Thailand’s hospitality industry has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and Bangkok’s serviced apartments are no exception. A study by property consultant Jones Lang LaSalle indicates that serviced apartments have generally fared better than hotels in current and past times of distress. The report expects the pandemic to boost the growing trend of mixed-use premises offering hotel rooms and serviced apartments in a single development, as well as continuing interest from local and regional developers in developing standalone serviced apartments.
JLL’s study monitored international grade hotels and serviced apartments across Bangkok from January to April 2020. Findings show that over 80% of the city’s serviced apartments remained open at the end of April, with the average occupancy rates declining 30% year-on-year. During the same period, the majority of hotels across the city were shut down and those that remained open saw occupancies drop by nearly 50% year on year, many into single digits.
“Whilst the ongoing tourism market slump has forced the majority of hotels across Thailand to close their doors in order to lower their fixed costs, most of the Bangkok’s serviced apartments have remained open to serve long-stay guests,” according to Pimpanga Yomchinda, Vice President, Investment Sales Asia, JLL Hotels and Hospitality Group.
“Tourists or short-stay guests represent a smaller demand source in Bangkok’s serviced apartment sector. Though we have seen serviced apartments shifting their guest acquisition strategies by increasing the portion of short-stay guests in recent years, long-stay guests, most of whom are expatriates, have remained their top source of demand. This explains why the serviced apartment sector has felt relatively smaller impact from Covid-19 than hotels that rely more on short-stay demand from tourists.”
JLL’s study indicates that historically, the average distribution between short- and long-stay guests in serviced apartments has been 25/75 with a gradual shift in recent years to 40/60. The majority of hotels don’t have long-stay guests. While most traditional hotels don’t target long-stay guests, there has been a recent trend in hotels expanding into the extended-stay market, notably Bangkok Marriott Hotel the Surawong and the upcoming Novotel Living Bangkok Sukhumvit 34.
Alex Sigeda, Vice President, Strategic Advisory & Asset Management, says “With core demand from long-stay customer base, serviced apartments have proven more resilient than other hospitality segments in times of crisis. A similar pattern was witnessed during past events that had major effects on Thailand’s tourism industry, such as the Great Flood in 2011, political unrest in 2013-2014 and the Thai baht appreciation in 2019.”
Whilst the Covid-19 outbreak crisis has led to many new normals in the hospitality industry, JLL expects the pandemic to also accelerate the emergence of a hybrid accommodation development format that combines hotel and serviced apartments.
“As investment asset classes, serviced apartments and hotels have their respective advantages and disadvantages. The former generally offers a more efficient and stable operation that keeps the operator relatively safe in a down market. The latter generally offers more yielding opportunities during periods of high demand, given a more flexible inventory without long-stay offerings,” according to Sigeda.
To help bridge the gap between these two models, regional and global operators have been introducing a number of hybrid options into their brand stables, focusing on short-stay demand, while still reserving a portion of their room inventory for the long-stay segment, according to Pimpanga.
“We expect this trend to grow further as operators have realized complementary advantages of the two accommodation types. Among the recent examples in Bangkok are Staybridge Suites Thonglor by IHG and the upcoming Lyf Sukhumvit 8 by Ascott.”