Skip to content

The future of the hotel guest experience? Less Moxy, more Airbnb

July 11 2022
6 min read
entrance to hotel with large windows and second floor bar
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

It wasn’t that long ago that major hotel companies thought the secret to tapping into a swelling traveler base of millennials — and their increasing disposable incomes — was to launch brands aimed at this group born between the early '80s and the late '90s.

Like any idea that gains traction (I’ll get to whether it was a good one in a minute), this led to a flood of brands designed to woo millennials into a hotel’s reservation system and loyalty program.

Pre-Marriott Starwood launched Aloft as a more affordable, younger sibling to W Hotels. Marriott came out with Moxy and even had an initial partnership with furniture maker IKEA, the go-to home decor brand for those just out of college. Hyatt’s Centric and Hilton’s Canopy were also launched in a bid to court younger travelers.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Fast forward to 2022, and it doesn’t appear millennials or Generation Z are religiously sticking to any of these brands. I’m no millennial whisperer, but I am part of the demographic — and when I started working on this story, I asked a wide array of friends, acquaintances and sources their thoughts on any of these targeted brands.

Their replies ranged from things that can’t be published on a family-friendly travel website (let’s just say the small rooms but often high prices leave much to be desired) to eye rolls and talk of how they prefer to stay at Airbnbs. Vacation rentals typically offer more space and freedom than the smaller confines of, say, a standard Moxy guest room.

(Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

That should be the wake-up call to the hotel industry — even if the companies don’t see themselves in the same tech-forward boat as the likes of Airbnb or Vrbo.

“Traditional hotel companies have not seen themselves as tech enablers, or they know it's important, but they've just basically thrown their hands up in the air and left it to somebody else to do,” said Gilda Perez-Alvarado, global CEO of JLL Hotels & Hospitality. “Now, Airbnb has done an extraordinary job just being very relevant for the consumer.”

The impact of OTAs and vacation rentals

There is a bit of a sense of deja vu when it comes to the ascent of short-term rental providers at the expense of hotel companies. Third-party booking platforms such as Expedia and Booking.com were tech-fueled disruptors to the hotel industry as the internet first took off.

These online travel agencies, also known as OTAs, eat into hotel revenue streams by offering rooms that are often at a discount. They also charge fees to the individual hotels for their distribution services.

Hotel companies worked to combat the OTA disruption by putting greater emphasis on loyalty programs and direct bookings. Want your Marriott Bonvoy points? You typically only get them by booking directly through Marriott and not on Expedia.

But another disruptor emerged in this game of hotel industry whack-a-mole: short-term vacation rental platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo.

Unlike hotel attempts to court younger travelers with supposedly hip brands, vacation rental platforms have managed to grow market share — and recovered faster than traditional hotel competitors.

Airbnb and Vrbo are both in the top 10 for Statista Global Consumer Survey’s list of most-used accommodation booking platforms in the U.S. No hotel company, despite being decades older than these companies, made the lineup, per the JLL report.

By the end of last year, the alternative lodging sector had recovered to 81% of its pre-pandemic performance levels, while traditional hotels were only back to 61% of pre-pandemic levels.

(Photo courtesy of Airbnb)

Given the resilience of the sector, it’s strange the traditional hotel players are not in a mad rush to unfurl a wave of new vacation rental brands a la the millennial-minded brand madness of the mid-aughts.

The hotel sector may get chided as one that is slow to respond to trends, but many major hotel companies moved quickly to embrace extended-stay hotel brands after those were some of the few to show decent performance figures during the worst months of the pandemic.

So, why are they not doing the same for vacation rental platforms? Even companies that do have them often downplay them. Marriott executives practically go out of their way on earnings calls to note that Homes & Villas, the company’s home rental business, is only a small fraction of the overall company.

Some of the distance may have to do with the fact that hotel brands see themselves as true lodging experts, while vacation rental platforms are viewed more like technology companies.

“It's one of those things where [hotel companies] don't see themselves as being part of the technology ecosystem,” Perez-Alvarado said. “The reason why online distribution or online travel agents came about is because we're now relying on the Internet of Things, and that's not what hoteliers do.”

The reason to get it right

The question remains if hotel companies can afford to let another disruptor pull away so much of their revenue stream, especially after two years of catastrophic financial losses. Some of the hesitancy from hotel companies to make the necessary technology investments to better compete against the likes of Airbnb or Expedia may be because the move carries simply too high a cost for something so outside the industry’s comfort zone.

But when you have a juggernaut like Airbnb (the company claims it has more than 6 million active listings) clipping at your heels, the hotel industry can’t afford many missteps during its pandemic recovery.

The major hotel companies today (think: Hilton, Marriott and Hyatt) grew up around the idea of travelers liking standardization. Your hotel room at a Marriott in Des Moines, Iowa, should be similar to one at a Marriott in London, according to the industry ideology.

But younger travelers are not the devotees to standardization like their parents and grandparents. That’s left an enormous opening for a company like Airbnb to swoop in and appeal to travelers craving unique experiences along with other generational buzzwords like “authenticity” and “bespoke.”

It may be easy to scoff at, but younger travelers are vital to the travel industry’s pandemic recovery and its future. Hotel companies better positioning themselves to how these travelers actually like to, well, travel would be a prudent move.

“I do think that the brands have an incredible opportunity right now to be creative, to be value driven [and] to stand for something to curate that community,” Alvarado said.

Featured photo by (Photo courtesy of Marriott)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

TPG featured card

Best Marriott card for Business Owners
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 6X points
6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.

Intro offer

Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 points75,000 points
Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

Annual Fee

$125

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best Marriott card for Business Owners
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 points
    75,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $125
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees