|The Lakeside Chalet Marriott Executive Apartments is located along the tree-lined banks of Powai Lake, a tranquil
retreat in bustling Mumbai; (above) the apartments at The Leela Residences, Gurgaon, offer generous elbowroom and bird’s eye views of the surroundings
Its a home away from home and in some ways its even better than the real thing. You slide your car into a dedicated parking slot and then amble up to your apartment chatting, on the way, with the butler on your floor. Hes the guy whos helpfully doing all the grocery shopping for your fully-fitted kitchenette.
The livings just as easy when you step inside your luxury serviced apartment. Already, the dog has been walked (yes, obviously the pooch is in residence too), the laundry is crisply fresh and the beds turned down for the night. Theres nothing much more to be done except to head for a relaxing swim in the infinity pool on the rooftop/a game of squash/or a chilled out hour at the spa inside the complex. Later you may cook a gourmet (or otherwise) meal at the apartment or simply order room-service.
Luxury is the watchword in the new generation of serviced apartments that are springing up in Indian metros like Delhi and Mumbai. They come with impeccable 5-star pedigree and promise a taste of your own state-of-the-art home (at a fat price though) in an alien city. And you are welcome to stay hands free from anywhere from a week to a year (and beyond).
An impersonal hotel is not the most attractive option for long-staying guests. Especially since they can settle down to home-like comforts in a luxury apartment and at lower costs than a 5-star hotel, says Supriya Malhotra, general manager, Oakwood Premier Mumbai, a brand new service apartment facility from Oakwood Worldwide, a global temporary housing provider.
Check-in at Qutab Residences from Cho-ice Hotels, and your home could be a large 2,000sq ft two-bedroom, fully-furnished apartment, with a view, maybe, of the majestic Qutab Minar. Expect a spacious living room and dining area, a well-equipped kitchen, two bedrooms with spacious wardrobes (flat-screen televisions as well) and sparkling ultra-modern bathrooms. To be a resident you must book at least for a month, says Sandeep Gupta, managing director, The Clarion, New Delhi.
Cut to Gurgaon, the Delhi suburb which is a hot favourite with the worlds largest multinationals, and check-in at The Leela Residences, the extended residential arm of The Leela Kempinski, Hotel & Residences which has just opened for business. Indias first mall hotel, is seamlessly attached to Ambience Mall, with each of the 90 apartments offering birds eye views of a bustling Gurgaon.
Serviced apartments have been a long time coming to India. The ideas old but theyve never really taken off in this country. Now, clearly their time has come. Several top-notch hoteliers are scrambling to offer luxury apartments and most are already doing roaring business.
The reason for their almost instant success is easy to understand their sheer convenience. Renting an apartment/house usually requires huge advance payments. On the other hand, hotel serviced apartments are more flexible in their payment and cancellation policies, says Narayan R, director, marketing, Grand Hyatt Residences, Mumbai.
And while they appear to cost a minor fortune even for a months stay, hoteliers insist that the services provided in exchange make them very cost- effective. Guests can take facilities like 24-hour security, doctor-on-call and housekeeping for granted.
They can also avail of complimentary or discounted services on offer including the fitness centres, spas, business centres and private meeting rooms you wont get those in most rented apartments.
STAYING FOR A SPELL
|From top: Grand Hyatt Residences, Mumbai, is located near the city’s key business districts, shops and
restaurants; Oakwood Premier
Mumbai has fully-furnished residences designed on the lines of a European mansion; apartments at The Taj Wellington Mews are roomy enough to accommodate entire families comfortably; Radisson Suites features eight types of convention hall facilities; some of the
apartments at Qutab Residences overlook the majestic Qutab Minar
According to Malhotra of Oakwood, the serviced apartment market has evolved dramatically from its origins in the US in the early 1980s. Across the world today, service apartments are considered an alternative accommodation concept, especially for those who do not want to stay in hotels or commit themselves to private property rentals, says Malhotra.
Mumbai and Delhi are leading the service apartment pack with Bangalore and Pune catching up in earnest. While Mumbais long-stay options in the luxury segment include some 400 luxury units, Delhis kitty is now poised to see major growth with players like Radisson Suites and The Leela Residences having just opened up.
Oliver Kahf, general manager, The Lakeside Chalet, Mumbai, Marriott Executive Apartments, says: The global economic boom witnessed a few years back propelled the growth of serviced apartments. The rising dominance of India made it a potential market and international companies began setting up shop here.
He says that a lot of the newly launched serviced apartments projects were planned way back when the world economy was booming and theyve now opened for business or about to be completed. Therefore, we are witnessing a surge in this segment right now, he adds.
Malhotra points out that the luxury serviced apartment market though still in its nascent stage across all Indian markets is making advances and has a huge potential to grow. This is particularly because of the growth in the services sector and increased penetration of this segment in not just the metros as well, says Malhotra.
So its not surprising that Oakwood Worldwide is on an expansion spree in India. It recently unveiled Oakwood Premier Mumbai in Juhu with its 62 fully furnished residences designed by Woods Bagot of Thailand and ace architect Hafeez Contractor.
The boutique property is designed in the style of a private European mansion and even flaunts a rooftop infinity pool. This is Oakwoods fourth property in India after two in Pune Oakwood Premier with 202 apartments and the 84-unit Oakwood Residence Naylor Road and Prestige Bangalore with its 177 fully-serviced residences. Operating in multiple cities has helped not only in creating a brand but also consistently acquiring clients for all the Oakwood properties in India, says Malhotra.
Oakwoods expansion plans in India include a portfolio of 10 properties by 2012 including Chennai, Hyderabad, New Delhi and Trivandrum.
Sarovar Hotels too has also jumped onto the serviced apartment bandwagon. It recently signed on the 3-star Sarovar Portico, Vaishali (Ghaziabad) which will be the groups first apartment hotel in Delhi NCR. Anil Madhok, managing director, Sarovar Hotels & Resorts, says that the 127 fully-furnished apartments will be operational by the end of this year. Theres another Sarovar property coming up in Bangalore that will offer 37 apartments.
Says Madhok: Theres a huge demand for long-stay options and service apartments are nearly 20 per cent cheaper than luxury hotels.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Live in a luxury serviced apartment and you come home to contemporary wall hangings, classic pieces of furniture in teak and mahogany, hand tufted rugs, luxurious goose down mattresses... Whats more, usually the residences have large balconies, fully-fitted and operational kitchenettes, laundry rooms with washing machines and, of course, ironing boards.
You can expect electronic appliances like 40-in LCD televisions, Bose iPod docks, and Blu Ray players as well. They all have functional workstations usually with broadband Internet connectivity and phone lines.
An entire family can stay together within an apartment, so the experience is of being in your own home. Some apartments also offer additional rooms for maids. Guests have complete freedom of movement, and choice of cooking for themselves if they so wish it, says Ashrafi Matcheswala, general manager, Taj Wellington Mews.
Since it opened in 2004 with 80 apartments, Taj Wellington Mews has witnessed occupancies of 90 per cent. While the minimum stay is 30 days, some guests have even stayed on for six months.
Another long-stay option in Mumbai is the Marriott Executive Apartments with 177 furnished apartments. With a minimum stay of seven days, the property has seen average occupancies of 60 per cent to 65 per cent over the past few months.
Grand Hyatt Residences, a part of the Grand Hyatt Mumbai, a 547-room hotel, meanwhile offers 147 fully furnished apartments in configurations of one, two and three bedrooms varying from 775sq ft to a very roomy 2,360sq ft.
These apartments are conveniently located near the citys two international schools the American School of Bombay and the Dhirubhai Ambani International School as well as key business districts, shops and restaurants. The average occupancy has been over 70 per cent during the past few months.
In Delhi, the 30 apartments at the Qutab Residences offer an in-city experience for about a monthly Rs 3.59 lakh ($7,500) for the 2,000sq ft apartments and approximately Rs 2.39 lakh ($5,000) per month for a 1,500sq ft apartment.
Drive out to Gurgaon and the Leela Residences is offering 90 apartments of which 15 are already taken with guests shelling out anywhere between Rs 4.5 lakh a month to Rs 9 lakh for top-of-the-line accommodation.
The early success of the Residences is attributed to its location. All the daily requirements can be met at a walking distance at the attached Ambience Mall that has a hypermarket, movie theatres, bowling alley, restaurants, bars and beauty salon.
Gurgaons Radisson Suites is also tasting early success since it officially opened its doors to business with 32 well-appointed suites all of which are booked.
Since Radisson Suites is designed specifically for businessmen on short or extended stays, it features eight types of convention hall facilities that can accommodate up to 800 people. The suites are all WiFi enabled, come with dual phone lines, tea and coffee makers and microwave ovens (but no kitchenette).
The Suites has not yet put restrictions on the length of stay and the apartments are currently open to overnight guests. Per day tariffs start at Rs 10,000 for a Superior Room, Rs 12,000 for a Premium Suite, Rs 18,000 for a Deluxe Suite and Rs 25,000 for the Radisson Suite. But, of course, packages are worked out for long staying guests.
Oakwood Premier in India too has not set a minimum stay clause, but there are different configurations of tariffs applicable on short stay (from one night to 29 nights), medium stay (30 nights to 180 nights) and long stay (181 nights to 365 nights). Per night rates are about Rs 8,500 for a basic studio apartment, Rs 9,500 for an Executive Studio, Rs 11,000 for a one-bedroom and Rs 15,000 for a two-bedroom apartment (taxes are extra).
WHO IS CHECKING-IN
Business travellers are choosing serviced apartments over hotels because they prefer the bigger spaces, tighter security and exclusiveness offered by the apartments, says Akash Roy Saigal, director, sales and marketing, Radisson Suites.
He says demand is coming from IT companies, the BPOs, KPOs and the consulting and financial services companies that have plush offices in Gurgaon.
The Taj Wellington Mews Luxury Apartments, Mumbai, has been enjoying 90 per cent occupancies over the last few months courtesy its high profile guests while Oakwoods clients in Mumbai include Fortune 500 companies in sectors like finance and investment banking, IT firms, film production companies and the automobile sector.
Says Vella Ramaswamy, general manager, The Leela Kempinski, Hotel & Residences: High-profile guests do not compromise on their lifestyle.