The pandemic’s work-from-home movement has nudged consumers into the arms of work-friendly hospitality spaces, presenting an unexpected boon to players in the long-stay market. Now, daytime workcation packages have become a life buoy for Asia’s serviced residences, reports Pamela Chow.
While recovery to pre-pandemic occupancy continues to elude the hospitality trade, serviced residences have received an unexpected blessing in disguise. Remote work and telecommuting are driving consumers in search of more conducive places to work that can double up as a vacation opportunity – a demand that has driven long-stay players towards more inventive, daily offerings.
For instance, Oakwood’s workcation product, Work from Oakwood, provides its guests day access to available recreational facilities, a private kitchen, snacks and beverages, as well as complimentary and discounted printing services. Since its launch in September 2020 at 27 properties across Asia-Pacific and the US, the package has enjoyed “a consistent take-up in bookings month on month”, accompanied by a “healthy” average occupancy of 55 per cent across all brands, shared CEO Dean Schreiber.
Schreiber added: “For the workcation segment, properties in dense gateway cities like Singapore, Bangkok and Tokyo have proven to enjoy greater demand.”
Pan Pacific Serviced Suites Beach Road in Singapore also released a comparable workcation package in response to “the needs of locals who were in search of indulgent alternatives to the usual work-from-home routine”, described Cinn Tan, chief sales and marketing officer, Pan Pacific Hotels Group (PPHG).
With this, guests can take up a one-bedroom suite with complimentary amenities such as a welcome hamper, mini-bar with snacks, in-room Nespresso coffee and tea as well as complimentary parking.
“We received good response during the initial launch period as people were seeking alternative working venues. However, demand has slowed down slightly this year, most likely due to more people gradually returning to work. While the workcation bookings contribute only a slight increase in revenue, it has given us the opportunity to showcase our Serviced Suites to Singaporeans,” shared Tan.
The Ascott launched its Work in Residence initiative in August 2020, giving guests the option of daily, weekly or monthly packages for work suites in 85 properties worldwide, as well as selected amenities such as a dedicated workstation, regular housekeeping, complimentary coffee and tea, high-speed WiFi, and complimentary parking. Guests can also request for task lights, USB charging ports, a webcam and Bluetooth speakers with microphones. Further conveniences, such as food delivery, grocery shopping, printing, concierge or book-a-chef for in-room dining, are available too.
This offering has allowed The Ascott to maintain “robust” occupancy at its properties over the course of the pandemic, said Ervin Yeo, its managing director for South-east Asia.
For instance, lyf Funan Singapore was able to maintain a strong occupancy rate of more than 80 per cent from April to June 2020 as a result of the Work in Residence programme. As at March 2021, it had achieved 85 per cent average occupancy, with 68 per cent being corporate groups and long-stay guests of between one and 24 months.
Yeo elaborated: “Revenue from long-stay guests has increased, particularly on stays of three to 12 months. (The) Work in Residence initiative had the highest demand in Japan, followed by countries such as Singapore, China, Vietnam and Indonesia.
“We have (also) seen increased bookings of our Work in Residence packages for day use amid the Covid-19 situation.”
All work, all play
The Ascott has gone beyond the workcation game, now offering its apartments to be used as live-streaming spaces and fitness studios. For instance, Ascott Raffles City Shenzhen and Somerset IOC Hangzhou have hosted long-staying Internet celebrities and employees of new media and ecommerce companies, along with their live-streaming events and photoshoots. Ascott Raffles City Chengdu and Somerset Riverview Chengdu in China have converted some apartments into fitness studios, which instructors can reserve at special rates to conduct classes for guests. In Vietnam, selected apartments in Somerset Grand Hanoi, Somerset Hoa Binh Hanoi and Somerset Vista Ho Chi Minh City have similarly been converted into yoga studios.
In another initiative, The Ascott released Space-as-a-Service in August 2020 for collaboration with corporations and enterprises. Under this banner, the company has partnered with Nestlé to set up “We Proudly Serve Starbucks” coffee kiosks in the lobby of its Citadines-branded properties.
These inventive verticals netted the group more than S$91 million in 2020, revealed Yeo, and strengthened confidence in its brands. “Property owners continue to sign new management and franchise contracts with us despite Covid-19. In 2020, Ascott signed a record of over 14,200 units across 71 properties globally. This exceeds the number of units secured in 2019, marking a fourth consecutive year of record growth,” Yeo told TTG Asia.
Meanwhile, Dash Living, which offers serviced living rental solutions, is reaching out to merchants located around its partner properties – the most recent portfolio additions being Ovolo’s The Sheung Wan and The Aberdeen in Hong Kong – to foster a service ecosystem around the workcation experience. Its tenants are afforded lifestyle benefits in the precinct, such as fitness centre access, F&B discounts and monthly events organised by Dash Living or its tenants.
“We differentiate by creating a community for our tenants, with convenience, a sharing economy and tenant engagements in mind. During the pandemic, Dash Living has managed to maintain an occupancy rate of over 90 per cent,” said Aaron Lee, founder, Dash Living.
The journey forward
While demand from the workcation segment continues to hold strong for serviced residences, forward-looking players are levelling up in pursuit of higher domestic numbers.
The Ascott is turning its sights back to its loyalty programme, Ascott Star Rewards (ASR), having launched a mobile app in October 2020 to service its members. Besides membership and point management, the ASR app enables guests to perform self-check-in and check-out, make digital payments, access their apartments with a digital key and place service requests. With flexible bookings now the name of the reservations game, ASR members may receive bonus loyalty points even for cancelled bookings, which can be redeemed in the future when travel resumes.
For PPHG, its serviced residences are paying close attention to the non-working crowd to keep its occupancy healthy for 2021. For instance, Parkroyal Serviced Suites has launched a pet-friendly staycation package, targeting local homeowners who desire a mini retreat with their “furkids”.