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Bookings surge for UK serviced apartments

By Wang Mingjie in London | China Daily UK | Updated: 2018-10-03 16:42
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A serviced apartment at Destiny Scotland. [Photo provided to China Daily]

China is becoming an increasingly important overseas market for the United Kingdom's serviced apartment sector, with some of the operators seeing bookings from Chinese guests surging as much as 50 percent during the last 12 months, according to a trade body.

The latest select survey by the Association of Serviced Apartment Providers shows China as one of the top five overseas markets for the UK's serviced apartments sector. Members reported that their Chinese business increased from between 5 percent and 50 percent last year.

James Foice, the association's chief executive, said "The majority of our Chinese guests are leisure travelers currently. It's encouraging to see that operators expect their Chinese business to increase in the region of 10 to 15 percent in the next three years, with some expecting it to become their number one overseas market in that time."

China's leading travel provider Ctrip and other online travel agencies are the most important sources of Chinese business at present.

Stuart Moffat, managing director of Destiny Scotland, said they have experienced an increase in visitors from China by 44 percent year on year.

"The apartment sector has been a rapidly growing sector over the last five years in many key destinations, including China," Moffat said. "Awareness of such an option is appealing to Chinese guests. Cooking facilities is a great appeal as well as a social way to stay all together as more space.

A serviced apartment at Destiny Scotland. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Moffat believes the trend of choosing a serviced apartment over a hotel has evolved a lot over the last few years. "The experience is shared, and more people choose this option as the appeal is too big to not try. You get far more square footage for your money and generally per person is a much more competitive priced option over a hotel," he added.

The UK currently has 22,821 serviced apartments, with some 3,677 more are set to be built by 2020, a 17 percent increase on current supply. The sector is worth 978 million pounds($1.27 billion), according to the lodging industry data provider STR.

The organization revealed that serviced apartments in the UK averaged an 81.7 percent occupancy rate in 2017, outperforming hotel rooms, which had a rate of 77.3 percent.

The Ascott Limited is another serviced residence owner-operator that saw a strong development of Chinese customers at their UK properties, with business from China growing by 30 percent in 2017 and 50 percent in 2018.

Nancy Faure, vice-president of sales and marketing at the Ascott, attributed the growth mainly to its proactively China-focused marketing strategy. With a website in Chinese and Mandarin-speaking sales manager based in Europe, Faure said it provides convenience for Chinese guests to make direct reservations.

Active social media postings on WeChat and Weibo along with the rising numbers of Chinese independent travelers are both reasons the company is reaping rewards.

"Chinese individual travelers are able to choose their accommodation — serviced apartments — (compared) to group travelers whose hotels are being booked through tour operators or travel agents," Faure said, "Individual travelers tend to stay longer in a city to better understand the culture and live like a local."

This type of accommodation allows them to travel with family or friends and to cook their own meals, if they wish.

Zhai Yang from Hangzhou, China, who travelled to Europe with her mother during the Golden Week Holiday, said they chose to stay at a serviced apartment because it offers more flexibility compared with hotels.

"My mother has a very Chinese stomach, so the serviced apartment equipped with a kitchen gives us the convenience to cook. Plus, eating out three times a day when travelling abroad can be expensive," she said. "A serviced apartment offers a big draw — we can live comfortably like at home, in a large space."

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