Hospitality leaders at this week’s Skift Future of Lodging Forum had plenty to say about how working trends were crossing over with their respective businesses. Check out this event recap to find out who said what.
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.
Remote work is embedded in the overall lodging sector, going by many speaker insights and observations shared on stage during Skift’s Future of Lodging Forum on Wednesday.
The one-day event, held in London, looked to the future — themes of wellness and experiences resonated in particular. But what was interesting to hear is just how much, across a broad range of sub-sectors, from budget to luxury, the remote worker has made an impact.
Here’s a brief overview of how some of the day’s speakers viewed the landscape.
The Skift Research Take
Kickstarting the forum with her “Experience Economy 2.0” presentation, Skift’s senior research analyst Varsha Arora discussed remote work trends from the outset.
“Work from home might just permanently increase, and the travel behavior around it will keep evolving,” she said. “This reshuffling calls for a reboot of version 1.0 (of the experience economy) to version 2.0.”
Hybrid hospitality —championed by the likes of CitizienM, Zoku, Selina and many others — represents an opportunity for hotels today. Arora noted it is simply about brands using their space throughout the day, and at different times of the day. For example, by “stacking” a co-working model onto hotel real estate, hoteliers can open a window of 24-hour revenue generation. Overall, hotels can grow revenue by 20 percent by offering spaces to work in.
Starwood Capital Group
Despite the very small rooms, it turns out Yotel is a draw for remote workers, according to one of its investors.
“Throughout Covid, we learned one of our brands, Yotel, has actually found a niche in catering to digital nomads and remote workers,” said Joe Pettigrew, chief commercial officer, hotel asset management, Starwood Capital Group, which part-owns the brand. “Go to any of the Yotels, and we didn’t really envision this, you go into the lobby at three in the afternoon on a Tuesday, it’s full of people working, and staying five, six, seven nights — which we didn’t envision because those rooms are very small.”
Merilee Karr, founder and CEO, UndertheDoormat Group, noted that consumer preference for short-term rentals had increased the most of all accommodation types, by 11 percent, according to STR data, compared to before the pandemic.
“People tested short-term rentals and vacation rentals during the pandemic, and recognize it’s fantastic not just for when they’re going on a family vacation but also when they’re traveling for business. When you see more combinations when people can remote work, when business travel and leisure travel states to merge into one, then that type of accommodation provides that flexibility people are looking for,” she said. “That’s a trend that’s here to stay.”
Mr & Mrs Smith
Tamara Lohan, founder and CEO of Luxury and boutique booking service Mr & Mrs Smith, explored the theme of luxury and wellness in her presentation. Yet in talking about inspiring properties, she revealed that even the most upper scale properties are cognizant of the importance of remote work.
Take Aman New York (with its entry-level rate of $5,000 per night) for example. Lohan noted that among the double-vaulted ceilings, acoustics are managed so every conversation can be an intimate. And in the sound-proofed rooms, with panels to open or close spaces, it was a conscious design decision to ensure every desk area points outwards, rather than sit facing the wall.
This created “a home from home, that’s also an office, and a spa,” Lohan said.
Airbnb is seeing growing numbers of families book places to stay. Globally, bookings have increased 60 percent on pre-pandemic numbers. It reflects the ongoing trend of flexibility, according to Catherine Powell, global head of hosting.
“We think it’s because people are flexible,” she said. “You may not be able to fully work remotely, but you’re able to do some work remotely, so people are doing everything from going away at the weekend to if it’s half-term, they just add on additional days, or spend the whole summer holiday.”
One in five stays were also for more than 28 days, she added, while almost half were for stays of over a week.
Much has been said about Booking.com’s Amsterdam new HQ. It opens soon, but Rob Francis, Booking.com’s senior vice president and chief technology officer, said his team will be the last to move in this coming May and June.
And Booking.com, like many companies, is still figuring out future work trends.
“Like everyone in the industry, we’re trying to figure out what works best,” said Francis. “We think the world of everybody in the office every day of the week is over. We’ve done a number of pilots with teams. I don’t think we’re in a different situation than anyone else, really, in terms of trying to figure it out, in terms of a tech workforce in particular.”
Pretty much the same as last year, when Carlo Olejniczak, Booking.com’s vice president and managing director of Europe, Middle East and Africa, said: “We will test the new things, but bringing more flexibility to the workforce.”
Many hospitality brands want to foster a sense of community — not least Airbnb. The next step is selling services, which makes business sense if the brand is trusted enough.
Catherine Powell, Airbnb’s global head of hosting, shared how the home-sharing platform was working on a marketplace to sell such services. Hosts in the past have said they’ve be willing to pay for things like cleaning services.
Booking platforms that cater to digital nomads also focus on community, and now Nomad Stays is looking to take its business model a step further with its own marketplace.
It now provides ideas of where to buy software to create meetups, coaching and training services for startups, plus tax consultancy recommendations.
“There are lots of fantastic products for nomads so we decided to create a marketplace for nomads to buy digital nomad related products and for companies to advertise their nomad related products and services,” said co-founder Linda McCall.
The setup would be relevant for other co-living-meets-co-working brands like Selina, Zoku and Outsite.
10-Second Corporate Travel Catch-Up
Egencia Adds Non-Employee Travel Features
Egencia, part of American Express Global Business Travel, has added new guest traveler features to its booking platform. It now offers temporary users or non-profiled travelers a complete managed travel experience, including self-service booking and emergency support. The roll-out comes as Egencia reports that bookings made by arrangers for guests and other travelers increased to 33 percent in 2022, compared to 26 percent in 2019. In 2022, Egencia supported 800,000 guest trips.
“With the new world of work, we are seeing changing patterns in the way companies travel,” said John Sturino, vice president, product and technology at Egencia. “Booking business travel for non-employees of a company is on the rise, whether it is inviting job candidates for face-to-face interviews, onboarding remote employees or bringing in contractors.” Amex GBT will also add “invited traveler” enhancements to its Neo tool later this year.
Air France and KLM Join Duffel
As well as American Airlines hitting the headlines for its daring distribution move, further away in Europe Air France and KLM have now connected to airfare aggregator Duffel. This means the airlines’ New Distribution Capability content will be accessible through Duffel, including continuous pricing (where airlines offer prices beyond the traditional 26 alphabet-based fare buckets) and bundling. This gives customers access to cheaper rates compared to the traditional global distribution systems, Duffel said in a bog post Thursday. Duffel also works with British Airways, Lufthansa, and Iberia, as well as American and other carriers.
Cheval Opens Its First International Property
Serviced apartment provider Cheval Collection will open its first international property in Dubai on April 15. Cheval Maison — The Palm Dubai has 131 apartments, ranging from one to three bedrooms, plus a three-bedroom penthouse, and is located on the trunk on the iconic Palm Jumeirah.
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