Since its launch in 2008 in Amsterdam, CitizenM has done things a bit differently than most of its competitors.
Its rooms are small, about 14sqm, and much of that space is taken up
by a wall-to-wall king-size bed. The rooms also have a large shower and a
widescreen TV—as the company says on its website, “supersized
essentials, nothing you don’t need”.
The idea is that guests will use the room to sleep and refresh, but
if they want to work or socialise, they’ll head down to the “living
room”—the large ground-floor space designed with a mix of cosy corners
and open spaces (and free Wi-Fi) for working, relaxing and eating at the
24/7 café, CanteenM.
The brand is designed for “mobile citizens”—hence the name
CitizenM—and since day one it has welcomed anyone to use its lobby for
work, initially for free and then starting in early 2019, as popularity
grew, for a fee of about US$20 per day.
Now, as the Covid-19 pandemic has upended traditional office space
and created thousands more mobile citizens, CitizenM is aiming to become
the brand they choose for both work and stays with the offer of a
The idea is to give companies a place to convene dispersed workers
and to give employees a place to work and a place to stay if they live
outside the city but occasionally travel into town, for example to spend
a day in their company’s office or to have a meeting.
“We started talking to corporate real estate planners... to see what
companies are planning long-term. And in April it dawned on us that this
remote-first strategy is going to stay. Big companies will have a large
portion of their workforce work from home, so what consequences does it
have for our investment plans, what consequences does it have for our
business model?” says Lennert de Jong, chief commercial officer for
“This corporate subscription: It was really a recognition of a need—a screaming need basically from a lot of people.”
For a flat fee of US$600 per month, users get three nights in any of
the brand’s hotels worldwide with no blackout dates, plus breakfast and a
welcome drink for each stay, three hours of meeting room use and
unlimited use of the living room workspace—24 hours a day, seven days a
week. There’s also rooftop space at some properties.
De Jong says the idea of a subscription plan had been in development
for some time, but the company knew it would only make sense when it
could offer a large enough supply of hotels in cities around the world.
That number now stands at more than 20, with many more in development.
Combining that with the challenges of the pandemic—both the new needs of
companies and of CitizenM for predictable revenue—made this the
appropriate time to launch the offer.
“The opportunity really sits at the moment during Covid times.
Pre-Covid this would have been an unattractive deal for us, because we
were selling rooms at US$300 night in New York so why bundle it and sell
it for US$600. So this opened up the opportunity to do this,” de Jong
“Instead of... a stupid loyalty programme when you get a card and
start collecting points, why not try to go for something more explicit
with this group of people?”
CitizenM is not the first hospitality brand to entice workers to use
the hotel as their office, but its model differs from what is being
offered by Accor and many independent properties in that it is not
focused on the use of the hotel room.
“If you look at a normal hotel, they have more square foot in their
bedrooms, but they don’t have public space. Public space has always been
an enemy of the hotelier, because it’s not revenue generating unless
it’s a restaurant and you usually outsource that. The lobby is really
just for you to wait until you are checked in,” de Jong says.
“But in most places our lobbies are the largest of any hotel in the city. So we don’t need to go to the bedroom.”
For now, CitizenM is in the early stages of talking to mostly smaller
companies and individual entrepreneurs about the subscription option,
and de Jong says feedback has been very positive. Larger companies will
be next on the prospect list, which grows as the brand continues to open
new hotels around the world.
CitizenM recently opened in Washington, D.C., and in the next few
years de Jong says the brand will open 18 new hotels across Europe and
the U.S., including a hotel contracted by Facebook and sitting on its
campus in Silicon Valley.
“This [corporate subscription] is a logical consequence of something
we started from day one—that we are the company for a very specific
target audience,” de Jong says.
“There’s a lot of space for us to grow in at the moment.”
This article was first published in PhocusWire.