Serviced apartments are slowly becoming more like hotels — or maybe it’s the other way around.

It is ironic that as business and leisure travellers alike are increasingly turning to serviced apartments for short term stays, serviced apartment providers are increasingly offering five-star hotel services at their properties. With the competition heating up between traditional hotels and serviced apartments, the latter’s tenants of Hong Kong’s booming serviced suite sector are reaping the benefits of a crowded rental market.

Five-star Homes

Years ago serviced apartments — condotels, officetels — offered only the most basic services and perks and existed purely to meet corporate fiscal restraint goals. But then they dropped the focus on function and put the emphasis on the fact that these were fully equipped homes that could be rented for days, weeks or months. Because no matter what your business is or where you’re staying, sometimes the sight of a hotel room on an extended business trip was miserable. “Unlike hotels, serviced apartments have much larger spaces. And after a few days in a room, the walls do tend to close in on you,” says Director of Group Branding & Communications for Singapore-based serviced suite provider Frasers Hospitality Jastina Balen. “That is why, increasingly, serviced apartments are a very viable alternative and they offer great value for money.”

And though it may not be a direct result, those traditional hotel guests’ expectations are rubbing off on serviced apartment providers. Gone are the days of a front desk that collected packages. Most major operators offer a full slate of general and/or personalised concierge services designed to cater to short and long-term guests in equal measure, including orientation tours, personal, shopping and business assistants and social functions.

Eye on Interiors

“We can’t speak for the entire industry but what sets our serviced apartments apart is our dedication to innovative design and high tech touches, which work to ensure an effortless living experience for our guests where everything they need is at their fingertips at all times,” explains Gaurang Jhunjhnuwala, general manager of business development for Hong Kong-based boutique operator Ovolo Group. Ovolo, like many residences (Christian Liaigre’s interiors at The Jervois) are putting renewed emphasis on interior design and décor and it’s starting to show in the breadth of styles — ultra-modern, Asian-influenced, green, classical luxe — on the market.

Amenities Inside and Out

To go along with increasingly swish, hotel-level interiors, modern serviced residences are providing far more than simply towels, a TV and a kettle. These days, common in-suite facilities and amenities include iPads, iPod/Phone docks, Nespresso coffee makers, branded European linens, luxury toiletries (L’Occitane is a favourite) and complimentary breakfasts and newspapers aren’t unheard of. As Oakwood’s Caroline Leong, director of marketing for Asia-Pacific, notes, “This generation’s serviced apartments boast of enhanced features from the original concept as they have evolved to meet the growing needs of today’s travellers.”