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CO-WRITTEN / PARTNER | Staff Reporter, Hong Kong
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Value, flexibility key to Shama's expansion

Shama Island North has a total of 121 rooms, with studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom configurations.

Those in the hospitality industry will be the first to tell you that the boom of the sharing economy has not only made the industry more competitive, but also changed travellers’ preferences from longer length of stays to shorter ones. Despite this, the ONYX Hospitality Group sees these changes as new opportunities for growth. And it has remained aggressive by expanding its Shama serviced apartments brand not only in Hong Kong but also in the Asia Pacific.

ONYX Hospitality Group Vice President for North Asia Tommy Lai says the key is recognizing and adapting to the changing consumer appetite.“We observe that Shama’s traditional long-stay model is morphing towards shorter stays. In the past, most of our guests stayed with us for at least six to twelve months, and some even for years,” says Lai. “However, these days, there are more guests staying with us for one to three months, or even three days to a week or two.”

Lai credits the popularity of Airbnb for introducing leisure travellers to home-style accommodations.“I think the growth of the Airbnbs of this world is leading people to realise that, by staying in an apartment, you have a little more freedom and space. Nowadays, people are looking at serviced apartments in a different way – you could call it ‘Airbnb with security and consistent quality,’” explains Lai.

Five serviced apartments properties managed by the ONYX Hospitality Group are operating in Hong Kong under the Shama brand. On Hong Kong Island there are Shama Central, Shama Fortress Hill, Shama Midlevels, and Shama Hollywood, whilst on the Kowloon side there is Shama Tsim Sha Tsui.“We truly understand what our customers need and make sure all the properties under the management contract meet the Shama standards, including location, style, service and lifestyle offerings,” says Lai.

Shama Island North
Shama has responded to an increasing demand for studio or one-bedroom serviced apartments by increasing the number of smaller units in new developments reconfiguring its apartment layouts. ONYX’s sixth Shama serviced apartments property in Hong Kong, Shama Island North Hong Kong, is a testament to this.

Shama Island North, set to open in early 2018, is a hybrid apartment complex offering hotel rooms catering to travellers, as well as serviced apartments catering to longer stays. It will feature a total of 121 rooms, with studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom configurations. All units will be fully furnished with some having their own private balconies or terraces.

Shama’s new property will also offer a wide range of facilities, from its own fitness centre, lounge and leisure areas, to a well-equipped business centre.“Residents have become more sophisticated and discerning. They would expect features such as Wi-Fi as a ‘must have’ in a serviced apartment. Many of the expats would prefer having a gym room, lounge area and outdoor facilities, where they can work out and chill after work,” say Lai. “In all our upcoming new projects, we will have a hybrid model to cater the needs of not only corporate clients, but also the short-break seekers.”

Shama currently operates a total of 17 services apartments across the Asia-Pacific, with eight more under development.The Shama brand’s success in Hong Kong, says Lai, has enabled them to make forays in new markets like Australia and Malaysia.

Lifestyle provider
But the Shama positions itself not only as a serviced apartment operator but also as a lifestyle provider.Tenants and guests at Shama Island North will be able to avail of Shama’s exclusive “no boundaries” programme, which includes hood-tours and other lifestyle activities.

The “no boundaries” programme also allows access to networking events, enabling guests to fast-track their social lives and easily fit in with their new locality.“Residents now tend to look for a lifestyle choice over and above merely an accommodation option. They would like to fast-track their social life in the host city,” says Lai. “Shama offers its ‘no boundaries’ programme, which recommends the best places to go in town and insider tips on how to live well in their new city.”

A serviced apartment like Shama fills this need whilst offering great value and flexibility.“Tenants can choose to stay on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis. These options greatly benefit those companies that tend to send staff overseas for project-based work more frequently instead of fully relocating them to a new city,” says Lai.
“Residents also enjoy priority in agreement renewals prior to expiration and this gives corporate clients greater flexibility, especially when the durations of these postings can change for various reasons,” he adds. Lai has noticed that there are fewer guests from the United States and the United Kingdom coming in for long-term stays whilst the number of guests from Southeast Asia and Australia continues to rise.

More Hong Kong residents have also been staying in Shama properties.“Some of them stay with us for a month or two when renovating their homes, whilst some help to arrange month-long accommodation for relatives or friends who are visiting for a month or two,” says Lai.

Lai believes Shama’s aggressive expansion and strong brand makes its position secure in the highly competitive hospitality industry. Shama’s combination of value and flexibility, he adds, makes it a recommended brand by consumers despite the variety of options for residential-style accommodation.

“It is essential to have a clear value proposition, so consumers get to know your brand, become familiarised with your offerings, understand your distinctive positioning, and in turn choose to stay, return and recommend,” says Lai. “A strong brand develops confidence and recognition amongst clients, which in turn enhances business performance.”
 

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