No longer are visitors to the region only looking for leisure facilities and satisfied with standard hotel rooms. Serviced apartments in the region are on the rise and bring with them their own challenges and opportunities
The Middle East is a global business hub between east and west, and with a quarter of all Fortune 500 companies now present in the region, the demand for extended stay accommodation is on the rise.
While local brands and independently-run operations have been around for some time now, international brands have realised the lucrative opportunity this segment offers - and are racing to capitalise upon it.
"Serviced apartments are predominantly driven by two elements," says Christopher Hewett, senior consultant at TRI Hospitality Consulting, "the length of stay, and the requirements of people who choose to stay there. People generally choose serviced apartments because they will be requiring them for a longer period of time."
Marc Descrozaille, regional director - UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Carlson Rezidor, says serviced apartments, also referred to as serviced residences or hotel apartments, appeal to corporate clientele because of the space they offer.
"This product is extremely well positioned for this segment of clientele. Compared to being in a 35 m² room in a hotel or a 55m² room for the same price, it's a no brainer," he points out.
In the GCC, serviced apartments also make more economical sense for large families taking long breaks.
IHG chief operating officer for India, Middle East and Africa, Pascal Gauvin observes: "Economic growth is leading to increased leisure holidays within the region as people travel to enjoy new facilities and attractions. In particular, the preference in this region for travelling in family groups drives demand for apartment style suites, which can accommodate these groups."
While the size of the apartment and cost effectiveness are key factors in the decision-making process, the location of the property is also important for long stay guests.
"The most important part is actually the practicality of the apartment," insists director of The Residences: W Doha, Rony Sahyouni. "Not only the indoor practicality of the apartment and facilities, but the location as well of the hotel or the residence, compared to the market.
If it is centrally located, with shopping malls and business towers near it, it becomes a more convenient option for guests and they have to spend less time and money thinking about renting cars or worrying about transport."
Length of stay differs between the business and leisure serviced apartment market, making it difficult to pin down the average number of guest nights. While families on holidays book apartments for anywhere from five to 15 nights, executives can choose to stay for several months, depending on their requirements, the project they are working on, and convenience.
"Usually, 40 to 50% of our guests will be long-stay residents who will be here for one month; some of them will stay for a year, and the majority will be with us for three to six months. Many of these people will be working on projects.
On the other hand, you get short-stay guests, and they will stay five to seven nights, usually coming to Dubai with their family for one week and they would typically stay for five nights and above," says Rezidor's Descrozaille, which runs Radisson Blu residences in the region.
There have also been cases where certain properties have hosted guests for more than three years. The Residence: W Doha, for instance, has had guests stay with them since they opened in 2009.
There's (a lot) more… continue reading page 2 of this 6 page report on the Hotelier Middle East website