Skift Take

Is Sonder a short-term rental operator of multi-unit apartments or a hotelier? Well, it's both, and the new collection is geared to help guests discover the difference.

If you are confused about whether Sonder is a short-term rental operator like an Airbnb or a hotel operator, then this will help: Sonder is launching its first hotel collection, Powered by Sonder, which includes 23 Sonder-operated properties in 13 markets.

The designation may help potential Sonder guests trying to figure out what kind of customer experience – a hotel room or an apartment in a multi-family building – they can expect.

The company said these Powered by Sonder hotels are distinct from other hotels and multi-unit apartments Sonder operates in that they are boutique hotel-oriented, and have their own design elements and features, such as onsite food and drinking facilities.

Skift is first to report the news of the new collection.

To get an independent view, we thought it would be interesting to see how other platforms and their customers rate these Powered by Sonder properties. Among them are Atala in Paris, which Expedia classifies as a 4-star hotel that gets an 8.4 out of 10 rating from its customers. Hotels.com labels Chambers powered by Sonder, near Central Park in New York City, as a 3.5 star aparthotel with an 8.8 out of 10 rating from its guests.

The Yelo Jean Médecin powered by Sonder in Nice gets 4.5 out of 5 on Tripadvisor, which designates it #1 of 25 limited service properties in the French city. Beverly Terrace powered by Sonder in Beverly Hills, California, is a 3-star hotel, according to Google, deserving of a 4 out of 5 rating from more than 300 user reviews.

A room at the Yelo Jean Médecin in Nice, France. Source: Sonder

These properties are listed on a variety of platforms, including Airbnb, Expedia, Booking.com and Hotels.com, as well as on Sonder.com. For a one-night stay for two people on August 14, the nightly rates for these for properties on Sonder.com ranged from $167 (Beverly Terrace) to $347 (Atala in Paris).

“Powered by Sonder are all hotels, not apartment-style properties, with a strong and unique design, distinct from Sonder’s core aesthetic,” Patrick Mitchell, Sonder’s VP of marketing and distribution, told Skift via email. “The guest experience is otherwise the same, including mobile check-in and service.”

Sonder Hotels and Short-Term Rentals

Sonder, founded in 2014 in Montreal and currently publicly traded on Nasdaq, began as a short-term rental operator. Co-founder and CEO Francis Davidson said in a statement that “hotels make up a significant and growing part of our portfolio.”

Sonder recently expanded its hotel offerings in Florida, as well as its Europe, the Middle East and Africa region.

Mitchell declined to say how many hotels outside of the collection Sonder operates, adding “Powered by Sonder properties make up a minority of our total live hotel properties.”

The boutique hotel experience at these Powered by Sonder properties appeals to millennials and Gen Z, “and we can add new hotels to our portfolio efficiently with this collection,” Mitchell said.

Plans for Future Sonder Hotel Collections

He said Sonder expects to add some new hotel collections in the future, but not many collections — or brands.

“But only where it makes sense to help guests navigate our portfolio,” Mitchell said. “Our goal is to have properties for a variety of stay occasions.”

Sean O’Neill, Skift’s senior hospitality editor, adds:

  • Sonder used to emphasize that it was like a tech startup to encourage investors to value it like other startups that were then market darlings. 
  • But tech startups broadly fell out of fashion among investors, while Marriott’s stock price just hit an all-time high, and a few other large hotel groups are expected to report robust earnings in the next couple of weeks. 
  • So maybe Sonder thinks associating itself with hotels is cooler now.
  • Many independent hotels struggle to compete with the big brands. This has left an opportunity for third-party management companies to come in and take over operations, promising to save owners money with scale efficiencies. 
  • Skift has covered some of these third-party players, such as Curator, Springboard, Sage Hospitality, First Hospitality, and Life House. 
  • In theory, Sonder’s software and management practices could be competitive.

Listen to Sonder CEO Francis Davidson discuss the latest developments at the company with Skift Research’s Seth Borko in New York City June 7, 2023.

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Tags: airbnb, apartments, expedia, future of lodging, google, hotel brands, hotels, hotels.com, powered by sonder, sonder, tripadvisor, user reviews, vacation rentals

Photo credit: A view from Atala powered by Sonder in Paris, France, with the Eiffel Tower in the background. Source: Sonder Sonder

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