Hong Kong Trader - Home Away from Home
Home Away from Home
A pioneer of Hong Kong’s booming serviced apartment industry, Philip Morais, built and later sold a successful serviced apartment brand, only to launch another less than a year later.
Hong Kong serviced-apartment operator CHI Residences was launched in 2007, after Philip Morais found that retirement “wasn’t for him.”
Following the success of his first serviced apartment venture in London, Mr Morais returned to Hong Kong in the 1980s and began building a diversified portfolio of properties. In 1996, he founded the Shama brand of short- to medium-term accommodation options, targeting expatriates, business travellers and tourists.
He intended to hang up his hat when Shama was sold to Morgan Stanley in 2006, but Pilar Morais recalled that her father’s retirement was short-lived. After just six months, he called a family meeting, gathering Pilar from Australia and sons Philip Junior and Patrick from the United States, to outline his concept for CHI Residences. This would be a brand catering to guests “seeking convenience and personal space amid contemporary luxury surroundings.”
All CHI Residences convey a relaxing, home-away-from-home ambiance, according to Ms Morais. “They have large screen TVs, wireless Internet access and an internal communications system. Superior standards of service, including professional housekeeping, 24-hour concierge, gym memberships and a commitment to green living” are also part of the CHI Residences strategy, she said.
CHI launched its first two buildings with great expectations, only to be hit within a year by the global financial crisis. Ms Morais admitted that the new company “struggled,” with only 30 per cent occupancy in 2008. But customers soon returned. CHI Residences has now doubled its portfolio to four properties, with a fifth under development. The new property, being built on a prime Wan Chai site the family waited years to secure, will be the brand’s most ambitious yet.
The upcoming CHI 130, scheduled for completion in 2013, is located at the hub of Hong Kong’s dining and entertainment district, just a short walk from the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai. A new construction is unusual for a serviced apartment property in Hong Kong, where they are usually converted former office buildings or factories. Under development by architects KplusK Associates, CHI 130 will be designed “exactly as we want it,” Ms Morais said. “It will be nice to be able to design the building from the inside out, not the outside in.” She said this development is “a massive investment, but one that we hope will put us on the map.”
Hong Kong Focus
Meanwhile, the family continues to look for new projects in Hong Kong, and is beginning to cast its net wider. “We are looking around the Chinese mainland, and have one property under management in Shanghai. But Hong Kong is our focus,” Ms Morais said.
She describes Hong Kong as “a thriving city,” where the serviced apartment sector has plenty of room to grow. “There is no bureaucracy in Hong Kong – decisions are made quickly and you can move forward.”
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