Singapore serviced apartment players seek short-stay licence

Serviced apartment operators in Singapore are in talks with authorities to waive a minimum stay period that stops them from competing head-to-head with hotels.

This is according to Ascott Group, the largest serviced apartment player in Asia.

The comment came as Ascott unveiled details of three new projects here in Singapore.

Currently, serviced apartment operators in Singapore are not allowed to rent out their units for less than seven days.

But they are hoping to change this.

According to the Ascott Group, this restriction is unique to Singapore and is limiting customers’ choices.

“The Singapore Serviced Apartments Association is having a discussion to see if we could apply for lodging licence, in this case, a daily-let licence. I wouldn’t say it’s a hotel licence; it’s a lodging licence where we’re allowed the flexibility to have short-stay guests,” says Cameron Ong, MD & CEO of The Ascott Group.

Serviced apartments here are seeing good demand and rental rates have risen by between 6% and 10% in the first quarter of this year, compared to the same period in 2005.

Ascott is adding two new serviced apartment projects to its Singapore portfolio, both under the Citadines brand.

“The Citadines brand is “apar’tel”. It’s very popular in Europe and we’re bringing that concept to Singapore now. We believe that Singapore, as a hub, will attract a segment of business travellers who are coming for special projects for a period of time. We’re targeting young executives who have the budgets,” says Ong.

Citadines Singapore Mt Sophia will have 160 units while Citadines Singapore Scotts will have 148.

With brisk demand for short and medium length stays in multi-purpose suites like these, Ascott says it wants to get into the market quickly with its Citadines Scotts project.

That is why it’s spending $10 million to refurbish the Hotel Asia building.

And over time, it believes there is also value in tearing down the building and landbanking that property.

Ascott is also investing $50 million to turn the downtown Asia Insurance Building into a 154-unit hotel, made up of mostly junior suites.

It bought the property in July for S$110 million.

Source: Channel NewsAsia, 29 Sep 2006