The growing allure of serviced apartments

The serviced apartment option is gaining traction over the traditional corporate housing model in Asia. Last year witnessed strong demand for serviced apartments in Singapore, hitting an average occupancy rate of 84.5%, an increase from 80.9% in 2012. HRM explores the compelling drivers of this trend

The demand for serviced apartments across Asia-Pacific has continued to grow this year, in line with growth in global mobility which has increased by 25% over the past decade, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Talent Mobility 2010 and Beyond Report.

The Global Business Travel Association Annual Global Report and Forecast also named Asia-Pacific the leading region in the world for business travel.

Couple that with a total global business travel spend that is expected to hit a record high of £230 billion (US$370 billion) in 2014 and a 38% share of global business travel spend, and the demand for serviced apartments will continue to grow in this region, says Craig Ryan, Managing Director, Aisa-Pacific, Oakwood Worldwide.

“Indeed, the rate of growth of our brand is testament to demand from companies for serviced apartments,” says Tonya Khong, Area General Manager Southeast Asia, Frasers Hospitality. “Our current global portfolio, including those in the pipeline, stands at 92 properties in 49 key gateway cities, and more than 16,000 apartments worldwide. We are on track to double our global inventory to 30,000 over the next five years.”

The last 12 months alone has seen the opening of new Frasers properties in Wuxi, Wuhan, Jakarta, and Kuala Lumpur, with plans underway to open another seven by 2015.

“This is further bolstered by the fact that corporate clients are also using us for leisure stays when they are traveling abroad for holidays, as they are familiar with the brand and want to experience the destination from the perspective of a local,” Khong explains.

Home away from home

With more people travelling to Asia-Pacific for business, reports show that companies face some real issues with culture shock. Organisations, particularly those with employees on extended-stay assignments, are finding the day-to-day challenges employees and their families face in a new culture, which include a new work environment and language barriers, are just part of the story, says Ryan.

“Companies wanting to provide accommodations and services that will elevate the mobility experience for their relocating and extended-stay employees, need to work with an experienced, trusted accommodation provider who can offer the global reach, local expertise and breadth of accommodation options required to facilitate this transition,” he explains.

Serviced apartments fill the gap between hotels and fixed-term corporate rentals by providing the win-win situation of flexibility, strategic locations, up-to-date modern conveniences, a host of lifestyle benefits, and value-added services, says Khong.

For any trip longer than just a few nights, serviced apartments are a better choice than hotels because they allow the traveller to relax and enjoy more space than a typical hotel room, complete with separate living, sleeping and dining areas, says Ryan. This makes them an ideal way for travellers to achieve more work-life balance while on the road.

Apartments may also have several bedrooms, making them ideal choices for executives travelling with their families or for group travel. “Additionally, because apartments come with a fully-equipped kitchen, the executive can have more relaxed dining options. The company can (also) minimise out-of-pocket costs when their traveller does not have to rely solely on restaurants,” Ryan points out.

Serviced residences also tend to be located in key business districts, which is a great advantage to business executives in helping them reduce unnecessary time spent commuting to work. “The convenience of being located near the city’s shopping, dining and leisure amenities also enhances their whole experience of being in another country,” says Khong.

The host of leisure and lifestyle facilities and services available allow residents to enjoy work-life balance without even having to leave the premises. “At Frasers, these include 24-hour gymnasiums, swimming pools, sauna and steam rooms, outdoor recreational facilities, residents’ lounges, and restaurants, which are complemented by the added conveniences of breakfast, daily housekeeping, room service, 24-hour concierge and security,” says Khong.

Modern conveniences such as high-speed internet connections, iPod docking stations, up-to-date kitchen appliances and state-of-the-art home entertainment systems at serviced residences help business executives live more efficient lives.

“Meeting facilities and in-house business centre support are available in each Frasers property. These provide residents the flexibility of being able to work effectively from the comforts of their own home and also the option of conducting meetings away from the office.”

Family comes first

Serviced apartments are adept at providing value-added services to help expatriate staff and their families feel at home in their new country of residence, no matter how big the adjustments that need to be made are.

“Simple gestures such as ensuring residents are served by the same housekeepers throughout their stay and taking note of the little things such as how residents like their pillows arranged or their beverage preferences, goes a long way to making them feel comfortable in a new environment,” says Khong.

Serviced residences also go out of their way to provide a variety of family-friendly facilities and services, such as children’s playrooms and wading pools, regular shuttle bus services to key business and shopping districts, babysitting services, and facilities such as the Fraser Kids Club to make their stay enjoyable.

Regular social and recreational activities that foster interaction among residents are also organised.

One of the highlights of the social calendar at Frasers is the monthly Residents’ Night, which is often themed around local festivals such as Hari Raya, Christmas, Deepavali, and Chinese New Year. These help residents integrate into their new country and provide a cultural experience that will make their stay all the more meaningful.

“By providing a home away from home, serviced apartments truly allow business travellers to relax, focus on their work and enjoy the culture and lifestyle of the place they are visiting during their downtime,” Ryan concludes.

Tips and tricks

To overcome the increasing challenge of making relocation booking decisions, HR and mobility managers need to have the confidence of choosing a brand that has a proven track record, not only in the country that they are looking at, but also globally.

Key considerations include:

  • A brand with a growing global footprint demonstrates a strong demand for the services that they are providing, and also the fact that they understand what it takes to meet the needs of the relocation market.
  • Industry recognition and guest satisfaction are also important benchmarks to base your decision on, as these are votes of confidence that demonstrate commitment to service excellence which are critical to ensuring the successful stay of your assignee.
  • Accessibility to information and ease of booking through online websites that are designed to make your job easier. This means the brand has a thorough understanding of the importance of meeting the needs of the customer, and is an extension of the level of service that can be expected on the ground, particularly if it also provides channels for feedback and enquiries that are responded to efficiently.

Source: Tonya Khong, Area General Manager – South East Asia, Frasers Hospitality

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