Skift Take

Emerging digital nomad "trading routes" was just one revelation at Skift’s Future of Lodging Forum this week, and traditional hotel companies have plenty else to learn from hospitality startups embracing new future of work trends.

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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The Silk Road and Spice Route developed over centuries as key trading pathways. Now one hotel expert believes digital nomads are demonstrating similar new travel patterns that depend on their nationalities. Hospitality companies have everything to gain if they can uncover them.

Central and South America in particular are hotspots for remote workers, according to a senior exec at Selina, speaking at Skift’s Future of Lodging Forum on Wednesday.

“They are cross-pollinating and moving around,” said Sam Khazary, senior vice president of global corporate development. “We’ve almost figured out these travel routes.”

He cited Panama as one example.

“A lot of people in Israel spend a lot of time on the west coast of Panama. I have no idea why, it’s been like that the past 35 years. It is what it is, right? There are interesting travel dynamics,” he said during the “How Shifts in Lifestyle and Work Will Reshape Hospitality” panel session.

Fortunately, two thirds of Selina’s portfolio is in Central and South America, and Khazary was just one of several hospitality leaders looking to tap into the rich seam of digital nomads.

Under the “Great Merging” subtext to the two-day forum in New York, other experts discussed how the travel industry was reacting to consumers increasingly blending the way they work, socialize and travel.

Corporate Spend Will Return

Search volumes at metasearch website Kayak, for example, were revealing longer lengths of stays, its CEO and co-founder revealed.

“Traditional corporate travel won’t bounce back, but the spend will,” Steve Hafner told the audience on Wednesday. “We want to help transition consumer behaviors.”

Lengthier stays reflect a corporate travel revival that’s blending business and leisure trips and Tyler Morse, MCR Hotels chairman and CEO, who joined Hafner for the “What’s Next for Hotels as They Stay Ahead of Consumer Demands” discussion at the forum, pointed out that 40 percent of stays at Airbnb were now longer than 30 days.

This compares to 20 percent in September last year.

Airbnb this week also introduced a new split-stay feature that allows guests booking trips for one week or more to divide the trips. However, Morse emphasized not everyone wants to stay in an Airbnb. “I don’t want to get a key from under the kitty litter, and find my bed is an air mattress on the floor,” he joked.

However, while he agreed corporate spend would recover, he believes patterns will revert back to pre-pandemic ways.

Another forum speaker revealed stays now averaged 4.5 months across his company’s apartments. And 60 percent of guests end up extending their stay.

“It’s a sticky product,” said Alex Chatzieleftheriou, CEO and co-founder of Blueground. It operates 7,000 apartments, but aims to grow that to 40,000 by 2025.

Meanwhile, Highgate CEO Arash Azarbarzin also highlighted the so-called bleisure trend across his company’s portfolio.

“We think this summer is going to be the best summer we ever had,” he said, adding there was no “recession coming for the travel business.”


There was even talk of boycotting online travel agencies at Skift’s Future of Lodging Forum, as MCR’s Morse jarred with Hafner on stage over distribution tactics.

But that may prove to be unwise advice as new types of travel agencies emerge that specialize in connecting remote workers with suitable hotels.

One Dutch startup, Remote Dream, has even managed to get some airtime on Dragons’ Den. It’s a sign of just how quickly the remote work phenomenon is moving into the mainstream.

The online travel agency, which only launched in January this year, is geared towards digital nomads, and it hit screens in Holland on Monday. Founder Joeri Nanov made his case in front of investors, and managed to secure just over $100,000 from two of the dragons.

“It was the biggest day for website visitors, and bookings,” he said.

Nanov is now thinking about the next step. “We’re starting to build a community, so you can meet other remote workers in those locations, proving more information on visas and insurance,” he said, which isn’t too dissimilar to Hostelworld’s new community app.

“We’re trying to be the one-stop-shop for remote workers,” he added. It’s relying on travel tech company Impala to help with some of the heavy lifting, as it needed to be bookable without having to integrate into countless property management systems.

“In the past, it’s been hard for startups to break into the travel market, to pay for integrations,” said Caroline Hudack, Impala’s chief marketing officer. “With consumer travel patterns changing so much, there’s a real rise in niche online travel agencies.”

She cited other travel websites that specilaize in hotels that appeal to architecture fans, and another for wedding planners.

“If you look at Airbnb’s filters, that’s generally the way the market is going,” added Hudack, who was previously the Europe, Middle East and Africa marketing director at the home-sharing platform. “It gives hotels the opportunity to connect with new travel sellers.”

Meanwhile, Nanov said he was finalizing another $100,000 investment from a Dutch bank. “We can truly say that we are one step closer to support people (to) get out of the office and work remotely from inspiring places around the world,” he wrote in a LinkedIn post.

Airbnb said this week that more than 800,000 people have visited its career page after it announced that employees could live and work anywhere.

It’s a clear sign that a huge market lies ahead for Remote Dream, and others.

10-Second Corporate Travel Catch-Up

Who and what Skift has covered over the past week: Airbnb, Amadeus, Choice Hotels, Cvent, Expedia, Flight Centre, Getaround, Hyatt, IHG, Sabre, Standard International.

In Brief

Amadeus is Feeling Zen With New Expense Tool

Amadeus has partnered with AppZen to offer its Cytric customers a new expense-auditing experience with a new “Smart Audit” solution. Smart Audit was built by integrating AppZen’s Finance AI platform with Amadeus’ Cytric Expense solution, which is its existing expense automation system used by companies and business travel agencies globally. Amadeus claims it will now take finance teams 19 seconds to audit 100 expenses. The system also identifies misuse and detect risks prior to reimbursement, minimizing lost spend, and non-compliance.

Saudia Launches Business Services Platform for Corporate Clients

Airline Saudia has launched a new business division that will specialize in business-to-business travel solutions for corporate, agency and meetings clients. A new account management department will streamline the booking process and support corporate travel through an online platform. Saudia Business will also have a dedicated meetings and events team that assists with specific corporate travel needs and event organization worldwide. “This is not just a new service department, it is an extension to the Saudia brand, a show of dedication to pursuing excellence,” said Hazem Sonbol, vice president of sales.


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Tags: airbnb, amadeus, blueground, corporate travel, digital nomads, future of lodging, Future of Work Briefing, israel, kayak, panama, remote work, remote workers, selina, short-term rentals, skift live, Skift Pro Columns, travel management

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