• Village Hotels means business 

Village Hotels is due to launch its latest Village Business Club, at its hotel in Cardiff next month.

The concept is the latest effort by the hotel operators to address brands such as WeWork, as hotels continue to extend their scope beyond beds.

Village Hotels has launched its BClub in: Cardiff, Farnborough, London Watford, Manchester Ashton and Solihull, with Leeds, Coventry, Birmingham and Maidstone in the pipeline. The company described it as having “changed the game, and changed the way you work and meet”.

The product offers meeting spaces, hot desking, super-fast WiFi, food and refreshments and flexible bookings, with flexible memberships and a member’s app.

The concept of adding workspace to a hotel has been gaining traction. AccorHotels entered the sector last year through a joint venture with Bouygues Immobilier, formed with the aim of accelerating the growth of Nextdoor in France and Europe.

AccorHotels said that, within the next five years, flexible workspaces could represent 10 to 20% of office space in France, compared with 2% currently. The two groups aimed to create 80 collaborative Nextdoor workspaces by 2022.

AccorHotels was not the first to look at mobile workers. In 2013 Marriott International launched Workspace on Demand, a collaboration between it and LiquidSpace, a mobile/web app connecting people in search of flexible workspaces with venues providing workspaces which the operator said would be “easy to find and simple to reserve, just like a hotel room”.

According to the latest Global Co-working Survey: The 2018 Co-working Forecast, 1.7 million people will be working in approximately 19,000 co-working spaces around the world by the end of this year. The sector continued to expand rapidly, with 29% of all co-working spaces opened over the last year – almost the same ratio as in the previous year.

Around two out of three co-working spaces were planning to expand in 2018 – slightly fewer than 2017, but as there are more co-working spaces now, the total expansion volume was bigger. On average, every co-working space was planning to expand their area by 70%.

A third were planning to open at least one additional location. Around a quarter want to expand their existing co-working space, and roughly one out of 12 wanted to move into bigger spaces.

At the end of last year Airbnb confirmed that it was piloting a programme with WeWork, which will see guests offered a space in a nearby WeWork when booking through the shared accommodation platform.

Airbnb and WeWork started testing the programme in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., London, and Sydney. Under the agreement, if booking an Airbnb home for a business trip near an eligible WeWork location, guests can spend a complimentary day at WeWork’s co-working space, including access to a private desk, one hour of conference room time, printing services, and other WeWork amenities like unlimited beverages and on-site support staff.

David Holyoke, global head, Airbnb for Work, said: “We all know part of living includes working, so if an Airbnb guest is looking for a collaborative environment or space to host meetings while traveling for work, we want to provide them with options.”

Dina Berrada, VP, WeWork’s product division, added: “The way people work is changing. The way people travel for work is changing. Business travel is becoming less about being a road warrior and more about aligning professional and personal needs. We hope this partnership builds meaningful connections for our members and their guests and provides them with unique and authentic business travel experiences.”

This August saw WeWork raised USD1bn from SoftBank, making the announcement as it reported that it had doubled its second-quarter revenue, but quadrupled its losses. WeWork’s CFO, Artie Minson said that the company was making a loss because of the cost of sites yet to open. He said: “We incur the expense today and the revenue and the operating margin of those buildings will come on next year.”

The concept has continued to gain traction around the world, with the company’s China-based rival MyDreamPlus raising USD120m, giving it a valuation of USD500m.

HA Perspective [by Katherine Doggrell]: The internet, dark place that it is, is full of handy guides to which are the best hotels to loiter in, should one want access to free fast wifi without making it onto some sort of list at your local Starbucks. Hotels are slowly coming to terms with the concept that they might have public places which people actually want to spent time in and are monetising them accordingly, with growing numbers of amenities to recreate that office-from-office effect.

WeWork, of course, is coming in the opposite direction with its WeLive concept, more of communal housing than hotels –  with further crossover from the likes of Zoku.

But, as THC/Endeavour’s Imran Hussain told us, it depends on how it’s done; are you building a community or just providing space to rest a laptop? AccorHotels is leading the way in attempting to integrate hotels back into the communities they allegedly inhabit, with its AccorLocal programme, with varying levels of success. The idea being that, instead of hotels being a building where strangers are parachuted in every night, public spaces could be used by the same faces for more than a few days in a row. And make a little cash. Could work be the great leveller? Probably not, but it cuts down the echo in lobbies.

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