Aditi Sharma Kalra speaks to mobility decision-makers to find out their priorities and wish lists from serviced apartments this year.Having long been a luxury of the senior business executive, serviced apartments are now a staple for the everyday travelling employee; and a stable component of traditional corporate mobility policies. In the decade leading up to 2015, demand for serviced apartments across the Asia Pacific region has grown by up to 25%, according to estimates in “The Global Serviced Apartments Industry Report 2016/17”, by The Apartment Service (TAS Alliance).
Serviced apartments are often the solution for recently relocated expatriate staff and their families, while they wait for their personal belongings to arrive from their previous city. But are preferences changing? That’s exactly what we set out to discover as we spoke to a range of mobility decision makers on their preferences and wish lists for corporate relocation.
A room with a community feel Vicki Da’Costa, HR manager, Global Navigation SolutionsSpecialist provider of maritime navigation information, Global Navigation Solutions manages about two to three expatriate assignees each year coming in to Asia. According to Vicki Da’Costa, human resources manager, a lot of global transfers prefer serviced apartments, regardless of whether they are single or coming with a family.
“Serviced apartments definitely trump hotels nowadays. When you go to a different country, we still want a place to call home. Not just a room in some hotel, but more of a community feel,” she says.
Breaking these preferences down further, she says it really depends on the demographics. For example, assignees with a family usually look for an area with lots of kids’ activities such as play schools and malls. On the other hand, single assignees tend to look for a gym, pool or cafes and restaurants.
She recommends serviced apartment providers look into organising programmes for expats’ families to orient them into Singapore.
To provide an above-and-beyond experience, she recommends serviced apartment providers look into organising programmes for expats’ families to orient them into Singapore, along with the dos and don’ts of the city, and a list of the variety of festivals available, kids activities, restaurants, cafes, etc.
The issue with B&Bs Lee Quane, regional director, Asia, ECA InternationalIn general, Lee Quane, regional director for Asia at mobility data expert ECA International, has seen an increase in serviced accommodation being used for corporate relocation, even in cases where the assignee’s family stays home and they arrive on their own.
“Often serviced apartments are still cheaper than the cost associated with having a family of four over, because then the company has to pay for long-term lease plus the cost of international schools. So even though you’re paying a higher cost associated with the accommodation, you’re still gaining on a net-net basis,” he explains.
The issue with bed and breakfasts (B&Bs), he points out, is compliance to security and insurance requirements. “With companies paying more and more attention to data breaches, integrity and maintenance of corporate documentation, staying in a serviced accommodation should give them peace of mind, versus an unsecure environment where things are liable to get stolen.”
The issue with bed and breakfasts (B&Bs), he points out, is compliance to security and insurance requirements.
To sum up, Quane’s must-have items for corporate relocation: “You need to ensure the accommodation that you’re using for your employee is safe, secure and the necessary compliance boxes are being ticked. The second is to do so as cost-effectively to the organisation as possible.”
Services delivered to the door Arun Kaimal, HR director – water quality, Asia, Danaher CorporationDiversified science and technology innovator Danaher Corporation has at its helm Arun Kaimal, who moved to Singapore in 2017. He has since experienced firm-wide transfers into both Singapore and the Thailand markets.
The company’s policy is typically to provide assignees with a lump sum relocation allowance of SG$20,000 to cover their initial stay, landing costs and any other incidentals. Further, the company has negotiated rates with several hotels, for example, Park Alexandra and Park Rochester. In case they want to choose those, the company can connect them, but if not, they are free to choose out of this pool. The actual choice of the corporate stay is made by the assignee based on their needs and allowance.
Generally, in Singapore, the preference is to stay close to the MRT, the lifeline of the city.
In terms of preferences, he says assignees prefer the general feeling of “making a call, where everything is available” at hotels. He has observed younger staff are out most of the time, but once they are back, they want services delivered to their door. “It’s about having things readily available and on-the-go.”
The little things count Daphne Cheong, HR and administration manager, Thales MalaysiaPresent in Malaysia since 1980, Thales proposes solutions and technologies for defence, security, transportation and aerospace. Daphne Cheong is the HR and administration manager at Thales Malaysia, where among other items on her plate, she works with expat assignees on their accommodation.
The usage of serviced apartments, she says, depends on the kind of job and the time frame they come in for. “For business travellers, with one or two days of meetings, we use a hotel, which is fair and practical. But when we have skilled or technical people visiting, they need a longer time and a bigger space to live,” she explains. For example, the engineers may come over for a few months at a time, and may like to bring their families over, which is when serviced apartments are more relevant.
For business travellers, with one or two days of meetings, we use a hotel, which is fair and practical.
On her wish list for serviced apartment providers, she says it’s the little things that count – a service for grocery shopping will ease a busy expat’s schedule, for example. She also recommends some activities for the expat’s partner. “One of the apartments we work with has a movie day every week. They also have a mezzanine floor with books, magazines and a game station,” she says.
The bigger costing picture Amos Ong, mobility partner, SEA, ANZ, Dow Chemical Pacific (Singapore)Covering assignments across Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Amos Ong is the mobility partner at Dow Chemical Pacific (Singapore). From a maintenance point of view, the speciality chemical company has about 30 to 50 expats coming on a regular basis for both short and long-term assignments. In addition, there is a group of extended business travellers which adds up to about 50 a year – both of these across eight countries.
Dow’s mobility policy framework features a global vendor, working in tandem with various local destination service providers (more commonly known as DSPs), to identify the most suitable accommodation. Typically, the preferred type depends on the size of the family of the assignee. For example, if it’s a family of three, two-bedroom accommodation will be considered.
One of the novel initiatives by serviced apartment providers is the provision of a mobile phone that the assignee’s family can use.
Additionally, one of the novel initiatives he has witnessed by serviced apartment providers is the provision of a mobile phone that the assignee’s family can use to stay connected.
The convenience of end-to-end services Janice Wong, HR director, Monash University MalaysiaMonash Malaysia was established in 1998 and is presently the third largest campus of Monash University, operating in partnership with the Sunway Education Group. The infl ow of expatriates is in the form of academics, ranging in experience and seniority.
Janice Wong, HR director at Monash University Malaysia, says: “We look for variety in accommodation to cater to their different needs. Broadly, a good location (close to not just the organisation, but also their children’s school), central and accessible, nearby attractions for the family and, of course, safety.”
Providing two weeks’ worth of accommodation to assignees, the university has tried a range of options – hotels, serviced apartments and bed and breakfasts. “In terms of flexibility, nothing beats hotels. They provide the end-to-end experience.”
In terms of flexibility, nothing beats hotels. They provide the end-to-end experience.
“So in the bigger scheme of things, it is not more expensive to put them in a hotel.” Clearly, serviced apartment providers who are able to cover more areas in the value chain, such as providing an airport shuttle or pick-up, will win long-time support from corporate clients.
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