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Serviced Apartments Offer Valid Medium-Term Option(HKTDC Hong Kong Trade Services, Vol 02,2002)

Vol 2, 2002

Hotels, Exhibitions & Business Centers

Serviced Apartments Offer Valid Medium-Term Option

Strategic Trade-Fair Selection:
SMEs Must Choose Carefully

Putting the Best Booth Forward

Mainland Visitors
Inspire Special Efforts

Serviced Apartments Offer Valid Medium-Term Option

BUSINESS people in Hong Kong increasingly turn to serviced apartments for comfort and safety at substantial discounts to full-service hotels.

According to DTZ Research, the stock of such accommodation amounts to 6,209 units (3,607 on Hong Kong Island, 1,420 in Kowloon and 1,182 in the New Territories).

"Much of our clientele at Pacific Place Apartments is business executives, but we also have families and even local residents. We are especially popular with new arrivals seeking a home that has everything for daily life and is affordable, safe, secure and well maintained," says Swire Properties corporate communications manager Jenny Tam.

One major advantage is added space - serviced apartments are larger than hotel rooms. Great Eagle Hotels Int'l runs three Eaton House establishments: two in Happy Valley and one in Wanchai. Unit sizes are 383-688 square feet. With limited service, versus the full-flight luxury of room service, cyber-butlers and full spa and restaurant outlets, these cost much less to rent.

"Flexible lease terms, with a one-month minimum, lift a financial burden for anyone moving to Hong Kong. Ordinary residential leases typically bind people for a year or more and require a two-month rental deposit," says Great Eagle vice-president, international operations and development, Kevin Murphy.

Serviced apartments allow newcomers to enjoy a comfortable space at affordable rent for a designated time. This pleases people on short-term assignments or shifting between permanent residences.

In business terms, companies renting a serviced apartment can have several employees stay there in the same month. Some SMEs keep serviced apartments in key cities for their roving representatives.

Real-estate specialist Shama Group operates 185 apartments in four blocks at Times Square, SoHo, Central and Wanchai. Typical prices are HK$14,000 (US$1,794) for a studio flat in Times Square (Causeway Bay) and HK$30,000 (US$3,846) for a two-bedroom apartment in the popular SoHo area.

"If you are a frequent traveller living 80% out of suitcases, in and out of hotels, a serviced apartment allows a more individual lifestyle. You also have a kitchenette for the option to cook snacks, avoiding expensive room service and restaurants," says Shama CEO Elaine Young.

According to Swire's Tam, many of the firm's clients are business people who travel frequently. "They do not want to set up home in hotel environments. They prefer serviced apartments as temporary home bases," she says.

Location is crucial. Most serviced apartments are conveniently near public transport and shopping. Pacific Place Apartments, for example, is in Admiralty, a short stroll from the Central business district. An elevator ride takes tenants to more than 100 shops and restaurants at Pacific Place shopping centre, to Hong Kong Park and to the Mass Transit Railway.

Some hotels offer monthly packages for regular-sized rooms, charging 13% service charges and citing value-added benefits like free local phone calls and newspapers. With apartment providers like Shama, service charges are waived.

Swire offers similar benefits, according to Tam: "Our residents pay no electricity, water, government rates, management fees or local telephone bills. There are no hidden surcharges for housekeeping services or bed and bath linen. There is a full housekeeping service seven days a week and a complete range of appliances."

High levels of service make apartments a more attractive option. "One telephone call solves all. From the moment a company calls us with their needs, we will arrange and escort viewings, contact executives to help with specific requirements like IDD/fax lines, baby cots and other issues, and process all necessary paperwork. On arrival, each resident is greeted by our guest-services officer, escorted to the suite and assisted with check-in," Tam says.

Serviced apartments keep pace with technology. Clients surf and book online. Internet or broadband networks are often installed.

Traditionally, such accommodation appeals to expatriates on short-term assignments or contracts. Rather than sign a lease, pay deposits on rent, electricity, telephone and other services and hire a domestic helper, they find it more convenient and relaxing simply to walk into a ready-to-live unit.

With economic problems hampering SME budgets, many companies regard serviced apartments as a means to trim costs. For example, shifting executives between such accommodations in different cities can completely eliminate any need to ship furniture.


Strategic Trade-Fair Selection:
SMEs Must Choose Carefully

HOW do managers of SMEs decide which trade fairs to attend? What should they consider before allocating sizeable investments in staff time and financial costs?

These are tricky questions, complicated by countless new exhibitions competing with each other throughout Asia and around the world.

For example, Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney and Bangkok all stage hotel-and-tourism events? Which should a small hotel group attend?

Huge wine shows take place in Hong Kong, Beijing, Tokyo and Singapore, not to mention significant producer shows in Australia. Which is best for a small distributor seeking new customers?

Last year, 82,397 buyers (up 68% on 2000) and 3,061 exhibitors (up 50%) from the Chinese mainland attended trade fairs in Hong Kong. Mainland enterprises show a powerful preference for events in Hong Kong.

Despite huge advances allowing buyers to examine and source new products on the Internet, the amazing range and number of exhibitions keeps growing. Why?

Hong Kong Exporters' Assn committee member Jeffrey Lam says traders like doing business face-to-face. "Exhibitions are enjoyable and effective platforms for international buyers and sellers to make contact. They remain a superior medium because of the high concentration of a target audience. At a specialized fair, every single person walking the aisles is a potential customer," he says.

For three generations, Lam's family business, Forward Winsome Industries Ltd, has operated globally, making toys and gifts.

"There are so many trade-fair choices you simply cannot afford to attend them all. It is vital to pick the one with the right theme. The next most important consideration is traffic flow. Without visitor traffic, there are no buyers," Lam says.

Paper Communications president Leung Tin Fu stresses effectiveness. Anyone participating in a business exhibition is not merely going on a trip for a few days. "For good results, the process involves making long-term plans," he says.

Paper Communications participates in more than 10 exhibitions per year in Hong Kong, on the Chinese mainland and in Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

"If you want to take products with you to an overseas exhibition, think about transportation and customs restrictions. Then plan the booth decoration and product presentation," Leung says.

"Most importantly, you must be sure the organizer is reliable and can attract quality suppliers and visitors. Investigate this before making any advance payment."

Professional and experienced organizers should provide potential exhibitors with market analysis.

Lam urges organizers to adopt effective promotional strategies to attract quality visitors. Leading organizers should be global players with extensive international links.

CMP Asia owns or organizes more than 70 trade events per year involving the likes of jewellery and gifts, leather and fashion, IT, industrial technology, furniture and beauty products.

Potential SME exhibitors should check the results of previous exhibitions, notably visitor attendance analyzed by profession, job title and country. They should be sure independent experts audit the attendance numbers, says CMP Asia president Peter Sutton.

"Generally, the bigger and older an exhibition, the better. Although new exhibitions are launched all the time, the well established and physically large ones usually attract the most quality trade visitors - professional buyers for products from SMEs," Sutton says.

At exhibitions with no track record, there is serious danger of wasting time and money, especially when SMEs hope to enter promising new markets.

"SMEs must choose events at times and venues suitable to the buying cycles of their potential customers," Sutton adds.

Participation price alone is no reliable indicator. "Low prices may mean organizers make minor investments in visitor promotion and exhibition quality. A low price can mean little value. Large and well-established exhibitions often charge more, but this reflects their value as sales channels," Sutton says.

Costs vary widely. SMEs can rent fully fitted stands or empty space for purpose-built displays. The latter are more expensive, often requiring a professional builder. Once created, some stands are stackable for transfer from show to show.

Other cost considerations include:

  • transport of display products;
  • production and printing of on-site promotion materials;
  • attending staff plus their travel/living expenses; and
  • insurance against injury or theft.

Costs mount much more quickly for overseas events than for those in an SME's home city.



Focus On Pre-Fair Preparations

SELECTING the most appropriate trade fair is only a first step for SMEs seeking a major breakthrough in business.

Then begins an important sequence of pre-event preparation.

Studies show that diligent efforts at advance promotion by individual exhibitors can succeed in attracting more visitors and business. Magazine advertisements drawing attention to important new exhibits and the relevant booth numbers should help.

Trade-fair organizers often supply complete lists of visitors to the previous year's event. SMEs can generate interest for themselves alone by mailing directly to these potential clients.

Send advance invitations to key clients and pre-arrange as many meetings as possible. Organizers often supply printed invitations for exhibitors to mail to past and potential customers.

Most importantly, SME exhibitors should swap pre-event ideas with friends and colleagues in the same industry. Who attends which exhibitions? Which ones are best? Which have rising attendance and the most loyal following? Where is the most business done?

Trade magazines, chambers of commerce and industry associations all publish fair calendars. Online exhibition directories also proliferate.

Putting the Best Booth Forward

ALMOST every trader knows the value of international fairs to attract new clients and garner market intelligence, but not everyone can create an effective display booth at modest cost.

Exhibition booths are important image-building tools. If eye-catching, they facilitate that first step in marketing products.

"Trade shows are a reflection of markets. They are also a condensed version of markets so designing a booth is very challenging. You must think how to target and interest the audience," says Hong Kong Designers Assn vice-chairman Charles Ng, who is also creative director of Maxi Communications Ltd.

Ng is a "visual communication" specialist who savours the entire process from brainstorming to layout and presentation. In 1994, he started doing ad-hoc work, like artwork, brochures and leaflets, but then decided to focus on creativity and the export market, which led to brand design.

"Everything from exhibition-booth design to brochures relates to branding. The point is how to affect the market and build your image. This is what you keep in mind when designing a booth," says Ng.

"The new challenge in today's market is branding design. Ability to think creatively and strategically creates an edge," he says.

Research comes first. "Do research into your own company: specifically the audience you target and the best way to project an image to attract those clients," says Ng. Studying the competition helps in deciding how best to differentiate from them.

Ng recommends hiring a design expert: "Regular staff lack focus and strategy. You need the right people to handle a booth. It need not cost a lot, and an expert can think cleverly on how to accomplish the task.

"When on a tight budget, you must maximize impact using limited resources. You can do this by using available materials. Once I decorated a booth sponsored by a paper company by draping the company's paper above. Then I used more paper to build a giant dinosaur that attracted a lot of attention."

Discovering staff members' special skills can help. "Several staff members were great at paper-folding so I used them to show booth visitors how to fold paper in different shapes," Ng says.

"You must always respect design because this is what really influences customers."

Hong Kong Trade Development Council head of design Matthew Leung concurs.

"Booth design is becoming more elaborate not just to attract new customers, but also to show existing clients you are still there and to have a place to entertain them. Actually, not every booth needs to show the product because information technology allows you to instantly send photos through the Internet, and samples can always be shipped to potential clients. Modern shows are used for meeting clients and other industry people," says Leung.

A good booth becomes an entertaining marketing tool. "Make it as attractive or shocking as possible. Have lots of attractions. Use a multimedia presentation, dancers or even pretty girls. These will draw people to your booth," urges Leung.

"Get the biggest space you can afford and build as high as possible - the bigger the better," he adds.



Booth-Building Basics

WITH a dash of creativity and a sprinkle of resourcefulness, creating an effective trade-fair booth at modest cost is feasible. Here are a few tips:

  • Research your own company to gain new insight. Understand the company's value to others.
  • Study competitors and find ways to stand apart.
  • Evaluate the kind of trade show. Is it for consumers or industry people?
  • Determine what type of people will attend.
  • Decide on the target market.
  • Consider what kind of image to project.
  • Secure the biggest space you can afford.
  • Build the booth to maximum height.
  • If possible, hire an expert designer.
  • Have as many attractions as possible.
  • Use available materials: your own or those of a sponsor.
  • Find a way to apply staff members' special skills.

Useful Contacts

Design Council of Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 2732-3179
Fax: (852) 2721-3494
E-mail: dpc@fhki.org.hk

Hong Kong Designers Assn
Tel: (852) 2527-3968
Fax: (852) 2527-5768
E-mail: info@hongkongda.com
Web: www.hongkongda.com

Mainland Visitors
Inspire Special Efforts

RAPID economic development and expanding foreign investment prompt more cross-border employment and business travel. Increasing numbers of Chinese-mainland SMEs explore opportunities and seek business partners at trade fairs, seminars and conferences in Hong Kong.

Statistics from the Hong Kong Tourism Board show a huge growth in Hong Kong visits by mainland business visitors. Responding to Hong Kong's desire to welcome yet more business visitors, the mainland government has simplified procedures for such journeys.

Naturally, Hong Kong's tourism industry is eager to serve mainland visitors and makes special efforts in that direction.

At the City Garden Hotel in the eastern district of Hong Kong Island, our 613 spacious rooms measure an average of 320 square feet. Renovated executive floors supply extra services and amenities, such as express check-in and check-out, daily newspapers and in-room broadband Internet access. There is a relaxing executive lounge and a state-of-the-art business centre with a conference room. Trendy new function rooms are ideal for business or banquet events.

Like many hotels, the City Garden is a short walk from the Mass Transit Railway and popular commercial, shopping and entertainment districts. Mainland visitors can utilize free shuttle transport services to many locations, including the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The Hong Kong Int'l Airport is only a 35-minute journey away.

Special promotional packages allow even the most budget-minded business visitors to find attractive value-for-money packages. With its reasonable rates, the City Garden Hotel does indeed serve numerous mainland business people, who invariably enjoy the facilities.

Different guests have different expectations, and Hong Kong's hotel industry must always attain the ultimate service standards. We are fully devoted to this objective.

Useful Contact

Hong Kong Hotels Assn
Tel: (852) 2375-3838
Fax: (852) 2375-7676
E-mail: info@hkha.org
Web: www.hkha.org

By Nicholas Yim
general manager
City Garden Hotel, Hong Kong

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