When Marriott and Hostmaker joined forces to launch the Tribute Portfolio Homes trial in Spring 2018, it was clear that the homestay model was here to stay. Not only here to stay but working and growing.
Deanna Ting at Skift praised the bold move in an article, saying “Leave it to Marriott to figure out a way to make home-sharing work for the hotel industry.” But she also warned of the challenges to come – notably, the differences in managing hotels and homes. Because there are differences and now Marriott are going it alone with Homes & Villas by Marriott International, thanking Hostmaker for their guidance during the trial but ready to expand and explore without them. In a recent interview, former Hostmaker COO, James Lemon, broke the challenges down into three points of focus…
With the market leader becoming a verb (“Let’s Airbnb.”), it’s apparent that homestays are an increasingly popular way to travel, but are the needs different from a hotel customer? When one makes a hotel booking, there are standards that are expected to be met. Part of the appeal of staying in a hotel is that a customer is comfortable in the knowledge that they will be looked after from the moment they arrive; there are hotel employees dedicated to satisfying these very expectations. With a homestay, things are a bit more…homey, and the service is slightly more removed. Expectations can be met if people know what they’re booking.
Something to remember is that these are peoples’ homes and they need to be managed over time. Hotel owners under a brand like Marriott understand the rule-book – around maintenance, upkeep, furniture and fittings and service levels. Homes – and hosts – have flaws and quirks that are part of their charm as a home, but as an alternative to a hotel, are these as acceptable? Who is going to tell the hosts they need to repaint, or make replacements. Who is going to tell the host their property isn’t up to standard any more?
The increasing regulation across the industry forms part of it becoming more professional. In some cities and geographies, guest ID or taxes need to be captured. If the industry is to win over the business travel sector, care and attentiuon must be applied to fire and life safety.
And finally, there’s the emergence of ‘time-bound’ regulation, which is slowing the growth and professionalism of the sector in some areas, The 90-day rule has always been incredibly difficult to monitor and enforce, despite Airbnb’s cooperation. The Mayor of London is calling to introduce a new registration system, so this is a challenge that is only becoming more relevant. An undercover BBC report in February highlighted that it isn’t just the individual homeowners who are flouting the rules, but a number of management companies too, for whom ‘full-time’ hosts are the path to smoother operations, professional quality and of course profitability. Marriott Hostmaker was among those filmed advising potential customers on how to get around the limit – an unwelcome association for Marriott, one assumes.