Lebawit Lily Girma
The digital nomad trend may have reached its tipping point, but it’s just the beginning for hospitality platforms that offer a blended environment allowing for remote work, long-term stays and community experiences. That was the heart of the discussion with Rafael Museri, CEO and co-founder of Selina on how hospitality will evolve to meet the future of work, moderated by Skift President Carolyn Kremins at the Skift Business Travel and Future of Work Summit on Wednesday.
Museri, who heads the five-year old hospitality startup and design-forward nomadic lifestyle brand, shared a shot of optimism with the audience in discussing the company’s network of over 100 properties in 20 countries, including in Latin America, Europe, U.S. and South East Asia, and its people-first success metrics. From changing consumer habits to the measure of friendships as a KPI, Museri said that he believes the digital nomad trend is at its tipping point and the hybrid hospitality model is just getting started. “I think this is the beginning of what we will see,” Museri said, adding that Covid had forced companies to allow staff to work remotely, while realizing billion dollar transactions could be closed remotely as well. “I believe that people will combine the work, play, experience, stay — this kind of ecosystem that Selina started with – I believe that many platforms will start offering that.”
A LOCAL-FIRST APPROACH Selina’s customer profile continues to range from 30-32 year old travelers and that new behaviors include longer-term stays, but Museri told Kremins that many of Selina’s customers are domestic travelers, and that its business model isn’t based on tourists’ needs first, if not those of the communities in which each of its properties is located. This is what distinguishes Selina’s brand and likely offers promise as travelers hunger for more local experiences and seek to stay in places where locals are rather than feel like tourists.
“Selina created a roadmap in every country based on the needs of the local community. It’s signed off by the local experience board of Selina in every country,” Museri said, noting that it is less focused on where the tourists are coming from. “We focus on what the local community wants to see. We know today, we can prove after five, six years that if the local community is excited, the international tourists to that destination they will be very excited.”
Kremins recalled a statement that Museri made two years ago at Skift Forum Europe about companies and remote work, in which he predicted the current reality, predicting that 10 years from now, every company around the world will have to allow their employees to work remotely, and that there will be a desire to go off the grid and socialize offline, while also moving into urban spaces. It happened even sooner than Museri expected. COMPANY SAVINGS SHOULD GO TOWARDS “CULTURE BUDGET” In giving advice for companies on how to measure and ensure productivity with staff working remotely, Museri said that each company would have to decide on the perfect hybrid solution, but that company savings from remote work be pumped into company culture. “The first advice is that a company saving money by reducing the size of the headquarters, they need to take part of that saving and adding it up to the culture budget,” Museri said, describing the latter as meaning meetings, conferences, and corporate events, where people will continue this offline relationship, adding that this is what will allow the company to catch up with what it might be losing.
THE FUTURE OF SELINA AND REMOTE WORK During the pandemic, Selina strategically acquired Remote Year, which Skift reported on as a strong match. In discussing the plan for integrating the two brands, Museri pointed out that Remote Work is an independent company that Selina had previously provided supply for in terms of work spaces, and that this was more of a business collaboration than a takeover of Selina over Remote Work. “Remote work chooses inventory based on the demand or appetite of their guests Selina will be there, we’re going to help.” There’s a lot of appetite for Southeast Asia and Selina is just entering that region so Remote Work will not be using its spaces yet. Selina plans to speed up and open up beautiful spaces for Remote Work’s consumers but it’s not a must for them.
FRIENDSHIP AS A BUSINESS METRIC In referring to Selina’s most unique hospitality proposition, that it measures success based on the number of friendships formed at its locations, Museri agreed that it’s the company’s most important metric. “We believe in one simple thing: the best commercial strategy in the world … is to be the best place to socialize,” Museri said. “As a result of that, revenue will come, occupancy will come and higher ADR will come. We’re targeting the programming and the quality of the content to create this experience.” In the end, the future of work and business is about people and relationships, no matter where they take place in the world. “When 64 percent of guests globally make a friend when they stay in Selina in the last month, that’s huge. We’re playing an important role in getting the social experience better and for me it’s what it’s all about.”