As millennial tastes have risen to prominence in the hospitality world, scores of hotels have made overtures to new ways of working. Stagnant lobby areas have been reinvented as vibrant laptop-friendly areas. Crypt-like business centres have been eliminated in favour of open multi-functional spaces. Even the workstation concepts in guestrooms have been stripped down and reimagined.
It’s natural that marketable ideas should be mimicked and reproduced until they seem like common practice – but there are always a few brands who push the envelope, to the point where previously separate ideas are welded together. Case in point: A few hotel brands are moving fully into the coworking space, while retaining an integrated hotel offering on-site.
A coworking space, for those who may need a refresher, is a shared office space for independent professionals, entrepreneurs and networkers. As a global industry, these businesses have been quietly thriving and multiplying for years. Statistics compiled from a number of sources in 2018 suggest that there are currently over 15,000 coworking spaces in the world, and that Australia saw growth of 300% in this industry from 2013-2017. Another report from Regus (a global coworking company) shows that coworking spaces in Australia will triple by 2030, making up as much as 12% of the country’s office stock by that year. Global players in this relatively new industry – notably the Chinese company WeWork – are moving into the Australian market, –which is thought to be underdeveloped with extremely high-potential.
Given the considerable strength of this new industry, both globally and here in Australia, it makes sense that enterprising hoteliers would fully connect the dots and launch an enterprise that offered the coworking functionality in conjunction with guestrooms.
The Singapore-based Next Story Group – whose Kafnu brand of coworking hotels has already opened in Bangalore, Ho Chi Minh, Hong Kong and Taipei – is set to launch in Sydney’s Alexandria neighbourhood. The hotel aspect of the property is notably referred to as a “mini-hotel” (it consists of only sixteen rooms) and is quietly listed among the other amenities, which include a fitness studio, creative lab, media production and podcast studios, meeting rooms, lounges, a bar, concierge, printing station, and so on.
Kafnu’s choice to minimise the hotel offering keeps the focus on coworking, while providing a convenient hospitality option for freelance working vacations, creative collectives, and the increasing number of corporate clients who regularly make use of flexible coworking office spaces.
Local hotel chain Veriu, are exploring similar waters with the launch of their +U coworking space. Althought operating as a separate business, +U will potentially be incorporated into the accommodation businesses in the near future. Zooming out to the global picture, we see a number of co-working/co-living hotel brands hard at work, including Accor’s partnership with Nextdoor, Marriott’s partnership with LiquidSPace to create Workspace on Demand, Hotel Roam, and the Latin America-focused Selina. There are yoga studios, art galleries, floor cushions, hammocks, nooks, rustic tables, dedicated desks, and so on down the line. Depending on the market, designs range from casual and playful to stylish and chic. The locations are critically important too, since hard-working professionals need a convenient gateway to urban exploration, in addition to productive and efficient home bases.
Coworking hotels are also part of a wider trend in which a property’s hotel rooms are on equal footing, if not secondary, to its other amenities or features. They are recognising that hotels have opportunities to expand beyond traditional norms. Museums and brewpubs are two examples that have recently been discussed in this blog; but as flexible workspaces become more and more marketable to a broad range of clientele, coworking hotels are a uniquely viable offering with prospects for long-term success. At the very least, the combined growth of tourism and coworking in Australia should give hoteliers serious pause for thought.
For further industry news and insight please follow the links below.