Hotels are often a business traveler’s first stop in a new city. Increasingly, however, travelers in China have lodging options beyond traditional hotel rooms. Serviced apartments are now a regular feature in Chinese cities, from Tianjin to Shanghai.
The sector’s growth is evident in plans announced by the Ascott Group, the largest serviced apartment operator outside the United States. It currently operates 18 properties in China but plans to triple the amount of units it operates to 10,000 by 2010. Secondary cities like Suzhou are an essential part of its expansion strategy.
Serviced apartment operators like Ascott may be opening more properties, but do consumers want more serviced apartments? High-end serviced apartments can offer a number of advantages over luxury hotels. Cost is one of the chief factors, although prices for both serviced apartments and hotels can vary significantly.
According to Sim Kian Poh, general manager at travel agency Vacation Asia in Shanghai, serviced apartments in China are both cheaper and more spacious than hotel rooms.
Sim said a high-end serviced apartment in China typically costs US$150 a night, while a comparable hotel room would cost US$200 a night. “[With a serviced apartment] you’re getting a much more spacious room which is much more homely,” he said.
Choosing the right length
Sonny To, an independent software developer who lives in a serviced apartment in downtown Shanghai, agrees that serviced apartments can be cheaper than hotels, but only if the length of stay is right.
“If I’m staying somewhere for only a night or two, I’d choose a hotel,” he said. “But it’s cheaper to stay in a serviced apartment for longer periods of time.”
Both To and Sim agree, however, that the facilities and amenities offered at higher-end serviced apartments match those available at hotels. Serviced apartments usually have security, cafes, gyms and cleaning services for residents.
Top hotels, however, still outclass serviced apartments when it comes to services. Hotel guests have access to twenty-four hour room service, a concierge and a range of food and beverage outlets.
While a hotel’s breadth and depth of services can justify its premium price, not all travelers need them. Indeed, arriving in China after a long flight and being deposited at the end of a hotel check-in line can be wearisome. In such cases, serviced apartments, with their lower turnovers, and quieter public areas, are welcome alternatives.
Serviced apartments are not going to replace the Hiltons of the world anytime soon. But their growing presence in China means traveling executives can look forward to a more diverse lodging market.