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The Ascott Limited extends its hotel chain to the Gulf

The world’s largest provider of serviced apartments, The Ascott Limited, has recently expanded its services into the Gulf region. Since embarking on this latest chapter, the group has seen promising growth

The two-bedroom Premier Suite at Ascott Park Place, Dubai
The two-bedroom Premier Suite at Ascott Park Place, Dubai 

The Ascott Limited, a subsidiary of CapitaLand Limited, established the Asia-Pacific region’s first international-class serviced residence with the opening of The Ascott Singapore in 1984. Exceptional growth in the years that followed saw the brand founding the Ascott Residence Trust in 2006; the world’s first Pan-Asian serviced residence real estate investment trust. Today the company boasts over 30 years of experience in the serviced hospitality sector.

Over the course of its lifetime, The Ascott Limited has grown into the largest international serviced residence owner-operator in the world. With a remarkable portfolio of over 38,000 apartment units spanning 90 cities and 25 countries, plus a target of reaching 40,000 apartments globally by the end of 2015, the group is experiencing rapid growth in the serviced hospitality sector. One of the key markets driving this success, along with providing major opportunities for the future, is the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

The high demand for luxury serviced apartments in the GCC is in line with Ascott’s strategic plan to focus its growth on the highest performing cities in the sector

The high demand for luxury serviced apartments in the GCC is in line with Ascott’s strategic plan to focus its growth on the highest performing cities in the sector. The Gulf region remains one of the leading areas for fiscal growth in the world – something predominantly due to the thriving economies of the individual states within the GCC.

According to the World Bank, the GCC’s projected GDP growth for 2015 is 4.9 percent, compared with the global average of three percent. Capitalising on such potential and providing much-needed luxury services within the region have seen the group voted as the Best Serviced Apartment Provider, Bahrain in the 2015 Business Destinations Travel Awards.

Tourism boom
The United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar and Saudi Arabia are all currently seeing an influx of expatriates, primarily as a result of some of the massive infrastructural projects that are under development in the area – in particular, the preparations for the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar, the World Expo 2020 in Dubai and the Riyadh public transport project in Saudi Arabia.

Along with these projects that are under construction, the hotel and hotel apartment sector is another area that is experiencing considerable development. Data analysed by HVS shows that the region has a new supply pipeline of over 95,000 rooms. The majority of these are in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, accounting for over 50 percent of the total number expected by 2020. The UAE remains the tourism industry leader in the Middle East, however Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman are nonetheless witnessing large tourism transformations on the back of these mega developments, as well as some ambitious long-term economic and tourism development strategies. Average room rates and occupancy levels across the region’s key cities continue to be some of the highest in the world, while these multi-million dollar projects and winning bids for hosting major world events continue to fuel growth in the region’s already thriving hospitality sector.

Increasing demand
Ascott currently manages four properties in the region, in Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE. However, the group also has an aggressive expansion plan underway, which will see three new properties (Ascott Sari, Ascott Tahlia and Citadines Al Salalmah) opening in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and an additional property (Somerset Panorama) opening in Muscat, Oman in 2015. The group has also broken ground on Ascott Olaya Riyadh and Somerset Corniche Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, Ascott Culture Village Dubai in the UAE, and Somerset Maslak Istanbul in Turkey, all of which are due to open in 2016. In total, these extensive developments with see Ascott adding 1,406 keys to its already brimming portfolio within the next two to three years.

The influx of expatriates driven by the region’s massive infrastructural projects is a major factor behind this increasing demand for hotel apartments. Corporate demands range from long-term accommodation for consultants and employees on international assignments, to shorter-term lodgings for expatriates who are already in the area looking for a permanent residence. Furthermore, leisure tourism continues to drive demand from families who are looking for more flexible options while vacationing in the region.

Another key trend that Ascott continues to encounter throughout the Middle East is the desire for lifestyle-orientated lodgings, in particular those considering sustainability, innovation, personalisation, contemporary living and modern facilities. An initiative implemented by the group on the back of this trend is that of the Ascott Host – a dedicated host who is available to extended-stay guests 24 hours a day, providing personalised services that range from organising pre-arrival groceries to planning social outings for the family. This year, Ascott has further enhanced the service by offering even more options, including culinary and cultural experiences in the local area to fitness and wellness opportunities. The Ascott Host service fully embodies the group’s vision of global living through providing environments that suit individual lifestyles.

Somerset Al Fateh's restaurant overlooks its beautiful gardens
Somerset Al Fateh’s restaurant overlooks its beautiful gardens

Global expansion
Citadines Culture Village Dubai, which will be Ascott’s third property in the UAE, is expected to further strengthen the group’s network within the GCC and Turkey. The project’s completion will bring the group’s total number of residences up to more than 2,150 apartments across 14 properties in six countries – Turkey, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. This high-level expansion will result in a company growth in excess of 70 percent over the next two years, with an additional plan for further expansion already in the pipeline. This second proposal would see growth of another 40 percent in the years to come.

Ascott’s outstanding achievements in the hotel apartment and serviced residences sector have been recognised across the world. In addition to its recent recognition in the Business Destinations Travel Awards, The Ascott Limited has also been named as the Leading Serviced Apartment Brand and the Leading Serviced Apartments in Belgium, France, Germany, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam in the 2014 World Travel Awards; the Best Serviced Residence Brand in the 2014 Business Traveller Asia-Pacific Awards; the Best Serviced Apartment Company in the 2014 Business Traveller UK Awards; the Best Serviced Residence Operator in China in the 2014 TTG China Travel Awards; and the Best Serviced Residence Brand in the 2014 DestinAsian Readers’ Choice Awards.

The global recognition of the brand’s outstanding achievements so far is an indication of just how successful The Ascott Limited’s international growth strategy has been. By showing an in depth understanding of regional markets, along with the fresh demands and expectations that are surfacing throughout the hotel apartment sector, The Ascott Limited has been able to capitalise on the changing face of the hospitality industry and create a truly phenomenal international portfolio.

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