Serviced apartments are becoming an attractive option for mid to long-term guests. One of the leaders in the field is Oakwood, which pioneered the concept of serviced apartments in the 1960s. Today, Oakwood Asia Pacific manages serviced apartments for business and leisure travelers in China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Thailand.
In Tokyo, Oakwood currently has apartments in eight locations – Tokyo Midtown, Roppongi, Azabujuban, Aoyama, Akasaka, Ariake and Shirokane. These come under three brands – Premier, Residences and Apartments. This month, the 9th property will open - Oakwood Premier Tokyo, in Tokyo’s Marunouchi district. It will be the second Premier brand in Tokyo licensed to cater to short-stay travelers.
All 123 units in Oakwood Premier Tokyo come fully furnished with a full Western-style kitchen and equipped with household appliances, a home entertainment system and sound bar system, as well as the full amenities, with a 24-hour hotel type service that includes all concierge and front desk services, regular housekeeping services, meeting rooms, and a Resident’s Lounge. In addition, there is a fitness center within the complex.
Overseeing Oakwood’s operations in Tokyo is Martin Fluck, Director of Operations, North Asia. Born in Kobe, Fluck spent his first 10 years in Kobe and then went to Switzerland. After completing his studies at a hotel school in Lausanne, Fluck came back to Japan and worked for the Hilton in Shinjuku and later in Nagoya. He followed that up with stints at a real estate company, the Four Seasons Bali project, the Park Hyatt in Tokyo, and subsequently was in Vietnam for seven years. Fluck joined Oakwood Japan in December 2001.
Japan Today editor Chris Betros visits Fluck to hear more.
How well known is the concept of serviced apartments in Japan?
Awareness of the serviced apartment concept in Japan has developed in Tokyo over the years. Most Japanese people are not fully aware of the extent of our services. Services such as the concierge, front desk, housekeeping, are what differentiates us from regular unfurnished, non-serviced apartments.
Midtown was a big showcase to let us expose our overall Oakwood premier brand when it opened in 2007. With the new property, Oakwood Premier Tokyo, opening at Marunouchi/Tokyo Station, that location will surely enhance the recognition of Oakwood even more. It will be an Oakwood Premier serviced apartment with a hotel license, meaning we can have stays of less than 30 days. It opens on Jan 15.
Tell us about your three brands.
The Premier brand here at Tokyo Midtown has 107 apartments and is our luxury flagship brand. It is very high class, with 24-hour reception and daily breakfast service. It’s very much like a 5-star hotel. The largest residence unit in the property is a 135-square-meter 3-bedroom unit. Our second brand is the Oakwood Residences, which is more focused on families, with a high percentage of two or three bedrooms. This brand offers spacious and elegant apartments that capture all the comforts of home. Oakwood Apartments offers chic accommodation with modern essentials and are for the contemporary young couples and singles; they are, more compact and affordable.
How do you market the brands?
We are very active in networking in the business community as well as hosting our own events to engage in directly meeting with guests. Some other methods also include direct mailing and the use of social media. We also have a brand website oakwoodasia.com which reaches an international audience and is key to delivering the brand message and promotions. With the opening of Oakwood Premier Tokyo, the strength of the Premier brand will further strengthen in Tokyo in two very distinct locations.
Was 2015 a good year?
It was a good year in occupancy. The hospitality industry is really booming. I think this is due to the weak yen and the government being is proactive on selling Japan as a destination.
Who are your typical guests?
At Oakwood Premier Tokyo Midtown, our guests tend to be more long term because we have a 30-day minimum stay requirement. About half of our guests at Midtown have been Japanese since day one. They are attracted by the location, convenience and high level of service. Prominent Japanese use it as a second or third home. They like the exclusiveness. A few guests have been with us for close to 10 years. For other properties, around 25% are Japanese. Overall, about 70% of our business is corporate – that’s our core clientele.
Do Japanese guests differ from foreign guests in their expectations?
Japanese expectations are much higher and quality-oriented. These high expectations stimulate us to perform with consistent excellence at all times.
What are your expansion plans for Japan?
In a vibrant metropolis such as Tokyo, it has the potential for further growth in service apartment sector. For Oakwood in particular, certain niche areas can take more serviced apartment buildings – such as Chuo, Chiyoda, Meguro and Shinagawa wards. We are also looking at Yokohama and the Kansai areas. Kyoto. The serviced apartment industry is becoming more attractive investment opportunities to owners.
How often do you meet guests?
As long as my schedule allows, I like to personally meet guests and to get first-hand feedback from them. We also host Resident Parties at our different residences which also gives me the opportunity to meet guests.
Do you have a high turnover of staff?
We are quite fortunate that it is quite low. Sense of loyalty is still quite strong and we are grateful to have associates working with us for many years. When you are young, it’s good to move around but I believe each move should make sense, whether it is a promotion or exposure to new brand. Here at Oakwood, I like to promote from within.
What charity projects is Oakwood involved in?
We work with the Konishiki Kids Foundation which is a non-profit organization helping to improve the educational environment of children. It was founded by former sumo wrestler Konishiki. Our main activity since 2011 has been to work with Konishiki to offer Christmas presents to the children of the Tohoku areas that were devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake.
What is a typical day for you?
My day mainly revolves around ensuring guest satisfaction. I arrive early in the office to clear emails, have briefings, visit other properties to ensure consistent quality control, speak to each sales team, and check on the overall aspect of each property. Sales strategy meetings are also a vital aspect, as is making time to follow up on things in entirety. In addition to Japan, I am also responsible for our properties in China, Hong Kong, Korea and so my day is fully devoted to the management of all - this includes traveling to the properties.
When you are not working, what do you like to do?
In general, I enjoy meeting people outside of the work scene as well. Playing squash is one of my favorite activities.