As an agent, we offer the combined inventories of almost 1,000 different serviced apartment operators around the world. This number is growing all the time and we go to great lengths to ensure the apartments we provide for our clients to meet their expectations in terms of quality and safety. For this reason, we regularly send our serviced apartment experts around the world to meet our property partners and gain the first-hand experience of the accommodation they provide.
For our most recent trip, Head Account Manager, Martin Klima and Partner Account Manager Charles Coker headed to the Middle East to meet with property partners in Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE. After unpacking their bags and losing their tans, they filled us in about the latest happenings in the region and gave us a rundown of their favourite properties.
Our first stop was Bahrain and we quickly learnt that locals refer to the region as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), where applicable, instead of the Middle East. The GCC was established in 1981 and is made up of six member states; Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. If you travel on business to any of the countries listed above, it’s more than likely that the region will be referred to as the GCC instead of the Middle East.
You’re probably aware, but it’s worth reinforcing just how hot it is in the Middle East. Fortunately, we went in February and it was just 25°C instead of the blazing 55°C degree heat you experience from July to September. During these months, serviced apartment properties operate at a lower capacity and, therefore, there can be some wiggle room to negotiate on rates. The same is also true at Christmas when expats tend to head home to be with their families. Because of the heat, no one really walks anywhere unless it’s less than 5 minutes away but taxis are cheap and you can fill up the tank of your car for just £8.
Due to their reliance on the oil & gas industries, a number of building projects in Doha and Bahrain have been suspended until the cost of a barrel increases. There’s already a variety of superb serviced apartment options in both locations, so the hold-up doesn’t harm your chances of staying in high-quality accommodation. Abu Dhabi and Dubai’s economies are more diversified and so the extravagant building that they’re famed for continues as rapidly as ever.
Serviced apartments have been a popular accommodation choice in the Middle East for a long time. A normal rental property can be quite expensive and after the hassle of forking out for furnishings, parking and utilities, it’s far easier, and almost as economical, to stay in a serviced apartment.
The market is dominated by major brands that are all operating to a high capacity. On the back of great competition, operators have been in a race to build the highest quality apartments and complexes. Properties from as recent as 2012 are considered old and, oddly, can even look a bit tired in comparison to newer developments. All this is great news to those staying in the Middle East as they can be certain that they’ll be staying in some of the most luxurious, well-appointed and spacious apartments in the world.
At this point, it’s worth highlighting that the apartments are huge when compared to Europe. Studios are the size of one-bedroom apartments, one-bedroom apartments are the size of two-bedroom apartments, and so on and so forth. Three and four-bedroom variants tend to a have a small extra bedroom that’s used by the live-in maid and separate guest toilets can be found in most configurations with one bedroom or more. If you’re a smoker, you’re well-catered for in the Middle East as all properties feature smoking apartments which allow guests to light up without the risk of a £200 fine waiting at reception when checking out.
While attitudes to smoking are particularly lax, as the Middle East is a predominantly Muslim region, alcohol is served exclusively by hotels that have the required license. If a property only operates apartments it can’t apply for a license and is therefore dry. Most properties we visited had a mixture of hotel rooms and apartments, meaning they were able to serve alcohol. If you plan on staying in a serviced apartment for a while and are partial to the odd glass of red, it’s worth letting us know beforehand so we can suggest apartments that are in properties which have a license. Obviously, if you are staying in a dry property, you can simply go to other hotels for a drink but it’s nice to have the option.
Properties are extremely well equipped when it comes to on-site facilities. All have 24-hour receptions, most have a gym, pool, parking and sauna and many even have a spa. We stayed at eight different properties and all had at least one restaurant but it was common to have several restaurants and bars to choose from. If you’re staying for a month or more, you’ll be given a discount, usually about 20%, on all on-site food and drink. I’d be happy to recommend any of the restaurants we ate at, all the food we were served was exceptional and the staff were welcoming and attentive.
Martin and Charles’ recommended apartments
After returning to the grey skies of West London, we produced a detailed report for our colleagues at SilverDoor featuring every property and apartment we stayed at, as well as more general feedback about the cities we visited. From this report, we’ve selected our four favourite serviced apartment properties.
Apartment sizes: Studio, 1, 2 & 3 bedroom apartments
These apartments are massive. Even studios have separate rooms meaning they feel more like a one bedroom apartment. Almost all of the 1 and 2 bed apartments are duplexes and have wonderful fully equipped kitchens.
It’s also just a ten minute drive from the airport which is handy. There’s also a decent pool and gym on-site but it’s worth noting that although there’s restaurant, as this property is exclusively apartments, it doesn’t hold a license to serve alcohol.
Area: West Bay
Apartment sizes: 1, 2 & 3 bedroom apartments
Located just a 30 minutes’ drive from Hamad International Airport, these upscale contemporary apartments are part of a brand new complex that’s been finished to a really high standard.
On-site facilities include a fitness centre, sauna, steam room, swimming pool, Jacuzzi, business centre, meeting rooms and a whole host of different restaurants, bars and lounges. There’s also direct access to the City Centre Mall which is home to 270 shops, an ice rink, bowling alleys and a cinema.
Etihad Towers Residences
Apartment sizes: 1, 2 & 3 bedroom apartments
This five-star property offers stunning sea views from its spacious, luxury apartments which all have well-appointed, fully-equipped kitchens.
We counted a total of 12 restaurants and bars in the tower and if you’re a fan of cocktails and amazing views, then head to Ray’s Bar on level 62 where you’ll find an abundance of both.
Area: Financial District
Apartment sizes: 1, 3 and 4 bedrooms
This property is located just south of The Creek and Deira and has direct access to the prestigious Burjaman Mall.
We probably sound a bit repetitive, but, once again, these apartments are really contemporary and well-furnished. For any fitness fanatics, unlimited access to the state-of-the-art gym with the latest cardio and weight training equipment will help to keep you in shape during your stay.
While this is a brief overview, we hope it gives you an idea of what to expect from serviced apartments in the Middle East/GCC. If you’re interested in staying in any of the apartments we have in the area, just give us a call or email and we’ll be happy to discuss your needs in detail and find a solution that works best for you.