How accommodation can deliver more meaningful experiences, turn buildings into neighborhoods and create more value for the mobile generation.

In the 21st century, professionals are more mobile than ever before. Our jobs require us to travel from city to city frequently and for extended periods, and this is changing the make-up and character of urban areas across the globe. Travelers used to be asked, “Where are you from?” but now the better question is instead, “Where are you local?” A lack of suitable housing or accommodation, however, is holding people back from experiencing a seamless and enjoyable global life.

Understanding the needs of the mobile generation

Technology has changed the way we work and allowed us to be productive whether we’re working from a desk in an office or an airport lounge. But until we can upload our homes as easily as digital files, it seems that innovations at work will continue to outpace progress in real estate. In other words, we need to reassess how we think about, finance and manage the spaces we live in.

For previous generations, buying and maintaining a home was a rite of passage, but today it is a nuisance that stifles opportunities as much as it creates them. Of those aged 25-34, 60% that could buy a property choose to rent instead (1). Why? Because it’s less hassle. Millennial consumers are more interested in access and convenience than the burden of ownership. And they are about to enter their prime spending years.

The sharing economy has already normalized on-demand and subscription-based living for this demographic, but the options available for buying or leasing a property remain inflexible and old-fashioned. These models were designed for a more static past, and they are no longer fit for purpose. As technology has shaped new consumer norms, urban housing has failed to adapt. The residential market is still narrowly focused on family housing, while city planners and developers continue to measure the value of homes in square meters.

The character of tomorrow’s cities

Already, 55% of the world’s population lives in cities, and by 2050, that figure will rise to 68% (2). With this rapid urbanization, mobile professionals face the difficulty of affording a comfortable lifestyle in cities despite ever-increasing property prices.

To help people overcome this challenge, we must provide a higher quality of life for the same price as a regular apartment. This is not a new vision, but it is one that has never been more relevant or necessary. Mindsets are quickly shifting towards co-living concepts that promise greater affordability and flexibility, but widespread adoption is not an inevitability. Consumers need to be convinced they’re gaining more than they’re sacrificing.

Achieving this means seizing the opportunity to design innovative and future-proof products; spaces that feed changing consumer preferences for how to live and offer convenient services and a flexible duration of stay. Nobody wants a future where work dictates that everyone must live in a boring hotel to pursue opportunities in different locations, nor one where mobility means that nobody feels like they belong anywhere. Instead, we want to fundamentally redefine the components that make urban accommodation healthy, inspiring and enjoyable.

For this vision to become a reality, it’s essential to embrace a guest-centric approach to creating solutions. The property sector must realize that the value of housing is not solely in bricks and mortar or the traditional measure of square meters, but in the possibilities and opportunities of enabling new lifestyles. Our curiosity has taught us that the early-adopters of global, remote and flexible work need enriching experiences and meaningful connections just as much as they need a place to rest their heads.

A new model for urban living

It’s possible to develop a better kind of accommodation that, through smart design, overcomes traditional inefficiencies and translates square meters into offerings that deliver the value that residents are looking for: human connection and genuinely useful services. So at Zoku, we have introduced a seamless and flexible new category in the hospitality industry by combining the best of hotels, homes, coworking venues and community spaces in a single, attractive package.

In our increasingly crowded cities, the idea of sharing amenities and communal areas has obvious benefits in terms of reducing cost, but that’s not the end of the story. As the intensity of our working lives and the popularity of social media contributes to the rise of a global loneliness epidemic, shared facilities also provide the chance to socialize and interact in the offline world, offering significant health and wellbeing benefits.

Building physical venues that are fit-for-purpose and well-designed is only half the challenge for co-living pioneers. Spaces need to harbor an organic sense of community too. This means infusing the buildings we live in with the feel of vibrant city neighborhoods; places where the mobile generation can collaborate, co-create and connect with like-minded people. And to keep spaces relevant and alive, actively managing them is of paramount importance.

The Zoku vision is simple: we want to offer our residents a hassle-free way to be at home everywhere, from one day to several months, without the pain of outdated logistics; places where smart design facilitates meaningful interactions and spontaneous creativity; places where we recognize faces and bump into old friends by chance.

Our experience so far tells us that the future of urban living can be more social as well as more productive. We’re working hard to grow our model and ensure it keeps delivering maximum social, economic and environmental value for this worldly demographic of global travelers. We look forward to sharing that journey with you.

(1) “Data Story: Millennials” (Goldman Sachs, May 2015)

(2) “2018 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects” (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, May 2018)