and other request items, this does away with many of the concerns and hassles otherwise experienced in the first few days of a stay.

"It is all about providing a friendly, considerate service," Morais says.

Taking the concept one step further, residents can also sign up at special rates for yoga and personal fitness courses, either in group sessions or taught one-on-one. And to help new arrivals break the ice, there are regular invitations to barbecues, social events and even beach clean-ups.

Daniel Kerr, director of operations for Ovolo Group, similarly notes that, for many people, moving to a fast-paced city such as Hong Kong can prove daunting. Therefore, they appreciate the chance to make new friends early on and develop a varied social circle. "It's important to organise events to help people network and learn more about the local community," Kerr says. "So, whenever the company participates in a donation drive, walkathon or sponsored teaching programme, we look to get guests involved." In keeping pace with technology, the priority is to enable a seamless transition for any devices, formats, games or other entertainment choices brought from home.

"This has become easier over time as devices improve," Kerr says. "Nowadays, people carry libraries of movies, TV shows and photos on their person. With Wi-fi, Bluetooth and AppleTV in every room, we provide the capacity to enjoy them."