Lynk Insights Q&A with Knowledge Partner: David Singleton on Repurposing Traditional Real Estate and Hospitality Venues

How adoptive are brands of technological innovations in the hospitality indsutry?
I think it is absolutely vital that technological needs are evaluated and embeded in any brand’s DNA from the very start. I try to advise businesses against their traditional mindset of choosing to address external technological advancements only after scaling up. I encourage them start analysing their technological needs and everything they want from the future plans of their brand ready since day one.

Take Dubai as an example of what I am saying, all businesess and infrastructures, be it from the medical cities, to the design hubs, Dubai’s started incorporating technology that’s encouraging of future innovations in the build up to the UAE’s centennary in 2071. The growth plans for the next 50 years are well in place, which a lot of mature countries may even lack. There are plans in aero-space, design, arts, medical, technological arenas, anything and everything – not to forget, the grand plans of Expo 2020, in addition to all of the further planning upto 2071 and beyond already being drafted up.

What are recent industry trends that you have seen take place?
I would say there are 3 emerging trends to look out for:1) local regulations easening up to co-sharing platform ideas
2) consumer mindset globally becoming “value-seeking”:
“It is cool to pay less!”
3) the rise and acceptance in innovative and non-traditional designs and concepts, such as the boost in boutique and chic accomodations or venue spaces
4) lifestyle changes: “the newer gerations are more like 5 pm – 9 pm now than 9 am – 5 pm!”

1) As I have been working in the Middle-East for the past 5 years, I’ve definitely seen the local market and regulations easen up to the concept of co-working spaces, and even just the concept of shared platform. Take Airbnb for example, once the local regulations towards its operations in Dubai lightened, the appetite for their services boosted due to pricing being the other key driver.

2) Granted that accomodation in Dubai is otherwise quite costly, but also here comes the trend where consumers, travelers, locals are all becoming more of value-seekers, even in other lavish cities.  It has definitely become a global trend whereby, “It is cool to pay less”. It is becoming competitive but it is definitely great to have more platforms providing access to more options more transparently, which in turn influences consumers to become more focused on the value exchange occuring in all lifestyle transactions.

3) Another cool thing definitely is the emergence of innovative concepts incorporated into mainstream operations, even with the high-end hospitality operators trying to understand how to become more “chic”. I am in fact on another business trip out to Manchester now to scope for what’s trending there in various operations, from boutique hotels to co-working and co-living spaces. There are a lot of experiential ideas industry leaders are looking to adopt from design hubs such as Tokyo,  Amsterdam, Korea, New York, to name a few.

4) I think on the note of lifestyle changes, this ranges from working practices, wellnes and workout schedules, commuting preferences, and so on. Individuals are more open to using more communal shared spaces and/or platforms to streamline and achieve efficiencies in their day to day agendas. There are just so many conisderations that come into play that individuals have strong emphasis on now more so than ever.

Employers are also more understanding of their employees’ flexibility needs in general. Thus, you see trends such as 5 pm to 9 pm working schedules quite popular than the 9 am to 5 pm traditional blocks. On the same note, businesses are also realising the importance of being more open to repurposing their core and sole offerings to further applicability in multiple contexts. 

What are your thoughts on the Knowledge-as-a-Service economy?
I think it’s a very interesting concept actually – look at us for instance, we are on total opposites of the planet and yet we’re able to have this fascinating conversation of knowledge exchange. 20 years ago, we definitely would not have had this opportunity to discuss so leisurely with seamless connectivity and low cost.

Speaking of knowledge on-demand, I don’t know how it would work, but I believe you guys will make it happen. I have definitely heard of doctors on demand and of course, even accommodation or venue-hires on demand as in our industry.

As much as I enjoy doing my pro-bono consultation and mentoring, I do believe that custom-curated knowledge should be paid for, especially when you are demanding quality knowledge for very specific uses.

What do you like about working with expert networks?
Being an independent consultant allows me to share my knowledge, which always makes me feel good to be able to help other people. I enjoy connecting with people accross my industry and other industries, and being in a community with other thought-leaders is always an enriching experience.

I’ve enjoyed many collaborative experiences being paired up on projects, such as once when I had to work alongside a beauty expert who had retail department store expertises, while I had my experience in hospitality. We worked on innovative projects such as wellness restaurants and that was where our individual expertise blended together for the best interest of this project. I think it’s really cool when compatible talents come together, especially from absolutely different backgrounds.

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