Event review: RECHARGE 2020 Barcelona

George Sell George Sell Uploaded 24 January 2020

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Spain: Hospitality and real estate professionals from around Europe braved the might of Storm Gloria for the third staging of International Hospitality Media's uniquely collaborative RECHARGE event.

Hosted at Bellucci Studios, a former film studio where the likes of Pedro Alomodovar got their careers off the ground, the 2020 RECHARGE built on the previous events in Amsterdam and Berlin, with a great atmosphere of collaboration and co-operation.

On day one, a property tour offered a varied and eclectic itinerary, taking in the Yays Sagrera serviced apartments, Torre del Gobernador - a vast derelict castle which is being converted in to a luxury hotel, OneCoWork - a large, modern co-working space, and SafeStay - a hostel in a former grand apartment building just off the Placa Catalunya. SafeStay also hosted a lively drinks party at the end of the tours, where some delicious local tapas was served to hungry and intrepid RECHARGERS who had braved some fairly brisk weather during the tours.

The wind and rain steadily increased through the evening and the next day, but back in the warmth of Bellucci Studios, host Piers Brown welcomed the assembled RECHARGERS with the promise that they would get more from the event the more they actively participated in the sessions. He also announced that the 2021 event will take place on January 25 and 26 at Staycity's Paris — Marne la Vallée property.

Brown and former BridgeStreet CEO Sean Worker, now leading T5 Strategies and based in Barcelona, then led a session on how confronting and overcoming fear can lead to greater success in business.

The first of the collaborative session then followed - called The future of cities, the future of real estate. RECHARGERS grabbed a Bloody - or Virgin – Mary and joined the group which most interested them.

Hosted by SAN editor George Sell, the workshop featured the following topics:
• Mobility hosted by Tzvete Doncheva, PR and ecosystem, Round Hill Ventures
• Space-as-a-service hosted by Jack Fenwick, CEO, Stasher
• The sharing economy: Vanessa de Souza Lage, chief marketing director, Rentals United
• Distributed enterprise (tech) - Stephen Lowy, CEO, Anglo Educational Services
• All-inclusive living - Gerard Greene, CEO and founder, Society
• Co-working - Scott Mackin, COO, one co work

The buzz in the room was palpable as RECHARGERS shared their knowledge and ideas, before the leaders shared each group's key ideas and findings with the room.

After coffee and pastries, Richard Lustigman, director - living capital markets, coliving at JLL, gave a fascinating presentation on the investment case for coliving, highlighting the growth of the co-living market in Europe and the key factors driving demand within stand-alone and mixed use developments. He bookmarked the session by showing slides featuring Bob Dylan's lyrics to The Times They Are A-Changin', with this verse seeming very apt when applied to Millennial and Get Z attitudes to homeownership, mobility and work.

Come mothers and fathers,
Throughout the land,
And don’t criticise,
What you can’t understand,
Your sons and your daughters,
Are beyond your command,
Your old road is rapidly agin’,
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand,
For the times they are a-changin’.

A debate over the hybrid tech-enabled masterlease aparthotel model followed, with Paul Stevens, editor of Short Term Rentalz, arguing in favour of the model and its potential to maximise profitability for building owners. He cited Domio CEO Jay Roberts' claim that there is around $2 trillion dollars of "dry powder" sitting around waiting to be deployed in to suitable investments, and that much of this money is finding its way to hefty funding rounds for the likes of Sonder.

In opposition, Stephen Smit of Yays was particularly sceptical of the masterlease firms' claims to be technology companies - "they are not technology companies, they are real estate operators," he said. After some lively discussion among the audience, the session was declared a score draw, with each side gaining a point apiece.

Investment stayed in the spotlight for the last session before lunch in which Vedrana Riley, founder and CEO of Ciel Capital; Cesar Sanchez Rosales, CEO of Fair Value Capital; and Andrew Harrington, partner at AHV Associates LLP, and Fernando Gonzalez, senior investor at Persepolis Investments discussed potential asset classes, locations and deal structures which will be making the headlines across Europe.

The afternoon sessions kicked off with Beyond the Benchmark, a speed overview of current Spanish and European hospitality and real estate trading performance, followed by a short Q&A with Alexander Robinson, senior manager at STR; and Tom Caton, chief revenue officer at AirDNA. Pawel Gawor, CEO of VISION Management Services and Erik Jacobs, partner at Horeca Investment Partners B.V, then looked at operator and investor strategies in the European market, with an emphasis on serviced apartments and aparthotels.

The second of the day's workshops - this time a two-parter - then followed. Jonathan Humphries, chairman of HoCoSo, hosted a development workshop combining investor and operator interests to create an innovative co-living concept.

The focus group topics were:
• Investor considerations, hosted by Lissa Engle, founder and managing director, Berkeley Capital Group
• Room design hosted by Janice Mitten, partner, head of business development, Dexter Moren Associates
• Services and operations hosted by Jouke Baaima, director and co-owner at ServicedApartments.nl and Corporate Housing Factory.
• Public spaces hosted by Jan Garde, founder and chairman, THE EMBASSIES OF GOOD LIVING
• Networks in the neighbourhood hosted by Peter Heule, managing director, Yays
• Technology and distribution hosted by Satyan Joshi, Hotel ads business leader, Google
• Healthy buildings and sustainability hosted by Roger Allen, Group CEO, RLA

While the group leaders adjourned to an upstairs room to collate their findings, Richard Tessaro gave a presentation about his brand Gravity Co-Living, which has its first property in Finsbury Park, north London.

Humphries and his comrades then returned to present the key points from the development workshop. These will be edited and condensed in to an article co-authored by the group leaders which will be available on Serviced Apartment News shortly.

A prize draw was enlivened by Stasher co-founder Jacob Wedderburn-Day plunging in to the venue's very cold swimming pool in order to win a two-night stay at a Yays property! Piers Brown then wrapped up proceedings by thanking the collective for their energy and contributions which had undoubtedly helped to create a memorable and successful event.

To see speaker presentations from RECHARGE 2020 click here.

Event feedback:

"Amazing talent all gathered together, and interesting solutions for the future of the industry."
Inmaculada Ranera, managing director Spain and Portugal, Christie & Co

"A great event format with highly relevant interaction."
Maxime Dubois, director of development Southern Europe, Adagio Aparthotels

"Always a great networking event and good to reconnect with old friends. Great organisation as usual."
Jeff Swanson, managing director EMEA, Intelity

"Great content, inspiring discussion, unique venue and format."
Scott Macklin, CEO, OneCoWork

"One of the best events I've been to - hats off guys, it was great!"
Jacob Wedderburn-Day, CEO, Stasher

"It was great to be at such an intimate event and really get to have meaningful conversations with people. I learnt a lot."
Steve Lowy, CEO, Anglo Educational Services and The Residence Apartments

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