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When work from home turns into work from a hotel suite: the new corporate travel

08/17/2020| 10:29:56 PM| 中文

Sebastien Bazin, chairman and CEO of Accor, said he expects 5 to 10 percent of its room counts in the future to be used this way.

What happens in Vegas … can now be expensed. With its hotels half full, MGM Resorts is pitching hotel rooms as offices to a workforce that’s getting tired of working from home, and now looking to work from anywhere.

It’s not the only destination capitalizing on a trend that’s been accelerated by the pandemic, as Bermuda and Estonia have shown in their pursuit of the digital nomad. And it certainly won’t be the last. But alongside French hotel giant Accor and serviced apartment operator Ascott, MGM Resorts is among the first hoping to formalize — and scale up — the concept.

Negotiating accommodation rates and contracts tends to be something company travel managers deal with, but at this latest cultural crossroads of travel and workspace management, it’s overlapping with company human resources and mobility departments too.

Checking in

Accor launched its Hotel Office program last week, allowing workers to make daytime bookings and use rooms for work — rates will typically be below the average overnight rate. Users book for a single day or can select a five-day package.

The offer is available at 250 hotels across the UK and a further 70 across Europe, with more to be added. Sebastien Bazin, chairman and CEO of Accor, said he expects 5 to 10 percent of its room counts in the future to be used this way.

Ascott has also jumped in, and is transforming some of its serviced apartments into work suites. It launched its global Work in Residence initiative on August 12, but is only accepting bookings for the remainer of the year.

Sparking conversations

Across the Strip, properties are operating at about 50 percent capacity. They usually run 90 percent year-round, so MGM Resorts is targeting companies that have officially announced they’re not bringing people back to the office.

“Our team put two and two together, with the volume of people who are now working from home, and what we could do in terms of our efforts to meet this need,” Atif Rafiq, president of commercial and growth at MGM Resorts, told Skift.

“We’ve had a significant buzz. We had one company reach out to us and ask if they could offer it to their employees. Another enquired if they could do it for a longer period. It’s sparked conversations, and a lot of possibilities,” he added.

Travel or work?

Regardless of the professionalism of these programs now being set up by hotel operators and destinations, their success comes down to how much trust employers have in their staff.

If a company had an active travel program before Covid, the HR professional said, it’s more likely they’ll give staff the chance to work from anywhere. “You wouldn’t normally get people traveling if they weren’t trusted, if you didn’t have that relationship with them. There’s a lot about culture here,” she said.

And with a growing number of accommodation providers looking to move into the new product offering, competition may become fierce and the opportunity could be short-lived if companies do revert back to offices. Marriott’s CEO certainly has a contrarian view, and isn’t too happy with companies keeping offices closed into next year, or the fact meeting bans remain in place.

“While we all need to make decisions to protect our people and make sure that we’re not putting people out in risky environments, there’s absolutely no reason for us to be making decisions about what offices look like or what travel looks like in the second quarter of 2021,” Arne Sorenson said.

MGM Resorts’ Rafiq is looking further ahead. “We’re looking to identify new visitation patterns. We want it to stick. Remote work is here to stay, and I see this as an evergreen offering for a company.”

It’s a gamble, but one that’s worth it in these extraordinary times.

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TAGS: MGM Resorts | Accor | Ascott | Hotel Office
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