Worldwide: IHM’s editorial team [George Sell, editor-in-chief; Paul Stevens, editor – short-term rentals; and Eloise Hanson [editor – hospitality] provide a glimpse into what to expect for the travel, hospitality and real estate sectors in 2024 in our annual A-Z article.
A is for All-inclusive
The new wave of all-inclusive hotels and resorts is firmly rooted in luxury. In the last few years alone, larger hotel chains have become an active player in the all-inclusive arena – most notably Hyatt, with its $2.7 billion acquisition of Apple Leisure Group in 2021. Since then, Marriott has expanded its all-inclusive portfolio to include Marriott Hotels, with additional brands including W Hotels and Ritz-Carlton soon to join the fold. Ennismore, part of Accor, launched its All Inclusive Collection in September 2023 with plans to expand to 50 resorts over the next three years, whilst Hilton is steadily growing its all-inclusive portfolio in Central America with plans to launch in EMEA. Independent luxury hotels have also pivoted to all-inclusive. To combat the low season in Scotland’s tourism industry, The Torridon has introduced a three-day all-inclusive retreat available from November through to March. Bulking together room rates and F&B spend has its perks for the consumer, who can budget and better manage costs. For staff, however, it requires emphasis on a direct selling strategy to minimise distribution fees, as well as training staff members to upsell where appropriate. Independent hotels are arguably more adept than hotel chains in these fields, meaning we could see more properties launch all-inclusive offers in the near future. Booking data from Advantage Travel Partnership reveals that all-inclusive trips remain the most popular board basis amongst British travellers for 2024. All the signs point to further growth for the all-inclusive hotel and resort sectors. EH.
B is for Business travel
Business travel has fundamentally changed. Office values have dropped significantly as a result of the emerging hybrid workforce, which in turn is impacting the need for workers to be based in city centres. By 2032, cities in Africa and the Middle East are expected to dominate the list of popular destinations for international business travel – a major shift from the global financial centres of London, Paris, Toronto, Dubai, Shanghai and the like. In response to a shifting market, business travel forecasts amongst some serviced apartment agents and operators have declined for the year ahead, and those which have historically serviced the corporate traveller will need to expand their customer base. Whilst global business travel spend is expected to surpass its pre-pandemic level of $1.5 trillion in 2024, priorities for the year ahead simultaneously revolve around cost management. Only essential trips will take place, supported by a number of trends that will shape the future of business travel beyond 2024. Sustainability is increasingly climbing the ranks of importance amongst travel managers. Accommodation agents including Situ have upped efforts to measure and report on ESG factors within its supply chain, and SilverDoor has launched a carbon calculator to allow businesses monitor their travel sustainability goals. Technology will therefore play a prominent role moving forwards, especially with the influence of AI and its applications within the wider travel and tourism industries. TravelPerk’s recent $104 million funding is a strong sign that business travel technology is ripe for investment. EH.
C is for Consolidation
2023 wasn’t a vintage year for dealmaking but there is a real sense that 2024 will see a ramping up of merger and acquisition [M&A] activity and consolidation, provided that interest rates and inflation fall. By the end of last year, Fortune reported that around 1,200 private US companies are anticipated to run out of money in the coming months, and travel, hospitality and real estate business owners could look to sell rather than take on higher debt burdens through costly refinancing deals. The short-term rental and serviced apartment segments remain highly fragmented and behind the hotel sector in terms of brand recognition, therefore brands that are in a hurry to grow and provide a clear offering to consumers and investors could capitalise by snapping up competitors that can expand their footprint. Meanwhile, Hyatt’s acquisition of Mr & Mrs Smith plus the unveiling of its new Homes & Hideaways vacation rental platform exemplify the continued blurring of lines between asset classes. Expect to see more transactions from private equity firms in software and holiday parks, while credit cards and fintechs are also muscling into travel. PS.
D is for Dave Stephenson
Dave Stephenson may not yet be a household name in the travel and hospitality sectors but his new role as the first-ever chief business officer of Airbnb will make him one of the most powerful and influential names in the industry in the year ahead. Formerly holding CFO roles at Airbnb and Amazon’s worldwide consumer business unit, Stephenson has been promoted to drive three key missions for the home-sharing platform this year: drive international expansion; grow Airbnb’s global host community; and lead all business and corporate development activities. As CEO Brian Chesky calls it an “inflection point” for Airbnb, there have been whispers that the firm will expand more into new offerings, products and verticals [e.g. car rentals] to broaden into under-penetrated markets, and Stephenson will inevitably be pivotal in executing this vision moving forward. Airbnb’s senior team reshuffle extends further too – former White House chief of staff, Ron Klain, is the company’s new chief legal officer, Ellie Mertz replaces Stephenson as CFO, and global head of hosting, Catherine Powell, is moving into an advisory role, all of whom will add fresh impetus to Airbnb’s broadening scope. PS.
E is for Elections
The political direction of several major economies will be changing during 2024, with potentially huge implications for the travel, hospitality and real estate sectors. The US presidential election takes place on 5 November, the UK will have a new government no later than 28 January 2025 – but a spring or autumn election this year is looking most likely – and the European Parliament elections will be on 9 June. In the US, a second Trump presidency is looking the most likely, and trying to predict what he will do is a fool’s errand. He is a nationalist and a populist however, and is likely to spend and cut taxes without restraint, and introduce protectionist foreign and economic policies. In the UK, the hospitality and real estate industries will be hoping for more focus on boosting trade and delivering new homes from a Labour government, which is looking the most likely outcome as I wrote this. Europe is bracing itself for a rise in right-wing parties benefitting from the same wave of populism and nationalism which Trump is likely to ride in to the Oval Office across the pond. Whatever happens, the investment and development communities will look to increase their activity once new governments are installed, with the element of certainty that brings. GS.
F is for Flex office
Despite the well-publicised problems at WeWork, the flex workspace sector is buzzing and growing fast. New players such as infinitSpace are entering the space, which is now mature enough to see the first wave of consolidation, such as Vast’s recent acquisition of Intelligent Office. And far from being a threat to the traditional office market, as was initially feared, the flex space can actually benefit it. As blue-chip tenants move solely to grade A office space, the flex sector is well positioned to renovate and refresh grade B and C space to boost its desirability and profitability. The lessons of WeWork – huge exposure to expensive leases – have been taken onboard. In 2024, the flex space will focus on management agreements, sharing the risk and the rewards with the landlord. The sector is not also as one-dimensional as some might think. The common perception of coworking is that it provides offices and desks for people who sit at computers all day, but the reality is that there is a thriving sub-sector of niche operators who cater to specific industries. In London, we have seen the likes of Huckletree targeting specific neighbourhoods for new openings in a deliberate strategy to attract certain sectors – its Liverpool Street property for example is seeking to cater to “a thriving neighbourhood of fintech and other innovative players”, while its Oxford Circus location is dedicated to serving web3 and AI companies. There are also specialist offers for lawyers, dentists, carpenters, architects, product designers, therapists and life coaches. GS.
G is for Generative AI
We couldn’t do an A-Z list without at least a mention for AI – a global market that is projected to grow twentyfold to USD two trillion by 2030 [as per Statista]. Generative AI [a type of AI technology] is already transforming our personal and professional lives through algorithms that enable us to produce all different types of content from text to imagery, audio and synthetic data. The results for businesses in travel, hospitality and real estate are only just being realised in a move to drive efficiencies and fuel growth, moreover it will showcase creativity and expose mediocrity as the need for hyper-targeted offerings in the market skyrockets. At the same time, the accelerated rate of Generative AI adoption raises certain questions as we delve deeper into this technology’s potential. AI-generated content still has ethical, quality control, security and privacy concerns attached to it while its intelligence is not yet up to human level. Regulation is also on the horizon, notably in Europe, as the European Commission brings in its European AI Act to establish a robust framework and impose strict penalties on companies using AI that do not comply with the legislation. PS.
H is for Hostels
The hostel market is expected to grow from $6.35 billion in 2023 to $6.64 billion this year. By 2028, the market is forecasted to expand to $8.06 billion at a compound annual growth rate of 4.9 per cent. These numbers are pretty impressive given many hostel businesses have struggled over the past year – Youth Hostels Association for example is selling 30 per cent of its stock in England and Wales, attributing the sale to “pandemic shutdowns, the cost of living crisis and steep inflation”, whilst 11 of its hostels in New Zealand and 19 in Australia were permanently closed between 2021 and 2022. Elsewhere in the market, the A&O Hostels platform is up for sale at a value of €800 million. The portfolio features 40 properties in 25 cities and nine European countries – it could mark one of the largest portfolio sales the hospitality industry has seen in years if the sale completes in 2024, and a huge vote of confidence for the sector. Over in Columbia, IDB Invest has recently provided $5 million financing to Viajero Hostels, a lifestyle platform sponsored by Grupo Pegasus. And a mammoth 775-bed hostel is currently being developed on Dean Street in Soho, London, with a scheduled 2025 opening. The signs would suggest that the hostel market is on the up, especially given the rise of solo travel which will further fuel demand, performance and expansion. EH.
I is for Immersive experiences
Over the past year, the IHM editorial team have received invites to magic mushroom retreats, murder mystery weekends, tantric spa experiences, and more. We’ve often wondered when the time would come to explore the topic of immersive retreats – and I’m the lucky one to research the burgeoning trend. Google Trends show that from February 2019, the term “immersive travel experience” peaked in early October 2020. “Immersive fast travel” rose in popularity in early November 2021, and “immersive experience” has become the latest popular term, peaking in mid-February 2023. Millennial and Gen Z travellers have led the charge for immersive experiences – according to American Express Travel’s 2023 Global Travel Trends Report, 79 per cent of Gen Z and millennial respondents wanted to “live like a local” in the destination they visit, and 84 per cent would rather take a dream holiday than purchase a new luxury item. 47 per cent of Gen Z and millennials have also planned an entire trip around visiting a specific restaurant, and 45 per cent have planned a trip around a food festival. One of the most lucrative sectors where immersive experiences are evolving at great pace is wellness. The Global Wellness Institute estimates that by 2027, the wellness economy will account for 6.6 per cent of global GDP at $8.5 trillion. The biggest projected wellness growth leaders through 2027 are wellness real estate [17.4 per cent annually] followed by wellness tourism [16.6 per cent annually]. The global wellness tourism sector has also been forecast to expand at a compound annual growth rate [CAGR] of 12.42 per cent from 2023 to 2030. Growing traveller awareness around health and wellbeing will encourage hospitality operators to introduce a wider range of experiences – some activities more left field than others. My only advice would be to not combine psychedelics with murder mystery retreats. EH.
J is for Joint ventures
The JV movement has been gathering momentum for a few years now – in times of uncertainty, whether economic or political, it makes sense to pool resources, knowledge, and financial clout, and we’ll see many more of them in 2024. JVs give the partners added scale, and access to get involved in bigger projects than they could handle on their own. There are several particular JV models that are popular across the real estate sector, particular in the living space. We’re seeing investors team up to fund developments, as in the case of Nuveen and Apache’s moves into the UK single-family rental [SFR] sector. This has the added bonus that Apache has its own in-house operating platform Present Made, to manage the resulting developments. A similar model is behind a JV between Italian asset manager DeA Capital and Harrison Street, which is acquiring PBSA assets across the Spanish market, with plans for up to 4,000 units. In the coliving space, French development and construction giant, Bouygues Immobilier, has formed a JV with US investment manager Ares to launch the Nomo coliving brand. The platform will develop, acquire and operate managed buildings aimed at 25- to 40-year-olds, and has a target of 10,000 beds across France by 2030. GS.
K is for KPIs
Benchmarking KPIs have shifted from RevPAR [revenue per available room] to TRevPAR [total revenue per available room] or even GOPPAM [gross operating profit per available metre]. Largely driven by the increased demand for experiential services and other hybrid lodging concepts, the delivery of new offerings over and above room revenue is having a significant impact on traditional revenue models and KPIs. Transforming under-utilised space has been a popular route for some operators, with the addition of coworking areas, pop-up retail, activity studios and more. Flexible living options are also increasing, with short- and long-stay guests accommodated under one roof. As a result, property management systems will need to evolve to better support and manage diverse revenue flows. Incoming regulatory pressures to measure and report on ESG data is causing some headache. There is currently no agreement as to which KPIs operators should be monitoring, or which net zero carbon/carbon reduction frameworks should be followed. Organisations such as the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, the Energy & Environment Alliance, Considerate Group and more provide some useful ESG resources and educational programmes for owners and operators. EH.
L is for Labour
For the letter ‘L’, we have the homonym Labour, in reference to both the UK political party as well as the workforce. 2024 marks a big year for global elections. The UK General Election is expected to take place in the second half of this year, with November floated as the most likely month. The latest YouGov voting intention poll [at the time of writing] shows Labour and Conservatives receiving 47 per cent and 20 per cent share respectively. Should Labour come to power in 2025, its manifesto highlights some policies which will be of benefit to the hospitality sector, including the provision and availability of childcare, as well as a planned review of business taxes to include the industry. On the flip side, a ban on zero-hour contracts would be problematic for many employers. Regarding the workforce, figures from the Office for National Statistics show there were 112,000 vacancies in hospitality at the end of 2023, down from 147,000 at the same time in 2022. Current vacancies remain far higher than pre-pandemic levels, when there were 89,000. UKHospitality is campaigning for a reform of the Apprenticeship Levy, such as freeing up funds to be used for non-apprenticeship training and a modular approach for learners who can build towards an apprenticeship. By offering employers further support to enhance their skills and development offering, it may encourage more bodies to enter the industry and fill much-needed roles. EH.
M is for Modular construction
Despite a bumpy start and a series of high-profile company failures in the residential MMC market – such as ilke Homes, L&G Modular and Homes by Urban Splash – modular construction is going to take off in a big way, simply because in a time of rising labour costs, inconsistent supply chains and increasingly extreme weather, it just makes sense. We’re already starting to see some notable examples showing developers and, crucially, lenders are comfortable with pushing the boundaries with modular. Macquarie Asset Management’s build-to-rent arm Goodstone Living has secured more than £100 million of debt financing and appointed a construction partner for the UK’s largest modular BTR scheme. Smith’s Gardens will comprise 550 rental homes across six buildings, including a 26-storey landmark tower. The buildings will be manufactured offsite by Elements Europe at its modular factory in Telford. Andy Street, mayor of the West Midlands, said: “It’s great to see modular construction taking centre stage here – with Elements generating highly skilled jobs in Telford in a factory that will power the delivery of thousands of homes in the months and years ahead.”
Maslow Capital has successfully provided Yari Investments with an £18.1 million development loan for the construction of a coliving project in Feltham, south-west London. Rachel Gordon, head of deal execution at Maslow Capital, said: “This project exemplifies Maslow Capital’s commitment to supporting the development of high-quality, innovative housing solutions in the UK. The use of modular construction techniques in this project not only allows for faster, more efficient building, but also enables our borrower to deliver a development that is more environmentally friendly. We are pleased to support the use of such innovative methods and believe they will play a key role in the future.” GS.
N is for NUMA
Amid a challenging economic environment and fragmented property management landscape where operators are being forced to lay off staff or cut down on units, NUMA stands out for its aggressive expansion strategy. In the past year alone, the Berlin-based hospitality platform, which focuses on hotel and commercial properties in Europe’s major cities, has achieved some noteworthy milestones, including surpassing €1.5 billion in real estate assets under management [5,200+ units] and raising $59 million in growth equity capital through a Series C funding round. NUMA asserts its USP vocally – that it can attract tourists and business travellers alike while traditional hotel chains struggle to adapt to new consumer behaviours and short-term rental platforms face tightening city regulations across the continent. The company’s purchase of Dutch competitor YAYS in November is a sign of things to come too in 2024. Leveraging the investment in its tech stack and focus on enhancing the travel experience, NUMA is strengthening its reputation as a dominant player in Europe and positioning itself for expansion into attractive core markets such as Amsterdam and Paris. PS.
O is for Olympics
Accommodation providers will be looking forward to the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris with as much anticipation as the sports fans themselves who are lucky enough to bag themselves tickets. As an official Games partner, Airbnb alone is gearing up to host up to half a million potential visitors in the French capital and other territories which are also venues, while Paris’ tourism office expects around 16 million to visit the wider Paris region during the dates of the Olympics and Paralympics. Lodging demand from July to September will almost certainly be unprecedented and add significant pressure to the transportation, housing and hotel markets while supply struggles to keep up, leading Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky to plead with Parisians to host guests during the Games. Despite the fervour, the sporting extravaganza [and Airbnb’s sponsorship] are at odds with the French Government’s bid to regulate short-term rental operations in cities across the country and bring their pricing in line with other lodging providers. Anne Hidalgo, Paris’ mayor since 2014, announced plans in 2020 to hold a referendum on Airbnb and other platforms’ activities in the capital as part of her post-Covid recovery strategy, and her stance has not waned since. PS.
P is for Population
Rising and falling populations have significant impacts on the real estate and hospitality / travel sectors. In the UK, which is facing an acute shortage of labour, the population could reach nearly 74 million by 2036 with net migration fuelling the rise, figures suggest. The Office for National Statistics [ONS] projects that the population will increase by 6.6 million people [9.9 per cent] between 2021 and 2036. This includes a net migration of 6.1 million people and about 500,000 more births than deaths. The rise in net migration could help top ease the recruitment issue which was severely exacerbated by a loss of EU workers post-Brexit. The ONS numbers say there could be an additional one million people aged 85 and over in the UK by 2036. This is going to necessitate a series rise in output for the senior living sector, which is already has an undersupply of more than 600,000 units, according to CBRE. Andrew Surgenor, senior director, operational real estate at CBRE, said: “It’s evident that there is a need to amplify the choice and quality of housing available to this cohort of the population. Developers can address this with increased tenures, including rental and affordable tenure, unlocking potential for a more diverse, accessible offering.”
Elsewhere in the world, growing populations – and the burgeoning middle class that results – mean huge numbers of people travelling overseas for the first time. The middle class is the fastest-growing major segment of the Indian population in both percentage and absolute terms, rising at 6.3 percent per year between 1995 and 2021. It now represents 31 percent of the population and is expected to be 38 percent by 2031 and 60 percent in 2047. More than one billion Indians will make up the middle-class when India celebrates 100 years of independence in 2047. GS.
Q is for Quick
In an age of instant gratification, fuelled by the rapid pace of technological advancements and the convenience of online shopping, travellers’ demands and needs have undergone a transformative shift. The rise of e-commerce giants such as Amazon has played a pivotal role in shaping consumer expectations, extending beyond the realm of retail and influencing the way individuals approach travel; speed and efficiency are now integral components of the overall traveller experience. As a result, travel service providers have adapted and streamlined processes to meet these evolving expectations. The knock-on effect is a landscape where travellers come to expect quick booking procedures, rapid responses to queries, instant check-ins, and hassle-free experiences such as contactless payments. The fast-paced nature of the modern world is also well captured in the meteoric rise of TikTok. Bite-sized videos have become a powerful tool for aspirational travel, and marketers are now leveraging the engaging nature of short-form videos to showcase destination highlights and hotel amenities, as well as share user-generated content in a visually compelling format. Simply to prove a case in point as to how quick our daily lives are becoming, this entire section was written by ChatGPT. EH.
R is for Refinancing
According to a recent report by CBRE, a wall of real estate debt will be due across Europe in the next four years and more than a quarter of it may not be refinanced. The report highlights a gap of €176 billion between the estimated €640 billion of loans provided in the years 2019 through 2022 and the amount now available to refinance them. Property values have fallen while debt has become harder to come by and more expensive. But quality assets are managing to secure refine icing despite the parlous state of the market. Significant recent deals include DTZ Investors Co-Living Fund [COLIV] completing a £110 million refinance of its Folk Co-living portfolio with Japanese lender SMBC Bank International Plc – the first major refinancing in the institutional coliving sector; and The Social Hub [TSH], formerly knows as The Student Hotel, securing a €566 million refinancing facility in a deal led by Germany’s Aareal Bank. In the hospitality space, Generator Group has completed a refinancing deal worth approximately $805 million [€750 million] with new and existing lenders across Europe and the US. Generator, which owns or runs 21 hotels, has seen strong results following the pandemic, giving its owner Queensgate the ability to refinance the group’s global debt. Described as “one of the largest and most innovative real estate financings that the market has seen in years” by Queensgate Investments CEO Jason Kow, different debt facilities have been used for different divisions of the business. On a smaller scale, of the country house estate and hotel, Beaverbrook, located in the Surrey Hills, has secured a £52 million loan from OakNorth Bank to refinance existing facilities and fund future growth. GS.
S is for Saudi Arabia
If anyone doubted Saudi Arabia’s growing power on the global stage, the Kingdom will be impossible to ignore in 2024. It is already well documented that the National Tourism Strategy of Saudi Arabia is aiming to attract 100 million tourists in the lead up to Saudi Vision 2030 and its increasing influence in sport [e.g. boxing, tennis and football including hosting the 2034 FIFA World Cup] and entertainment [e.g. concerts] has put it on course to be a top five global tourism destination in the future. At the heart of this, the Kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund PIF [Public Investment Fund] is investing in projects such as Rocco Forte Hotels, hotel circuit company Habitas and luxury tourism destination Soudah Peaks, which will contribute significantly to Saudi’s cumulative GDP, attract investments, and create thousands of direct and indirect job opportunities. Expect to hear a lot more about NEOM too, Saudi Arabia’s futuristic giga city, which is underway and sets out to place “livability, business and conservation at its heart” – Marriott International is one hospitality behemoth that has already agreed property collaborations with the project. Looking further into next year, a single common GCC tourist visa is set to be introduced by 2025, allowing for seamless travel between the Gulf States [the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar], simplifying travel and boosting tourism in the whole region. PS.
T is for Taxes
The saying goes that nothing in this world is certain except death and taxes, and taxes will be one of the hot topics of conversation around travel and tourism in 2024. Nowhere will this be more prevalent than in Europe, where destinations such as Venice, Paris, Amsterdam, Valencia, Barcelona, Madrid, Olhao, Faro and Figueira de Foz are preparing to introduce fresh tourism taxes this year. While the legislation may vary between regional and municipal levies, cities are eyeing an opportunity to crack down on rowdy, anti-social behaviour, fund city improvements and services, and discourage mass tourism, while charging visitors a small fee for their length of stay. Meanwhile, His Majesty’s Revenue & Customs in the UK is tightening its grip on tax evasion by requiring platforms like Airbnb to collect and share details of hosts who make at least 30 transactions a year from online “side hustles” such as short-term renting. PS.
U is for Urban biodiversity
The government’s plans for biodiversity net gain [BNG] in the built environment came into effect from 1 January 2024, for all projects except major infrastructure works. The legislation requires developers to deliver a biodiversity net gain of 10 per cent. To calculate this, the UK government has produced a formula called the “statutory biodiversity metric” for counting what it terms “biodiversity units”, which are gained through work to create or improve natural habitats and lost through building. Developers must prioritise enhancing biodiversity on-site. If they cannot meet the threshold on the site being developed, they will be allowed also to make biodiversity gains on other plots of land, including by purchasing biodiversity units from other landowners. If this is not possible they must buy “statutory biodiversity credits” from the government, which will use the money to invest in habitat creation. Biodiversity gains delivered must be maintained for a minimum of 30 years by whoever owns the land, bound by legal agreements. An innovative example of what can be done is developer Canary Wharf Group’s [CWG] partnership with Cornish eco visitor attraction the Eden Project to help model how biodiversity can be boosted in urban environments. Under the partnership, Canary Wharf Group will install a range of new features at its estate in London’s Docklands, which it is describing as a “green spine”. Parks and gardens will be expanded, new terrestrial and marine plants will be added and waterside access improved. Glenn Howells Architects has been commissioned to develop an overall masterplan for improving Canary Wharf’s existing public spaces and waterways with a focus on improving visitor wellbeing and biodiversity. Learnings from this project will be documented to help create a blueprint for other urban areas to use in creating spaces that “work for nature as well as people”. GS.
V is for Vertical
In urban centres, where space is scarce and land values reflect that scarcity, the logical thing to do is build upwards. We will increasingly see the creation of large mixed-use developments, with a broad range of tenures, as part of a movement which in architecture circles has been dubbed ‘vertical villages’. Renzo Piano, the architect of London’s Shard, described his creation as a “vertical city” because of its mixture of uses. The 308-metre structure includes shops, offices, apartments, a hotel and restaurants. At any one time it can accommodate 12,000 people across its uses. Some projects are on a more ambitious scale. The Interlace in Singapore is composed of 31 apartment blocks, stacked six storeys tall. The stacking allows light and air to flow through the building, creating a more open city landscape. There’s also a mixture of internal and external environments with shared and private outdoor spaces on multiple levels. The designs for The Hyperions, in New Delhi, India, are for “a self-sustaining urban utopia that not only grows organic food, but also produces more energy than it consumes in a closed-loop system”. Conceived with the double objective of energy decentralisation and food deindustrialisation, this garden towers project comprises six 36-storey connected towers built from cross-laminated timber. The six towers include business incubators, living labs, coworking spaces, multi-purpose rooms, apartments and student housing. On a more modest scale, Feel Group has opened Vertical Firmeza Coworking and Flats, a mixed-use development in Porto’s city centre. The 2,500-square-metre project features with three floors of coworking space, 16 serviced apartments and a rooftop event space catering for up to 200 people. Designed to meet the needs of entrepreneurs, startups and professionals, Vertical Coworking and Feel Porto accommodations offer “a collaborative environment that promotes productivity and the creation of networks”. GS.
W is for web3
The hype around web3 seems to have disappeared from public discourse, however its impact on the hospitality and living sectors should not be overlooked. I’d argue that virtual or augmented reality experiences are the most popular applications of web3 currently, providing operators the opportunity to showcase properties, plan meetings and events and more. Many brands have also entered the metaverse which has supported sales and marketing strategies as well as recruitment. I won’t pretend that I know a huge deal about blockchain technology which powers the web3 model. I understand it will help businesses to securely store and manage data without the need for third-parties, which given the reliance on external partners to carry out bookings and transactions, could only be of benefit to the hospitality and living sectors. Applications include automated contracts for tenants, secure identity checks, and personalised loyalty programs. Blockchain technology could effectively reduce fees paid to third-parties, and when paired with AI could provide analysis of customer data to inform offers and rewards. EH.
X is for X
Since Twitter was bought by Elon Musk [CEO of Tesla and SpaceX] in October 2022 and rebranded as X last April, the platform has rarely been out of the news – as much for Musk’s high-profile antics as the bugs and outages on the site itself. Musk’s arrival promises to take X in a new direction, broadening out from its social networking and journalistic functions into his vision for an “everything” app, where users could eventually communicate, shop, consume entertainment and “live” all on one app. Interestingly, Musk originally created X.com in 1999 to become an all-in-one financial platform, which would later go on to rebrand as PayPal. The billionaire businessman is nothing short of ambitious and it would be no surprise to see X venture into the travel and hospitality space if it can attract new demographics to the third-biggest social media network worldwide. His forthright opinions on the app, however, have caused widespread controversy. Online travel agencies Airbnb and Expedia suspended their advertising on X after Musk was accused of antisemitism for a critical tweet about Jewish communities, while non-profit group Media Matters alleged that its adverts were appearing alongside pro-Nazi content and hate speech. Apple, Uber, Microsoft and Coca-Cola all pulled their ads too, leaving X with an uncertain future despite its overarching ambitions. PS.
Y is for Y Combinator
2023 was a brutal year for tech companies across the travel, hospitality and real estate spectrum for a number of reasons. Over-hiring, a failure to guard against “shocks” to the economy and market volatility, and a need to drive tech efficiencies were just some of the reasons attributed to the wave of layoffs announced by startups over the last 12 months. Taking that into consideration, it is intriguing to see that entry to Y Combinator, Silicon Valley’s tech startup accelerator, is the most competitive it has ever been with 44,000 applications received this year, according to Bloomberg. On the flip side, the acceptance for Y Combinator’s summer cohort was lower than one per cent – the lowest in the incubator’s history. As Y Combinator CEO Garry Tan explains, cuts at big tech firms have “unshackled” people to work on important new companies and “little tech” can still thrive in a turbulent economy. While efficiencies can be made and innovations such as AI will be adopted, entrepreneurs will always be on the lookout for the next industry-defining solution. PS.
Z is for Gen Z