Hotel Brands Innovating and Diversifying with Coworking
by A. Patrick Imbardelli
"Co-working spaces are a growing trend because of a transformation in how people “work”. Millennials, Generation X, Y and the youngest working generations communicate electronically and often work remotely. They’re removed from actual human contact. Some might prefer this dynamic, but humans fundamentally need the inspiration and interaction that comes from human interaction. Social platforms are wonderful, but they’ve further driven people into non-physical communication. A trending solution to fill this need for human interaction is co-working spaces, areas where people have access to space and technology to get work done while collaborating.
According to data from coworking conference operator GCUC and Emergent Research, the number of coworking locations worldwide has increased from 1,130 in 2011 to 13,800 in 2017. And there’s a forecast for 3.8 million co-working members by 2020 and 5.1 million by 2022. The demand is there (and growing), and industries such as hotel chains are poised to capitalize on this trend through strategic design and investments. Hotel brands are rapidly removing unexciting lobby spaces and demolishing claustrophobic “business centres” to meet today’s needs.
Transforming the Hotel Spaces
With coworking spaces, entrepreneurs, consultants, and freelancers can come together in collaborative ways. It provides them with professional and personal fulfilment and can develop into the “social club” of the modern experience. People are utilising these spaces in their home city, and want similar experiences when travelling. It’s similar to a hotel guest that uses the gym facilities because they go to their home gym frequently. Hotel brands are recognising the appeal of coworking spaces and offering value-adds such as invited speakers or meet-ups for entrepreneurs or certain industry workers.
Coworking spaces that are developed as part of a hotel are usually woven into the layout in a way that makes contextual sense. This space might replace some part of the lobby, the club or executive lounge, or perhaps some bar space. There’s many different concepts and models for how to create these spaces within a hotel. Some hotel brands are present coworking areas as a great integrated feature of the hotel while others present it as an adjacent yet separate operation. There’s now a period of experimentation with the different models to see which ones produce optimal customer satisfaction scores and provide some additional revenue.
Access to these areas is often granted free to guests, with a per-visit or hourly charge or even a membership model for non-guests that want to utilise the space. Some hotels utilise an outside provider to run the coworking arrangement, and these companies might utilise a mix of access and payment levels. It depends on the exact concept and the hotel brand’s long-term vision.
Standing Out from the Crowd
Hotel brands that are successful with coworking spaces are actively trying to become enmeshed in the local community. These brands understand the benefits of deeper connections between visitors and locals and developing a place of productivity and genuine enjoyment. Hotels are also giving these coworking spaces their own brand identity. For example, the Tryp (Wyndham brand) hotel in Dubai presents guests with NEST, a coworking space with a membership model that’s open to guests and non-guests. Nearly every hotel brand is at least trying coworking initiatives. Sheraton was an early proponent, with a space off of the lobby that encouraged people to work and connect with others. Now the main innovations and experimentations come from the boutique and lifestyle brands from independent operators. It’s easier at their scale for these companies to try different setups and let them evolve over time. The bigger brands need a longer timeframe to clearly define and develop their coworking look and feel.
Coworking spaces provide hotels with diversification in terms of their amenities offerings as well as in some cases stand-alone products. For example hospitality group Next Story Group operates a brand called Kafnu that offers vibrantly-designed coworking and relaxing spaces. It features fitness rooms, bars, green rooms, and other areas that match seamlessly with the ways modern workers live and play. Kafnu also offers some hotel rooms, but they’re a secondary part of the overall experience. It’s an interesting dynamic where a hotel promotes the design and functionality of a space (the coworking areas) more than the actual guest rooms.
Developing appealing coworking spaces requires more than just providing a place to work. These areas need to fit contextually with the rest of the hotel brand and to match the needs of actual guests. They must offer quiet places for work along with areas for socializing over drinks. Brands need to get the details right. Wi-Fi must be strong and reliable. The music selections are vital for setting the mood. The successful hotel brands will find the right balance for their coworking spaces and present spaces that make sense for guests and visitors alike."
Patrick Imbardelli is an internationally respected business leader with more than 30 years’ experience in the hotel industry. During his career, Patrick has worked with companies such as InterContinental Hotels Group, Hilton International and Pan Pacific Hotels Group.