Three and four-star hotels have emerged as some of the stiffest competition for mid-range serviced apartment providers, according to a local developer which specialises in the market. Philip Morais, chairman of the Trans- Asia Group, said the economic downturn had pushed many three and four- star hotels to substantially cut their rates for long-stay customers. In some cases, it was possible for businessmen to lease a hotel room in a three or four-star hotel in Wan Chai for $12,000 per month, he said. However, despite the economic downturn, he said Trans-Asia still had high hopes for the serviced apartment market. 'There is something intrinsically different between a serviced apartment and living in a hotel room,' Mr Morais said. 'We are still bullish on the serviced apartment market.' The company had recently purchased a fourth building which it intended to transform into such apartments and it would continue to consider acquiring sites which could be refurbished into suites. Mr Morais said the economic downturn meant it was imperative for medium-priced serviced apartment providers, such as Trans-Asia which considered itself a 'boutique player', to be flexible on rents. Trans-Asia has a five-floor block of nine serviced apartments near Ship and Schooner streets in Wan Chai - appropriately called Le Bateau. Since opening late last year, the units had been fully let by long-stay business people at rents ranging from $31,000 to $35,000 per month, Mr Morais said.. Property agents described the units as a cross between a standard flat and a hotel suite. The building features 24-hour concierge, furnished units and daily maid service. A neighbouring serviced apartment complex called the Elgin has been sold. Next month, Trans-Asia will open its third smallish serviced apartment complex in Staunton Street. 'We'll probably call it something like Number 9 Staunton Street to make it easier for business travellers to find the location,' Elaine Young, Trans-Asia's executive director, said. The building is just a few steps from the escalator and is now being renovated. Staunton Street is largely made up of restaurants and bars and the Trans-Asia building is located in what locals call Soho (south of Hollywood Road) and which is tipped to become another Lan Kwai Fong. The building will, on completion, include 10 units including two studios, four one-bedroom flats and four two-bedroom flats. The studios and one-bedroom flats are about 450 square feet and the two- bedroom units 800 sq ft. All units will be furnished and maid service provided. 'All the apartments will look different with furnishings from Thailand and Indonesia,' Ms Young said. A restaurant below is expected to provide room service. Monthly rents will probably range between $20,000 and $25,000 per month, according to Trans-Asia.