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Thu 22 Jan 2009 04:00 AM

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The rise of self service

In recent months a raft of serviced apartments have opened across the Middle East as business and leisure travellers bypass hotels for value-for-money options. ATN examines some of the region's latest projects.

In recent months a raft of serviced apartments have opened across the Middle East as business and leisure travellers bypass hotels for value-for-money options. ATN examines some of the region's latest projects.While the serviced apartment industry has been well-developed in overseas markets for many years, the Middle East is only just beginning to capitalise on the benefits of this alternative form of accommodation.

In a region with a high number of mid- to long-term visitors in both the leisure and business sectors, serviced apartments can offer the perfect solution to travellers looking for a higher level of personal comfort and privacy than hotels can provide.

The general manager of the two Emirates Hotels & Resorts serviced apartment properties in Dubai - The Harbour Hotel & Residence and Green Lakes Serviced Apartments - Bruno Hivon, says most of his clients are either on a one- to three-month work contract or are relocating to the region and need somewhere to stay in the short term while they try to secure a permanent residence.

"We are also seeing families visiting that find the serviced apartment to be a good alternative to a hotel because you can have the whole family in the apartment, which as a parent is more convenient than having two connecting hotel rooms," says Hivon.

"It's also usually more economical and as a family, there are only so many hotel facilities that you really use - it can be more important to have a kitchen to warm milk for your baby rather than having a big Michelin-star restaurant in the hotel."

Hivon says the facilities guests are looking for in a serviced apartment complex are access to a pool, at least one restaurant as a minimum and some housekeeping and baby sitting services.

Green Lakes has also opened a successful retail outlet providing a service of basic groceries to its guests.

One drawback that Hivon points out is the inability for serviced apartments to provide alcohol, due to liquor licensing laws.

"If you're a tourist in Dubai you don't have any place to buy a couple of beers or wine if you want to relax with your wife and adult children," he says.

"It doesn't play so much in the decision making, but I think sometimes it is in the back of peoples' minds that they can't have a glass of wine with dinner."

Hivon also concedes that the rapid growth the market expected has definitely slowed recently, across all sectors. However, he says serviced apartments are likely to be successful in the current economic climate as travellers look for more affordable options.

"Maybe we'll see little hiccups now, but growth will remain strong - it's going to be one of the sectors that will develop the most in the next few years," he says.

Jumeirah Living, Dubai

The World Trade Centre Residence Dubai is the Jumeirah Group's first foray into residential building and the cornerstone in the luxury Jumeirah Living brand.

The two towers comprise 377 residences, including a number of serviced apartments ranging from a 90m² one-bedroom simplex to a four-bedroom duplex gallery of 386m².

Jumeirah Living offers a completely personalised service for short- and long-term visitors, including an ‘al a carte' lifestyle concierge service.

The lifestyle concierge team will collect personal information such as a guest's favourite music, flowers, films and colours to develop a guest profile.

The concept of the building is that "guests don't check in, they move in".

For guests staying longer than six months, the entire apartment can be redesigned to cater to personal tastes. Popular customisations include repainting the walls to a guest's favourite shade, installing a home gym or office and creating children's rooms, complete with popular toys and children's bathroom amenities. The concierge service also arranges drivers licence transfers, furniture relocation and can assist in selecting schools for children.

Between 70% and 80% of the building's guests are corporate customers and almost 30% are owner-occupied.

Occupancy is at its height during exhibitions such as CityScape and GITEX due to the hotel's proximity to the World Trade Centre.

The Harbour Hotel & Residence, Dubai

Accommodation: 24 x studio, 6 x 1 bed, 170 x 2 bed, 55 x 3 bed, 6 x penthouse

Facilities: Dining - The Observatory, az.u.r, Counter Culture

Timeless Spa, gym, swimming pool.

Services:

• Daily housekeeping service

• Evening turn-down service

• Baby-sitting services (24 hours notice)

• 24-hour reception

• 24-hour concierge and porter facilities

• 24-hour valet parking

• 24-hour telephone switchboard

• Foreign exchange teller

• Post office facilities

• Tourist information and in-house tours desk

• Arrangement of travel services

• Meet and assist airport services

• Car rental services

Visit: http://www.emirateshotelsresorts.com/the-harbour/en/

Marriott Executive Apartments, Bahrain

Marriott International has launched the Marriott Executive Apartments Manama - the first Marriott branded property to start operations in Bahrain.

General manager Hossein Garan says the property is taking advantage of the region's growing economy.

"Bahrain is booming, with multi-billion dollar investments and mega projects in all sectors, particularly oil, technology and property," he says.

"And we know that those investments will generate a specific market - people who will relocate to Bahrain and spend considerable time here."

The property is designed for extended stay business travellers and long family holidays. It is located in Al Fateh/Juffair, close to the diplomatic area, the city's financial district, Bahrain International Airport and Bahrain International Investment Park.

Marriott offers 188 luxury serviced one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments.

General offers a high-end residence suitable for both executives and families.

"It is a truly home away from home, an ideal combination of home style living with the luxury services of a five-star Marriott Hotel," Garan says.

Director of sales Marwan Haddad says demand for luxury apartments is growing throughout the Kingdom and bookings from outside Bahrain are increasing.

"We have received a lot of positive interest from both business and leisure travellers across the GCC and European countries," Haddad says.

He says the corporate market, primarily made up of executives staying for a period of more than one month, will account for 70-80% of guests.

"Besides executives and businessmen, reservations from leisure travellers, particularly those staying for more than a week have also been showing significant interest," Haddad says.

Marriott Executive Apartments, the upscale serviced apartment brand of Marriott International will nearly double in size in the next 36 months to respond to the growing need in many emerging markets for long-term stay lodging for executive expatriates. Including Bahrain, Marriott currently operates 17 Marriott Executive Apartments in 14 countries outside the US and 14 more hotels are planned by the company. GreenLakes Serviced Apartments, Dubai

Accommodation: 141 one-bedroom, 129 two-bedroom and 11 three-bedroom luxury apartments.

Facilities: Counter Culture restaurant, health club, pool as well as access to the Timeless Spa at The Harbour Hotel & Residence.

Services: daily housekeeping, full reception, concierge, guest relations, security, maintenance as well as a valet parking option.

Visit: www.emirateshotelsresorts.com/green-lakes/en/ Siji Hotel Apartments, Fujairah

Siji Hotel Apartments is a new five-star luxury serviced apartment complex in Fujairah, with 78 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. General manager Fouad Melhem, who also runs the five-star Al Diar Siji Hotel, is offering introductory rates to promote the new property.

"As part of our opening promotions, we are offering special discounted rates to our guests. If you check in during the whole month of January, then you can avail of our special introductory rate," says Melhem.

The beachside property is managed by Abu Dhabi National Hotels (ADNH) under its Al Diar Hotels Brand.

Siji Hotel Apartments are situated within a five-minute drive of Fujairah International Airport, making it a convenient base for both business and leisure travellers.

The apartments each have generously-sized bedrooms, fully-equipped modern kitchens with all appliances, as well as living and dining areas.

Each serviced apartment residence is furnished with in-room entertainment including flat-screen LCD satellite TVs, DVD/CD players and broadband internet connection.

Other amenities include a full-service business centre, a separate steam bath and sauna for men and ladies, a fully-equipped gym, a swimming pool and a children's pool for the kids.

"With Siji Hotel Apartments, we combine the flexibility of living in an apartment with the service of a hotel by providing quality finishes and high-end furnishings together with excellent and dedicated staff service to bring hotel experience to apartment lifestyle," says Melhem.

"Whether it is for a night, a month or a year, guests at Siji Hotel Apartments can expect ultimate comfort as it provides a refreshing alternative to the more traditional hotel stays."

Layia Oak Hotel and Suites, Dubai

This four-star development is the first hotel venture of Layia Hospitality. It is designed to capture the business market in Dubai, offering a combination of full-service hotel, dedicated spacious meeting areas and a range of fully-furnished units.

The property is located in the Tecom area, facing Dubai Internet City and Dubai Media City, just five minutes away from Mall of the Emirates and Ibn Battuta Mall and 10 minutes away from the International Convention and Exhibition and Centre.

The hotel's 161 apartments range from 81 to 160 square metres.

"Our location is a big plus for business travellers because there are so many of Dubai's business zones that are within easy reach," says Layia Hospitality area vice president Mohamed Awadalla.

"However, we are hoping that many of our guests will choose to bring their business meetings to us, as Layia Oak Hotel and Suites offers the very latest meeting and conference facilities, including state-of-the-art audio visual, sound and lighting, elegant tabletop accessories, exquisite food and beautiful flowers, all in our Oak Meeting Room or Summit Meeting Rooms.

"What's more, our over-sized units, which come with every conceivable fixture and fitting, are also conducive to good business. Guests can carry out private meetings in the well proportioned living room, while wireless internet is available throughout the property."

Each unit at Layia Oak Hotel and Suites is self-contained, with LCD TV, cooker, microwave, washer and dryer, fridge and safe. The property also offers three dining venues.

Launched in early 2008, Layia Hospitality comprises three brands: Layia Hotels (including Layia Hotels, Layia Hotel Hotels and Suites and Layia Serviced Villas); Living Courts; and a three-star hotel brand that is soon to be announced.

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