The company’s plan, said Chekitan S. Dev, a professor in the Hotel School of the S.C. Johnson College of Business at Cornell University, “keeps any migration of lodging nights from traditional hotels to home-sharing in the family.”
Marriott isn’t the first hotel company to dabble in home sharing. In 2017, Hyatt invested in Oasis Collections, offering homes with high-end linens and concierge assistance, but sold it a year later. AccorHotels has the similarly serviced collection of homes called OneFineStay, though its year-end 2018 financial report indicated the investment had yet to pay off.
Early efforts by hotels to compete with Airbnb — which offers more than 6 million homes on its platform — illustrate the differences between traditional hotels, which may offer 300 similar rooms in one locale, versus a home share service, which rents unique units in possibly thousands of locales. Experts say hotels are challenged in the rental world in delivering the consistency they normally control and learning to manage far-flung properties.
“Hotel brands come with a seal of approval, but it’s harder to enforce,” said Eric Breon, the chief executive of Vacasa, a vacation property management company, which recently acquired Oasis. “There’s a lot more personality to people’s homes. They bought the beach house and furnished it. They’re not a hotelier to whom Marriott can say, ‘This year we’re doing all oval mirrors so you have to get rid of the square ones.’”
Marriott’s solutions to these challenges has been to stick to luxury properties and to contract with property management companies that take on the on-site logistics, including providing premium linens, high-speed Wi-Fi, in-person support and extras like cribs and high chairs. The expanded Homes & Villas have a minimum 3-night stay.
“Most travelers prefer hotels, so that’s still a robust market,” said Lorraine Wileo, a senior vice president at the travel research firm Phocuswright, which found that consumers prefer hotels over alternative accommodations by a two-to-one ratio. Hotel-branded homes, she added, may appeal to travelers who want the assurance of “cleanliness, security and amenities and don’t want a cookie-cutter hotel but aren’t ready to share an apartment with a stranger.”
A key selling point for members of Marriott Bonvoy could be the ability to earn points and spend them on villa stays. The company plans to integrate its experiential reward offerings — like taking a local cooking class or attending a concert — with its rentals.