Hotel or home rental? These major hotel brands want to be both

Mar 15, 2022

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Hotel brands are eager to be more than just, well, hotels. And there’s proof. Marriott, Accor and, most recently, Mandarin Oriental, have all introduced home rental segments in an effort to try to capture their own shares of the booming industry dominated by brands such as Airbnb and Vrbo.

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Accor purchased the luxury home rental company Onefinestay back in 2016, and Marriott followed suit three years later with Homes and Villas by Marriott in 2019. While the trend of hotels expanding into the vacation rental space isn’t new, it is expanding.

Now, Mandarin Oriental is getting in on the action by offering its own collection of “the world’s finest luxurious private villas and mansions,” in partnership with home rental company StayOne, which offers the “finest one percent of homes.”

And when Mandarin Oriental says luxury, the brand means it.

The homes available aren’t just your everyday vacation rental: They’ve been handpicked by the hotel group for “outstanding quality and sought-after locations, while also providing exceptional service and experiences in keeping with the legendary hospitality of the award-winning brand.”

To start, Mandarin Oriental Exclusives Homes can be found in idyllic locations in Europe in all shapes and sizes. A short way off the coast of Ibiza, for example, is a 148-acre Mediterranean private island with just one single home on it; and you and nine guests can get there with complimentary private boat transfers and access to water sports.

Two other rentals are available in Ibiza. They include a cloistered clifftop escape with views of the area, as well as a villa in a gated community with an infinity pool located a short distance from the nightlife of Ibiza Town.

Other listings in Europe include a beachfront villa in the south of France; a Georgian-style manor house situated on a 600-acre private estate in England’s Cotswolds; and a traditional Spanish villa on Mallorca in Sierra Tramontana, a USESCO World Heritage Site. These homes have been vetted extensively by Mandarin Oriental and StayOne — including rigorous quality and safety checks — and picked to cater to different customer needs.

Each home also promises to deliver “impeccable service” by a team trained by Mandarin Oriental who are knowledgeable about the destination, meaning you’ll probably get a lot more out of your stay than your standard Airbnb or Vrbo listing.

Those perks include a personal concierge service offering 24/7 assistance for pre-arrival requests and arranging local experiences; private, on-demand culinary services; daily housekeeping; family-friendly experiences;  and luxurious amenities such as bathrobes and bamboo toothbrushes.

These incredible amenities, locations and beautiful homes don’t come cheap, though. That private island near Ibiza? It costs more than $21,000 per night. And the Cotswold manor, though significantly less expensive, still starts around $7,500 per night.

Though Mandarin Oriental doesn’t have a traditional loyalty program where you can earn free stays, it does have the Fans of MO. program which gets members some nice perks like free Wi-Fi, spa and restaurant credits, personal trainers, nanny services and other member-exclusive offers.

Like the Mandarin Oriental program, Homes and Villas by Marriott are all specially curated and managed by private management companies to help ensure Marriott’s high brand standards for guests.

(Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy)

Travelers who book a vacation rental through Marriott – which includes high-end properties –  have the benefit of a lenient cancellation policy and the opportunity to earn or redeem Marriott Bonvoy points, as well as elite qualifying nights.

This is one area where hotels in the private home rental space really differentiate themselves from companies like Airbnb. In fact, TPG’s executive editor was able to earn 15,000 Marriott Bonvoy points during a pandemic-era vacation back in 2020.

And while Mandarin Oriental offers truly luxe, one-of-a-kind rentals, Marriott’s are much more varied, like Airbnb, and with prices that range from affordable to those on the very high end of the spectrum.

Travelers can also rent luxury homes and villas from Onefinestay, which participates in the Accor Live Limitless (ALL) loyalty program. With over 5,000 locations around the world, you’re bound to find the perfect home in the perfect spot for you — albeit on the more luxurious side. With this program, guests are greeted on site, and a concierge team can help organize private chefs, drivers or childcare.

Onefinestay launched in 2010 with just six homes and has grown into a powerhouse rental company over the years. This is likely why it attracted the attention of Accor, which was looking to expand when it acquired Onefinestay in 2016.

“We’ve looked at around 200 companies in 2015,” then-deputy CEO Vivek Badrinath told Tech Crunch, back in 2016. “We’re really interested in this vertical; private rentals for high-end stays. Our clients are interested in this vertical. And if we follow our clients’ needs then we’re sure we remain relevant for them.”

During the pandemic, many people turned to home-rental companies like Airbnb and Vrbo to book socially distanced vacations that felt safer and more spread out for folks willing to travel. As travel continues to ramp up, it’ll be interesting to see if the trend of opting for a home rental over a hotel will continue.

My best guess is that it will — and more hotels will get in on the action.

While people are returning to offices, many are still working remotely and taking advantage of the opportunity to travel the world with their newfound flexibility. Others have simply discovered a new way to travel. This is especially true for people who avoided Airbnb but are willing to rent from a company that offers more peace of mind that comes with the brand consistency of, say, Marriott or Mandarin Oriental.

Ultimately, home rentals aren’t going anywhere, but neither are hotels. Now the question is which brand will jump into the market next and how will they differentiate themselves from a space that, sooner or later, might get a little too crowded?

Featured images courtesy of Mandarin Oriental.

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