FOR MANY A businessman visiting Hong Kong from abroad, the need to find a suitable space in which to do his deals is of paramount importance. Many executives fail to find hotel business centres sufficiently stimulating - and with good reason. They are often drab affairs, punctuated by basic office facilities. The key thing to remember is that hotel business centres are rarely major money-spinners, so are often in a state of neglect. For more and more travelling executives, the logical alternative to these centres is serviced offices. Hong Kong's serviced-office sector has, in the past, had trouble maintaining its integrity. Advertisements which promise top-quality office space at HK$2,000 per month have raised comparisons between the sector and the dubious used-car industry. Understandably, then, business travellers have not always been keen to rent out a serviced office. Once they find they are being hit with additional charges for everything from phone-answering services to electricity bills, the common reaction is to retreat to the hotel business centre where, at least, the facilities are relatively cheap. The past few years, however, have seen a small revolution in the sector. A number of global office providers have set up shop in the SAR, providing professional services. The most well-known of these is The Executive Centre, a multinational company that owns serviced offices all over the world. Alan Seigrist, their corporate development director, believes that business travellers are finding ready made offices increasingly attractive. 'We typically get the business traveller who's got to come for a month,' said Mr Seigrist. 'For one to two days they usually just use the hotel business centre.' The advantages that a serviced office provide over a hotel business centre, believes Mr Seigrist, are numerous. 'We actually provide a place for people to do business and to train people in,' he said. Clients are typically from Britain or the United States, with these countries making up almost half of the centre's customers. The Executive Centre deals with mid- to large-sized companies, so their prices are certainly not cheap. They are however significantly less than would be expected for a space including staff, desks, electricity, telephones and faxes. A two-person office would start at HK$24,000 per month. Extras, such as IDD phone calls, Internet access, a receptionist and conference rooms, are additional. 'It is much cheaper to do business out of one of our offices than using a regular office,' said Mr Seigrist. 'You can save 40 per cent over a three-year period.' The longer the period, furthermore, the bigger the savings. Some clients stay at these offices for over five years, which gives some idea of the savings a company can make. Well-trained staff are obviously a must for these offices. Travellers coming from abroad often expect the level of service they are accustomed to in their home countries, which may greatly differ from Hong Kong's usual standard. 'Service expectations are certainly higher in travellers from other countries,' said Mr Seigrist. For Hong Kong travellers visiting other Asian countries, they will likely find that serviced offices have yet to take off in places such as Taipei, Singapore and Shanghai. Mr Seigrist puts this down to the traditional Asian way of doing business, which he believes is somewhat more insular in its outlook. 'The traditional Asian client base isn't there yet,' said Mr Seigrist.