Human connections are as important as Wi-Fi connections, and each will inspire the output of today’s — and tomorrow’s — digital nomads.
Blurred lines aren’t just what you start seeing after an overnight long-haul.
Nor should they be if you ask Daniel Rudasveski, chief growth officer and co-founder of Selina, the hotel/hostel group that launched in 2014 to create “the world’s first work, stay, and play ecosystem.”
Selina’s 144 properties in 25 countries are rooted in providing immersive cultural experiences in traditionally unexplored neighborhoods, while also offering co-working, recreation and wellness opportunities.
Rudasevski will discuss his vision for “How Shifts in Lifestyle and Work Will Reshape Hospitality” during a Skift Future of Lodging Forum May 11-12, on a panel that will also feature Alex Chatzieleftheriou, CEO and co-founder of global proptech startup Blueground.
Skift: Given the astronomical rise of the digital nomad in recent years, Selina’s model seems downright prescient. How has thinking outside the box benefitted your brand?
Rudasevski: We like to say that we think inside the box, but untraditionally. Selina isn’t the first brand to offer co-working spaces, but we are the first ones to offer them in insane locations. [Laughs.]
If I feel that I’m in a tourist environment, I’m leaving. I want it to feel authentic. That’s what we try to do—bring localism to every place we go. So if you fly to Lima in Peru, you’re in Peru. If you go to Cusco, you’re not selling, you’re not feeling “Miami,” right? Our pre-opening process is about working with locals to bring in local artists to help reimagine each location. It’s very difficult because you need to change and to customize every location. There’s no brand book that says, “If you do this, it’s a Selina.” We’re in the Amazon, we’re in Ecuador, we’re in Chelsea, New York. It’s extreme.
But in every city, we have the infrastructure, like the wifi, for co-working. We have a common kitchen, because we have people that live in Selina and it’s subscription and they go all over and live in Selina for a few months, maybe a year. [Selina CoLive, or Community Living, starts at $450 a month.] We have wellness, and we have this ‘playground.’ We always say that ‘This is where all the happening is going.’”
Skift: Many of your locations have shared-accommodation spaces. Other hotel brands are taking the opposite approach and expanding shared spaces like lobbies. Have you shifted your model and go-forward approach for new developments?
Rudasevski: We’re focusing a lot on these amenities that create the unique Selina environment. We are big believers in, “I don’t know why you need a big lobby. Why can’t the lobby be 100 other things that can make people connect?”
Only people who have a lot of confidence will come to a bar and we start talking with strangers. Our main focus at Selina is building our places in a way that you just have that interaction happen naturally.
Skift: Given new flexibilities in working from anywhere, has your target customer base widened?
Rudasevski: Seventy percent of millennials and Gen Z are lonely, right? What we’re trying to do is to build physical places and stay social without all of the social media. People have less confidence the moment that they go to social media. You do all this “liking,” but it’s not always reality.
Our co-working crowd is just growing and growing. And our main target in the company, our number one KPI is “How many people made friends at Selina?,” and we measure it. How many places do you go in hospitality and you’ve made a friend?
Skift: What’s your perspective on delineating work and play?
Rudasevski: Today, you know every person that is traveling is also kind of working. Thousands of years ago, people needed to move from place to place. And that’s how “hospitality” started, it was a place to put your horses, or your family. It was slow. There was a division. Hotels were a place to sleep, maybe have a small breakfast before you leave. Even 20, 10 years ago, you’d go to a place and you’d already booked the restaurant and the tours. You’re going to where the tourists are going. Where you can be sold more stuff. But today’s traveler is much more sophisticated.
Skift: What excites you most about innovation in hospitality — whether it’s technology, or new ways of thinking?
Rudasevski: Innovation, there’s two ways that I look at it. It can be operationally, how do we find the right location for us. Building that system of opening a Selina in 45 to 90 days. That’s huge.
When we say we think inside the box but differently, we have this [cultural] exchange program [Work x Stay residencies]. If you’re a DJ in Europe and nobody knows you in America, or the other way around, you can travel through Selena for an exchange. And because we’re in 25 countries and will continue to grow, we can bring so much content with exchange.
The exchange is in our rules. You’re never at 100 percent occupancy 365 days a year. So if you use that open space in a smart way, that’s a huge innovation because we believe that good content is always better than good marketing. [Laughs.]
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