Outsite - New Resilient Co-Living Models during COVID

The co-living hospitality brand Outsite has been the first to launch a model where guests can become members and live in different co-living spaces.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, as for many hospitality businesses, co-living spaces have been evolving, following the new needs of travellers. Co-living spaces, once popular mostly among millennials and "digital nomads" (namely those professionals who are location-independent and can work from anywhere in the world), became increasingly popular among regular workers and employees who have started to work remotely.

Photo from Outsite.co

During the COVID-19 pandemic, as for many hospitality businesses, co-living spaces have been evolving, following the new needs of travellers. Co-living spaces, once popular mostly among millennials and "digital nomads" (namely those professionals who are location-independent and can work from anywhere in the world), became increasingly popular among regular workers and employees who have started to work remotely.

Suddenly, remote working became the normality and not only a choice for a few freelancers and digital nomads. The challenges that often come with working from home, such as increased distractions, feeling of loneliness and the lack of external stimulus has motivated many to try co-living. As a result of this trend, many hospitality businesses offering co-living spaces have experienced a steady rise in bookings through 2020. In this landscape, a new type of business model has started to emerge: co-living memberships.

The co-living hospitality brand Outsite, has been the first to launch a model where guests can become members and live in different co-living spaces around the world. The aim of Outsite is much more than just giving them a place to live, but to create a global community of remote professionals while giving them a network of places to call "home".

The case of Outsite also makes us aware of the great opportunities that come from applying new business models to the hospitality industry, to make it more resilient and resistant to global disruptions in the travel industry.

Photo from Outsite.co

The Story Behind the Brand

Outsite was founded in 2015 by Emmanuel Guisset following the need to serve a new segment of location-flexible professionals looking to integrate their life and their work.

Back in 2014, Emmanuel was living in Santa Cruz, California, and was often visiting San Francisco working on projects for different start-ups. There, he started to work from co-working spaces for the first time and really liked the networking and collaborative spirit these spaces were creating.

Discussing with different people with his same mindset, Emmanuel came up with the idea to create a place that could be more than just a coworking space: he wanted to create a flexible space that would attract a community of like-minded professionals who could have not only been able to work together but to also share the same lifestyle.

After testing the concept on Airbnb and Craigslist, he decided to rent a large villa in Santa Cruz to create his first coliving/coworking space: Outsite Santa Cruz. The launch was a success: the same year Emmanuel expanded the business adding two more locations in San Diego and Lake Tahoe.

We envision a world where people have the freedom to live and work, anywhere.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, due to the exponential increase in the number of remote workers, the company saw an unprecedented rise in the number of bookings and memberships. This has led to the expansion of the business and of the network of remote professionals becoming part of the Outsite community.

Photo from Outsite.co

More than Just Co-Living Spaces

Much of the company's success is due to its unique offering: the company in fact offers a global network of coworking and co-living spaces for remote professionals, freelancers and creatives who are looking to travel, work and create meaningful connections around the world.

In addition to co-working/co-living spaces, the company runs community initiatives and offers specific services designed for remote professionals through the Outsite Membership. With 24 different locations across the globe, Outsite is the largest co-working community of remote professionals in the world.

To access the co-working spaces, customers can either choose to book a stay through the platform or become members. Members get access to a wide range of extra benefits including online events, access to a private member community, special members rates on spaces and extra member deals and discounts. This membership is unique in the coliving/coworking landscape and represents the key to the success of Outsite's business model.

Creating Exclusivity with a Membership

The membership concept offered by Outsite is apparently simple: customers pay a yearly/lifetime membership fee and can get access to all 24 Outsite co-living locations in the world at convenient prices and conditions. For example, members get the following:

  • Special members rates: discounts on all spaces of the network and cumulative credits to be used at the next stay.
  • Members-only spaces worldwide: access to exclusive spaces reserved for members in addition to standard non-member locations.
  • Flexible Booking: freedom to book for two nights or up to six months, flexible cancellation and the possibility to book up to six months in advance.
  • Monthly deals and partner perks: long term and last minute deals at many Outsite locations, discounts on products from partners.

What makes the membership special though, is the range of extra non-economic benefits related to the community of remote professionals within Outsite.

Leveraging on the exclusivity of the features for the members of this community, the company has created an offer that is extremely appealing to those remote professionals who are looking to create meaningful connections with like-minded individuals across the globe.

Adding Value with an Online Community

Within the Outsite Community, members can connect with fellow remote professionals and creatives from around the world, both physically and virtually. In fact, Outsite gives every member access to a private online community, entirely hosted on the platform Slack, where members can access exclusive content to know each other, network, and learn from peers through online events and members chats.

In the online community, Outsite offers members access to different online features such as:

  • Online Events: every month the community hosts online events such as webinars and workshops on remote working, business innovation and entrepreneurship.
  • Featured Speakers: curated talks from leaders in a variety of fields, sharing learnings and inspiration on how to advance a remote work career.
  • Member AMA: specific section where members can pick up new skills, tips, and tricks by ‘asking anything’ to other community members across a variety of industries and roles.
  • Member Hangouts: special social events for members, such as virtual coffee, beer, or yoga sessions.
  • Go-to Support: a sub-community where members can get career and remote lifestyle advice from peers and the Outsite community hosts.

Through the community, Outsite is able to add extra value to the membership, which becomes more than just a co-living/co-working subscription, providing unique opportunities for its members to network, build meaningful relationships and even develop their own career paths.

Creating an Experience Around the Stay

One of the unique factors Outsite is using to differentiate itself from the competition is the guest experience. One of the greatest differences between the experience provided by Outsite and the ones offered by other types of accommodation is in fact the interactions opportunities offered to guests.

At every Outsite location, members are welcomed by a house manager, a designated member of the team who shares tips on the location and introduces guests to each other. Guests themselves are at the core of the experience: being mostly open-minded, sociable and willing to connect with new people, they contribute to the creation of a unique atmosphere and vibe at each location.

This curated community made of people like-minded people makes the experience more genuine and authentic, giving the feeling of staying in a real home instead of a 'room mimicking a home'.

Photo from Outsite.co

A Hybrid Hospitality Model

The co-living concept developed by Outsite combines features from hotels, hostels, and short-term rentals such as Airbnb, and at the same time manages to integrate distinctive features that make it stand out from them, creating a unique hospitality model.

Outsite shares the same quality standards (comfort, facilities, amenities, reliable wifi) and flexible booking policy offered by hotels, but providing a more inclusive experience for guests, giving better opportunities for guest-to-guest interactions and networking.

At the same time, the co-living spaces share the same affordability for medium and long term stays offered by hostels and AirBnbs. With hostels, Outsite locations share the same informal 'vibe' and connection with the local scene, but at the same time, they offer a more curated community of guests who share the same healthy work-life balance goals and want to meet like-minded people.

While Outsite doesn't obviously offer the same number of locations as Airbnb, it definitely offers more consistency. Often, when booking a hostel or Airbnb guests don't always know what they get in terms of quality, cleanliness and comfort, or who the other guests will be. When booking with Outsite instead, guests can be sure to always get the same standards (quality, community, interaction) across all locations.

Pivoting Towards Co-Living: a Possible Solution for a Sector in Crisis?

COVID-19 has heavily impacted the global hotel industry, putting a stop to one of the most relevant markets in tourism. Even if over the 2020 summer season many hotels have managed to partially recover thanks to domestic demand (especially in popular tourist areas), in big cities hotels suffered heavily from the lack of international tourists and business customers. In the medium term due to the cancellation of conferences, meetings and events, the future of urban destinations and city hotels doesn't look promising.

The exponential increase in the number of remote workers and digital nomads though has opened up new opportunities for hotels to transform and re-purpose their spaces into coliving and coworking spaces that meet the needs of this segment. Pivoting towards co-living can then be a solution for city hotels to develop a more resilient business model that doesn't rely anymore on business customers or tourists.

Photo from Outsite.co

With their flexible design, hotels can be quickly converted into co-living spaces, as coliving normally includes a combination of flexibility, services and community spaces. Lobbies could be for example converted into common areas, dining spaces transformed into communal kitchens for guests and rooms could be redesigned to be more comfortable and meet the needs of longer-term residents.

In addition to these physical adaptations, re-purposing also means to include programmes and services to foster human interaction, with activities that promote networking, as well as culinary and cultural events. Also, the role of the hotel staff could be re-designed: receptionists could be for example trained to become community hosts.

An Opportunity to Build a More Resilient Hospitality Model

Already long before the pandemic, Outsite has been working with hotels to help them adapt their offer to co-living, managing properties in outsourcing or licensing the Outsite brand to hotel owners. For example, in 2020 the company began to work with an old and somehow outdated hotel in Costa Rica, which was heavily reliant on North American tourists on summer vacation.

With demand for traditional holidays being completely depleted, Outsite helped the hotel to entirely re-purpose hotel spaces for remote workers renovating their spaces at an affordable cost. Over 2020, demand became so high that they needed to add 12 more rooms.

Photo from Outsite.co

With the tourism industry in deep crisis, the model developed by Outsite is offering new opportunities to build resilience in the hospitality sector. Co-living in fact taps into a different market than traditional tourism, and, as remote workers are known to be travelling throughout the whole year, it is normally unaffected by seasonal demand.

The hospitality industry has started to understand the importance of offering flexible solutions and spaces to tap into the needs of remote workers and some hotel chains have successfully managed to enter this market with new concepts. CitizenM, for example, has launched monthly Memberships allowing guests to access any of their hotels around the world, whereas the British brand Locke has developed a hybrid hospitality concept which is flexible enough to be appealing to remote workers, co-living enthusiast and regular tourists.

Key Takeaways

Published on:
June 2020
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