With a total of over 29,000 keys within the serviced apartment sector in Dubai alone, George Westwell, director of Cheval Residences reveals to Hotel News ME the potential for growth in this market across the Middle East.
How well would you say the serviced apartment market performs in the UK compared to the Middle East and why?
While I believe the serviced apartment market within the UK is secure and well established across both home grown and international brands, our industry currently accounts for around 12% of all hotel rooms booked within the UK, which in itself shows massive potential for growth.
I have read that Savills estimate London has 1.6 serviced apartments per 1,000 business visitors compared to that of 5.3 in Hong Kong, substantiating a long held opinion of mine that serviced apartments are greatly underrepresented within the UK. When you compare this with the Middle East, we can see that there is substantial opportunity for growth. In 2013, Colliers International reported that an estimated 10,000 serviced apartment units were needed to fulfill projected demand in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar.
What potential do you believe there is for serviced apartments in the Middle East and how would they compete with other hotels?
With demand currently outstripping supply by around 40% in the region there is definite potential for growth of luxury branded serviced apartments and residences within the Middle East. Cheval Residences prides itself on having delivered exceptional service for over 30 years in one of the most hotel-centric cities in the world. Through research and understanding of the serviced apartment and hotel markets we are confident that our business model will translate well within the region, allowing Cheval to provide customers with a cost effective option to experience all the space and comfort of home, as well as all the services of a 5-star product with a focus on safety and security delivered by means of a discreet and attentive service.
How has Cheval differentiated its serviced apartment product from those of competitors?
There are a number of key factors; from our locations, to ease of booking. From our child friendly and pet welcoming residences, to the warmness of all our attentive staff. Most importantly, we provide a consistently excellent product, delivered by a team of highly experienced and dedicated professionals.
Cheval has also been one of the first serviced apartment providers within the UK to respond to the needs of the global travel marketplace by placing its residences on the Global Distribution System (GDS) and Travel Management Company map in order to drive sales across the portfolio. With an extended network of opportunities Cheval is able to compete with hotel programmes, allowing us to better support and educate both the serviced apartment industry and corporate clients, while establishing luxury serviced apartments as a credible alternative to hotels.
Cheval is constantly listening to feedback from our customers and evaluating how this can translate into the day to day running of the business. Moving forwards it is our aim to grow both brand awareness and visibility with the UK domestic, European and key international markets over the next five years.
What elements does Cheval Residences have that appeal to GCC travellers and how do you secure your share of this lucrative market?
Cheval Residences offers many attributes which we believe are attractive to the GCC traveller; most important is our consistency in delivering an exceptional quality of product and excellent service, which is endorsed within the hospitality and travel industry by way of the awards that Cheval Residences has achieved over the years.
We have always prided ourselves in providing value for money, discretion and privacy to our guests, which we believe is an essential factor for many GCC travellers; offering a haven from which to escape the busy city, so that guests can truly enjoy a comfortable home from home experience in exceptional surroundings.
What new areas are you looking to develop in and why?
The UAE and wider Middle East region are key target areas for development as we believe it is an opportunistic market, ripe for development within the luxury hospitality sector.
Dubai in particular is a hub for leisure tourism and business travel as well as being one of the world’s busiest gateway cities. The city welcomes every type of traveller, from short-term business people needing convenience and comfort, the family travelling on holiday looking to accommodate the whole family under one dwelling, to extended stay where guests are seeking a more permanent retreat which they can call home.
What are your core source markets for business?
I would have to say that our core markets are key cities worldwide with major financial hubs, such as New York, London and Dubai.
A key element of our expansion plan within the Middle East will be to target business travellers and leisure guests as well as the longer stay expatriate community.
What are some of the challenges in the Middle East for opening serviced apartments, especially in Dubai?
We expect to face some challenges with our expansion. Dubai is obviously home to a considerable quantity of luxury 5-star hotels and apartments, and we anticipate there being a hurdle to overcome with educating the market on the benefits of fully serviced apartments compared to a luxury hotel.
We are also aware of the large number of new developments constantly taking place in the region and that Cheval will need to have a strategic communications plan in place to make sure our voice is heard amongst the noise.
What trends do you believe will define the hospitality industry in 2016 and why?
We are very aware that millennials will play a big factor in next year’s travel trends as the fastest growing customer segment in the hospitality industry. We are therefore very conscious of our need to be more transparent and tech savvy, with a strong focus on empathy and customer connection. Research has shown that millennials are expected to represent 50% of all travelers over the next decade.
We are also aware that smart technology is transforming the tourism industry with personalised services to create enjoyable experiences, suited to a traveller’s individual preferences. With the technology now available, customers can easily do their own research and make bookings in a matter of seconds, which subsequently means that as an industry we have to ensure we are as user friendly as possible with a focus on customer engagement at every stage of the booking process and beyond.
Cheval Residences offer:
- Selection of 1, 2, 3 bedroom apartments and residences
• Maid service
• Concierge and porterage
• CCTV & security
• Free WiFi
• Housekeeping and maintenance
• Onsite gym or use of local gym
• Welcome provisions on arrival
• Parking available at certain Residences
• Airport transfers available