Accor’s investment in the co-working economy shows a growing need for hospitality brands to diversify the experiences they offer their customers and for co-working spaces to evolve.
In the past few years, Accor has focused on creating a new generation of hotels by paying as much attention to offering unique experiences to its guests as it pays to designing beautiful, yet comfortable, rooms. The company has defined this approach as “augmented hospitality” — a refined vision for what a hotel stands for and the services it can provide to its customers.
In 2017, Accor entered a joint venture with real estate development company Bouygues Immobilier and invested in co-working space Wojo (formally known as Nextdoor). The partnership fit perfectly with its mission to become an augmented hospitality brand. It not only allowed the brand to provide more value to their customers and hotel owners, but also helped create another common area for travelers and locals to interact and engage in meaningful ways.
SkiftX spoke with Franck Gervais, Accor’s CEO Europe, Frédéric Fontaine, Accor’s SVP, Innovation Lab, and Stephane Bensimon, Wojo’s CEO, to learn more about the strategy behind the investment in Wojo, the vision for making Wojo the largest co-working brand in Europe, how Accor plans to improve the co-working industry, and how Wojo will be integrated across Accor’s hotels.
SkiftX: What inspired Accor to invest in the co-working sector?
Franck Gervais: The way people work is changing rapidly. We’re not only catering to corporate clients traveling for work, but also to a new generation of entrepreneurs, remote workers, and freelancers, most of whom travel for work or work while they travel. Investing in the co-working sector through Wojo made strategic sense for the business to meet evolving consumer demands. To add to that, these co-working spaces not only allow our hotel owners and operators to provide more value to their overnight guests, but also drive revenue from locals, enhancing customer experience all around.
Stephane Bensimon: This investment helped further diversify and grow Accor’s value proposition for guests and partners. Together with Bouygues Immobilier, we can use our joint expertise in hospitality and real estate to deliver the broadest range of solutions that truly enhance the co-working experience.
SkiftX: How does Wojo fit into Accor’s long-term brand and business strategy?
Gervais: A few years ago, we recognized that our customers were looking for more than just a hotel room — they were looking to create new experiences. Because of this, we made the strategic decision to move from being a pure hospitality group to becoming an augmented hospitality brand. We’re reimagining hospitality not as a place or service, but as experiences made up of infinite connected moments. We are creating a holistic ecosystem around the consumer.
Wojo is an example of how our unique strategy will allow us to connect with the everyday lives of our customers. This was the first time an international hospitality group partnered with a recognized co-working brand to create vibrant hubs where both the local community and our visitors can work and network.
SkiftX: What is your vision for growing Wojo?
Bensimon: Derived from the words “work” and “mojo,” Wojo is a spirit that embodies the positive aspects of work. One of the reasons we rebranded was to ensure that we have a name that we can grow internationally. We plan to expand from 10 sites in France to 50 sites in Europe in the next five years, making Wojo easily accessible to anyone looking for a co-working space in the region. Our teams at Wojo are also creating a stronger sense of community amongst our customers. We organize newcomer integration programs and provide opportunities for individuals and companies to forge business connections at every level. We also have a digital platform that allows businesses using our workspaces to connect directly.
We believe that our “workspitality” approach — which brings the services that you typically find in a hotel, such as concierge services and food and beverage, into the workplace — along with our scale and products, will be the things that really differentiate Wojo from other co-working spaces.
Fontaine: Wojo changes the idea that hotel spaces are meant to be used by tourists and travelers only. It brings people from the local community into our hotels, which integrates seamlessly with our goal of building a brand for the entire community.
SkiftX: How are you integrating Wojo into Accor’s hotels?
Bensimon: Our primary focus is to create as many Wojo sites as possible. We want everyone in Europe to be able to find a workspace within 10 minutes of where he or she is located. To that end, we’re launching two new Wojo products that can be integrated into Accor hotels. The first one is the Wojo Spot, which will have a freemium pricing model and can be incorporated into all Accor hotels without any significant investment or additional renovation by using underutilized common areas. The second product is the Wojo Corner, which will be a bit more elaborate. These spaces will have more private and secluded areas, and will be larger (starting at 100 square meters at least). While we’re launching Wojo Corners inside hotels for now, there’s a ton of potential, and they can eventually be built inside railway stations, airports, and more.
Gervais: On the Accor side, we have the assets with our brands, spaces, and teams. We have the services with our restaurants, bars, and meeting spaces, and we are open 24/7. On the Wojo side, the brand brings a deep understanding of what people need, the experience they want to have, and the type of community they want to have access to when looking for a place to work. We are integrating Wojo and Accor by bringing their respective expertises together to create a hybrid space that is remarkably different from anything else in the market. By participating in Wojo’s ambitious development, we’re optimizing the use of our assets and are creating value for our owners by being open to a new type of customer: workers. Our association with Wojo will accelerate our growth.
SkiftX: How has Wojo ’s expertise in co-working helped Accor design Wojo Spots and Corners?
Bensimon: Wojo has helped Accor rethink its traditional approach to designing workspaces. We took our co-working know-how and helped Accor focus on designing workspaces centered around the experience we want our customers to have. Digitizing some of the touchpoints and providing digital community management tools to our customers have been integral to the development process.
Fontaine: Apart from being able to incorporate a service-oriented hospitality approach to co-working, Accor has been able to offer modern workspaces that have different types of tables, such as standing workstations and lounge seating, to their co-working customers through Wojo Corners. We looked at how we could offer privacy and quiet when someone is trying to make a phone call and where people could leave their personal items for security. We added couches, food and beverage offerings, and made sure to pay a lot of attention to the details, such as electrical outlets, a small library, and a layout to facilitate easy movement, as well. It sounds simple, but these little things are what will ensure that we offer our customers unique spaces they’ll want to return to.