Marriott poised to expand home-sharing activities

Worldwide: Marriott is set to expand its activities in the resurgent home-sharing industry with its own vacation rental business venture following a successful trial.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that the company, whose brands span from Ritz-Carlton to Sheraton and W Hotels, is expected to unveil details about the plan possibly as early as next month, having already launched a pilot program in Europe.

The program would allow rental guests to gain and redeem loyalty points in the same way that they would do at other Marriott properties and hotels.

A trend has emerged where major hotel companies, including Marriott, AccorHotels, Hilton and Hyatt (which invested in Oasis Collections in 2017), have looked at venturing into the vacation rental industry. On the other hand, Airbnb has reacted by making moves into the hotels and apartments businesses, none more so than its purchase of luxury apartment suites at New York’s Rockefeller Center building this week.

While the major hotel companies have yet to make significant inroads in the rental sector, Marriott will offer 2,000 luxury properties around the world for a minimum three-night stay through its Homes & Villas by Marriott International programme.

Boston University assistant professor of hospitality marketing, Makarand Mody, told the New York Times: “The demand numbers are making hotel companies rethink who they fundamentally are.”

Mody added that Airbnb’s disruption of the traditional hospitality industry since its emergence in 2008 had been a “wake-up call for the hotel industry that there is a need to innovate”.

Marriott’s programme would differ from the standard rental offering in the sense its use would be broadened to include rentals managed by third-party companies, such as its partners in the form of LaCure and Lloyd & Townsend Rose.

Eric Breon, chief executive of property management company Vacasa, said hotels have been challenged in the rental sphere to deliver the consistency that they typically control and to manage properties located all around the world simultaneously.

He told the New York Times: “Hotel brands come with a seal of approval, but it’s harder to enforce. There’s a lot more personality to people’s homes.”

While Marriott looks set to solely offer luxury properties, it has been looking to contract with property management companies that will take on the responsibility of managing on-site logistics and providing premium linens, high-speed Wi-Fi connections and in-person support among other things.

Any formal move into the short-term rental space would require Marriott to abide by the same city restrictions that listing platforms such as Airbnb are faced with and are fighting against. This is particularly prevalent in New York City, where the local government subpoenaed Airbnb for detailed information on hosts’ data but a Manhattan federal judge later blocked the law.

Marriott previously launched its home-sharing pilot platform in Europe after partnering with London-based property management company Hostmaker to take over 340 properties in Rome, Lisbon, London and Rome respectively. The hotel company said it had found that the units appealed to customers who were seeking more space, as well as sufficient kitchen and laundry facilities.

Hotel industry professional Ryan Meliker told the Wall Street Journal: “It’s clear that the home-sharing phenomenon is here to stay and hotel companies want to make sure they get their piece of this pie.”

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