Hotels expand into Airbnb territory by offering private homes

Marriott International is the world’s largest hotel company, offering travelers nearly 1.5 million rooms in more than 8,000 properties. Yet when I recently embarked on a quest for lodging in Annapolis, Maryland, the hospitality giant didn’t lead me to any of its brands — four in Maryland’s state capital alone — but at a charming pied-à-terre with gourmet cuisine. , a balcony worthy of Romeo and Juliet, and prompt staff to help with major (unlocking the door) and minor (locating the ground coffee) issues.

“Welcome to ‘The Port.’ Our team is here for you,” read a note from the owners of iTrip Vacations Annapolis, the property management company that oversees Marriott’s home. To my relief, they really meant what they wrote.

In recent years, hotel chains have ventured into the short-term rental market, an area long dominated by peer-to-peer platforms populated by moonlighting individuals in the hospitality industry. The arrangement is simple: the owner provides the residence and the hotel or its industrial partner takes care of the rest, such as processing the reservation, recommending or booking excursions, troubleshooting problems, tidying up during the stay and deep cleaning after departure. Travelers also enjoy hotel perks — loyalty program rewards, access to resort amenities — without having to enter a lobby.

For example, vacationers who book through Onefinestay, the upscale rental company AccorHotels bought in 2016, can earn and redeem points with Accor’s Live Limitless program. In London, tenants benefit from special offers, such as the Pamper package, and reduced rates at Sofitel London St James, an Accor brand. Relais & Châteaux, which has a constellation of five-star accommodations, combines its homestay guests with its starred chefs and restaurants.

“Business travelers, as well as many leisure travelers, appreciate what Airbnb lacks and what hotel brands do best: availability (hotels cannot be delisted at short notice), ‘professional hospitality, brand standards and loyalty program benefits,” said Chekitan Dev, a professor at Cornell University’s Nolan School of Hotel Administration in Ithaca, NY. “That’s why most major hotel companies extend their brands into private residences.”

Of the handful of players, Homes & Villas by Marriott International has the largest inventory and broadest reach, with around 60,000 properties in around 75 countries, a mix of vacation rental mainstays (France, Mexico, Hawaii) and unusual vacation spots (Qatar, Kazakhstan, Mauritius). (For context, Airbnb claims around 6 million listings.) Accor’s Onefinestay comes a long way behind with 4,500 homes, villas and chalets worldwide. Relais & Châteaux entered the game in April 2021 and its portfolio has grown to 585 chalets, châteaux, wine estates and other types of charming accommodations on six continents.

Mandarin Oriental Exclusive Homes, which launched in March with properties from StayOne, and Auberge Resorts Collection have a more limited menu, with eight and nine properties respectively. Graduate Hotels, which targets college towns, is the latest arrival: The company plans to roll out Graduate Homes in Oxford, Miss., this fall, just in time for Ole Miss football season. So far, four owners have signed up. The rental program also recruits residences in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Knoxville, Tenn.

“We’re looking for centrally located single-family homes with outdoor space and adequate parking,” said Kevin Osterhaus, president of Graduate Hotels, of the company’s criteria. “They also need to be unique and high-end.” The company does not dictate the decoration, but they will provide linens, toiletries and, if necessary, dishes. He will also help you with housekeeping and concierge services and even prepare meals and arrange transportation. The homes, which will rent for around $1,500 to $3,000 a night, may appear on other rental sites, but, Osterhaus said, Graduate Homes will retain exclusive rights to the properties during major college events such as graduation and reunion.

Hotels do not always have a padlock on rentals; many appear elsewhere online. Mandarin Oriental shares its listings with StayOne, which brought its inventory to the relationship. During my dig search in Annapolis, I found several “Marriott” properties on, Vrbo, and iTrip Vacations Annapolis, which manages Annapolis area homes and apartments for the hotel chain. However, with curated collections, you don’t have to wade through pages of duds to find the aces; hotels do the hard work for you. “There’s so much out there – thousands of homes, shared bedrooms and basements,” said Jennifer Hsieh, vice president of Homes & Villas by Marriott International, referring to less demanding rental sites. . “There is no quality filter.”

Hsieh said Marriott created Homes & Villas in response to the booming sharing economy. “We watched him grow,” she said. A 2017 survey of loyal Marriott Bonvoy members was also a motivating factor: nearly 30% of respondents said they had walked away from home to book a private property. The company hoped to entice them to return with rentals bearing the Marriott seal of approval, as well as the promise of points.

“Airbnb doesn’t have a loyalty program,” said Points Guy editor Madison Blancaflor. “The ability to earn and burn points, along with support and customer service, are major perks.”

Similar to hotel room reservations, Bonvoy-ites can pay for their rental with points or a combination of points and cash. They can also earn points and even pocket enough rewards to fund future vacations. Points Guy editor Scott Mayerowitz racked up $1,220.75 in Bonvoy points on a five-night condo rental in Vail, Colorado. He chronicled the impressive feat in his March post, “How I Tripled and Earned 210,000 Points and Miles on an Epic Marriott Homes & Villas Reservation.”

“Marriott offers a rental experience and their loyalty program is huge,” Blancaflor said. “But that won’t make sense for all travelers. People have to do the math. »

For my first rental, I used Marriott because of its many regional options and less stratospheric rates. His search tool produced 30 options for the Annapolis area, which I narrowed down to three. Then two, after determining that a mid-century ranch named Admiral’s Retreat was too far from the water. Then one, after my favorite dates for Eastport Easy, a townhouse with an adjoining porch, disappeared. When I plugged in the days for port, Marriott’s schedule only accepted a three night minimum. Used to negotiating with Airbnb landlords, I clicked the “contact property manager” button and asked if I could book two nights. A representative from iTrip Vacations answered with a yes.

Before I could commit, I had to complete a simple equation. (To compare apples to apples, I plugged the three-night rate quoted by iTrip and Marriott into the calculator.) ITrip’s total was about $300 less than Marriott’s, but to reap the savings, I would have to give up Bonvoy points. As a nonchalant loyal member, it wasn’t a major sacrifice: I only have 2,800 points, or $16.80, which would barely take a bite out of the $1,322 price tag. Also, I would earn 4,318 points, or about $26, on the rental, because Marriott only awards points on the base rate ($863) and not on the additional charges ($152 in taxes and terrible cleaning $307).

I sided with the savings by booking directly with iTrip. Still, I owe Marriott for introducing me to the port. The one bedroom apartment was spotless and stylish. The property management team was attentive and responsive. And the welcome gift of red wine and crab chips was much appreciated, especially after a sunset stroll around the harbour.

I returned home relaxed and enlightened. In the future, I will be using my membership number on future Marriott stays so I can one day rent a private vacation home courtesy of the hotel chain.

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