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Marriott Bonvoy members account for about 90 percent of bookings on the company's Homes & Villas short-term rental platform, and access to that pool of customers is a strength, the unit's leader said. This pool of potential customers helped fuel Homes & Villas' 30-fold growth since its 2019 launch.

Marriott’s Homes & Villas unit is taking a different approach to the home-sharing business than many of its competitors, focusing its growth on the company’s vast pool of loyalty members.

This resource — Marriott Bonvoy — members is not a cap to Homes & Villas growth as some have claimed, Vice President Jennifer Hsieh said at the Skift Future of Lodging Forum on Thursday. Instead, she said this is a differentiator that a source of strength. “The industry has not anchored itself around a loyalty program,” Hsieh said of the short-term rental sector. “We lean into it.”

The Bonvoy program offers Homes & Villas a wealth of data on each customer’s preferences, allowing the unit to tailor the types of rentals it thinks will appeal to an individual customer. If a customer likes to ski, Hsieh noted as an example, Homes & Villas can offer up listings at ski resorts. “We try to understand who the customer is,” she said. “And we deliver homes we know will perform well.”

About 90 percent of the bookings at Homes & Villas comes from Bonvoy members. The platform recently allowed the use of alternative currencies on its site, and Hsieh said Bonvoy points — or any loyalty program points — are alternative currencies. The goal is to grow the percentage of bookings that come through redemptions.

Another advantage of being a part of a larger hotel group is the ability to offer overflow when hotels are booked. Resorts and leisure destination hotel bookings have been particularly strong during the pandemic and now. If all Marriott properties in a certain destination are booked full, the company can direct customers to Homes & Villas listings, Hsieh said.

But the Marriott unit is taking a deliberate approach to how much information and data on listings it provides to customers. Search results return enough information to make a decision, but not enough to overwhelm the customers, Hsieh said. “We want to avoid ‘analysis paralysis,’” she said. “Our job is to make sure we give our consumers enough information but not enough so [they] can ‘t make a choice.”

The unit has faced some criticism for not providing a seamless online experience, and Hsieh said it is working on developing an app. Part of the problem is designing a system that could live within and work with Marriott’s systems. “It was easier to get on the desktop first,” she said. “We are educating our customers on Homes & Villas in the Bonvoy app. We are still trying to stay within the ecosystem but we are navigating the complexity of [Marriott’s] larger tech ecosystem.”

Homes & Villas is marking its third anniversary this month. The unit launched with 2,000 listings and now has more than 60,000 in its system. ‘It’s been a whirlwind of a three years,” Hsieh said. “We launched in May 2019, and six months later we had a global pandemic.”

Hsieh credits a focus on three pillars of the experience for Homes & Villas’ growth to date and future expansion. First, it has focused on the properties it lists, to ensure they meet the company’s standards. Second, is the human element, whether service provided meets guests’ expectations. And third, Homes & Villas is working on the digital experience, to make it as seamless as possible, Hsieh said.

“This business is ultimately grounded in the consumer,” she said. “When you get the fundamentals right, consumers come back.”

Note: This post has been updated to clarify the percentage of bookings that come from Bonvoy members.

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Tags: future of lodging, marriott, short-term rentals

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