December 5, 2020

Hospitality embraces co-working to entice a new kind of business client

Along with bars and restaurants, hotels have been one of the hardest hit businesses during the pandemic. With fewer international and business travelers, they’ve had to pivot and market themselves in different ways to try to attract the local population to avail themselves of their services.

Recently, in a move to increase revenues and entice guests, a number of hotels have announced that they have added co-working spaces and packages for individuals and groups, whether they choose to come for a few hours or stay longer.

In doing so, they have created yet another hybrid space, one that requires the ambiance of a well-designed hotel and the functionality of an office environment.

Well before the pandemic, hotels had been renovating their lobbies and other public areas to make them more suitable to business travelers who wanted spaces suitable for remote working but also for socializing with other guests. The rise of the gig economy created a demand for co-working spaces.

The operators of those facilities soon realized that in addition to freelancers, consultants and solo professionals, business travelers also had need of temporary work areas that could provide more than just room for a laptop and a coffee. Eager to keep their guests on-site, hotels responded by adding more work-friendly amenities, paving the way for the current transition to co-working environments.

Last year, hospitality group Accor introduced Wojo, a line of what they call “workspitality” spaces that combine dedicated workspaces and living spaces (such as bars, lounges, cafes and restaurants) that can be rented by the day. They recently announced that they were expanding the program to transform guest and meeting rooms into mini-offices for between one to three occupants. Management assures guests that in addition to having a quiet, supportive place to work, along with all the amenities of a hotel, they can be assured that the spaces have been cleaned and disinfected to the highest standards.

Other properties have followed suit, giving rise to the moniker “WFH,” work from hotel. In July, Architectural Digest featured an article on more than a dozen WFH hotels around the country and around the world that now offer remote working packages, plus several more which were preparing to add them to their list of services. In the past couple of weeks, the Statler Hotel in Dallas said it was opening a new initiative to provide personalized, socially distanced work environments for entrepreneurs, including workspaces and meeting spaces.

Scandic Hotels launched what it says is the largest network of co-working spaces in the Nordic countries. In India, some hotels in Chennai have begun offering packages for startups that include board room space, rooms, laptops and desktops, workspace and internet availability, along with tea and meal service at an additional charge.

In some cases, hotels are partnering with co-working companies, each bringing their own expertise to the table, as well as benefitting from the increased traffic. An article on the website The Hotel Conversation points out that hotels gain not only from their share of the rental revenue but also from the sale of food and beverages and possible room nights, while co-working operators have the advantage of offering a better-furnished space with parking, meal and catering services, and other amenities.

As might be expected, this transformation has involved some redesign and renovation of traditional hotel spaces. Converting guest rooms to office spaces has meant removing beds and casual furniture and replacing them with desks, desk chairs and accessories more typical of an office environment. Furnishings in meeting rooms have to be repositioned to ensure social distancing.

If this trend lasts even after the threat from the pandemic has died down, which hotels are betting on, even more conversions will be needed. The hotels of the future may look very different from those of the past.

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