The tug-of-war between hotels and short-term rentals intensified in 2019, with both sides making strategic moves to display their strength. There were wins and losses for everyone, and the result so far has been a deeper blurring of the lines between the two sectors.
The largest hotel company in the world made the bold decision to get into the homesharing business by launching Homes & Villas by Marriott International. Marriott has more than 7,000 hotels. Since launching in April, Homes & Villas has gone from having about 2,000 listings to 5,000.
That set the stage for one of the most interesting stories in hospitality this year as the lines continued to become more opaque among sectors. Traditional hotels moving into short-term rentals, and vice versa, escalated levels of competition while raising the stakes for the entire industry.
Marriott has said it’s not trying to compete directly with the likes of Airbnb, HomeAway, and other short-term rental companies. It can’t if you think of it in terms of sheer scale. Airbnb, for example, has more than six million properties listed worldwide. Instead Marriott is focusing on rentals as a way to build brand loyalty through Bonvoy, its rewards program.
Airbnb too decided to cross over into the traditional hotel sector by purchasing HotelTonight, the booking platform that launched in 2010 as a mobile app for those who wanted to book a room at the last minute at a discounted rate. Airbnb had already started accepting select boutique hotels as listings in 2018. Acquiring HotelTonight was a way to become a comprehensive travel marketplace, Airbnb said at the time.
Marriott and Airbnb are the largest players in each of their respective spaces, but they are hardly the only ones to converge in the ever blurry world of hospitality.
India-based hospitality company Oyo Hotels & Homes over the summer acquired the Amsterdam-based vacation rental company @Leisure Group, which operates a number of different brands, with some such as Danland and Belvilla offering a fully managed service. In turn, Airbnb in April pledged a $200 million investment in Oyo.
Choice Hotels offers more than 30,000 vacation rentals through its Vacation Rentals by Choice Hotels in the United States.
Accor has also delved into the arena, with limited success. It bought luxury home rental platform Onefinestay in 2016 but has struggled to turn a profit on its $169 million investment.
Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, which had previously had a stake in Onefinestay, tried again in 2017 with Oasis, another short-term rental platform. That lasted just 14 months.
Some legacy hotel companies are holding out, though. Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta said that his company would not follow Marriott into the short-term rental business, calling it a completely different business model.
At the Skift Global Forum in 2019, he said the company had taken the pulse of its customers on short-term rentals.
“They neither need nor want that from us,” he said. “They view that as something different.”
The topic still remains one of the top agenda items for the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA). The industry trade group continues to lobby against Airbnb and accuses it of not having to follow the same rules as hotels in terms of security and paying taxes.
When Airbnb acquired HotelTonight, the AHLA declared it “further proof the company is playing in the hotel space while evading industry regulations.”
Cities such as Los Angeles and Boston have passed laws to rein in short-term rentals.
But Airbnb and others in their field are not likely to go away. Even Marriott Vice President of Homes & Villas Jennifer Hsieh admitted during Skift Short-Term Rental Summit in New York City on Dec. 5 that in 2017 to 2018, the company found that 27 percent of its guests were leaving their hotels to rent a home.
Hence Homes & Villas. Expect more friction between the two sectors in 2020 — and more opportunities to rent homes and earn points for them.
[CORRECTION:]: An earlier version of this story mentioned Boston twice as cities that have passed laws to rein in short-term rentals.
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Photo credit: Shown here is Villa Pura, a seaside property in Costa Brava, Spain, offered by Homes & Villas by Marriott International. Marriott International