Locale Group celebrates a successful webinar that focussed on the hotelisation of real estate, and what the rise of service-first spaces mean for property management, engagement and building roles.
On May 27th, Guy Windsor-Lewis, CEO and founder of digital property management firm Locale Group, and a leading voice on the hotelisation strategy hosted a webinar that discussed the acceleration of hospitality trends within real estate.
Guy was joined by an esteemed panel of speakers – Anthony Laser, Head of Commercial at Office Concierge; Christopher Carter Keall, Chief Investment Officer at LifeX Aps and George Sell, Editor-in-chief at International Hospitality Media.
By definition, hotelisation is the application of hotel-type services and a hospitality service ethos to commercial and residential estates. Despite the idea floating around for a few decades, it was keenly observed by the panel that it was around 2015 that the term ‘Hotelisation’ was making rounds in the property sector and generally being accepted as a valid approach to building management. Coincidentally (or not) this coincided with the sudden explosion of interest and adoption of property technology.
The Customer Experience Demand Begins
When discussing his initial experience at selling a service-first approach, Anthony recalls “I joined Office Concierge in 2012 when they started their Privée lifestyle division. Part of my role was to meet Building Managers and sell the concept of a Lifestyle Manager which provided the services of a hotel concierge but for the office market. This was a hard sell in 2012, with a lack of interest, and taking much convincing that there was a community to build and value to add. It was still very much a traditional landlord-tenant relationship.”
He continues, “Then suddenly around 2015, Building Managers were coming to us. This shift could be down to consumers having higher expectations, as we all know what great service looks like through 5-star hotels and restaurant experiences. Coupled with the changing demographic of occupiers, and the highly competitive nature of the marketplace, it was clear that more was needed and demanded.”
Chris agrees that the rise in demand for services could be attributed to occupier preferences. In his experience in moving to residential, he says, “The demands of B2C are so much more than for B2B. As far as B2B is concerned, they’re happy that the owner provides some level of service. For customers in residential environments, operators are responsible for creating the environment where they work, live and play and that’s a much more challenging customer experience solution.”
Fostering A Building Community
The webinar discussion soon made it clear that fostering customer relationships, particularly within residential real estate, was key to maintaining higher retention rates. George shared that the more socially active your building is, the better the experience, and therefore happier, longer-retained residents. He says, “The build-to-rent developers within the last couple of years have been hiring staff with a hospitality background to bring in programming and to help create a sense of community. Studies have shown that the more sense of community people feel then the longer they stay. This includes 75% of people are more likely to renew their tenancy if they know one other person in their building, rising to 90% if they know two people.
He continues, “On the tech side of things, some of the build-to-rent developers are quite innovative by including features such as digital contracts, virtual viewings and online rent and bill payments. Some are doing no-deposit move-ins and even checking references via an app. They are also allowing residents to communicate with each other within the development, fostering that sense of community.”
Stronger Demands From Occupiers
Now that organisations have had an ongoing taste of flexible working, this tilts the power balance towards occupiers like never before. A fact George is aware of, and keen to know what the panel believes will happen to leases due to the occupier’s increased leverage over their spaces, and wonders how this will be reflected in the terms offered by landlords.
Amenities are now being requested and provided in offices such as break out areas, fitness areas, and shower facilities. This is reflective of how people live their lives in 2021 and offices need to react quickly to attract the best quality talent and keep them. Developers and landlords must face the reality that people can and will choose to work from home if their needs and expectations are not met.
Chris summarises that it goes back to the hospitality service ethos where only experience can compete. He says, “Everybody is demanding more and more flexibility, so services are going to become much more important to tie people in and ultimately allowing owners to deliver what the people and the businesses need. It’s about creating the right environments for the human experience to thrive. That’s the key to what hotelisation is trying to do provide the right environment for office, for home, and everything in between..”
Hotelisation Pushes Through COVID Pandemic
Poll results from attendees reveal that they do not believe COVID has stunted the growth of hotelisation, but has rather accelerated it. The pandemic may have put a stop to social activity and collaboration for over a year, but this has only increased the public’s yearning for experiences and services, particularly when that’s shared with others, and real estate has noticed. Now is the time for the industry and the decision makers to prioritise community and provide an excellent experience for everyone who comes into contact with their building. Whether that is creating a fully trained front of house team or implementing technology to increase efficiencies, support sustainability, and foster social connections, it is essential that real estate reacts to the demand with a strategy centred on the philosophy of hotelisation.
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