Skift Take

It’s all about the extra touches, as more hospitality companies reposition themselves to capture a younger, more mobile guest. Developers and investors won't be far behind.

Series: Future of Work

Future of Work

As organizations start to embrace distributed work and virtual meetings, the corporate travel and meetings sectors are preparing for change. Read Skift’s ongoing coverage of this shift in business travel behavior through the lens of both brands and consumers.

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Hospitality companies are getting creative in a bid to appeal to digital nomads and remote workers.

Serviced apartment provider Cheval Collection is the latest to shake up its image. Current brands Cheval Residences and Cheval Maison have a slightly more staid, corporate look and feel, but the 40-year old British outfit has launched a new division to capture the attention of younger professionals.

Cheval launched MY Locanda last month with quirky features like a “Wall of Curiosity” so guests can borrow items sourced from the community for the duration of their stay. There are also shared kitchens, co-working areas and meeting rooms.

Investor Deals

Co-living isn’t just attractive to digital nomads, Cheval said, as developers and investors were interested in MY Locanda. Building these types of co-live properties is deemed as more affordable, offering a better return on investment. Cheval will offer its new brand and operations on a management agreement basis.

“Having looked at emerging trends in the hospitality landscape and the type of conversion opportunities at out there, we believe that MY Locanda is going to be a perfect fit for projects at international scale,” a spokesperson said.

It will open its first 168 studio and one-bedroom property in Glasgow, Scotland, with developer Chris Stewart Group, before expanding across the UK, Europe and Middle East. “The brand is a natural fit for an urban environment where there is footfall and engagement with the local neighbourhood, however we would not rule out a resort setting,” the spokesperson added.

Cheval worked with architect Gensler to define the brand concept and apartment layouts, and brought in food and beverage consultant Stake Concepts to make sure the food and drink offering was “exciting.”

The flexibility of work anywhere anytime has already significantly boosted travel volume for those who have been working remotely, even admidst the pandemic. Its contribution will only grow post-Covid, according to a Feb. 2022 Skift Research report.

“Digital nomads certainly favour a specific type of serviced accommodation, with more of a lean towards communal living – buildings that have a bit more social interaction or even shared working space, easy access to food and beverage and a gym,” said Gary Hurst, founder and CEO of Mysa, which last week launched Myo, a new platform to connect corporate buyers with serviced accommodation operators.

Living It Up

Co-living specialists continue to expand, with Holland’s Zoku about to debut in France, opening on Avenue de la Porte de Clichy this fall. It will offer 109 rooms, communal living and coworking spaces. Zoku partnered with real estate investor Covivio on the project, and said it had already acquired interest from multiple individuals and companies despite not being open for bookings yet.

Ascott’s lyf brand is also on track to open in Paris in 2024. Like MY Locando, lyf Gambetta Paris (Ascott’s first coliving property in Europe) aims to have quirky features including the “Burn” social gym, “Bond” social kitchen, plus coworking and lounge zones.

And further afield, while “residential hospitality” brand Mint House doesn’t offer co-living properties, for now at least, it’s continuing to grow offering business travelers a more permanent base. It has increased its unit count by 85 percent in the past six months, signing seven new properties and 450 units across seven cities. Its newest, New Orleans, opened in February. The company aims to expand to 3,000 units in 30 markets within the next 12 months.

US short-term rental network Wander, meanwhile, recently raised $45 million to target the more prosperous digital nomads with luxury homes, which come with a one gigabyte Wi-Fi connection and the use of a Tesla.

“Over the past few years we have seen an increasing drawn towards staying in alternative accommodation for living and travel, with more employees wanting to work remotely, but with all the comforts and safety associated with a home-from-home experience,” added Hurst. “This mindset is now influencing businesses’ thinking about how their people travel and relocate.”

Sidenotes

Workspace giants IWG and WeWork have made good on their promises to become more “capital light” businesses, but taking different paths to get there.

A little over six months ago IWG, which operates the Regus and Spaces brands, said it was confident franchising would lead to growth after the pandemic. Going by its latest results, it’s getting there. For the second half of 2021 it posed a profit of $75 million on an EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) basis. This compares with $5 million in the first half of 2021, according to its latest results.

It said there was “strong growth in franchise and partner income” and expects to “approach 50 percent franchise and partnered” by the end of 2022.

In 2020, the amount was 28 percent, and in 2021 it was 35 percent, representing a 25 increase. In that year, its first ever franchise deals signed in new countries such as the U.S., India, Malaysia, Poland, Brazil, Spain and Scotland,

Of its pipeline of new openings planned for 2022, 85 percent are partnered and franchised.

It is also planning to open more locations in commuter areas, reflecting the rise in remote work, but still plans on keeping “prestige” locations in metropolitan zones.

WeWork is also sticking to the path to become asset light, but seems to spot new opportunities by teaming up with other workspace apps. In February 2022 it invested in Upflex, a platform that aggregates 4,800 coworking locations around the world. In short, this means it can offer members more spaces without making capital investments.

In the same month it bought Common Desk, a flexible workspace provider based in Dallas, Texas. “The transaction is WeWork’s latest step in executing on a path towards cost-efficient, strategic growth,” the company said.

According to its latest results, total revenue for the fourth quarter 2021 was $718 million, which is an increase of $57 million quarter-over-quarter.

10-Second Corporate Travel Catch-Up

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In Brief

Uber Ups Business Travel Focus With Company Perks Roll-Out

Uber is focusing on businesses by extending its Uber One perks to corporate clients. On Tuesday, Uber for Business began offering the platform to companies in the U.S. The membership offers employees priority service (including top-rated drivers), $5 for late service, 5 percent off rides, deliveries and pickup orders, and unlimited $0 delivery fee for eligible orders across food, grocery and alcohol. It claimed perks like these boost employee morale and productivity, and aid in talent recruiting and retention. “As rides and meals with Uber are some of the most expensed items for businesses, we know that employers want to customize programs with Uber for their company, while being able to manage employee accounts from a single dashboard that provides a full-service, streamlined administrator experience,” the company said.

SAS Offers Travel Pass Biofuel for Ad-Hoc Flights

SAS is offering a Travel Pass Biofuel program for corporate customers who regularly travel to the same destination and want fossil-free fuel included. Passengers receive a discounted, pre-paid “punch card” where 100 percent biofuel is always included, to reduce the environmental impact of their flights. The biofuel contributed by these customers is added to the biofuel SAS is already buying. All tickets are also SAS Plus and include fast track, lounge access, free seating, priority boarding, WiFi, checked-in baggage and meals. SAS said it makes no profit on the card purchases.

Tags: business travel, corporate travel, future of lodging, Future of Work Briefing, short term rentals, travel management