Relocating to Asia

Vivien Shiao Shufen 15 Jan 2013

Asia’s star has been rising over the past decades, with the speed of positive change in the region having been astronomical. Companies around the world are flocking to Asia for business expansions, and many have relocated their top talent to support the growth markets here.

Within Asia, the trend is even more red-hot, due to the enormous growth potential found in intra-regional trade. According to the 2011 Talent Mobility Study by Towers Watson, almost half of companies in Asia (43%) project an increase in cross-border assignments between now and 2014, with 85% likely to send some staff on international assignments within Asia.

HR experts agree that there seems to be no slowing down of talent movements in the region.

“Going by the economic scenario of the Asian region and the emerging economic nations, which include countries like India, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Hong Kong, There is bound to be mobility of skilled workmen in the Asian region,” says Deepak Bharara, Corporate Director – HR, Lanco Group.

As the trade between Asian countries grows stronger due to a more liberal investment climate, relocation will only see an upward trend, he adds.

Up and up

There are many reasons for companies to relocate their talent into Asia. For one, despite the sheer number of people found in Asia, skills shortages still exist.

“The Asia-Pacific region is home to some of the world’s fastest growing economies, and this has led to some skill shortages,” explains Gaurav Hirey, Regional HR Director, GroupM.

“Though corporates are working at managing the gaps in the skills bank, the immediate needs have yet to be met. To get the right talent we need, it is imperative for us to get talent from wherever they are available, and this is true for all growing companies within the region,” he explains.

Steven Soon, Regional Director, Crown Worldwide concurs. “There seems to be a shortage of senior talent within Asia which has led to companies bringing in talent from other regions into Asia to support knowledge transfer and talent development,” he notes.

He also observes that the increased trend of relocations in Asia has been due to the region being at the forefront of getting out of the global recession, allowing Asian companies to develop confidence, also bolstered by strong local economies and currencies.

Increasing relocations in Asia can also be attributed to weakening economic conditions in the West.

“Economic uncertainty in the West is driving more international companies to Asia so as to tap the opportunities in the emerging Asian market,” says Rachel Lee, HR Manager, Wood Mackenzie.

“Cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore are already seeing a large number of companies either moving their headquarters or setting up regional headquarters in these areas.”

Where the money’s at

Expats who have the opportunity to relocate to Asia are some of the wealthiest in the world.

According to the latest findings from the Expat Explorer 2012 survey by HSBC, Asia is the leading destination for earning potential, with Asian countries dominating the ‘Expat Explorer Economics’ league table.

Five countries in the region made it to the top 10, namely Singapore (first), Thailand, (third), Hong Kong (fourth), China (seventh) and Vietnam (10th).

Almost three quarters (74%) of expats who relocated to Singapore have increased earnings – a trend that is mirrored across other Asian countries. Similarly, expats in Hong Kong (79%), Malaysia (72%) and China (69%) also benefited from an increase in disposable income after relocation.

With increased earnings, there is a corresponding demand for top quality serviced apartments for these workers to stay in.

“At top management level, there is an increasing demand for premier class accommodation that will meet the needs of guests and their families as they settle into their new environment,” says Tonya Khong, General Manager – Asia-Pacific, Frasers Hospitality.

 “Part of the experience and challenge facing business executives who are relocated overseas, is the need to embrace and adapt to different lifestyles away from home as quickly as possible,” she explains. “Serviced residences are key to this relocation process.”

Frasers Hospitality’s brand portfolio aims to please even the most discerning of expats with its ‘Gold Standard’ serviced apartments which have been designed for freedom of space, convenience and comfort.

They are usually strategically located and fully equipped with state-of-the-art appliances to ensure that guests have everything they need at their fingertips.

“As part of the initiative to build and maintain relationships with our guests, we place a specific emphasis on ensuring that our residents are served by the same housekeepers for the duration of their stay,” explains Khong.

“Over time, our housekeepers grow to know the nuances of our long-stay guests such as when to water their plants or feed their fish. When our guests consider our staff an extended member of their family, we know we have played our part well,” she adds.

Choices galore

Frasers Hospitality is but one of the several serviced apartment providers that cater to the well-heeled expats now relocating to Asia.

With so many options to choose from, affluent business travelers are increasingly looking for a unique and memorable stay experience.

One luxury serviced residence to consider is the Ascott Raffles Place Singapore.

“It was a S$60 million restoration effort for us to transform the former Asia Insurance Building which was Southeast Asia’s tallest tower in the 1950s, into what it is today,” says Tan Boon Khai, Regional General Manager for Singapore and Malaysia, The Ascott Limited.

Each apartment inside Ascott Raffles Place Singapore comes with a finely-equipped Gaggenau kitchen and is beautifully adorned with contemporary paintings, as well as authentic Bizassa tiles forming an art mural in the bathroom.

“To further cater to the differing lifestyle requirements of expats, we offer two other brands of serviced apartments in Singapore,” explains Tan. “Citadines provides guests the flexibility to choose the services they require. For guests with children, our Somerset-branded properties are ideal as they come with facilities such as playgrounds, indoor playrooms and children’s swimming pools.”

To make the decision more complex, consider the variety of choices offered by Far East Hospitality.

It has nine serviced apartment locations, offering a variety of options island-wide for everyone looking for longer-term accommodation – from singles to couples and families.

“From prestigious city living at the heart of Orchard Road, to being close to trendy Robertson Quay or a cosy residential neighbourhood, the serviced residences offer a home away from home,” says Arthur Kiong, CEO, Far East Hospitality.

The serviced apartments are fully furnished, with housekeeping services and round-the-clock security. Most of them are located within or near the shopping belt of Orchard Road as well as the Central Business District, making them ideal locations for both work and play.

“To enhance the experience for guests, the serviced residences offer monthly activities to help guests acclimatise more easily to the local environment and culture,” he says.

Far East Hospitality also has one serviced residence, Sri Tiara Residences, in Kuala Lumpur, which is easily accessible from the city centre and Petaling Jaya. Its luxurious apartments are set in one of the capital’s most exclusive neighbourhoods, on one hectare of artfully landscaped grounds.

With such a captivating assortment of serviced apartments available, most expats would be spoilt for choice. As Asia continues to flourish, it is very likely that the serviced apartment market here will only get better and more sophisticated.


Increasing relocations

According to Deepak Bharara, Corporate Director – HR, Lanco Group, there are several reasons why Asia has seen an upward trend in relocations:

•        Companies want to provide international exposure to employees, especially for mid- and senior-level employees

•        Mobility creates diversity in the workforce, which is a big plus in generating new ideas, especially in knowledge-based industries

•        More employees are opening up to relocations as there are improved facilities in Asia in terms of international schools, food choices, social acceptance and security

•        When it comes to accommodation, serviced residences with world class facilities are available throughout major cities

•        Visa regimes and tax treaties between countries have eased


HR’s top criteria for choosing serviced apartments

•        How it fits within the allocated budget

•        Distance from office

•        Accessibility and transport links

•        Internal feedback from assignees

•        Facilities available


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