The human touch: a core feature of the real estate of tomorrow


The boundaries between uses are fading

Dominique Ozanne, Deputy CEO of Covivio

For a number of years, real estate customers have been seeking new products that offer central urban locations, a strong, creative customer experience, and a customised palette of services. In short, they are looking for spaces and services that meld centrality, originality and personalisation.

As a result of changing expectations, the dividing lines between products are blurring

This shift in demand first came to light in the hotel industry, with the emergence of new lifestyle brands such as Hoxton, Room Mate, 25 Hours and Soho, which are boasting significant growth in Europe as they respond to consumers’ new wants and needs.

These brands have discovered how to transform spaces that are under-visited by guests, such as the lobby, bars and restaurants, and business centres, which these days are being used for new purposes and are becoming genuine places of activity in the midst of the hotel. As a result, there is now more surface space designated to hold common areas to foster interaction between hotel patrons and personnel. This strategy has helped these hotels to set themselves apart from long-standing operators, develop an attractive Food & Beverage offering, and generate traffic that brings in additional revenues in spaces that historically were never very profitable.

When it comes to business clientele, the number-one wish of these customers is to be able to use hotels as a workspace. This requires hoteliers to update their offerings, reorganise and de-compartmentalise spaces by adapting them to the new ways of working; for example, some guest rooms are now modular so they can be used as meeting rooms.

In office real estate, in addition to seeking increasingly prime locations, tenants are changing how they use square footage, and they want more spaces set aside for well-being (fitness rooms, spas), relaxation and socialising (bars, shared meeting rooms, gaming spaces, zen rooms, etc.). Little by little, the mind-set is starting to mirror hotel standards with a robust array of services. The mushrooming of co-working options is an indicator of the interest in these new spaces and the value of synergies between real estate products.

The residential sector is also affected by this quest for services and products that are in keeping with the spirit of the times. Co-living is growing sharply in Europe with an approach of comprehensive management by the owner of all the services provided to tenants, such as subscriptions, concierge service, delivery service, etc. Along these same lines, furnished rentals and long-stay hotels are looking more and more alike, so we can imagine future hybrid products combining a hotel offering with a residence and co-living apartments.

Offices, hotels, residential properties: no more dividing lines, just reciprocal inspiration in usage. This is a groundswell now speeding up with the arrival in masse of new generations that are shifting boundaries and seeking innovation, experience, novelty and connection. After all, to provide service and create experiences, the human aspect is vital. Today’s lifestyle hotel brands have grasped this notion. They focus on having their employees make personal connections and give guests something to remember. This is undoubtedly a new source of inspiration for the office and residential sectors.