Travelers sometimes want a cookie-cutter room in a downtown hotel, and they sometimes want a cozy Tuscan farmhouse to share with friends.
Hotels have always been good at providing the first one. Now, they’re trying to figure out how to provide the second — and blunt the growth of competitors like Airbnb. But they’re having mixed success.
Marriott recently announced it’s expanding its home-sharing pilot in London to three additional European cities. Then Hyatt announced it was pulling out of a money-losing collaboration with luxury home-sharing company Oasis.
Analysts say hotels are wise to experiment. Airbnb now has 5 million listings on its site, up 25 percent from a year ago. By comparison, Marriott grew 5 percent last year to 1.3 million rooms. In some markets, like New York and Miami, studies indicate that home-sharing is already eroding hotel profits.
But it’s not yet clear how far hotels are willing to expand into home-sharing, which challenges their traditional business models. It costs more to clean homes scattered in various neighborhoods than rooms at a central location, for example.
The barriers are so great that at least one major hotel company — Hilton — is giving home-sharing a pass for now. The company’s CEO, Chris Nassetta, says the quality, consistency and amenities that Hilton customers expect are best provided in hotels.
Other hotel companies, like Marriott, say they can bring order and standards to the chaotic home-sharing market. Hotels promise perks they say Airbnb can’t match: fully vetted properties, fluffy white towels and popular loyalty programs that let members use points to book homes.
“The lines are beginning to blur, and depending on what kind of trip it is, sometimes a home feels better than a hotel,” said Jennifer Hsieh, Marriott’s vice president of customer experience.
Marriott began testing home rentals in London last spring. Recently, it expanded that pilot program — called Tribute Portfolio Homes — to Paris, Rome and Lisbon. Marriott says the program will now include 340 homes.
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