HOW ASIA’S NEW BREED OF CO-WORKING SPACES ARE SETTING A TEMPLATE FOR TRAVEL BRANDS
As we all know, technology is changing our lives. We can buy products and reserve all kinds of services via our smartphones, and as long as you don’t feel lonely, you can live a good life without taking a single step outside of your apartment.
However in addition to this, technology is changing the way we work and the overall landscape of how people get business done. As working patterns shift and the traditional 9-to-5 becomes less relevant, there are more and more freelancers in the marketplace, particularly in big cities. People no longer work together only because they have been hired by the same company, but to make individual projects come to life. This new flexibility to choose where to work and how to balance work with the rest of our lives presents an opportunity for the travel industry to tailor its spaces and services to the new breed of workplace nomad, beyond just providing a plug socket and desk in a hotel room – and in many ways, changing workplace norms in Asia provide a template for inspiration to savvy travel brands.
My friend Fei, an independent curator, works with different artists and travels a lot due to different projects. Traditionally, she would have reserved properties using Airbnb and Oasis Collection, as she normally needs to stay in one place for at least a month; but nowadays, as more and more hotels start to learn from these kind of platforms by offering flexible, multi-function social spaces and cutting unnecessary services and offering affordable prices, her options are expanding.
One of the most exciting brands leading this charge is JO&JOE, launched by Accor Hotels. Travellers can book shared rooms and individual apartments but more importantly, its well-designed social places act as guests’ offices and meeting rooms. However if travellers want to have a more upscale experience, the newly opened M Social Hotel in Singapore is worth investigating. Designed by Philippe Starck, you can imagine how futuristic it might be. Inside the rooms, Starck tried to formulate a homely vibe by using a loft style and adding terraces. The emphasis on making guests feel at home is reflected in the self-check in area, created to make guests feel like they are returning to their own apartment, and on the wall you will find words like “well (c) home”. Compared with home rental options like Airbnb or Oasis Collection, these hotels come with breakfasts, housekeeping and concierge services included, and the public areas double up as offices and meeting rooms.
For travel brands looking to build upon these existing innovations where community and homeliness are at the centre of the experience, Beijing offers several centres designed for creative collisions that could provide a model for hotel working spaces. 5Lmeet is one of its most popular choices, located in a Hutong alley at the heart of the city. The original building is an abandoned soy sauce factory, not far from Duan Qirui Prime Minister’s office, a historical heritage site in Beijing.
The design team reconstructed the inside of this classic building to meet the demands of a new generation. The ground floor serves as a space for pop-up events, such as art, fashion and retail exhibitions. Walking downstairs, you will find a very spacious 24/7 co-working area where visitors can choose where they want to work, from an open kitchen area to function rooms and individual seating areas. The fitness centre is an add-value for all, with rental fees for the co-working space starting from $350USD per month. On the second floor, there are rooms for renting from $1800US per month, as well as a public terrace on which to network with other like-minded people.
Moreover, Hatchery, Beijing’s first culinary incubator, just launched their pop-up food project at 5Lmeet. Hatchery is an innovative platform that brings together entrepreneurs, investors, mentors and local communities to develop, test, launch, and enjoy exciting new food and beverage ideas.
Another really cool co-working space is ideaPod, located in Beijing’s CBD area. Here travellers can find a coffee space, open theatre, meeting rooms and multifunction rooms with different sizes, as well as relatively private working areas for individuals and small groups.
As the world continues to move towards alternative working patterns, these co-working spaces are likely to be just the beginning of the revolution in how we live, work and travel. As part of their mission to bring together travellers and locals for creative collaboration, urban hotels should be thinking now about how to adopt this mindset and adapt their spaces in order to make the most of this emerging market.
Nancy Huang is Features Editor for Condé Nast Traveler China.