As investments open up the Philippine market, Manila is seeing an influx of outside visitors staying for longer periods of time.

Government visa reforms include an increase in the visa- free privileges for visitors from 166 territories from 21 to 30 days and a 30-day visa-free stay for Chinese nationals travelling to the Philippines as part of a tour group. “In the near future, we also anticipate the issuance of a special long-stay visa of six months for active retirees,” said officer-in-charge of the Department of Tourism Evelyn Alcaraz-Macayayong.

Such policies directly benefit the serviced apartments sector and global operators such as The Ascott Limited are meeting the new demand. Ascott hosts four property types in Manila: the Ascott Makati, Somerset Millennium Makati, Somerset Salcedo Makati and Somerset Olympia Makati. There are also plans to extend Ascott services in the form of two new properties: Ascott Bonifacio Global City Manila and Citadines Salcedo Makati. “The strong and steady growth of the call centre and BPO industries, and increasing tourism arrivals, creates significant demand for our serviced residences,” said Arthur Gindap, Ascott’s country general manager for the Philippines. “With the two new properties, we will further strengthen Ascott’s position as the largest international serviced residence owner-operator in the Philippines with close to 1,200 apartment units across six properties.”

As Manila continues to move forward with new building projects, other countries have begun to take notice of the boom taking place. The Philippines recently became the first country in the world to have a resident investment advisor to China and with this kind of attention, serviced apartments are taking a lead in terms of housing options. Business and leisure travellers looking for long term accommodation are being offered more than the a standard stay.

Fraser Place Manila is another high-end giant, suitable for both business and leisure travel. With rates between PHP11,100 (US$259) to PHP18,500 (US$431) guests enjoy floor-to-ceiling picture windows, gourmet kitchens, and unique Sky Gardens. Then there are independent options like Picasso Boutique Serviced Residences located in the heart of Salcedo Village, where guests are greeted with the same unique qualities as the artist for which it is named. The designers treated all the rooms as a canvas, with a colour palette inspired by Picasso.

Architect Dominic Galicia incorporated cubism into the building’s design and along with interior designer Tina Periquet, turned an old landmark into what is now labelled as “something new and exciting” for Manila. The facade is layered with pictures that come together only when one stands from a certain angle. Inside, ceiling mirrors reflect what is happening on the streets below, while an in-house art gallery showcases new art every few months. A full service wellness centre spa and the Brasserie Boheme restaurant can also be found within the ultra- modern Boutique.

In another move to capture guests’ imaginations and needs, the serviced apartments of Oakwood Premier Joy were opened in 2009 catering not only to long-term travellers but also to their furry companions. “Our clients have high expectations in terms of product and service,” said Oakwood general manager Rick Erdos. “Oakwood Premier exhibits an international design spirit so that every guest feels comfortable in Oakwood as his temporary residence, regardless of nationality or country of origin.”

When creating a new place for visitors to stay, developers in Manila are ensuring that unique aspects such as Oakwood’s pet- friendly rooms or Picasso’s artist- themed interiors will launch Manila into the world of high-calibre serviced living.