How the other half live
Guy Wilkinson looks into the growing popularity of branded residences
When it comes to long-stay guests, especially those who stay on six- or 12-month contracts, the larger kind of serviced apartments basically compete in the residential market.
To take a typical guest profile, directors of multinational corporations looking for somewhere to live will essentially be choosing between a luxury serviced apartment and renting a fancy villa that will cost about the same, and which their companies will then pay to furnish.
The villa may not be serviced in the hotel sense, but then, perks of the job title will include ample remuneration to hire servants and third-party service providers from gardeners to pool cleaners.
So, why will such guests — who are in reality tenants or residents — opt for a serviced apartment? It seems clear that the answer is a combination of convenience and prestige.
To take Dubai as an example, your taxi driver will be more impressed if you tell him that your address is the Grand Hyatt, the Grosvenor House or the Marriott Executive Apartments, to drop a few of the more glamorous names, than if you send him off into the wilderness to find Villa 57a (after the fourth palm tree on the left), Road 32b, etc.
Of course, such hotel domiciles come with a panoply of top-class services and amenities, often discounted for full-time residents, from fine dining to sumptuous spas, and from room service to the ‘no request is too difficult’ attentions of world-class concierges.
This brings me to my main subject, that of the so-called ‘branded residential apartment.’ Essentially a variant of the serviced apartment (or villa), the branded residence is by definition a home, but one that bears the brand and typically benefits from the services of a hotel chain.
To quote a study by the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne: “Branded residences reflect a new way of living for cash-rich and time-poor HNWIs, the main target market for these properties across the globe”. (For those readers who thought the reference was to ‘Hooway Henwis’, HNWIs are in fact High Net-Worth Individuals).
Dubai, being the city that it is, was the pioneer of such residences in our region, which were developed during the freehold real estate boom as a way of charging premium prices.
Let me give you a few examples. Jumeirah Living is a sub-brand of the Jumeirah hotel chain that now operates three branded residences, located next to Dubai World Trade Centre, at the Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi, and at the Grosvenor House in London’s Park Lane.
These are essentially furnished residential apartments, for sale and lease, with a menu of hotel-style ‘concierge services’ provided by the chain, for residents to choose from.
Branded residences often feature big-name interior designers. Elsewhere in Dubai, the 144 Armani Residences at the Burj Khalifa feature interiors by Giorgio Armani himself, using items from his Armani/Casa Collection. Services are available from the 160-room Armani Hotel in the same tower.
To quote the sales blurb: “The owners of these elegant apartments have access to a full range of hotel services: concierge, 24/7 room service, housekeeping, as well as access to the lifestyle amenities on offer at Burj Khalifa that include four luxurious pools, a cigar club, a library, an exclusive residents’ lounge, a 15,000ft² fitness facility and an observatory”.
Similar approaches have been taken by Emaar at the three large hotel complexes known as The Address (two at Dubai Mall and one within the Dubai Marina area), as well as by IFA at its Laguna Tower at Jumeirah Lakes Towers, which contains a Mövenpick hotel.
Donald Trump’s alas now abandoned Trump Hotel & Residence project on the Palm Jumeirah was to have featured both apartments and town houses offering his patented ‘Trump Touch’ concierge services, as well as penthouses designed by Kelly Hoppen.
Branded residential apartments are a subtle way of ringing the changes on the traditional formulae for both serviced and residential apartments, which allows developers to diversify their offering and appeal to a top-end, premium-spending niche market.
It is probably early days, however, for managers of traditional long-term serviced apartments to quake in their boots at the prospect of competition from this very specialised product.
Guy Wilkinson is a director of Viability, a hospitality and property consulting firm in Dubai. For more information, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org