I had a terrible thought recently – probably a result of a fine single malt and something apocalyptic I’d been watching. And it was that we’re on an inevitable cycle of boom followed by destruction; that there were actually people around, before the dinosaurs. And that we all died out as a result of human action. And it led to all life starting again, and then there were dinosaurs, and then people, and then it all started again…
But back in the real world..! Reading across the press, watching international news, it’s very easy to start believing we’re all going to hell in a handcart.
Or, equally, that an unprecedented era of economic growth is there for the taking. Make America Great Again! And Get Brexit Done. We’ve never had it so good!
Meanwhile, the planet is on a route to unavoidable climate catastrophe. Or that it can be reversed if we all stop using plastic carrier bags.
Whichever side of any debate you sit personally – and professionally — the messages we take in from the broadcast and print media seem so often in conflict, promising extreme and completely opposing futures.
According to some, we’re in an era of global discovery, with emerging nations travelling like never before, growing economically and joining that race to the moon.
And others, that we’re heading fast for another global recession.
One view is that if we do go back into an era of austerity, it’s going to be the flexible sharing economy, and the gig economy, offering flexible movement and flexible contracts, that will be among the survivors. Economic predictions suggest that if public funding is cut yet again, governments and councils won’t be able to house enough people or build enough new stock. Consumers won’t be taking flights or holidays, jobs will be in short supply, people won’t be able to save, investment in infrastructure will dry up.
It’s an extreme view. But it is based on complex modelling. And t’s not just top economists who need to be taking note of all this. In our own industry, we need to be looking ahead constantly, predicting what’s coming so we can future-proof ourselves against all this oncoming (or not!) apocalypse.
Trends we’ve been watching through our own newshub don’t always impact directly on the serviced apartment industry. I used to wonder why we reported on food delivery services in Bogota, or the rise of a rickshaw company in Manchester. Who really cares about Millennials versus Gen Z, and whether people can stay in yurts in Mongolia?
But what should be interesting is the creative way some are finding solutions for problems those outside their industry may not even be aware of – like Deliveroo actually setting up restaurants from scratch, where people can’t find anywhere decent to order from, so they can prepare and then deliver food back to them. And Airbnb now not only building and selling apartments to people on the understanding they let them out via the platform, but even moving into financial services and offering them mortgages to buy in the first place. Win-win and ker-ching!
Meanwhile other trends we report on are starting to converge in ways we hadn’t previously noted. A rise in staycations – people uncertain about their economic futures are less likely to splash the cash – has an unintended benefit for climate change and the focus on sustainability. Meanwhile, as a result of people focusing on the future of the planet, we’ll continue to see the growing trend of re-using what’s already there – back to repurposing, re-imagining, swapping, renting. Renting! And shorter-term, flexible living.
Our own industry, giving guests control over their own environmental footprint, by managing their laundry, having responsibility for their energy usage, and controlling their own waste food. Working with corporates who seek ways to house or relocate employees on flexible contracts or project work – we’re right there!
And our industry is leading the way with multi-use buildings, with short- and medium-let apartments sitting alongside new residential developments, offering more compact personal living space combined with larger communal areas –creches, cinema rooms, gyms, and the unavoidable co-working and meeting space. Building communities around shared amenities. Not unlike the garden villages of the 1920s! And especially for those Millennials and Gen Z guests; it’s the way they’re living their lives – now.
So, there’s no future in simply scaremongering. There will always be some who panic, and some naysayers, who will deny what others see as inevitable trends. The truth probably lies somewhere between.