Weekend Property

Perfect connection: fast-streaming internet is essential for serviced apartments to keep residents happy

Travellers’ demand for efficient technology ensures that smart-home systems are the way to go

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 October, 2016, 11:57am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 October, 2016, 6:46pm

What’s the first thing you do after arriving at your accommodation as a traveller? If it’s checking the Wi-fi connection, you’re likely among the 65 per cent of guests who go online within minutes of entering their room, according to a survey by British hotelier Roomzzz – or those who told a United States research company, Research+Data Insights, that having easy access to online functions was second only to the cost of a room in influencing their booking decisions.

If efficient technology is so important to even an overnight stayer, it’s imperative for serviced apartment operators, vying for longer-term residents, to get that right. You wouldn’t put up with a dodgy internet connection in your own home, and that’s what serviced apartments aspire to be, regardless of the resident’s length of tenancy.

Pilar Morais, CEO of CHI Residences, a boutique serviced apartment brand, says technology is non-negotiable in the sector’s offering these days. The company has incorporated a number of hi-tech features into its Hong Kong portfolio of properties, and is planning its latest addition, the flagship property CHI 138, opening in the middle of next year, as the first to feature a full suite of home automation.

“In terms of requirements, at the end of the day, people just need fast internet, [and] they need their comfortable space,” Morais says. “What I see as a baseline is fast-streaming internet, so they can do work from home without any hindrance.”

CHI’s move into advanced smart-home systems is in line with the trend in residential markets, Morais adds. “It’s what people are doing in their own home.”

All CHI Residences are modern and contemporary in design, conveying a relaxing, home-away-from-home ambience, Morais explains. “They are also hi-tech with large screen TVs, wireless internet and an internal communications system. We are trialling our new smart living system in CHI 120, Sai Ying Pun and will fully implement it in CHI 138, Wan Chai, in 2017.”

CHI started out initially with a smart communication system, which avoids mass printouts and leaving notices for guests. “Of course, it’s nice to have the personal touch of a hand-delivered message, but people are very busy these days, so you need some means of automation there,” Morais says.

Communication is via a mobile “handy phone”, which replaces the fixed phone in all CHI units. This not only provides a direct line to the property’s staff, but gives residents free phone coverage, including calls to specified international countries, and comes with preloaded apps to help guide them around their neighbourhood and the wider city.

On a voluntary basis, residents at CHI 120 are trialling the new smart living app on their handy phones. This allows them to control the air conditioning, lighting, TV, among other things, while in the room and from outside. “You can set the climate control on the way home so that the room temperature is just how you like it for your arrival – without having to leave the air conditioning on all day,” Morais explains. The app can be set to “do not disturb” when privacy is required, or to alert staff that you’ve left for the day so that housekeeping can come in and clean the room.

At the end of the day, people just need fast internet, [and] they need their comfortable space
Pilar Morais, CEO of CHI Residences

Adopting innovative technologies gives the CHI brand an edge in terms of meeting the expectations of today’s tech-savvy travellers, Morais says. The energy savings such initiatives produce reduce operational costs for the company, while meeting the environmental sensibilities of guests.

CHI Residences operates four distinctive Hong Kong properties: CHI 120 in Sai Ying Pun (pet-friendly); CHI 279 in Yau Ma Tei; CHI 314 in Jordan; and CHI 393 in Yau Ma Tei.

ONYX Hospitality Group, operator of the Shama brand of serviced apartments, is also moving into hi-tech territory. Tommy Lai, vice-president, north Asia at ONYX Hospitality Group, says that providing an “exceptional living experience” is as important these days as the property’s physical environment.

“In the past, guests looked for quality appointments and facilities inside a unit, as well as professional guest services and a prime location in an exciting neighbourhood,” Lai says.

“Today, however, guests have become more sophisticated and discerning. For example, they would now expect features such as all-round connectivity within a serviced apartment.”

Shama responds by providing complimentary Wi-fi connectivity throughout its properties, and state-of-the-art features such as high-definition satellite televisions with sound-bar home theatre systems or Hi-fi audio systems.

“Computers and printers are available at Shama Wired, our business centre that can be found at each one of our properties,” Lai says. “We will also be introducing handy phones at Shama Central in 2016 Q4, allowing our guests to stay connected during their stay in Hong Kong.”

Shama operates four properties on Hong Kong Island, and one in Kowloon. These are Shama Central on Peel St; Shama Fortress Hill; Shama Hollywood on Hollywood Road; Shama Mid-Levels on Kennedy Road; and Shama Tsim Sha Tsui.