Covid-19 has undoubtedly shaken city centres to their core. Increasingly many are beginning to look towards how city centres will need to reinvent themselves as they recover along with each business. It will raise new questions which will impact on hospitality greatly.
Cities have always been centres of prosperity and wealth generation. Historically, cities have thrived despite every setback as it has been the centre of trade and of social mobility. In truth, they have not needed to work too hard in order to engage a growing audience. Now they are being asked to change the way they do re-engage and facilitate.
The rise in home working has weakened the traditional link between a person and their place of work, and the notion of the city as a place one has to be in order to progress. There are many enjoying better lifestyles and with their earning powers remaining as they were through the power of technology. They are spending less on commuting, spending more time with families, feeling more productive and less stressed.
Cities will respond, will recover; they will just be different to how they were pre-pandemic. What is exciting is that the response will be led by what attracts the employee and consumer back into cities. No longer will city planning dominate and frustrate commuters; there is a shift of power and city centres will need to be to be more engaging with the focus on experience and enjoyment.
· With the fall in numbers of commuters, high streets too have struggled. The pandemic has accelerated a rethink of the role of the high street.
· Cities will need to invest far more in a City as a centre of good living.
· Office working has long provided many benefits, but employers will have to adapt to how they engage employees, with new services emerging.
· Services too are bound to improve and rise. Research is showing that people want greater experiences and this will be what attracts numbers back.
· This is especially applicable for Hospitality. Have many hotels historically been focused enough on the customer and developing service offers?
So what is likely to take place?
· Commuting will need to become a better experience. It needs to be far safer, cleaner and more customer-focused.
· There will need to be an investment to make city centres more attractive places to work and do business
· More affordable housing to be developed close to jobs, cycle routes and public transport. This will reduce the need for low and middle-income people to flat-share.
· Greater commitment to eco-friendly practices with more car-free zones, the expansion of active travel
· Car parks can be redeveloped to be centres of hospitality
· Investment in parks and public outside space where people can socialise safely
· Offices to improve services to support the commuter and provide a great experience.
Exciting times are ahead and how cities develop to embrace the opportunity to be more than they have been historically will determine their ultimate success.