With the summer season now over, Croatia’s coastal town of Zadar takes stock of emerging post-pandemic trends.
Croats and foreign visitors arrived as usual to enjoy the beaches this year, but what was different this time was that a lot of people stayed longer, and often with their families, as they took full advantage. the ability to work from anywhere.
To some extent, the local municipality has been at the forefront of accommodating them, providing free or affordable coworking spaces, in part through an active IT community and digital nomadic visas, and that kind of. government intervention is set to spread throughout Europe. . The problem is, summer hotspots don’t really have the right kind of accommodation.
Zadar had a head start thanks to a well-established coworking space called Coin, created several years ago with the support of European funds, while another hub was developed as part of a cross-border project with the Neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. In fact, most coworking spaces in Croatia are publicly managed.
“This summer, a lot of people came from abroad. They were heavy users of coworking spaces, ”said Franjo Pehar, assistant professor at the University of Zadar. “They want to get rid of the kids and the noise from the beach, so they use the facilities as a quiet place,” he added.
Pehar is currently involved in the development of another coworking space, which will be privately funded but operated by the university alongside the municipality. It is larger than Coin, at 2,500 square meters, and will include a business incubator. Students will benefit from mingling with entrepreneurs from around the world.
Medium term trends
Several Croatian towns along the coast now offer government-run coworking spaces, and three real estate companies have approached Pehar about building housing, including a Bulgarian who was on a fact-finding mission.
“They recognized it as a potential market,” he said.
Indeed, hotels and apartment owners tend to focus on shorter stays, generally maximizing returns for tourists looking for a fortnight’s break.
The problem was highlighted by two fellow Swiss professors visiting Pehar. They struggled to find accommodation for their stay. “What we are missing are medium-term agreements that are suitable for these types of people,” he said. “It’s hard to find accommodation for three months.
That could be about to change. Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky told Skift that a fifth of his stays last 30 days or more, while other accommodation providers aim for medium-term durations.
Real estate technology company Blueground recently raised $ 180 million in funding. It offers 5,000 apartments in 15 cities around the world. “As the category of digital nomads continues to grow and it becomes more and more standardized for employees to work from anywhere, the need for flexible and long-term accommodation increases,” the company said. .
Meanwhile, Barcelona-based real estate tech startup Ukio, founded by a former Airbnb executive, announced a $ 9 million fundraiser yesterday. Minimum stays for Blueground and Ukio start at one month.
For small towns, Pehar said governments should consider subsidizing accommodation companies wishing to move in to offer medium-term stays.
Find the third space
Coworking spaces tend to be dominated by a handful of big players, such as WeWork and IWG, and at the other end of the scale, thousands of niche providers.
However, publicly funded spaces may soon fill the middle ground, especially with reports of a European Union-wide digital visa program for nomads in the works.
The French government has announced an investment of 150 million dollars in what it calls “third spaces”. Prime Minister Jean Castex is expected to announce several measures to support their development, according to reports, incorporating research from the French Third Space Association which has identified how “local factories” can foster innovation, training and creativity.
In three years, the number of these hybrid places in France has increased from 1,800 in 2018 to 2,500, and could reach between 3,000 and 3,500 by the end of next year.
Ireland, on the other hand, is developing an extensive network of rural centers with high-speed internet access.
The Hubli room and workspace reservation platform already offers many government-owned or subsidized sites. Typically, 52% of on-demand meeting bookings are to non-hotels and 48% to hotels.
“It is likely that these new regional hub spaces will compete on price, but especially on location. Like any new vendor, they will likely lead with competitive pricing for meetings and workspaces to gain market share and will certainly be an attractive regional option, ”said CEO and Founder Ciaran Delaney. “The plans of the Irish and French governments are very positive, and I can see more countries launching similar programs in the future.”
While governments help fund the programs, success depends on local communities, according to Pehar. In and around Zadar, local IT communities have driven demand for coworking spaces, often using the Meetup platform. Meetup was acquired by WeWork in 2017, but then sold it in March 2020.
“When people visit a city, they check out what’s going on in that community (Meetup) and where can they meet regularly to introduce themselves. We had 10 meetings during the summer season, ”he said.
Viewing this coastal city as a microcosm of future trends, another takeaway is that perhaps tourist boards should engage with local IT communities. Tech workers tend to move more freely and are therefore likely to be the drivers of any demand for co-working spaces – which then have the potential to attract new markets, and people looking for longer vacations but needing to work remotely.
Notes to the appendix
Rather than the power of the people, it is the power of the employees. This is according to Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, who was one of the keynote speakers at the Skift Global Forum on Tuesday.
In a live interview – Chesky’s first appearance at a conference on stage since the start of the pandemic – he described how a “revolution” was brewing.
“Before the pandemic, we lived in the same place. We called it our home, ”he said. “We went to work in another location, we called it our office. And we traveled to a third place. The pandemic forced us to do all three activities in the same place. “
This place, he said, with Zoom could suddenly be anywhere. “This revolution is really about flexibility. Suddenly you can live anywhere and work anywhere, ”he added.
With that, each summer then becomes an opportunity to get away. And when it comes to future work models, he believes if a CEO forces people to go back to the office five days a week, they’ll have a hard time keeping staff.
“The key is that I don’t think the companies will dictate this,” he said. “I think the employees will dictate that. “
Meanwhile, strategist Parag Khanna explained earlier how a younger workforce would now become much more mobile, operating with a ‘sixth sense’ when it comes to choosing where to live, climate issues. also playing a role.
“They are worried about investing their savings and going into debt to live in what might be the wrong place, so they prefer to move. Or rather, they would be mobile, ”he said.
This represents a big tailwind for the travel industry, he argued, with several moves in a year that would benefit the economy. Business travel may be on the decline, but these two findings at least offer good news for suppliers.
10-second catch-up for business travel
Who and what Skift covered last week: Airbnb, Airbus, Fora, London City Airport, Marriott, Plusgrade, Uber.
Swiss airport operator expects business travel to resume for 2022
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