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Coworking Spaces as Destinations and New Stakeholders in Hospitality Ecosystems. In N. Olbrich, J. Philipp, H. Thees, & H. Pechlaner (Hrsg.), Towards an Ecosystem of Hospitality – Location:City:Destination. Graffeg Limited. p. 140-147

Authors:
Merkel, J. (2022): Coworking Spaces as Destinations and New Stakeholders in Hospitality Ecosystems.
In N. Olbrich, J. Philipp, H. Thees, & H. Pechlaner (Hrsg.), Towards an Ecosystem of Hospitality Location:City:Destination.
Graffeg Limited. S. 140-147
Coworking Spaces as destinations and new stakeholders in hospitality
ecosystems
Janet Merkel
Introduction
Work and business have long been a major reason to travel. Yet hospitality service providers and
tourism operators have usually seen their customers more motivated by leisure then work
purposes, and tourism was seen as synonymous with leisure. However, as work becomes more
mobile due to information and communication technologies and more people can choose where
to work from, we see a spatial fragmentation of work (Brennan-Horley, 2010). These changes
have huge implications. What we understand as an office, how and where people work or how
economic value is created, is changing and signifies a broader shift in the valuation of space as
a physical asset for business and economic value creation (Shearmur, 2018). For offices their
performative qualities (Richardson, 2021, p. 352) are becoming more important, whereby it is
less about their size and fixtures but more about how office spaces enable circulation, accidental
encounters and communication across different people and companies. These new ways of
working have changed the real estate industry (Harris, 2021). At the same time, we can see the
rise of a serviced office industry with the spread of so-called coworking spaces that cater to the
flexible workspace needs of freelance, mobile, or increasingly remote workers.
And, recently, more intersections between the newly emerged serviced office industry and the
hospitality industry can be observed. While cafés or coffee shops have long been a makeshift
workplace for mobile workers, a growing number of hotels integrates coworking facilities in their
lobbies (Vora, 2019). In many cities, restaurants or pubs started opening their facilities for daytime
coworking during slow time (Ryan, 2019), assisted through a growing number of online platforms
such as Spacemize or KettleSpace that broker remote workers with temporary workplaces in
restaurants, hotel lobbies or bars. During the Covid-19 pandemic, many hotels started offering
‘work-from-hotel’ or ‘workation’ packages to attract remote workers to get away from their home
offices. Many countries introduced tourism campaigns targeting remote workers and the
monotony of their home office situation.
1
In consequence, we can observe how ‘hostels,
restaurants, hotels and even co-working spaces are all experimenting with the mixed-use format
offering places to stay, work, sleep, meet, connect and experience’ (Ryan, 2019) and thus how
hospitality is reshaped through new socio-spatial patterns of mobile digital work.
This chapter argues that flexible workspaces such as coworking spaces are increasingly
becoming destinations or are often a main reason for turning certain places into destinations
and thus become an important part of the tourism infrastructure of cities (or regions) and their
hospitality ecosystem. It will argue that it is their role as social infrastructures, in facilitating local
encounters and in meeting others, preferably like-minded others that help alleviating the process
of arriving and immersing in a new place and that makes them important stakeholders within the
hospitality ecosystems of cities. The aim of this chapter is to add to a critical understanding of the
material complexities of contemporary tourist practices and its consequences for hospitality and
tourism.
Coworking spaces as destinations
Since the mid 2000s, we see the rise of coworking spaces in cities worldwide (Merkel, 2015).
These flexible on-demand rentable office spaces where people work alongside each other and
share amenities such as a kitchen, library and social areas cater to specific needs of freelance
workers, small business and increasingly remote workers who are employees but can choose
where to work (Grazian, 2020). Their rise can be explained by several factors: mainly the
liberalisation of employment relationships since the 1970s and the expansion of nonstandard
1
See, for example, Norways workation campaign. https://www.visitnorway.com/plan-your-
trip/workation/ (accessed September 26, 2021).
Merkel, J. (2022): Coworking Spaces as Destinations and New Stakeholders in Hospitality Ecosystems.
In N. Olbrich, J. Philipp, H. Thees, & H. Pechlaner (Hrsg.), Towards an Ecosystem of Hospitality Location:City:Destination.
Graffeg Limited. S. 140-147
forms of employment, the diffusion of information and telecommunication technology and the
agglomeration of knowledge-intensive economies in cities, which led to the spatial fragmentation
of work through the increase of new working arrangements such as freelance or self-employed
work, remote work, teleworking or digital work (Grazian, 2020; Merkel, 2019b). Coworking spaces
thus represent a major shift in the socio-spatial patterns of work. Even though the Covid-19
pandemic has had a significant impact on coworking spaces, their growth is expected to be even
higher due to an increase in remote workers who, after the pandemic-induced home office
experience, prefer to “work-near-home” instead of commuting to their stationary offices (Brady,
2020; The Economist, 2021). While coworking spaces grew worldwide from a dozen spaces in
2005 to over 23.000 in 2021, their numbers are expected to grow to over 40.000 by 2024
(Coworking Resources, 2020).
As flexible workspaces are becoming the new normal for an increasing number of workers,
coworking is also developing into a nomadic and touristic practice (Aroles et al., 2020; Chevtaeva
& Denizci-Guillet, 2021). For example, many international serviced office brands such as
WeWork, the TechHub franchise or the Impact Hub network encourage their members to travel
to other coworking spaces in their network and to experience working from somewhere else. The
travelling digital worker is most prominently encapsulated in the social figure of the digital nomad
‘whose work does not tie them to any specific place (or to a specific itinerary), and who therefore
travel while working’ (Sutherland & Jarrahi, 2017, p. 2 cited in Aroles et al., 2020). Digital nomads
are now met with an increasing supply of coworking and coliving facilities for extended
workations or coworkation that cater to their mobile lifestyle of work while traveling and travel
while working however, there is a crucial distinction: while nomadic workers typically travel by
their work, digital nomads travel while working (Aroles et al., 2020) and are driven by the search
of the good life (Müller, 2016).
It is within the phenomenon of digital nomadism, that the idea of coworking spaces as destinations
is currently most pronounced. These coworking hotspots combine living, working and leisure
activities with a sense of community, ready for digital nomads to plug into at any time (Chevtaeva
& Denizci-Guillet, 2021). While digital nomadism is often associated with exotic locations like
Thailand, Bali, Barbados or hotspots like surf spots in Portugal or Peru, and where several
national governments started introducing special visas to attract digital nomads (Suri, 2020), there
is also an increase in coworking spaces offering work and travel packages for an extended work
stay in rural areas (see, for example, Mokrin House in Serbia or the rising number of rural
coworking spaces in Germany) (Bähr et al., 2020). These spaces now raise hopes of stimulating
processes of rural regeneration. For example, Bosworth reports from rural coworking spaces
providers in the U.K.: Venues seeking to attract digital nomads to stay for a few weeks at a time
were acutely aware of the value that they generate for the local area. One commented, “It’s
bringing people here, has a pretty big impact so I estimate that for the local business every year
we generate about €1.2 million for accommodation, for food, for transportation, for stuff that
people buy here.”’ (Bosworth et al., 2021). So, while sometimes coworking spaces are the
destination (as for example in rural areas or with workation hubs in exotic locations), mostly they
add to the experience of a place as a destination and might stimulate economic development.
Chevtaeva (2021, p. 207) concludes that coworking and coliving space can be an attraction of
destinations’ and that tourism boards should ‘invest in relationships with coworking businesses,
just as it is commonly practiced with theme parks and hotels.
Coworking spaces as social infrastructures
The main reason for people to work from coworking spaces, besides the provision of a suitable
work infrastructure, is their role in facilitating encounters and meeting others, preferably other like-
minded mobile workers they can relate to culturally and socially. Several studies underline that ‘a
sense of community and feelings of belonging are the main motives for coworkers joining a
coworking space or workation hub (Chevtaeva & Denizci-Guillet, 2021; Garrett et al., 2017). Many
coworking spaces engage in various hospitality practices to facilitate encounters through the
spatial design, amenities, the organisation of events or the personal introduction through
coworking hosts or community managers (Merkel, 2019a; Richardson, 2021).
Merkel, J. (2022): Coworking Spaces as Destinations and New Stakeholders in Hospitality Ecosystems.
In N. Olbrich, J. Philipp, H. Thees, & H. Pechlaner (Hrsg.), Towards an Ecosystem of Hospitality Location:City:Destination.
Graffeg Limited. S. 140-147
Therefore, coworking spaces are also to be considered as gateways into a city, facilitating
contact with locals and getting valuable local information, and, thus, alleviate processes of arriving
and immersing in a new place, even if only temporary, and in creating a touristic experience that
is close to the local culture and way of life. Often, coworking spaces are described as homes
away from home (Ross & Ressia, 2015). The atmosphere of the ‘home’ is aesthetically and
materially reflected in the design of coworking spaces with their lamps, social areas with sofas
and armchairs, carpets, libraries, and the communal kitchen. Often informal events are organised
to strengthen that ‘sense of community’ and ‘sense of belonging’ among coworkers (Spreitzer et
al., 2017). Also Ray Oldenburg’s concept of third places is used to categorise coworking spaces
as informal meeting places between the outside of the home (first place) and the workplace
(second place) that facilitate social interaction, community building, and social support in
neighbourhoods (Oldenburg, 1999). Third places whether in commercial premises or public
buildings are part of a city’s social infrastructure (Klinenberg, 2019; Latham & Layton, 2019)
that foster local, face-to-face interactions and mutual support with wider implications for the social
capital in neighbourhoods and cities.
So, a crucial function of coworking spaces can be their role as social infrastructures because they
provide possibilities to make new social connections and build social relationships in cities. The
notion of social infrastructures has recently become a prominent concept in urban sociology
where Klinenberg (2019) argues that public libraries, parks, playgrounds, swimming pools and
sidewalks are crucial social infrastructures in cities because they are physical locations where
people can assemble, make social connections, and build social relationships that are vital for
the civic life of cities and might help fight inequalities. A social infrastructure perspective
interrogates the physical conditions that give rise to and facilitate social activity, interaction, and
public life in cities, and which are essential for building community, cooperation, and common
purpose among people. Because coworking spaces create affordances for social connections
(Latham & Layton, 2019, p. 3) and are places where people meet to socialize, they matter as
sites for inclusion, belonging and the creation of social relationships. And thus, might also have
wider social, cultural, and economic implications in urban development.
Outlook: Coworking spaces as new stakeholders in hospitality ecosystems
Broader social trends have thoroughly affected the scope, origins and destinations of tourist
flows, the motives and styles of travel, the structure of the tourist industry, and the relationship
between tourism and ordinary life (Cohen & Cohen, 2012, pp. 21782179). Two of these broader
trends digitalization and new work arrangements let to the rise of mobile workers and a
serviced office industry that has huge ramifications for the hospitality industry. First, we see a rise
in new types of travellers mobile workers who look for short-term flexible work infrastructures
and digital nomads who combine working, travel, and leisure in extended stays in destinations
that offer tailored ‘workationswith shared coliving and coworking facilities. Second, coworking
gets more intertwined with the classic tourist infrastructures as hotels, restaurants, cafés, bars,
or even cultural institutions open their spaces to temporary coworking to attract these new mobile
workers and travellers. Third, coworking spaces can act as social infrastructures as they are sites
where people can meet to socialize. And fourth, coworking spaces add to the ‘creative
atmosphere’ of a place which has become a crucial component in recent tourism development
strategies (Richards, 2020). Furthermore, these spaces and their services play a crucial role in
making places attractive for entrepreneurs, in enabling a wide variety of economic activities and
turning cities into entrepreneurial destinations (Pechlaner et al., 2018). Thus, cities aiming to
develop hospitality and tourism need to consider the needs of mobile workers, flexible working
practices and of coworking spaces into their destination development.
The aim of the chapter was to show where coworking intersects and co-creates value with
hospitality and tourism and to demonstrate that coworking spaces are becoming important
stakeholders in local hospitality ecosystems. The proposed notion of a hospitality ecosystem
highlights that a multitude of actors, resources and infrastructures enable and facilitate hospitality
and meaningful touristic experiences in a city. It is based on the premise that value creation in
hospitality is not just the purview of individual companies but increasingly co-constructed between
various actors who are interconnected and whose cooperation is incentivised through the
Merkel, J. (2022): Coworking Spaces as Destinations and New Stakeholders in Hospitality Ecosystems.
In N. Olbrich, J. Philipp, H. Thees, & H. Pechlaner (Hrsg.), Towards an Ecosystem of Hospitality Location:City:Destination.
Graffeg Limited. S. 140-147
recognition of resource interdependence within an ecosystem (Giannopoulos et al., 2020). The
emergence of serviced offices and the specific services they provide have reshaped this
hospitality ecosystem as it brings new customers and new demands on touristic infrastructures.
As the pandemic will likely impact the future of work and lead to an increase in remote working
for employees, it is estimated that the number of digital nomads and mobile workers who travel
with their work will only increase. On a more critical note, then, mobile flexible work practices
must be scrutinised in relation to the sustainability of their activities and mobilities. Future
research should also focus on how flexible working and digital nomadism are connected to
housing, public transport, and overall, the hospitality ecosystem in cities.
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Key learnings:
- flexible work leads to an increase in work-related travel and tourism
- hospitality industry adapts to needs of flexible work travel
- flexible workspaces are becoming important actors in hospitality ecosystems
... In practice, various companies adapted their remote working policies and introduced work-leisure models which allow their employees to work from tourist locations. Consequently, besides the digital nomads who combine working, travel, and leisure at extended stays in appropriate destinations, a new type of travellers emerged (Merkel, 2022). It is known that this new form of travelling is practised by mobile workers from start-ups or corporates who make use of their flexibility and start working in tourist locations for short terms (Thao et al., 2019;Voll et al., 2022;Šímová, 2022). ...
... It is argued that the accommodation industry (including hotels, as well as short and medium-term rentals such as Airbnb) could be an important success factor of CSs in rural areas, as it provides physical and digital infrastructure to maintain individualized lifestyles that combine leisure and work opportunities for the growing group of the digital nomads (Merkel, 2022;Orel, 2019;Richards, 2015;Tomaz et al., 2022). ...
... little is known about to what extent peripheral tourist areas attract CSs. So far, this relationship has rarely been studied in Europe (see Merkel, 2022;Tomaz et al., 2022), and the collected evidence is mostly interview-based and anecdotal, as shown by qualitative studies (Orel, 2019) and in conceptual frameworks. No statistical study has investigated the strength of relations between CSs and the accommodation industry in peripheral areas. ...
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For more than a decade, co-working spaces have proliferated in cities worldwide. The paper discusses co-working as a critical urban practice because these spaces give support to the rising number of freelance workers in culture and creative industries. Freelance workers are an ‘invisible’ workforce whose impact often remains ‘hidden’ (Mould et al., 2014), who are not sufficiently protected through social welfare regulations and do not enjoy the same social entitlements as employed workers. This paper uses the concept of informality to highlight ongoing informalisation processes of employment relationships as well as informal working practices in creative labour markets. It discusses the emergence of co-working as a practice of collective self-help and self-organisation to cope with and to potentially overcome the informality, uncertainty and risks associated with independent work. It argues that co-working can be seen in line with other practices of informal urbanism that become more prevalent in European and North American cities because of the lack of affordable housing, the retrenchment of the social welfare state and the imposed conditions of ‘austerity urbanism’ (Peck, 2012).
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Der vorliegende Beitrag betrachtet Dienstleistungen im Sektor Freizeit und Tourismus und deren Bedeutung bei der Gestaltung eines Entrepreneurship Ecosystems. Zuerst werden die Grundzüge eines Entrepreneurship Ecosystems und dessen Vernetzung in räumlichen und funktionalen Netzwerken betrachtet, bevor die Aktionsfelder skizziert und Freizeitdienstleistungen als weiche Standortfaktoren analysiert werden. Es folgt eine qualitative Studie in München an der Schnittstelle von Destination, Lebensraum und Standort, die eine Erweiterung des Konzeptes zur Entrepreneurial Destination veranlasst.