After facing stiff competition from private home rental companies, like Airbnb, hotels are now entering the high-end home sharing market. They hope to differentiate themselves from standard rental services by guaranteeing that their homes are up to hotel standards.
Unhappy home sharing guests usually have a common complaint, last minute cancellations and lack of cleanliness. Hotels hope to avoid these problems by having employees, rather than homeowners, manage the properties.
It took hotel companies a while to recognize that companies like Airbnb were a real threat. According to Makarand Mody, a hospitality marketing professor at Boston University, “Now, they see it’s the same travelers, just choosing different accommodations based on the occasion or situation.” Families tend to opt for multi-bedroom properties, while business travelers prefer hotels. “If I’m a Marriott customer, Marriott wants me to be able to find all my lodging needs on their website, whether it’s a business trip or family reunion,” Mody said.
AccorHotels, which operates hotels in 100 countries, has made headway into the home sharing market in the past two years by taking over existing private rental companies. In 2016, it purchased Onefinestay, founded in London in 2010, which rents high-end private homes and apartments, as well as Squarebreak, which offers a variety of properties, and Travelkeys, which deals with vacation properties. Hotel-managed properties offer check-in with staff, 24-hour support services, professional cleaning, and toiletries.
The company has recently added properties in Europe, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, and Hawaii. According to Onefinestay CEO Javier Cedillo-Espin, “As a customer told me, ‘Give me more destinations and I will stay with you more times.’”
Hyatt Hotels Corporation has invested in Oasis, which lets 2,000 homes in 20 different cities, aiming to “serve high-end travelers across more dimensions of their lives,” said James Francque, head of transactions at Hyatt.
World of Hyatt loyalty program members can earn and redeem points on stays at Oasis properties. The arrangement also extends Hyatt’s offering to cities that lack their hotels. Also, Marriott International just began a six-month experiment with HostMaker, which manages 200 homes in London. Marriott offers homeowners advice on how to make their properties more appealing to renters.
Large hotel chains believe they can guarantee cleanliness and quick solutions to problems, which companies like Airbnb oftentimes miss the mark on. “Travelers staying in private homes still want easy check-in, a clean place and someone to fix any problems immediately,” said Cathy Enz, a professor at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration,
Airbnb has taken note of hotels entering the private rental market by launching Airbnb Plus, which features 2,000 listings in 13 cities that have been inspected and meet requirements, like minimum Wi-Fi speeds and strong water pressure. To be considered for Airbnb Plus, homeowners have to be highly-rated on the site.
The home-sharing market may prove challenging for hotels. “Our guests may not end up seeing enough value in it for us to focus on home sharing,” Francque, of Hyatt, said. “It’s a tough model. We want it to be efficient and high touch.”