Urban Living Webinar Review: Hotel Hybrids and Hostels

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UK: Scheduled fortnightly on Wednesdays at 2 pm BST, International Hospitality Media editor-in-chief George Sell is hosting a webinar series focusing on the changes in urban living, in support of the Urban Living Lite series. 

Today’s webinar, sponsored by res:harmonics, focused on hotel hybrids, which covers mixes of short-term and long term accommodation with spaces for socialising, eating and drinking.   

Joining Sell in the discussion were:

  • Paul Bridger, Head Rovester and Director, ROVE Hotels
  • Filippo Cavandoli, CEO and Founder, Nomad Aparthotels
  • Niko Karstikko, CEO and Co-founder, Bob W
  • Francois Leclerc, Brand and Operations VP – Jo and Joe, Accor
  • Hans Meyer, co-founder and managing director, Zoku

Following a series of introductions, Sell opened up the discussion asking Meyer why hybrid brands have proliferated from both a guest and investor perspective. He noted initially that changing consumers, many of whom look for a business/leisure mix, have been more interested in Hybrids. 

Meyer further noted that his business focused on a consumer driven development process, and that many hybrids have similar emphases on creating functional workspaces for professionals. Making note of the impact of the COVID pandemic on hospitality, he asked Karstikko how his business had fared and why Hybrids have had more success than other hotels.

Karstikko noted that the flexibility in the business model, including kitchens and short and long stays, have made it easier for smaller businesses to establish consumer trust particularly for key workers. For him, this has led to business increasing, with Bob W tripling the average occupancy rates of hotels in their markets of Finland and Estonia.

Taking the conversation to Leclerc, Sell asked what his customers’ reactions were to shared spaces in a pandemic landscape. For him, while the pandemic has affected numbers in the traditional hotel side of things, by opening shared space to the neighbourhood, Jo and Joe was able to refocus on a local level of business.

To him, this highlights one of the best aspects of a hybrid, its ability to highlight a local area and become part of the fabric of daily life. Sell then moved on, asking Bridger, whose business includes diverse aspects of hybrid properties, how he decided what elements to include in each site.

Bridger responded, noting that his model was nearer to the traditional hotel, but that public space was used effectively to engage customers in his space. He further added that the co-working arm of his company was spun off into its own business, which has become the biggest in the full region.

Turning afterwards to Cavandoli, he then asked how the development of Marriott’s Moxie brand was heading. Cavandoli affirmed its progress globally, but then noted that COVID has still heavily impacted many businesses, especially in Italy, where there is another lockdown.

Moving to the investment segment, Sell returned to Meyer, asking how investment attitude to hybrids has changed. Meyer, who formerly worked with the CitizenM brand, noted that while investors would previously look at these designs as a risk, many bigger investment funds who previously had investment for specific spaces are re-examining the value of combined spaces. 

The hotel/office combo is particularly valuable, he says, as consultancies are looking for responses to the current remote working movement. In response to whether this would influence design, Meyer said that choice is key for his brand, so providing small personal office spaces as well as space for socialisation will be key.

Karstikko then jumped in to affirm the impact that changing trends in workspace and retail have had on real estate investors. He shared a story about his own brand, noting that a global investor had recently worked with him to convert an office building.

Sell asked him to expand on how conversion would work, to which Karstikko responded saying that in a five-floor building they plan to renovate three floors for their own purposes while keeping the other two flexible for shared space. That flexibility, he reiterated, is essential to getting big players involved.

Leclerc came in afterwards, noting that his model allows him to work in either conversions or complete purpose-built. He also added that any conversions are made easier as a result of hybrid flexibility.

Responding to a question about demographics, Bridger noted that his guest demographic was much wider than younger hybrids, catering mostly to those who want a complete experience. He also returned to the point of investment, saying that a more unique brand gave hospitality businesses a chance to outperform the market, which usually tends to follow leaders.

Taking a question from the audience, Sell asked whether hybrid leases were to become more popular. Meyer responded that high fixed leases were becoming difficult to justify, with Karstikko noting that the model provided a win/win scenario for operators and investors. 

Responding to a question about investment source, Karstikko noted that most of his investment was form tech and real estate, rather than traditional hospitality. Investment, for him, was driven by results.

Sell then fielded a question about Hybrids in popular leisure locations, to which Leclerc responded, saying that the half-year model would be difficult to work for hybrid models. However, because of the increased demand for more rural destinations, Jo and Joe is considering more diverse investment locations.

The webinar concluded with a question about interest in the African market, to which Leclerc and Bridger have noted that they are working in Africa. Jo and Joe is focusing on a project in South Africa, while Zoku is expanding into North Africa.  

A full recording of the webinar is available on Youtube.

The next webinar, taking place on Wednesday, 4 November will focus on new real estate models and proptech investors. The webinar will be guest-hosted by Anthony Slumbers, an advisor for the Future of Work. Joining him will be:

  • Neal Gemassmer, VP International, YARDI Systems
  • Giles Horwitch-Smith, Managing Director, res:harmonics
  • Natasha Terinova, Director, REACH UK, Second Century Ventures
  • Jonathan Werth, Partner, LiFE Ventures

Interested readers can register at the following link.


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