Ascott targets 2,000 units under its Tujia Somerset brand in China by end-2016

SINGAPORE - CapitaLand's wholly owned serviced residence business unit, The Ascott Ltd, said it aims to launch 2,000 units under its new Tujia Somerset brand by the end of this year.

Ascott's joint venture company with Tujia.com International (Tujia), dubbed China's Airbnb and the country's largest online apartment sharing platform equivalent, has sealed contracts to manage six serviced residences to be operated under the Tujia Somerset brand.

Together, they add 1,005 units to Ascott's China portfolio.

At a ceremony to unveil the new brand in Shanghai on Friday morning (March 18), Ascott's chief executive officer Lee Chee Koon said: "Ascott's investment in Tujia is providing us with a new pipeline to manage apartments for a growing number of Chinese corporate asset owners as well as individual homeowners with multiple properties.

"Our aim is to have 2,000 units under Tujia Somerset by the end of 2016 and this will give us the added impetus to achieve Ascott's target of 20,000 units in China and 80,000 units globally by 2020.¡¨

Two of the six Tujia Somerset serviced residences, the 76-unit Tujia Somerset Baiyue Dalian and 355-unit Tujia Somerset Xinhui Shenyang, are in operation. The other four properties are the 154-unit Tujia Somerset West Coast Haikou, 140-unit Tujia Somerset Shining City Wuxi, 102-unit Tujia Somerset Weilian Tianjin and 178-unit Tujia Somerset South Nanjing.

Tujia'¦s apartment sharing site, valued at more than US$1 billion, caters to travellers looking for alternatives to hotels, for vacation as well as business travel within and outside of China.

Its website features more than 310,000 apartments covering 388 travel destinations across China as well as overseas destinations such as Bangkok, Singapore and Tokyo for Chinese outbound travellers.

Besides its online capabilities, Tujia operates some apartments for owners for a fee and franchises its business to third-party operators.

As part of its joint venture with Tujia, Ascott will operate serviced apartments located within the key growth cities of China using the Tujia Somerset brand. This will include newly sourced properties and Tujia's serviced apartments in China that are deemed suitable for conversion.

In addition to tie-up with Tujia, Ascott has partnered Alibaba's online travel service platform Alitrip, giving it access to more than 100 million Chinese customers. Guests can book Ascott's properties in China on Alitrip and work is underway for guests to be able to book its properties outside of China by June this year. Ascott also struck a strategic alliance with China's largest construction firm, China State Construction Engineering Company (CSCEC), in February giving it the first right to manage apartments currently under development as well as future projects to be built by CSCEC subsidiary Dongfu Investment.