Changes in lifestyle and work are forcing hospitality to focus on new flexibility

quick take

Flexibility and technology are key to delivering the innovative experiences today’s travelers seek.

carley thornell

The college gap year will become a “remote year” if Sam Khazary has anything to do with it. With virtual learning more prevalent than ever, Selina’s senior vice president of global corporate development sees new opportunities to redefine “study abroad” with a 12-month “remote year” passport to jump between hostel/ Selina’s culturally immersive hotel/coworking. .

Khazary isn’t alone in attracting the next generation of digital nomads, a Skift panel found on Wednesday. He was joined by Alex Chatzielefttheriou, CEO and co-founder of Blueground, to share his vision of “How Work and Lifestyle Changes Will Reshape Hospitality.” Chatzielefttheriou recalled that his first job after college put him on the road during periods when he was often looking for furnished apartments. He joins Blueground, a proptech startup that offers long-term turnkey apartment rentals around the world.

“I have never owned a single piece of furniture in my life,” he said. “There are more people who want to have this lifestyle without resources. They want to be able to move more freely, and for them, the ultimate currency is time.”

Khazary agreed, saying the average Selina guest is carrying a MacBook Air and not much else except, perhaps, a smoothie or acai bowl from shared kitchens. “Staying in a fancy room is, I think, news of the past. You know, people still like that stuff. But [traveler preference] has changed. It’s about the experience,” she said. The average Selina customer requires less maintenance and is more interested in social connectivity than luxurious marble floors, for example, the senior vice president said.

Flexibility, both between hosts and between business models, was one of the topics discussed, along with proprietary technology to support differentiated business models. Blueground introduced its own pass during the pandemic to also give customers the freedom to move from one place to another. Another new feature allows renters to freeze their lease, so if they want to take a month off to travel, they don’t have to pay as much for a hotel room as they do for Blueground rent. “We’re very excited about this feature, because it allows customers more flexibility and gives them something they’ve asked us to do,” said Chatzielefttheriou.

Selina can easily transition its inventory, for example, since 25 to 30 percent of its inventory is shared or flexible. When the hotels aren’t full, Selina also offers Work x Stay residencies, an exchange program for artists and musicians to stay for free, for example, while influencing the local culture.

As for corporate culture, both brands say they prioritized investing in technology to grow the business. Selina rents out its properties, which allows the brand to allocate its capital strategically, especially in building its own property management system, Khazary said.

At Blueground, Chatzielefttheriou plans to duplicate a team of 60 developers who have created a booking engine, a customer-facing mobile app with functionality to extend a stay or request cleaning and maintenance, and a proprietary dynamic pricing system. With a booking window of more than 30 days, “there wasn’t any software available to do it,” she said. “We built all of that, and that’s really what drives our growth and our profitability,” she said.

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