According to an article in the Wall Street Journal this morning, Marriott is planning to enter the homesharing/home rental business, with an official announcement and release of details coming as soon as next month. While other major hotel chains (notably, Hyatt and Accor) have at various times experimented with the home sharing business, these attempts have not been particularly noteworthy.
Airbnb, which offers nearly 5 million units through its platform, has significantly more inventory than any hotel chain, with Marriott offering under 1.3 million rooms by comparison. The former, which is rumored to be pursuing an IPO next year, has been largely successful with its core business and has been making significant moves towards expanding into business travel and the “traditional” loyalty business, most notably with its recent announcement that it would be acquiring HotelTonight.
Marriott, meanwhile, has been piloting a homesharing program in Europe, and results have evidently been favorable enough for the company to expand the program globally. This of course will not come easily to the behemoth hotel corporation, given that it will have to comply with city and region-specific policies and restrictions on home sharing.
Moreover, Marriott will need to set and maintain a brand standard, with which it has been struggling for many of its brands since the merging of Starwood properties under the Marriott umbrella. To further complicate matters, hotels typically have more stringent safety/fire regulations than apartment buildings, thereby disqualifying home properties that would otherwise participate in Marriott’s homesharing scheme.
Despite the challenges that lay ahead for Marriott, this is promising news for those of us in the points/miles world. Per a source familiar with the project, Marriott members will be able to earn and redeem points for homesharing stays. While the numbers have yet to be announced, this represents additional points earning modalities and potential opportunities for cheap mattress-running. Moreover, the availability of certain features found in homes but not in hotels (kitchens, laundry, etc.) potentially caters to larger groups and families traveling together. It remains to be seen, however, just how integrated and smoothly this new program will work. I, for one, am cautiously excited about the potential this has, while still being somewhat wary, particularly in light of the myriad issues Marriott has had post-Starwood merger.
Airbnb, meanwhile, may not be as excited as I am, with its head of policy and communications offering a cheeky, “We welcome them to the party and wish them bon voyage” in response to questions about competitors in the homesharing space.