With the recent announcement of its expanded home-sharing initiative, Marriott International is further wading into waters most hotel brand companies have yet to dip their toes into.
Marriott isn’t the first hotel company to explore the home-sharing space. Hyatt Hotels Corporation initially invested $40 million in Onefinestay in June 2015, but in April 2016 Accor purchased Onefinestay for €148 million ($165.5 million). A year later, Accor folded home-sharing platforms Travel Keys and Squarebreak into its Onefinestay brand.
Marriott’s Homes & Villas platform takes a different approach from other hotel brand companies, said Jennifer Hsieh, VP of Homes & Villas. While Hyatt and Accor made equity investments into home-sharing platforms, Marriott’s model is to essentially create a marketplace for consumers to find homes by partnering with property-management companies, she said.
Homes & Villas by Marriott International offers travelers 2,000 different “premium and luxury homes” in 100 destinations around the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America, a news release states. Forty of those leisure destinations are new markets for Marriott. The newly launched program is an expansion of the company’s 2018 Tribute Portfolio Homes pilot program, which started in London before including homes in Paris, Rome and Lisbon.
With the pilot program, Marriott looked to test consumer acceptance of the company offering a home-sharing platform, Hsieh said. Marriott needed to see if it was filling a need and whether it could position itself as a company that offers home rentals. It was also important to learn what consumers would expect from the Marriott brand in a home, she said.
Along with learning more about guest expectations, the company also needed to test the operational and business model of a home-sharing platform, she said. Instead of having an open platform where people can list homes on their own, Marriott is working with professional property managers who work with individual homeowners to identify potential homes for the platform.
"The beauty is the home managers understand the space," she said. “They do home rentals in multiple locations. They understand how to operate the service, how to clean. They understand the regulations.”
According to feedback Marriott received about the trial platform, guests had higher expectations for design, cleanliness and service, Hsieh said. Guests also loved the ability of the platform to meet a unique trip purpose. Those who stayed in a home on a leisure trip cited a need for more space for larger groups; they stayed an average of five nights, and 80% of the time they were loyalty program members, she said.
Measuring the success of this program is different than measuring the success of a hotel, Hsieh said. With hotels, companies can measure occupancy, but as some home rentals aren’t always available, this metric is less meaningful. These might be primary residences or a vacation home for the owners, she said. The other issue is while a majority of the homes on the platform are exclusively part of Homes & Villas, some are listed on other platforms.
The key metric is the growth of the home-sharing industry, she said. In a 2018 study, 25% of Marriott Bonvoy members said they had stayed in the past 12 months in a home-rental unit—a percentage which has grown from previous years, she said.
Marriott looks at whether consumers are happy with the product, whether it’s compelling and if it fills a need, Hsieh said. All of those indicators have come back strong, and the numbers are showing the platform is filling a gap in the market, she said. Some guests said they were unsure about home sharing before, but having Marriott’s name attached made them feel more confident in it, she said.
Marriott will look to grow the number of offerings in locations where consumer demand is high, Hsieh said. The company will also consider regulatory conditions, as well as robust operators and the hotel presence in the markets, she said.
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