Throughout the last decade, there’s been an undeniable trend in the hospitality industry: people are increasingly turning away from traditional hotel accommodations and instead using home-sharing platforms like Airbnb to find a place to stay. For tech startups and their users, this has been great news—the Airbnb revolution has brought speed, efficiency, and value for everyone. For the hotel industry, it hasn’t been so great. But now a new question is emerging: Can the hotels win some of that business back?
According to the New York Times, Marriott is one company that’s trying, as it’s opened up a new home-share division that will attempt to compete with Airbnb. It’s an “if you can’t beat them, join them” approach—Marriott is looking to beat Airbnb by offering customers essentially their own version of Airbnb suites. Customers can use the new Marriott platform to rent a range of non-hotel properties including a St. Barts villa, a Lake Tahoe mountain home, and an Irish castle.
“[Airbnb] has been a wake-up call for the hotel industry that there is a need to innovate,” said Makarand Mody, a professor at Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration. “The demand numbers are making hotel companies rethink who they fundamentally are.”
Mody cited a study that found that since 2008 when Airbnb emerged, hotel revenue per available room has fallen by 2 percent in 10 major American cities. He noted that in response, hotel chains have been looking to Airbnb-ify their business wherever possible. Marriott, for example, is trying out a new model that stretches the definition of home sharing to include rentals managed by third-party companies. It’s working with a group of partners, including LaCure and Lloyd & Townsend Rose, that research homes and vet them for location and design.
Will the strategy ultimately be effective? It’s possible, but there are plenty of reasons for skepticism. We’ve already seen hotels venture into the Airbnb-style business model before—such as in 2017, when Hyatt invested in a similar venture called Oasis Collections—and they haven’t been particularly successful. It remains to be seen whether a big hotel corporation can find success tapping into the best of both worlds: a trusted hotel brand name and a stylish line of available homes.
“Hotel brands come with a seal of approval, but it’s harder to enforce,” said Eric Breon, CEO of vacation property management company Vacasa. “There’s a lot more personality to people’s homes. They bought the beach house and furnished it. They’re not a hotelier to whom Marriott can say, ‘This year we’re doing all oval mirrors, so you have to get rid of the square ones.’”
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