How to turn your existing hospitality business into a coliving space

The easiest way to start a coliving business is to pivot your existing hospitality business in that direction.

You don't have to go all in. In fact, I actually don't recommend it.

Instead, consider testing the coliving business model at your property in different seasons or dedicate a couple of rooms all year round to coliving.

This way you’ll learn how best to promote it and what the expectations are of your coliving guests. After the initial success, you can adjust and do it on a larger scale.

Hotels and coliving

Progressive hotel chains are launching subscription models.

Here are two examples launched in 2020:

Monthly hotel subscriptions are technically coliving subscriptions if guests choose to stay for a while in each hotel.

However, there are a few problems with coliving and hotels:

#1 The economy of hotels

This solution make sense during events like a pandemic when any type of revenue is gold and helps hotels to survive. But the economy of hotels is not designed for long stays, even though the operational costs are lower.

#2 The convenience of hotels

Who wants to live in a hotel for half a year? I know many digital nomads and location independent workers who spend a few weeks or months in a location and then they move.

None of them are staying in hotels. For them, the biggest blocks are the price and the kitchen. You can usually rent a superb Airbnb apartment for the same or lower price.

Coliving a great tool for hotels to fight seasonality and dedicate some rooms to this concept in the low season. Alternatively, they could have some rooms operating as coliving spaces all year long but target a premium niche market. Zoku in Amsterdam is a good example of this.

Coliving hotel Zoku in Amsterdam

I wanted to rent a room in Zoku in June 2019 and the monthly rent was 6000 Euro. It was unreasonably expensive but I'm sure they can find customers in a large and expensive city with limited housing and strongly regulated Airbnb restrictions.

Operating multiple brands

If the future of the hospitality industry could be defined in one word, I would say that its: flexibility.

With flexibility we can imagine different concepts operating on the same property, dynamic pricing, and a mix of booking channels that can be adjusted based on demand and seasons.

It's common that a hotel invites more brands to operate other services. The restaurant is run independent by some restaurant chain, Starbucks serves coffee in another hotel corner. These 3rd-party operators pay rent and/or revenue share with the hotel.

But hotel brands always keeps the core business - accommodation.

And here is the million-dollar question: Does the accommodation need to operated by just one brand? Not really.

Changing brands based on seasonality

Sun & Co. is a coliving space operated near Valencia in Spain.

The high season in that area is from the 15th of June to the 15th of September. The property is operated as a hostel under the brand Youth Hostel Jávea during this time.

The rest of they year the property operates as Sun and Co. coliving. They make some adjustments during the transition day: the lobby of the hostel is converted into a coworking area, most bunk beds are removed and private rooms are prepared for coliving, etc.

I discussed this in a podcast episode with Jon who manages the space:

The hostel is a much more profitable business and operating the property as coliving year-round is not an ideal approach to maximizing yields. However, that's how the hospitality industry used to work. One or the other.

Operating 2 or more brands at the same time

OYO rooms is a hospitality brand from India with a large portfolio of hotels, apartments and coliving spaces. They are huge now but their beginnings were very modest.

OYO reached out small budget hotels in India and offered them a sweet deal for renting a few of their rooms long-term. Let's say a hotel had 30 rooms and OYO offered to rent 10 of them under the OYO brand. Kind of like a “hotel in the hotel”.

They brought their own branded towels, installed better WiFi and offered businesses travellers on a budget an affordable standardized accommodation solution.  

Can your hotel operate another coliving brand simultaneously? Absolutely yes!

How should you adjust the rooms dedicated to coliving? This is a trickier question. What I can say for sure is, the rooms in most upscale hotels are usually unnecessarily large for coliving.

Everything coliving

In this article we’ve focussed primarily on hotels but you can convert almost any property into a coliving business:

  • Vacation rental apartments: rent larger apartments by rooms
  • Campsite: install prefab cabins, good internet and build separate common areas (large “living room” + kitchen).
  • Large villa: rent by room.

And so on and so on.

This article is part of the guide where I'm sharing tips on starting a coliving business.

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