Why More Hotel Brands Than Ever Are Offering Homesharing
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The next time you book a home instead of a hotel for your next trip, whether it’s a vacation rental or an urban pied-à-terre, you don’t have to limit yourself to using sites like Airbnb, Booking.com or VRBO to do it. More hotel companies than ever before are now offering homesharing, from Marriott and Choice Hotels to Wyndham and Accor.
For the longest time, most major hotel companies shied away from offering homes alongside hotels, but within the past three years, there’s been a significant shift in how many view their roles in the homesharing side of the lodging industry. They’re not just observers, but active providers now.
In April, it was revealed that Marriott would launch a new homesharing brand, called Homes & Villas by Marriott International, after running a year-long pilot in cities that included London, Paris, Rome and Lisbon. And for a short period of time in 2017, World of Hyatt members could earn and redeem their points for stays with Oasis, a “home meets hotel” platform that had backing from Hyatt itself. In 2016, Accor bought luxury homesharing brand Onefinestay for $169 million.
“I think some of the hotel brands were in denial about the impact homesharing was having on the travel industry,” said Tom Archer, CEO of Altido, a London-based short-term rental property management company who is a partner in Marriott’s new homesharing venture. “It is now clear that Jane, who stays in a hotel for a business trip, will also book a house via Airbnb for her family. Airbnb — or at least the concept of homesharing — is here to stay and I believe as hotel brands and property management companies rapidly try to professionalize the homesharing industry we will continue to see growth in the sector.”
Hotel brands today realize travelers have different accommodation needs for different types of trips and, often, homes are a better solution — so why miss out on offering that product to loyal guests? And if hotels are using their brands to market these homes, those hotel companies also want to make sure those homes are professionally managed and looked after.
Sarah Searls, vice president of digital commerce at Choice Hotels, told The Points Guy that Choice Hotels was prompted to get into vacation rentals because, “The vacation rentals customer is not a different customer, but rather an existing customer seeking a different travel experience.”
Still, not all hotel companies are so convinced homesharing is for them. Hilton, for one, isn’t planning to get into the homesharing business anytime soon.
During a recent quarterly earnings call with investors, Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta said Hilton was not pursuing homesharing because, “[they] fundamentally think that homesharing is a different business” and he noted that “customers tell us they don’t need this from [Hilton].”
He emphasized that Hilton is “in the business of providing high-quality, consistent branded experiences” and that means giving guests “the amenities they want” and “incredible service” — all of which is connected “by loyalty.” Homesharing, he said, “is not a bad business . . . just [a] different stay occasion, a higher beta experience and not the premium value proposition.”
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), whose brands include Holiday Inn and Kimpton, is also abstaining from homesharing — for now.
An IHG spokesperson told TPG, “Homesharing has been around for as long as hotels have been around, and we recognize that it can be an option for guests with specific needs. At the same time, branded hotels remain a very large and fast-growing part of the landscape overall. Through our portfolio of distinct brands, we have clear plans in place to ensure that we continue to meet the needs of both our guests and owners as the landscape evolves.”
Yet IHG’s newest brand that was revealed in May, Atwell Suites, seems like a direct competitor to Airbnb-like accommodations with convertible spaces that are group-friendly and also have kitchenettes, ideal for longer stays.
While IHG and Hilton sit out on homesharing for now, here’s a look at how some other hotel companies, big and small, are getting into the space, and enticing you to book those homes with their loyalty programs.
Marriott and Choice Team Up with Experts
Instead of buying a homesharing business as Accor did, other hotel companies like Marriott and Choice Hotels have decided to partner with professional vacation rental management companies. In this way, the hotel companies act as distribution channels for these professionally-managed homes, and they let partner professional rental companies take care of the rest. The inventory isn’t necessarily exclusive, but if you book one of these home rentals through one of their channels, you can earn and redeem loyalty points.
Choice Hotels, the parent company of brands that include Cambria and Comfort Inn, has been offering vacation rentals since 2016, and now has more than 30,000 private residences, cabins and resort-style accommodations in 50 vacation destinations across the US, in cities like Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Lake Tahoe, California.
Choice Hotels’ Searls added that all of the company’s vacation rentals are “professionally managed by a local, experienced management company with on-call local support should any issues arise before, during or after the stay.” She also said “guests can earn Choice Privileges points on all vacation rental stays and redeem without any blackout dates.”
Compared to Choice, Marriott’s Homes & Villas portfolio is significantly smaller, with a little more than 2,000 home listings around the world to start, varying from cottages and villas to townhouses and castles, all within the luxury or premium category.
Properties can be booked with points at a rate of 0.7 cents per point. So, a three-night stay at a one-bedroom flat in London will cost £825 — that’s either $1033 or approximately 156,750 points.
While industry reaction to Marriott’s newest business venture was mixed (and some viewed it as a threat to established vacation rental platforms like Airbnb), Marriott’s CFO Leeny Oberg has said the primary reason why Marriott got into homesharing was to keep its loyalty members in the Marriott “ecosystem.”
Wyndham and Hyatt Take Management Into Their Own Hands
Wyndham Hotels, the parent company of brands that include Super 8, Wyndham Grand, La Quinta and Days Inn, likewise, enables its Wyndham Rewards members to earn and redeem their points for nearly 10,000 different homes in nearly 50 different destinations in North America, including Florida, Colorado and Tennessee.
These homes, many of which are in condo resorts or are private homes, are all part of Wyndham Vacation Rentals, a separate company from Wyndham Hotels (it was spun off in 2018), and you will find them under a variety of 10 different brands, including ResortQuest and Hatteras Realty.
Eliot Hamlisch, Wyndham Hotels’ senior vice president of worldwide loyalty and partnerships, said, “There are always going to be those trips where a hotel may not be the best way to meet our guests’ needs, where they need the space of a larger vacation rental home or multibedroom condo (think: reunions with college friends, getaways with extended family and so on). And that’s the power of Wyndham Rewards. With us, they’re able to have those experiences when they want and do so without ever leaving the Wyndham family.”
And Hyatt, which has experimented twice before with homesharing, first with Onefinestay and then with Oasis, is now pursuing a more traditional vacation rental business that it acquired when it bought Two Roads Hospitality in 2018. Destination Residential Management has added 10 condo resorts to Hyatt’s portfolio, in places like Vail, Snowmass, Hawaii, California and South Carolina.
James Francque, Hyatt’s global head of transactions, told TPG, “Our guests choose Hyatt because they trust us and expect high-end experiences. These expectations extend beyond traditional hotels to vacation rental properties. Compared to the homesharing marketplace platforms, the vacation rental business model gives us more control regarding both the product — quality, service and amenities — and the booking experience since most units are exclusively bookable through our platform.”
Accor Goes Luxe
Paris-based Accor, whose brands include Sofitel, Fairmont and Ibis among many others, was one of the first major hotel companies to see the value in homesharing, buying luxury homesharing brand Onefinestay in 2016. The following year, Accor bought two other brands, Travel Keys and Squarebreak, and placed all of its homesharing inventory under the Onefinestay brand, which now offers more than 10,000 premium upscale and luxury homes worldwide, from resort destinations to major cities.
Since April 2018, Accor’s LeClub loyalty members have been able to earn and redeem their points for stays with Onefinestay, and later this year, Accor is debuting a new loyalty program, called ALL (Accor Live Limitless), for which Onefinestay will also be included.
Accor, however, has also struggled to make its homesharing business profitable, taking a $288 million writeoff on its acquisitions of Onefinestay and John Paul, a concierge service, in 2018.
During a recent hotel industry conference in New York City, Accor CEO Sebastien Bazin said that finding ways to make Onefinestay’s business model “economically viable” was a major focus, and that the company has learned about the importance of having “on-the-ground” teams to manage its homes. That’s likely why the company invested in Properly, a vacation rental management services provider that specializes in housekeeping, back in October.
Room Mate Stays Close to Hotels
Room Mate Hotels from Madrid launched its very own homesharing business in 2014 when it launched Be Mate Apartments in 2014. Be Mate handles the management of leased and contracted apartments that are located near established Room Mate Hotels, and the company has its own teams on the ground to handle management and maintenance of those apartments. Be Mate guests also have access to amenities at the nearby hotels, including 24/7 concierge service.
Right now, there are some 10,000 apartment listings to choose from, primarily in Spain and Europe. But over the next year and a half, Be Mate is focused on expanding its number of fully-managed apartment properties. To date, it has two such apartment buildings in Madrid, and 13 more are planned for destinations that include Mexico City, Milan, Venice, Barcelona, Malaga, Seville and the Canary Islands.
Taj Focuses on Heritage
Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL), the company behind Taj Hotels, is a very relative newcomer to homesharing, having just announced the launch of Ama Trails & Stays this February, but the company has been operating hotels for more than 100 years.
IHCL launched Ama Trails & Stays “in response to evolving guest needs for local, immersive and authentic experiences,” said Prabhat Verma, senior vice president of operations for Taj Hotels. The first nine premium bungalows, guesthouses and homestays are all located within a two-hour drive, at most, of Taj Hotels’ existing hotels on a coffee plantation in Southern India.
“As more folks get into homesharing, we’re getting more into the experiential part of it,” Verma said. “India offers so much heritage and history. Most of these properties are in very unique places, and we’re helping people have these experiences in a more naturalistic manner in a homestay experience.”
IHCL’s homesharing approach is a hybrid of what companies like Marriott and Room Mate Hotels are doing. IHCL is working with management partners and owners to oversee the management of the properties, similar to how Marriott and Choice run their homesharing businesses. Two more properties from Goa will also be added soon.
But should anything arise, Taj will be there to offer guest support, said Verma. Guests staying in those homes can access amenities at nearby Taj properties, like guests of Be Mate can do at nearby Room Mate Hotels. Eventually, IHCL hopes to have approximately 100 of these homes available in the next two to three years all over India, and it will also enable guest to earn and redeem loyalty points through Taj Inner Circle.
Featured photo courtesy of onefinestay
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