Live on stage at Skift Forum Europe last week, industry leaders shared their top-level vantage points on the future of work, and hospitality. One of them was more ahead of the curve than others. A little too far, in fact.
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.
The increasing crossover between work and hospitality was a hot topic at Skift Forum Europe.
It was, inevitably, going to come up during the day’s closing interview with Accor CEO Sebastien Bazin, who gave an update on his Wojo co-working brand. It’s hard to keep up with the numbers because of the pace of new openings, whether dedicated spaces or hotel hotspots, but Bazin had an update, and claimed Wojo was now the second largest co-working space provider in France, with 70,000 square meters of space, and a 10,000 customer base of companies.
Travel agencies have long declared they’re targeting employees from smaller companies, as multinational firms retain their travel bans. But Bazin spelled it out clearly during his interview at The Londoner hotel.
“We stand to lose 20 to 25 percent of international business travelers,” he said. “But then you have the shift of working from the office, (to working) from home and now working from anywhere. You have hundreds of millions of employees who will be extremely happy, if we can give them a booking engine, to use the premise. That is heaven, and it’s planet friendly.”
Accor has a head start, he added, with the group’s now four-year old Wojo brand.
But he’s not always been so lucky. As the CEO revealed he thought the wider industry had failed hospitality workers with low pay and limited career prospects, another mea culpa moment came with his launch of lifestyle-concept hotels.
“I miserably failed five years ago. I said it’s bizarre the hospitality players, as good as we are, only cater for the traveler …. there are 1.5 billion international travelers, which is great, and they represent 95 percent of what we do. But we have 7.5 billion people on the planet, which means we’re missing probably 6 billion. I said this is foolish.”
He said he tried to invite those people “living next door” to enter his hotels. General managers, however, didn’t give a damn, he said. The food was boring, he joked, so Accor had to reinvent itself.
“I refixed a lot of the food and beverage venues to attract the local population, which is why we went into the lifestyle concept,” he said. Those lifestyle hotels are now gaining popularity with remote workers, so everything’s come full circle.
CitizenM also had a lot to share. In a rare appearance, the Dutch hotel group’s CEO spoke on stage. It’s got a stack of cash to build its own hotels, some near company headquarters, but has its eye on smaller companies too.
Customers are customers, said Klaas van Lookeren Campagne, but: “It’s a little harder to build up your network from all those small customers, but they are a bit more resilient, so there’s a big push we’re going to do to find all those small companies.”
It’s new $12 a month subscription plan might play a part in that new land grab.
Airbnb’s managing director for Northern Europe also touched upon another increasingly relevant area, as it factored in children and schooling to extend its own remote-work policy. Amanda Cupples said Airbnb made a call to extended the policy until September this year during her interview. There was uncertainty around future Covid outbreaks, but she also said the decision was based on the fact it represented a full school year.
“Digital workplace” was the overriding theme of a major announcement by Amadeus this week, as it revealed a new integration with Microsoft 365, involving Teams, Outlook and a lot more.
The main benefit is being able to plug into Microsoft’s calendar, with its Cytric Travel & Expense now able to do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to sharing times, dates and venues to make booking a business trip a little easier.
One Amadeus boss is having a lot of fun with it all. Step forward Rudy Daniello, executive vice president of Amadeus Cytric Solutions.
He’s excited about something called the “Microsoft Graph”, which is an entity that processes all the interactions users have in Microsoft 365. One element is it can discover who employees engage with on a daily or weekly basis.
No data privacy worries, as it’s on an opt-in basis. However, another element of the “digital workplace” is Microsoft’s LinkedIn platform. Microsoft has a lot of users, but LinkedIn has 800 members. “It’s too early to say when, but it is definitely in our plan to bring in LinkedIn as well,” he said.
All eyes now will be on Sabre, which has a similar strategic partnership in place with Google. “We have no indication at the moment that some other corporations are pursuing our objectives in the same holistic way,” Daniello diplomatically added.
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