Human Hospitality with The Future Laboratory


Care, conversation and cultural exchange are the core values of great hospitality brands. We speak to Holly Friend, deputy foresight editor at strategic foresight consultancy, The Future Laboratory to discuss how brands are shifting to alternative networks of hospitality and travel…

WO What is Humanity Hospitality?

HF  In a nutshell, it’s a return to the original values of hospitality. Over time, we’ve lost the elements of care, conversation and cultural exchange that were once central to the experience of being a guest, or a host. While in previous decades, travellers were accepting of accommodation as a purely functional space, the rise of neo-collectivism – a new macrotrend that explores the shift from individualism to community-centricity in society – means that people are seeking a sense of purpose from their travel experiences. No longer content with characterless hotel rooms or contactless check-ins, they are actively looking to connect with and learn from hosts, while ensuring they are contributing to the local economy – and not corporate monoliths.

WO What has driven the shift to these alternative hospitality networks?

BW The commodification of the sharing economy has been largely to blame for this. What was first created with humanity in mind – platforms such as Airbnb were built to bring community, cooperation and trust back to travel – has over time become indistinguishable from the global corporations they once set out to overthrow. People are becoming ever-more aware of the shortfalls of these short-term letting platforms, seeing first-hand the detrimental effects they’ve had on a social level; driving up rent prices in cities and making residents dependent on tourism. Humanity Hospitality is a reaction to this, safeguarding local communities by ensuring profits are rerouted back to inhabitants.

“What was first created with humanity in mind has become indistinguishable from the global corporations they once set out to overthrow.”

— Holly Friend, Deputy Foresight Editor, The Future Laboratory

WO What are some of the common traits of “Human Hospitality” brands?

HF  Ultimately, profit is not the end goal for these brands. Instead, a sense of solidarity and good will is central to their hypothesis, and human connection becomes the yardstick by which they measure success. As an example, the Copenhagen-based Human Hotel, which offers homesharing built around fair pricing and community values, launched a homestay network during the COP26 conference after discovering that hotels and Airbnbs were charging up to £1,000 per night. As a result, they launched a network in which Glasgow locals could open their doors to activists and scientists for free.

WO And what characteristics don’t define them (that may define more traditional hospitality brands)?

HF Humanity Hospitality brands are not consistent. Due to globalisation, premium hotels over the world have become identical to one another, mostly because they have spent decades targeting high-spending business travellers. But with less people travelling for work post-pandemic, we can expect to see this return to chaos, spontaneity and creativity in the hospitality space. Social organiser Amahra Spence is doing just this with her Abuelos concept – she’s imagining a hotel that is inspired by her family living room for artists of colour to congregate.

WO What are the strategic opportunities for brands?

HF There are many. Firstly, brands shouldn’t be afraid of collaborating with rival businesses. When brands, consumers and communities come together, they have the best chance of reforming broken systems – such as the sharing economy or corporatisation of hospitality. Secondly, of course not all brands can afford to offer services based on good will. But they can become an enabler, creating platforms or networks that allow consumers to organise among themselves, whether offering up their sofa bed or opportunities to meet and exchange skills or learn new languages.

WO Can existing (and more traditional) hospitality brands transform into these new models? What might they have to sacrifice? What will they gain?

HF A simple win for traditional hospitality brands is bringing new (and local) cultural voices into the space, through events programming like supper clubs or educational workshops, thus turning the lobby space from what was essentially a monotonous co-working hub into a vibrant living room. It’s also about recognising inequalities in their pricing models, and refusing to capitalise on events that may normally drive up prices – such as a citywide protest or event. By showing consumers that they’re not driven by profit alone, and instead by community and collaboration, brands will reap the benefits of these small sacrifices.