The hospitality group Marriott International is getting into home sharing, the concept that was supposed to disrupt the hotel industry itself.
As soon as next month, Marriott will launch its new home sharing vacation rental program, the Wall Street Journal reports. It takes on home sharing competitors, namely Airbnb, that have been eating away at hotel profits.
The new offering is an expansion on a small pilot program the company ran in European cities last year. It will have some key differences from Airbnb, that could attract customers who want the uniqueness and space of a home rental, with more assurances of the quality of their experience.
Marriott is calling its new service Homes & Villas by Marriott International, according to the New York Times. That’s not quite as catchy as “Airbnb,” but the name reflects the more high end nature of the rentals it will dispense. Marriott confirmed the program to the Times, describing it as an additional option for travelers.
“People stay at different hotels for different trip purposes,” Stephanie Linnartz, the global chief commercial officer at Marriott, told the Times. “Home sharing is another offering.”
The vacation rental plan infringes on Airbnb territory, but doesn’t compete with it in every way. Homes & Villas will have minimum three-night stays, with prices ranging from $200 – $10,000 per night. Instead of working directly with individuals, it will partner with rental management companies that will ensure a level of luxury and quality. So, Airbnb still has the $50/night bedroom-you-rent-in-some-random-dude’s-messy-apartment market cornered.
Homes & Villas has some other selling points. Bookings with Homes & Villas will be part of Marriott’s Bonvoy points program, which could inspire loyalty amongst customers. Marriott told the Times that it will also offer vacation experiences and activities through the rental, all through the ecosystem of Marriott points.
Further, Airbnb’s use of people’s actual homes has led to some safety and privacy disasters, and the company has struggled to maintain hotel-level safety standards throughout its properties. Because Marriott will be partnering with rental companies, it says things like safety, fire standards, and perks like WiFi and housekeeping, will be the norm. Of course, even with standardization, hotels have their share of safety and privacy horror stories, too.
Other hotel chains have dabbled in home sharing, without great success. Marriott is reportedly the first to do so with its own offering, without a company acquisition. Airbnb, however, doesn’t seem too worried. Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s head of policy and communications, told the Journal “We welcome them to the party and wish them bon voyage.”
Homes & Villas appears to be the hotel-ification of the home share concept. While it claims your stays will still be unique, they’ll be standardized for safety and quality — and they’ll cost the same, if not much more (in the case of those “villas”), than a regular hotel room. Whether that’s good for customers, or a corporate commodification of the idea of a true home share, will be up to the travelers.