BHN speaks to Matthew Bell, chief hotel operations officer at citizenM, about the brand’s London performance, the uptake in the group’s subscription offer, and the adoption of coworking models in hotels.
• How has citizenM Tower of London been trading? How does it compare to the brand’s two other London properties?
As is the case across the entire hospitality industry business has obviously been suppressed, particularly as business travel is an essential part of our proposition and this is the area of travel that has been the slowest to pick back up so far.
That being said, with its iconic location and unrivalled views of the Tower of London, citizenM Tower of London has always appealed to the leisure traveller as well, and we have seen this trend continue over the past six months.
• What do you think will help to drive the recovery of city centre hotels?
Ultimately, the most important step that needs to happen is for the borders to open, permitting international travel with limited friction. Beyond that, the return of office workers will help to drive business travel, one of citizenM’s key customer segments.
• It’s been nearly a year since citizenM launched its subscription offers. How popular is the service within the hotels? Who is the typical user demographic?
In recognition of the global shift in work/life culture, last year we launched two subscription models for digital nomads, remote workers and companies with distributed workforce: Global Passport and corporate subscription.
The corporate subscription was extremely well received with our corporate bookers, who have helped shape the proposition as we’ve engaged with them during the pandemic to understand how they see the needs of their travellers changing. We will continue to iterate further as the routine of travel once again becomes clearer.
• Many hotels have introduced a coworking element. Do you think this will become a permanent feature of operations and why / why not? Do you think we’ll see more hotels pivot to a mixed-use model?
citizenM was designed in a way that meets the needs of our guests and has therefore always been a great place to work from. Hotels have always been a place where people have come to work from, holding face-to-face meetings over a coffee, etc. This has evolved over time, with people increasingly basing themselves out of hotels for the day.
However, coworking as we see it, has very particular demands – there is a greater permanency to the proposition than just a good spot to work out of, often with small groups of people working together. I can imagine that for certain hotels coworking is appealing as owners and operators look to more effectively yield the available square meterage. Our model means we are extremely efficient with how we yield the total square meterage of each property, with our rooms principally being a place to sleep and shower, and the living rooms representing the “third space” for work and play.
We want to offer this first and foremost to our guests when travelling, but also as a space they can use in their home cities helping to deepen our relationship, removing friction and building genuine human connections.