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Transforming spaces: Pioneering hotelisation in South African commercial real estate

Commercial real estate looks to hospitality for customer service, dynamic pricing, and online bookings, aiming to transform leasing and enrich experiences.

Rael Levitt
Rael Levitt
February 21, 2024
The Sandton skyline, photographed from Wynberg Works
The Sandton skyline, photographed from Wynberg Works

The commercial real estate sector can take a cue from the hotel sector. This industry has globally and locally mastered the art of customer-centric services, dynamic pricing and online convenience. Though the concept of 'hotelisation' – where leasing commercial spaces becomes as straightforward as booking a hotel room – is still in its nascent stages, it presents a transformative opportunity for property owners to revolutionise their approach. This emerging trend suggests a future where commercial real estate not only offers spaces but also curates experiences, mirroring the sophisticated strategies employed by the hospitality industry.

Branding beyond spaces: Crafting experiences

The hotel industry's focus on brand and customer experience is a vital lesson for commercial real estate. Beyond offering mere space, hotels provide immersive experiences, a strategy that can significantly differentiate commercial properties in a competitive market. Local storage companies, for example, have moved beyond offering simple storage solutions to embodying a lifestyle of security and convenience. Similarly, shared office spaces led by companies like Regus and retail experiences crafted by entities like global shopping centre company Westfield showcase how strong brand identity and a focus on customer satisfaction and experiences can elevate the ordinary into something extraordinary.

Dynamic pricing: A strategy for maximisation

Adopting dynamic pricing models from the hotel sector allows for real-time adjustments in lease rates based on demand, seasonality, and other market dynamics. This approach, though not yet widespread in South African commercial real estate, offers a blueprint for maximising occupancy and revenue. It requires a robust framework for data analytics to track and respond to market trends, positioning property owners to capitalise on peak demand periods while maintaining occupancy during slower times.

Services and facilities: Elevating tenant value

Inospace's business hubs provide clients with a wide variety of free services and facilities

The range of services and facilities that hotels offer to enhance guest stays is another area ripe for adoption in commercial real estate. By integrating value-added services such as concierge assistance, shared meeting spaces, fitness centres, and even on-site childcare, landlords can transform their properties into comprehensive environments that cater to a broad spectrum of tenant needs. This strategy not only differentiates these properties but also fosters tenant loyalty and satisfaction. The hotel sector has consistently elevated ‘space as a service’, a rapidly expanding concept in real estate, which emphasises transforming traditional property leasing into a fully serviced experience

Online booking: The new frontier

The hotel industry's revolution of online booking, marked by its efficiency and user-friendly interface, serves as an exemplary model for commercial real estate. Developing online platforms that streamline the lead to lease process can significantly enhance the tenant experience. By offering virtual tours, detailed property information, and the ability to sign leases electronically, commercial real estate can reduce the friction traditionally associated with leasing spaces, making the process as easy as reserving a hotel room online.

Data-driven personalisation

In the hospitality sector, the use of customer data to offer personalised experiences is a standard practice. This approach is yet to be fully embraced by the commercial real estate sector but holds significant potential. By collecting and analysing data on tenant preferences and behaviours, landlords can customise lease terms, design spaces to meet specific needs and recommend amenities and services that add value, thereby enhancing tenant retention and satisfaction.

Fostering community

Hotels are masters of fostering community and with that comes a sense of loyalty

The sense of community that hotels, especially in the luxury and boutique segments, excel at creating can serve as inspiration for commercial real estate. Organising events, providing communal spaces for socialising, and encouraging interaction among tenants can create a vibrant community within properties. This not only enhances the tenant experience but also contributes to a sense of loyalty and belonging, potentially leading to longer lease terms and positive referrals.

Embracing flexibility

Flexible leases are just one way that real estate companies can offer greater flexibility to today's mobile workforce

The modern workforce's demand for flexibility and mobility, catered to by the hotel industry through extended-stay suites and loyalty programs for digital nomads, is another aspect commercial real estate can adopt. Offering flexible lease terms and accommodating the mobility needs of tenants with options to move within a property portfolio, reflect the evolving expectations of the workforce and can keep commercial properties competitive and attractive.


The potential for 'hotelisation' in South African commercial real estate represents a shift towards a more service-oriented, flexible, and tenant-centric model. Drawing inspiration from the hospitality industry's focus on experience, convenience and personalisation, commercial property owners have a unique opportunity to redefine leasing. This evolution promises not only to enhance tenant experiences but also to ensure increased occupancy, loyalty, and revenue for landlords. As the commercial real estate sector looks towards the hotel industry for inspiration, it should embark on a journey of transformation, setting the stage for a new era of leasing in South Africa.