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Weekend Property

Boutique hospitality takes bold steps in bid to stand out from the crowd

More boutique operators are daring to be different as they move to challenge well-known, big-brand players in Hong Kong’s serviced apartment space

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 June, 2017, 12:08pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 June, 2017, 12:08pm

In any business arena, companies with a familiar brand presence, or a bigger marketing budget, would seem to have the edge on smaller or newer contenders. Now that more boutique operators are challenging the established players in the Hong Kong serviced apartment space, some innovative ideas are emerging to help them stand out from the crowd.

For instance, a 1935 restored Ford is driven around town to promote properties operated by Madera Group, established in 2014. Another distinguishing feature is the Hollywood mural painted on two sides of the group’s Central flagship – so if you see a large Marilyn Monroe caricature bearing down on you, you know you are headed towards Hotel Madera Hollywood.

Lucas Lai, head of Madera Hospitality Management, says the group dared to be different in the brand philosophy for its two hotels and serviced apartment property.

“We aim to elevate the local boutique hospitality benchmark by offering personalised service and uncompromising experiences,” Lai explains. From hardware to software, from big ideas to the fine details, “customers can feel and benefit from the difference”.

At Madera Residences on Cheong Lok Street, Jordan, in addition to free Wi-fi, residents are provided with complimentary drinks and snacks on arrival – even a customised, in-room scent.

By pre-order, guests can choose their welcome pack, and take up the offer of a neighbourhood tour around local attractions such as Temple Street and the Jade Market.

The apartments’ interior décor is by Spanish firm Lagranja Design, inspired by “the vitality of Barcelona”. “The lush décor and air of serenity is perfect for refined continental hospitality in the heart of Kowloon,” Lai says. As the apartments’ twin towers are connected to Hotel Madera Hong Kong, residents may also utilise the hotel’s facilities including a 24-hour gymnasium, games room, coffee shop and rooftop lounge.

On Hong Kong Island, the group’s Hotel Madera Hollywood also includes 14 serviced apartments for long-staying residents.

With sound hardware and wonderful service, we believe we can withstand time and competition
Vivien Chan, hospitality entrepreneur

Madera Group’s two-fold design and service approach appeals to “culture-seeking professionals” and luxury leisure travellers who are looking for something different, Lai says.

In launching Skyla luxury serviced apartments in Kennedy Town in 2013, owner Thousand World opted to “make a statement” as its market differentiator. Luxury accents are subtly displayed in the 34 studios and eight one-bedroom duplexes, such as ambient lighting, stylish furnishings and minimalistic décor. Each apartment comes with a private wood-decked veranda and balcony. Those on the higher floors offer a wide sea view, and the duplexes include a walk-in closet.

Washing machines are thoughtfully provided in each unit, along with HDTV sets and Blu-ray players, and European-brand kitchen appliances. Additional facilities available to residents are storage lockers, a garden terrace with barbecue facilities, an in-house gym, and a Sky Garden playroom.

“Besides our custom designer interiors and the two balconies for each unit, we try to provide a green and comfortable setting with services [intended] to take the pressure off Hong Kong’s fast-paced lifestyle,” says James Wong, Skyla’s operational director.

“Our very unique duplex units clearly standout from what others offer, [and] this has worked out quite well as people do appreciate the luxury within a crowded city.”

Kennedy Town was already ascending as a centrally located “happening enclave” as Skyla arrived, and its market positioning appears to have worked. According to the property’s leasing manager, each of the 42 units is currently occupied.

Design was also the tack taken by one of Hong Kong’s newest boutique serviced apartment operators, Tommy Watari Pao, when he opened Little Tai Hang near Causeway Bay in March this year. Indigo Living was assigned the interior design of its 91 rooms, briefed to “create a unique blend of local nostalgia and home-like atmosphere”, says Ryan Dang, Indigo Living’s design director.

“In collaboration with the client, we took note of the hotel’s surrounding area Tai Hang, which carries rich art and architecture elements as well as local heritage, and utilised these throughout the selections of materials such as textiles, wood, concrete, tiles, etc,” Dang explains. The mix of wood elements on the lower floors, and soft, neutral palettes in the high floors “curates the sense of home and warmth despite the relatively young age of the property”, he adds.

Yet, functions and services are not forgotten, Dang notes, with all room types designed to carry the daily necessities, imbued with cultural elements.

Yet, Vivien Chan, an established hospitality entrepreneur with a portfolio of properties in some of the most competitive locations in Hong Kong – V Causeway Bay, V Happy Valley and V Wanchai – believes that impeccably presented serviced apartments will speak for themselves.

Many of the guests at her V-branded properties are repeat customers who come back to V whenever they are in Hong Kong, says Chan, who is founder and chairman of VCC Land. “With sound hardware and wonderful service, we believe we can withstand time and competition.”