Marriott Takes on Airbnb With Home-Sharing Partnership

LONDON—As Airbnb continues to diversify offerings and accessibility on its home-sharing platform to capture market share in the hospitality segment, hotel brands are taking notice. Marriott International Inc. has joined several other hospitality brands in the alternative accommodations game.

Marriott has partnered with Hostmaker, a London-based homestay property management company, for a six-month trial of Tribute Portfolio Homes, a new home-share offering.

“One of the reasons we didn’t jump into this quickly is we thought this is a business that is not made for us. We have now figured out that we can run this business in a way that does fully comply with law. It will include payment of lodging taxes so that it’s a level playing field with the hotel business. It will very much include complying with local regulatory requirements on number of nights homes can be let in this way and make that work,” said Arne M. Sorenson, president & CEO, Marriott International Inc. in an earnings call.

What makes this one different from other home-sharing experiences? Besides the backing of the world’s largest hotel brand, each property within Tribute Portfolio Homes is vetted and reviewed by Marriott’s hospitality experts. Additionally, guests staying with Tribute Portfolio Homes are able to earn through loyalty programs such as Marriott Rewards or SPG.

The new partnership may address some of the concerns that have been raised by home-sharing detractors. According to the company, properties will meet rigorous safety, security and design standards before they are accepted as part of Tribute Portfolio Homes. Local property management experts, like Hostmaker, will provide 24/7 support to guests during their stay.

In an effort to make the travel experience convenient, Tribute Portfolio Homes offers 24 hour in-person check-in; high speed WiFi; premium bed linens and fluffy white towels; full-sized bath amenities; cooking essentials; and child-friendly items, such as high chairs and travel cribs.

The booking process is facilitated through a “Welcome Wizard,” a person responsible for meeting guests at the initial home check-in. These greeters are locals capable of providing neighborhood recommendations on restaurants, attractions and other experiences.

Sorenson added, “I think the other thing that we’ve observed is that as some of these platforms have grown into millions and millions of units, there is almost a paralyzing array of choices, and the lack of branding and the lack of real attributes of quality around service and product makes this an area where we think we can bring our brands, we can bring our service and product focus and deliver something that is simply a better product than much of what is out there. And then, of course, lastly, we think there’s a strong loyalty connection, which obviously can be helpful here. The home-sharing business skews overwhelmingly to leisure travel, not to business travel. The loyalty space obviously, particularly around redemptions, but it could be around point earning as well is, we think, an advantage we’ve got that should bode us well in the space.”

Currently, Tribute Portfolio Homes are undergoing beta testing in London where Hostmaker is based. The company offers design, maintenance and management services to homeowners listing homes on home-rental sites, and manages more than 1,500 homes internationally, including the curated list of properties offered through Tribute Portfolio Homes.