Skift Take

Marriott might have made a great investment had it bought a chunk of Airbnb in 2015. Ultimately, Marriott opted to build its own with Homes & Villas.

Series: Dennis' Online Travel Briefing

Dennis' Online Travel Briefing

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, Executive Editor and online travel rockstar Dennis Schaal will bring readers exclusive reporting and insight into the business of online travel and digital booking, and how this sector has an impact across the travel industry.

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During an era six or seven years ago when the big hotel chain-backed American Hotel & Lodging Association was bashing Airbnb for listings that were “illegitimate” and “often illegal,” Marriott International and Airbnb drew up the paperwork for a major partnership, according to Airbnb’s former Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy Chip Conley.

That potential Marriott-Airbnb partnership, along with Airbnb considering acquiring Sonder, and information about HomeAway making a bid alongside Airbnb’s to acquire Luxury Retreats, were among the newsy items that can be found within Skift’s Definitive Oral History of Short-Term Rentals Part II.

Airbnb-Marriott Deal

Starting in 2014, Conley separately hosted at Airbnb headquarters or met elsewhere with the leaders of Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Starwood, InterContinental, Best Western and Accor in get to know you sessions.

“But it was Marriott that we went into very deep conversations with and came that close,” Conley said in the oral history. “Let’s just call it distribution for right now. It was a big partnership. It was a very in-depth partnership. The lawyers were papering it. We’d gotten up to all the business points. Three weeks before it was going to be announced, Marriott decided they had cold feet. That was probably 2015, at that point.”

Did it include a Marriott investment in Airbnb, Marriott offering properties on Airbnb, or Airbnb listing properties on Marriott? Conley didn’t say, and both Airbnb and Marriott declined to comment.

“But I say that to say, ultimately, Marriott moved in the direction of creating their own Homes & Villas product, which is higher end,” Conley said. “It’s understandable.”

Airbnb Saw Professional Hosts Gaining Market Share and Mulled Buying Sonder

Former Airbnb Chief Financial Officer Laurence Tosi said in the oral history that it was around 2015 or 2016 when Airbnb saw that property managers were taking market share from individual hosts, the “soul” of the company, on the platform. “And we made a presentation to the board of Airbnb saying, ‘The rise of professional listings is real,'” Tosi said.

Tensions with individual hosts colored a potential deal to acquire Sonder.

“And then we looked at, at one point, buying Sonder in the early days and ultimately decided that it was a different business model,” Tosi said. And we didn’t want the conflict of our individual hosts seeing us buy a professional host because there’s a little bit of tension there, a little bit cultural tension to a certain extent. So we ended up not doing it.”

Both Airbnb and Sonder declined to comment on any potential transaction several years ago.

Airbnb Buys Luxury Retreats and HomeAway Made an Offer Too

In 2017, Airbnb acquired Luxury Retreats for $224.1 million in cash and stock.

“Luxury Retreats would curate the homes and all the homes had management within them,” Tosi said in the oral history. “It was a very high-end excellent experience. And so we bought that because one, Joe Poulin, the founder, was an incredible entrepreneur and we thought he would add a lot to the management team. Two, we thought they had a really great business model and a great offering. And it clearly had loyalty. It helped us upscale Airbnb into a more serviced home-type environment.”

Tosi said he knew there was another offer to buy Luxury Retreats, but didn’t know who it was from. “And actually, HomeAway [which was part of Expedia Group] bid on them as well,” Tosi said in the oral history. “We didn’t know that at the time. But we were both interested in buying them. We both made offers. I knew there was another bid, I didn’t know who it was. And we both made offers and ultimately Joe sold to us and now that’s still a big part of Airbnb.”

In Brief

Australia Takes Legal Action Against Airbnb

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission filed a legal case against Airbnb, alleging that the short-term rental platform misled guests from 2018 to 2021 by displaying prices up until the last step before booking in U.S. dollars rather than Australian dollars. That meant that consumers were actually paying considerably more for their stays when the booking was converted into Australian dollars. Reuters

Edreams Odigeo Now Has 3 Million Subscribers

After announcing in late May that its Prime subscription service had reached 2.9 million subscribers who get discounts and promotions for flights, hotels and cars by March 31, Edreams Odigeo announced Wednesday that it breached the 3 million mark. The company’s goal is to have 7.25 million subscribers by fiscal year 2025.

Hopper Ups Its Fintech Offerings

Hopper added the option of enabling guests to abandon their hotels for any reason after check-in when they pay a fee for that option when the book the room. That was one facet of Hopper’s expansion of its fitntech offerings. Skift

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