Industry Update
Opinion Article 5 June 2020

The New Normal...are we going to continue to cocoon?

By Marloes Knippenberg, CEO of Kerten Hospitality

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Having been surrounded by our four walls for the past couple of months and slowly spotting signs of hibernation, I believe the 'new normal' looks a lot like cocooning in a safe environment, where anything you need happens in your own surroundings, or is delivered straight to your door.

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The new normal, however, has been in the making for a while. Let's take mix-use developments for example, which were previously defined as several concepts combined in a building. The definition of an ecosystem on the other hand, was limited to someone organising events, listing them in a calendar and publishing news about the events afterwards.

But what is the REAL idea behind mixed-use? The true meaning is creating spaces, which the ecosystem provides for tenants, residents, and visitors, with 24/7 availability for living, working, socialising and entertainment. A location where you can stay for a few days or long term and where you can do your digital nomad tasks and collaborate with other entrepreneurs as well. It becomes the place that nurtures cultural bonds and fosters community communication.

How about looking at another new norm: home schooling or distance learning. If this becomes the norm, parents will have to spend more time at home, or have their work environment either at home or connected to home. WeWork was a great co-working starter and hotels are a great place to stay, but these two components need to be connected to make your life more convenient.

A question I kept on hearing across industries and countries as the world pressed the pause button: What is the new normal going to look like?

Let's take a step back and define what the "old normal" was. A world in which we were ON at all times and barely had time for family or just to stop and think? Was this the time when we took night flights crossing four countries in a week, had our whole team together all the time, and believed that working from a single location would be the most effective way for our business? Was the old normal the time we would all check-out at the same time, check-in together and queue for breakfast 20 minutes before it was about to close? Was the old normal about the over-use of the globe with sustainability, tech, and online communication tools being a trend we had been watching and debating for years?

Let's have a quick review of the key forums, articles and headlines of many trends mentioned up until 2019...

GenZs are proponents of transparency, local supply chains and more social aspects, not in the physical way we all imagine this to be. They are prolific supporters using tech for comfort and communication, reducing consumption of meat and fish. For them sustainability is pivotal. Their real focus is not only on plastic but on sustainability in the true sense of the word. I want to stop here for a moment to look at the word Sustainability - described as 'the ability to exist constantly and defined through the following pillars: environment, economic and social, with the sub-domains cultural, technological and political'.

I believe the new normal has been in the making for years, but that is has accelerated during the times of Covid-19. Today, we are all forced to change our norms and adapt to what the new generation normal is by re-looking at every angle of our business, not just in the hospitality field. We are finally forced to do what we were all afraid of: home working, home schooling, online meetings, reduced travel while still progressing business, ceasing large gatherings in small space and more consciousness for everything we do.

When it comes to the local supply chain, I need to mention a brand whose owners I adore: Baker & Spice. They are the key business drivers who set up local markets of home grown products and have been supporting local businesses for years, which although being a labour-intensive exercise seems to pay off in times like today.

Concepts like Uber eats, Ghost kitchens, and Dark kitchens were not invented in the past three months; they accelerated in the past months.

Which takes me to a key pivot, can we keep vivid memories of this period in our minds and willingly take all these trends and grow them further in reality? Can we look at sustainability beyond plastic, packaging, and handing out left over food? Do we have the ability to shift so drastically that from our global to glo-cal we manage to return to local? Or are we going to return to our old habits and wait for the next generation to take over the ruling of our countries and businesses in order to make a drastic change, which the world is in dire need of?

We need to look at this not only from a carbon footprint perspective but from the real need to make a change, because our families crave time with us, the local businesses around us that rely on supporters, and because our health, obesity, cancer, and also Covid, are all stimulated by our old normal.

Marloes Knippenberg

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