Standing their ground: innovative serviced apartments in Hong Kong take the fight to boutique hotels
Operators in Hong Kong stay ahead of competitors by ‘listening to guests and looking for ways to improve services’
You might think that the serviced apartment sector, hit by cutbacks in short-term business postings since the economic downturn, is facing competition from Hong Kong’s new breed of boutique hotels.
In fact, it’s the other way around, according to Edina Wong, head of residential leasing at Savills.
“Serviced apartments are a threat to hotels since they can offer more comfortable accommodation for a similar rate,” Wong says, noting that some properties can offer a daily stay if they have a hotel licence. Otherwise the minimum lease is one month.
The self-catering facilities offered in even the smallest studio apartments, and the larger luxury ones, are welcomed by those who don’t want to be forced to eat out every night. Some, such as Apartment O in Causeway Bay, even allow residents to keep a pet.
Nevertheless, in Causeway Bay, where retail spaces generate a better return, Wong says operators have to innovate in order to be viable. This may prove challenging for property owners, but is a bonus for residents.
Because they rely on the return patronage of corporate clients, serviced apartment operators need to stay on top of their game.
Kelly Tsair, leasing manager at Como Como Causeway Bay, says: “Corporate clients are not only mindful of room rates, they also care about feedback from their assignee and whether the booking can be made with the least administrative effort.
“So we are always listening to our guests and corporate contacts, looking for ways to improve our services. These improvements sometimes can be trivial but they do add up and enhance the guests’ overall impression of their stay with us.”
Many of the rooms at Como Como have balconies. There is a large roof garden with barbecue, which guests can enjoy with their friends and family, and a self-serve breakfast offered on Sundays promotes a sense of neighbourliness.
If Apartment O on Hoi Ping Road, Causeway Bay, feels luxuriously homely, it’s because the property was once a residential building. Larger suites in the Chinese-themed, renovated building owned by Eton Properties include up to three bathrooms (both bedrooms and the guest/study room having en suites) with a bathtub as well as separate shower.
Unusual for a serviced apartment property, residents may keep a cat or dog. That 80 per cent of them do reflects the market demand for this opportunity.
Vivien Chan, founder and chairman of hotel and serviced apartment company VCC Land, which operates the V brand, agrees that impeccably presented serviced apartments will always have a consistent following.
“At V, we have operated and serviced our tenants for a decade, many of whom have are repeat tenants,” Chan says. With sound hardware and wonderful service, we believe we can withstand time and competition.”
Despite substantial retail development elsewhere, Causeway Bay is still regarded as the shopping hub of Hong Kong. Home to Times Square, Lee Gardens, Hysan Place and a labyrinth of high street shops, Causeway Bay packs more brands and dining options into one compact space than you could poke a chopstick at.
For those who yearn for a bit of green open space, there’s Victoria Park to retreat to. Think tai chi sessions at sunrise, glowing lanterns at Mid-Autumn Festival and a flower market during Lunar New Year to see Causeway Bay in a whole new light.
The district is also convenient for the office towers of Admiralty and Central, just two or three MTR stops away.
Operators agree that creating a home away from home feeling gives serviced apartments the edge over most hotels.
“We try to create an oasis amid the bustling lifestyle of Hong Kong, so our guests can relax,” Tsair says.
“On the other hand, our location in the heart of Causeway Bay offers convenience for visitors to Hong Kong, be it for leisure or business.”
Below are some of the serviced apartment properties in this popular district.
V has two properties in Causeway Bay, and V Wanchai, V Happy Valley and The Lodge in West Kowloon. V Causeway Bay on Yee Wo Street opened in October 2012 with 132 rooms from 230 to 1,600 sq ft, ranging from studio, one or two bedrooms to penthouse. V Causeway Bay 2 at 25 Tung Lo Wan Road followed in April 2013 with 20 rooms, all with balcony, and only one apartment per floor. Facilities include access to a fitness room, p kitchenware, free Wi-fi, 24-hour security and twice-weekly housekeeping.
Como Como Causeway Bay, on Lockhart Road, opened in 2010 after extensive remodelling of the building. A total of 122 apartments consist of studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and duplex designs. Other properties within owner Simatelex Group’s portfolio include boutique serviced apartment block Como Como Hollywood in Central. The minimum stay is one month.
Apartment O on Hoi Ping Road, Causeway Bay, has 22 suites ranging from studios of 220 to 270 sq ft, up to larger apartments of 1,200 to 1,500 sq ft. Its traditional luxury décor is themed as Old Hong Kong, or Old Shanghai. The property is pet-friendly.