Watch out, Airbnb. The hotel companies are knocking at your door.
On April 23, Marriott International and Hostmaker announced a collaboration to introduce a new home rental venture under Marriott’s Tribute Portfolio Homes brand.
In the six month pilot, more than 200 curated homes in London will be available to rent on the Tribute Portfolio Homes website. Average rates for the rentals sit at $280 to $351 per night for a one- or two-bedroom home, and the listings range from “avant-garde penthouse” to “comfortable flat with a corner balcony.”
This marks Marriott’s first major step into the home-share market, nine years after Brian Chesky founded Airbnb and disrupted the travel industry. Marriott’s move comes at a time when Airbnb is attempting to step out of its “alternative travel” image, introducing concepts like Airbnb Plus that offer a more curated travel experience. Meanwhile, other traditional hospitality companies like AccorHotels and Hyatt have also launched recent home rental ventures.
Adam Malamut, chief customer experience officer at Marriott International, said the company had identified a data-backed need among its customers for home rentals, specifically for leisure travelers vacationing in groups or with family.
“The sharing economy is a mega customer trend that we’ve been monitoring for a while,” he said. “Naturally, with competitors traditional and nontraditional getting into space, it begs the question: Should we do this?”
The answer, of course, was yes. Last summer, Marriott International launched an incubator initiative with 1776 and Accenture Interactive, inviting startups to submit ideas on how the world’s largest hotel company could enhance its customer travel experience.
Hostmaker, a London-based Airbnb management company, emerged at the top of the pack as a lead contender for Marriott’s partner for its newest venture.
“We found the partner in Hostmaker that we thought could help us fulfill the customer need that we discovered, but do it in a way that is aligned to how Marriott would do it,” Malamut said.
Hostmaker was founded in 2014 by CEO Nakul Sharma to provide home management services to property owners looking to professionally list their homes on Airbnb or other rental websites. Hostmaker offers everything from pricing optimization to interior redesign and concierge services, creating an elevated portfolio of homes of reliable quality.
Tribute Portfolios is thus an even more curated experience, explained Sharma. Hostmaker only accepts half of homeowners that come to them, and of that pool, only a third get selected to be listed on the Tribute website.
With Tribute, customers can expect an elevated and curated experience that blurs the line between rental home and hotel. Guests will receive premium welcome packs upon arrival, toiletries from The Body Shop, and bed linens comparable to those used in four- and five-star hotels. Services available include a 24-hour concierge, in-person welcome upon check-in, Marriott rewards points, and instant booking on the website.
According to Sharma, Marriott was initially hesitant about entering the space, worried about the permanence of the home share industry as well as how Marriott’s brand would gel with it. However, extensive data and research by the Marriott team, coupled with the innovation lab, offered a solution.
“We decided to present to them that, look, this is actually a massive opportunity,” Sharma said. “This doesn’t immediately compete with your hotels because the average rental stay in a hotel is one or two nights, and generally, more skewed towards the business traveler. But in contrast, in our portfolio, the average stay is seven nights or longer and heavily skewed towards leisure travel.”
Sharma identified three distinct sets of homeowners who could be expected to be Hostmaker clients and Tribute Portfolio Homes listers: primary residence homeowners, secondary residence homeowners and investors. Primary residence homeowners live in their homes but may have a few weeks every couple months that they are not present. Secondary residence homeowners own multiple properties, often summer or vacation houses, that are empty for certain periods of the year. Lastly, investors are people who own property for capital purposes but may want to put those assets to use instead of simply sitting idle.
On the other end of the equation, Malamut believes that Tribute’s primary customers will be the leisure traveler who is seeking an elevated but locally-immersive experience. It might be the same traveler who stays in a Marriott hotel during a business trip but is looking for a more personal, domestic touch for a family or group vacation.
It is also no coincidence that London is the city that Marriott chose to launch their new venture in. Malamut spoke of holes existing in markets where there is not enough hotel distribution, and London, a city that has notoriously suffered from affordable housing, seems like a prime location for home-sharing to take root.
While no numbers were available yet, Malamut said the customer reaction to Tribute Portfolio Homes has been “very positive” a month in.
“If things go well, we will absolutely consider other markets,” he said.