Serviced residences operators are switching on the chic factor to make younger road warriors feel more at home. By Raini Hamdi, Paige Lee Pei Qi, Xinyi Liang-Pholsena and S Puvaneswary
Ovolo 222, Hong Kong
“There’s plenty of space within the (serviced apartment) sector to innovate.”
Ovolo Group, Hong Kong
Tucked in the trendy, up-and-coming district Sheung Wan, a neighbourhood with new independent galleries, pop-up boutiques, cafes and restaurants, with slices of old-world Hong Kong heritage and antique shopping within reach.
Residents hit the ground running: Ovolo is all-inclusive, with light-filled, smartly spaced room layouts. Upon arrival, guests receive a fully stocked minibar, a ‘loot bag’ of snacks and a set of premium Malin + Goetz toiletries. Free high-speed Wi-Fi and AppleTV are provided throughout the stay.
While previously the financial sector dominated its client base, increasingly Ovolo is seeing more transitory retail, brand and fashion executives make up the numbers. Catering to this demand, its apartments feature no black-out times, i.e. clients can stay months to years on end, and are able to adjust their tenure without a fixed duration. “We have found that rather than committing to long rental apartment leases, companies prefer more flexible monthly rentals, with the choice to extend or shorten their booking period readily available on their terms,” said Dirk Dalichau, COO, Ovolo Group.
Hong Kong-based Ovolo Hotels, a young hospitality company, aims to do things a little differently with individually designed lifestyle properties that are all-inclusive, technology-focused and full of character in authentic, lively urban locales.
From one property in 2002, the group has grown to four hotels and two serviced apartments in Hong Kong and one boutique hotel in Melbourne, Australia, all under the Ovolo brand.
In 3Q14 it will launch a 162-room designer warehouse conversion hotel with restaurant, rooftop bar, meeting and event spaces in Southside, Hong Kong. Last month the group acquired the Oaks on Londsdale in Melbourne.
Further expansion is planned in Australia, the UK and South-east Asia. “Current trends indicate that increasing residential values will see new apartments decrease in size, making clever spatial design, flexibility and premium amenity choices ever more important to the chic-seeking clientele,” said Dalichau.
Because customers are self-reliant in making their own travel plans, Ovolo has shifted away from conventional travel agencies towards relocation agencies, property agencies and online and offline channels that encourage more direct bookings through its sales team and website.
“That said, the role of agencies and large multinational corporate clients remains important. We motivate these sectors to make reservations with us through promoting our flexible leasing terms, all-inclusive services, relationship development and by continuing to improve on our products each and every month,” said Dalichau.
Citadines on Bourke Melbourne
“(Travellers want) flexible services and spaces in modern apartments that are designed with sophistication.”
Regional GM-Australia and Indonesia
The Ascott Limited
Conceptualised by design studio, Woods Bagot, to reflect the vibrancy of Melbourne. The property is designed as a lane way connecting two renowned shopping strips, Bourke Street and Little Collins Street, and within walking distance to the theatre district, restaurants, cafés, cinemas and parks. There are 380 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments.
Singapore-based The Ascott Limited celebrates its 30th anniversary this year with more than 34,000 apartments globally under three brands: Ascott The Residence (33 properties), Citadines Apart’hotel (76) and Somerset Serviced Residence (61).
Ascott has 61 Citadines with 15 more to open in cities across Asia, Europe and the Gulf region.
Bookings from travel agencies rose more than 30 per cent in 2013 over 2012. Ascott offers wholesale rates, dynamic rates and direct connectivity for live inventory and holds joint promotions with agencies.
“We were the first global serviced residence company to have our own GDS code to make it easier for travel agencies to access rates and availability of our properties,” said Kenneth Rogers, regional GM-Australia and Indonesia.
Orchard Scotts Residences, Singapore
“Today’s travellers are increasingly discerning and look for trendy options, personalised service and convenience.”
CEO, Far East Hospitality
Winner, residential category, of the 2009 FIABCI Prix d’ Excellence Awards, the highest honour in international real estate.
Facilities include a spa pavilion, wine cellar, barbeque cabanas and extended dining lounges for private entertainment options. It even allocates space for guests to walk their pets within the property.
Location is in the Newton district, the fringe of Singapore’s Orchard Road shopping belt.
Far East Hospitality (FEH) has the most number of hotels (10) and serviced residences (eight) in Singapore (FEH) with over 3,600 units. Its goal is to offer “Singapore-inspired hospitality” for business and leisure travellers on short- and long-term stays, across a wide variety of accommodation options. “Other than business travellers, we also notice more short-stay bookings from family travellers who want the convenience of staying together,” said Arthur Kiong, CEO, FEH.
A team has been instituted to devise future product concepts for FEH.
“We target all corporate segments of business travel and relocation, including travel agencies and corporate travel desks,” said Kiong.
Klapsons The River Residences Bangkok
“We want to shape a new generation of travellers who are loyal to our brand through the fun and modern side of hospitality.”
Klapsons The River Residences Bangkok
Chopard amenities, tailormade Klapsons pillows, personalised check-in. Soft touches and bold colours by William Sawaya of design firm Sawaya & Moroni add zest to rooms.
Situated in the tallest condominium in Bangkok, the property offers spectacular views and easy access to the city via personal ferry transfers to Saphan Taksin BTS station. There are 92 units, 25 private residences with a minimum contract of six months to one year and 67 designer serviced residences with contracts starting at one month.
The brand, owned by the Lee family of Jit Sun Investments Singapore debuted in 2009 with the 17-room Klapsons The Boutique Hotel, Singapore. The residence is managed by Klapsons Thailand, a subsidiary of Raimon Land, in which the Lee family is a major shareholder.
Plans are to roll out more Klapsons properties in Thailand and worldwide.
The strategy is to strengthen direct bookings through online initiatives like e-mail marketing, own branded website, Facebook and “a rough estimate of 20-30 per cent from OTAs or travel consultants”, said Nattamon Soupe, general manager, Klapsons The River Residences Bangkok.
Treetops Executive Residences, Singapore
“Treetops aims to continue its green journey to become the leading eco-luxury serviced apartment in Singapore and the region.”
Tay Hock Soon
Treetops Executive Residences
Located in Orange Grove Road, with the product and services embracing a green philosophy.
High efficiency air filters are fixed in every apartment unit (there are 220 suites), 100 per cent natural toiletries and non-toxic cleaning detergents are used, and its Sunbird Terrace Café serves organic food.
The first existing building in the service apartment industry to win the BCA Green Mark Gold Award (in 2010).
A retreat for the city dweller, yet it’s just minutes away from the Orchard Road shopping belt.
Launched in September 2000, managed by DTZ Debenham Tie Leung Hospitality Management Services.
The residence is in the final commissioning stage with the first vertical axis wind turbine system in Singapore.
This will capture waste energy and spin it for use in the basement car park at Treetops.
Treetops works with travel and relocation agencies in Asia-Pacific.
Capri by Fraser, Changi City/Singapore
“Created for the e-generation traveller.”
Regional director of technical services
Frasers Hospitality, Singapore
Spin & Play integrated launderettes on every floor come with Wii, Xbox Kinect, foosball, iPads, punching bags, TRX suspension training and Ciclotte to keep guests entertained between spin cycles.
Bicycles are available for guests to use.
Malin & Goetz bath amenities, designer Kartell chairs, ergonomically designed Herman Miller chairs, an iPod docking station and the latest home entertainment systems in suite.
Singapore-based Frasers Hospitality has 92 properties with more than 15,500 residences worldwide (including pipeline) under three brands: Frasers Gold-Standard serviced residences (Fraser Suites, Fraser Place and Fraser Residence), Modena by Fraser and Capri by Fraser.
Great potential, as reflected in the steady, high occupancy averaging 80 per cent at Capri by Fraser, Changi City/Singapore since its launch, said Jasmine Lee, regional director of technical services.
Two more have opened in Vietnam and Kuala Lumpur. Openings in major and secondary cities worldwide are being sought.
Since Capri by Fraser, Changi City/Singapore opened in 2012, at least 10 per cent of bookings have been from OTAs. New initiatives to motivate bookings from this sector include offering two-tier rates for weekend and weekday arrivals; free stays with free Internet and breakfast; and easy to book with 24/7 availability policy.
E&O Residences, Kuala Lumpur
“Our main focus is to tap into the medium- and long-stay programmes, especially family travels from mid-haul markets.”
Group director of sales & marketing
Located in the trendiest part of the city, close to shopping malls and classy restaurants, plus a street market on Tuesdays/Fridays just outside the premises.
Its 200 units of one- and two-bedroom suites are the most spacious in the city (about 104m2 and 133m2 respectively).
Flexible leasing arrangements: guests can book for a minimum of one night to an unlimited period.
Resort ambience in the heart of the capital city. There’s an infinity pool and six cabana-styled jacuzzis with curtains to allow users some privacy if needed!
E&O Residences Kuala Lumpur is an extension of Penang-based E&O Group’s expertise in hospitality management from running the heritage E&O Hotel and Lone Pine Hotel, both in Penang.
E&O Residences aims to establish a global mix of business and leisure clientele, targeting both long-term corporate stays and short-term stays.
Sharing the name and pedigree of the Eastern & Oriental Hotel, the property will install more old photographs of Penang in its public areas and rooms soon.
Commissions on sales are made to OTAs, while traditional travel agencies are given one-year contracted rates.
Additional reporting from Paige Lee Pei Qi, Xinyi Liang-Pholsena, S Puvaneswary