Delve into the most disruptive force the hotel industry has seen

Julian Houchin Julian Houchin Uploaded




Julian Houchin, director of Eden Arc Hospitality, explores hybrid hotels in a post-pandemic, remote work era.

Hybrid hotels are a growing accommodation trend that shows no sign of stopping. Combined with a move to remote working and the uncertainty of non-domestic travel, this seismic shift in room inventory is something the industry needs to embrace.

Remote working is likely to persist in a post-pandemic world 

The global pandemic has affected the hospitality industry like never before, prompting hotels and brands to re-invent themselves by adapting to new ways of working and reimagining their spaces and services. It has also impacted the way people work by testing cultural and technological boundaries, creating more flexibility in where and how we work and proving that a “work from home” model can be productive for employers. In a recent article by McKinsey Global Institute, it was suggested that remote working is likely to continue in the wake of the pandemic for a segment of the workforce and virtual hybrid working models will emerge, with teams alternating time in the office while others work from home. 

Company’s believe these new working formats will increase productivity for individuals and small teams, promoting greater flexibility and employee experiences. With remote working becoming the new normal, it will be interesting to see how such a shift in the corporate workforce will impact hotel occupancy for those hotels traditionally reliant on corporate transient business to prop up their mid-week occupancy. 

Hotel brands introduce pop-up coworking office space 

So how can hotels adjust? Some hotel brands were ahead of the curve and anticipated this shift. Accor saw this coming, empowering its brands and hotels to adapt by creating spaces that are lively, flexible, community based and creative, whilst also accessible and practical. Accor also believes partnering with Wojo will address the present need for a more harmonious and creative work-life balance for their guests. 

While working remotely was a novelty for some during lockdown, many adapted to new ways of working long before this period of adjustment. I for one have been using hotel lobbies and Starbucks coffee houses for business meetings for years – it’s getting easier to work from almost anywhere. Over the last two decades working patterns have shifted away from the traditional 9-5 office culture. An Upwork.com report in 2019 suggested that 40 per cent of millennials and as many as 54 per cent of Generation Z are freelancers and embrace working remotely. Soho House also noticed a shift in member patterns; having originally been set up as social hubs, they began serving as work spaces for their members. And in a post pandemic world, according to one member, it’s no surprise that Soho Farmhouse is oversubscribed as members seek a more tranquil and safe working environment with outdoor space for continued social distancing. Perhaps, their recent announcement to go public says a lot about the future of luxury travel? 

Coworking spaces reconnecting people with nature 

With a growing demand for more rural experiences, coworking developers are now creating purpose built working offices and studios in a “back to nature” setting. Flimwell Park in East Sussex is one example, having recently launched with unique office space and workshop facilities designed to promote a healthy working environment. Championing a new model for a sustainable woodland community, the developers are hoping to capitalise on a local workforce not needing to head back to their traditional offices, and those self-employed who want to reconnect with nature. Their selling points are sustainability, wellbeing, community and recreation. The benefits of nature on health and well-being are well documented and so it’s no surprise that such models will have great appeal. 

Similarly for hotels located in rural settings and with land for development, creating workspaces in outdoor settings could present a real opportunity to generate incremental revenue for those looking to “work from hotel” (WFH), whilst at the same time facilitating a further integration with the local community. It’s common sense revenue management - a way of using space far more efficiently and being able to optimise otherwise underperforming areas of the hotel by creating space to meet, collaborate, socialise and work. And think about the benefits such hybrid hotels offer to corporate clients? Creating flexible working space offers an alternative to working from home, providing remote office solutions for their workforce without the need for a long-term lease commitment. 

Hybrids are taking over future master planning hotel concepts 

So what does the future hold? Many industry feasibility experts and master planning architects will tell you that mixed-use concepts are here to stay, encouraging the combination and overlapping of elements and ideas to create new sustainable concepts. According to Colliers, shrewd hotel operators will harness the ‘hybrid hospitality’ concept, where hotels provide office space to enable coworking and interaction to generate additional sources of income. Colliers believe that optimising this concept could increase turnover by as much as 20 per cent. 

This presents a great opportunity for hotels to generate income by repurposing room inventory and public space, or adding additional stand-alone units that can double up as offices during the day and extended stay accommodation at night. No matter where hotels are located, there is a local workforce who will be looking for an “office-away-from-home-office” experience, with all the facilities and safety measures in place.

Take this hybrid concept one step further. What if hotels could also add a coliving element to their business model by introducing newly designed apartments that have shared common areas? Combining coworking and coliving also has great appeal to investors interested in hospitality properties that can adapt enough to be resistant to recession or competition from the short term rental market such as Airbnb. One thing is clear: traditional hotels will need to adapt and create a hybrid offering if they are to compete in a post-pandemic world.  

For more information on how modular accommodation could be the answer to introducing coworking and coliving space for your property, click here

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