Another hotel group enters the luxury home rental fray, but Mandarin Oriental is putting its properties through a rigorous brand standard ringer before guests have an opportunity to book.
Mandarin Oriental is the latest hotel company to wade into the waters of the vacation home rental business. But these branded homes are tethered significantly more to the standards of an actual Mandarin Oriental hotel than what is seen at other hotel-backed home rental platforms.
Mandarin partnered with luxury home rental platform StayOne on its new Mandarin Oriental Exclusive Homes division, the companies announced Thursday in an exclusive with Skift. Specific financial information of the partnership wasn’t made public, but Mandarin made a “strategic investment” in StayOne in 2020.
The new partnership follows a trend throughout the hospitality industry during the pandemic of guests craving more space and control over the entire property where they vacation. Marriott launched its Homes & Villas platform of vacation rentals in 2019 prior to the pandemic, but it has rapidly swelled in its number of listings over the last two years.
Accor and Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts both have their own rental divisions, but these rely more on residential offerings at a hotel instead of private homes like what is seen at Marriott and now Mandarin Oriental.
“Once you are a Ferrari fan, you’re almost agnostic as to what product they have. You want to have a Ferrari,” StayOne co-founder and CEO Jorge Munoz said. “I’ve always believed that those silos were going to come down, whether it be hotels and holiday home rentals or with home swapping and home sharing. There are different verticals within the accommodation sector, and there is space for all of them because the needs of the same guests vary, depending on the occasion.”
The initial eight homes are located throughout Europe and underwent a vetting process to ensure each property meets the 700 brand standards expected of a Mandarin hotel — from cleanliness and safety to amenities like concierge services, daily housekeeping, an in-house private chef, and branded bathrobes and toiletries.
“These handpicked luxurious homes fit naturally into our portfolio and their locations provide opportunities for our guests to combine a hotel visit with a villa stay and explore more of the destination in different ways — but all with the assurance of the Mandarin Oriental reputation,” James Riley, group chief executive of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with StayOne to identify many more perfect homes to include in the collection.”
Both companies were quiet on expansion plans beyond indicating the platform will eventually be a global one.
“It is not easy. It’s a most challenging and exciting project, but we have such an organization and experience to make sure that the quality actually exceeds the hotel experience,” Luca Finardi, area vice president of operations and general manager of the Mandarin Oriental, Milan, said. “That’s our goal. Basically, what we are going to do is give a personalized and tailor-made service to every single guest that will enter in a Mandarin Oriental Exclusive Home.”
Destinations include a 600-acre estate in the Cotswolds in the UK, two villas on the Spanish island of Mallorca, two villas in the South of France, and three properties on the Spanish island of Ibiza. As one might expect, these homes aren’t exactly the kind of bargains some might hope to find on Airbnb.
Rates for the Cotswolds estate, which can sleep 20 across 10 bedrooms, range from about $8,900 to $12,400 per night. A stay at a villa on a 148-acre private island off the coast of Ibiza and which sleeps 10 starts at $22,600 per night. The best “bargain” of the prices provided to Skift was at a 12-person villa in the French Riviera, where pricing began at $5,700 a night.
The Mandarin Oriental and StayOne teams think there is plenty of runway to build out the platform, as fans of the hotel brand would — ideally — migrate to a new offering in the home rental business when they look to travel on vacation. The partnership enables Mandarin Oriental to have an expanded menu of offerings for potential guests and allows the company to have reach in markets that wouldn’t have the travel fundamentals required to pursue developing an entire hotel.
“If you’re going for business travel, you’re going to want to stay at a Mandarin hotel, but if you’re going on holiday with your family of six people and another family, maybe a luxury villa is much more suitable,” Munoz said. “But until you are able to offer the whole suite of potential products that everybody at some point could use, it’s very difficult to retain that client. Therefore, a client will always look at other brands and in other places. I’ve always had that view that there will be some kind of brand that will incorporate different products under one umbrella.”
The key to successfully operating those brands under the same umbrella is quality control. Marriott’s Homes & Villas platform launched with the premise that only the finest of homes would be included on the service. There are plenty of luxurious homes on Homes & Villas, but a scan of East Coast listings on the platform Wednesday afternoon also showed several homes that wouldn’t exactly be akin to staying at a St. Regis or Ritz-Carlton on Cape Cod or Nantucket.
One of the ways Mandarin Oriental is avoiding this is by relying on recruiting homes from the exisiting StayOne platform, which bills itself as the “finest one percent of holiday homes.” These homes then go through the Mandarin brand standards to be ready for the hotel company’s own platform of 4,000 homes.
“We have a very, very good inventory of homes to pick from, and we continue to grow that inventory on a daily basis,” Munoz said of the StayOne pipeline of homes into the Mandarin platform. “We have the homes in the locations that we want to go to, so why [look] outside when you have it at home?”
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Photo credit: Mandarin Oriental's home rental platform includes a listing for a home on a 148-acre private island off the coast of Ibiza (pictured). Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group