A house instead of a serviced apartment?

By Sylvie Konzack

With Homes & Villas by Marriott International, the hotel giant has entered the homesharing market with private luxury rental properties in 2019. We spoke with Chris Stephenson, Senior Director of Homes & Villas by Marriott International, about first experiences, differences to Residence Inn and USPs compared to Airbnb & Co.

Mr Stephenson, with Homes & Villas by Marriott International (HVMI) you are focusing on a special premium and luxury home segment as rental offerings that are professionally managed by property management companies. What is your first conclusion?
Marriott's expansion into home rentals was developed in 2018 as a result of the Tribute Portfolio Home pilot, where 87 per cent of guests who booked a home in select European cities were Marriott Bonvoy members, 80 per cent leisure-oriented occasions. 1.1 bedrooms were booked on average. During the pilot, the average guest stay was more than triple (5.1 nights) that of typical hotel stays. These findings played together with our commitment to offer travellers unique and diverse accommodation, including spacious one and more bedroom homes, large kitchens, washer and dryer, etc., as well as the ability to stay in a hotel.

How many properties do you currently count?
We started 2019 with 2,000 properties and villas in 100 markets and now have 139 markets, 61 of which are new to Marriott International. With 30 traditional hotel brands across 7,000 hotels and 131 countries and regions, we have hotels almost everywhere - but HVMI offers nearly 40 new destinations, including the Amalfi Coast in Italy, North Lake Tahoe in California or St Barth in the Caribbean. They range from a three-bedroom cottage on a 6-acre private vineyard in California to a five-bedroom villa in Sorrento, Italy, with an infinity pool, sea view and wood-burning pizza oven; from an 18th-century Irish castle for 17 people and private lake to a five-bedroom townhouse in London with a children's playroom and climbing wall. Many locations are more recreational, on the coast, on beaches and in the mountains. However, we will increase our appeal to business travellers as we move into key urban areas. It will be interesting to see if some locations are particularly suitable for our guests who combine business and leisure.

Are there any destinations that are attracting particularly strong interest?
We see very strong demand from families travelling to Europe in the summer, with London doing particularly well. We often find that one of the parents is travelling for work, and having a home makes it possible to take the whole family without disrupting everyday life.

Does Homes & Villas compete with their extended stay brands like Residence Inn?
No, a whole house is very different to what Residence Inn or our other core hotel brands offer. Our pilot showed that the Homes & Villas offering complements our hotel business. We know that our guests have different travel needs for a variety of travel occasions and there are instances where a stay in a home, villa or loft creates more value and is a better accommodation option than a traditional hotel. Furthermore, the homes offered through HVMI are primarily luxury and premium offerings. We do not expect these to compete with our extended stay hotel brands such as Residence Inn.

How does the offer differ from Airbnb & Co.?
Besides the curated offer through a handpicked selection of landlords, we differ in the professional management of each rental property by our property management partners, some of which are also hoteliers of our hotels: They all provide guests with round-the-clock professional cleaning services, high-speed Wi-Fi, quality bedding and various amenities on request. Standards are important, and we back our offering with the power and confidence of the Marriott International brand. That said, the markets we are entering with HVMI are generally not ones where we have a large hotel presence. Over a third were new to the portfolio at launch, and we thus enable our members and guests to discover new destinations. However, it is also essential that we operate in a fully compliant manner. Every rental property must meet strict quality assurance and safety standards, and our property management partner is responsible for ensuring that we are fully compliant with local regulations. Finally, Marriott Bonvoy members can earn and redeem points instantly at all HVMI accommodations.

The interview was conducted for Apartmentservice by Sylvie Konzack.