While many hoteliers are dismissive of the sharing economy, Hyatt and Hilton Worldwide are either learning from it or at least taking a balanced view about the trend. Don't expect either to rent out couches anytime soon, though.
The CEOs of Hyatt and Hilton Worldwide are as miffed as any of their peers about sharing economy companies skirting local regulations but they are both embracing some of the positives of the trend.
Onefinestay disclosed nearly $16 million in two rounds through 2012, and the Wall Street Journal reports that the London-based vacation rental site completed a $40 million round toward the end of 2014 with Hyatt as one of the investors.
Greg Marsh, co-founder and CEO of onefinestay wouldn’t comment on Hyatt but tells Skift that the company has had more than one round of funding that it hasn’t publicized.
Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian says the company invested in onefinestay to help the chain learn about the new ways that customers look at the guest experience, a differentiation he calls “really interesting.”
Hoplamazian, who notes that hotel chains have participated in vacation rentals and timeshares for years, says engaging with onefinestay through an investment was a particularly good way to enhance Hyatt’s learnings about the guest experience.
He says Hyatt has partnered with several companies to consider how to pilot new ideas. Cases in point included integrating Uber into the Hyatt app, and partnering with Reaction Housing, which is creating pod-like structures — something akin to pop-up hotels — for disaster relief.
Marsh of onefinestay says the company, which curates upscale vacation rentals, doesn’t see itself as a competitor to the traditional, upscale lodging industry but views itself as a complement.
Marsh says onefinestay is happy to work with hotel companies that share its values on the guest experience and customer service because some hotels haven’t met the needs of business travelers and groups traveling to city centers.
In the context of a discussion about Airbnb, although he didn’t name it, Hilton Worldwide CEO Christopher Nassetta said some sharing economy companies are “democratizing” travel and making the pie bigger.
The industry shouldn’t view itself as having a “limited pie,” Nassetta says.
Some travelers are renting a couch or a bedroom in someone’s apartment and that might have made it possible for them to take a trip where they couldn’t even have afforded a stay in Hilton’s lowest-end rooms before, Nassetta says.
“The pie is getting bigger,” says Nassetta, adding that these new travelers are helping the local economy through their ancillary spending.
Nassetta, speaking on a panel with Hoplamazian and other hotel CEOs at an NYU hospitality investment conference in New York City June 1, said it’s vital that the sharing economy companies “play by the rules.”
On the sharing economy, though, Nassetta says: “The idea broadly is we should all view it longterm as quite positive for travel and tourism.”
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Photo credit: Interior spread from Guestbook, onefinestay's quarterly magazine. Skift