Some Marriott competitors turned away from making an effort to challenge Airbnb directly years ago. In 2016, Hyatt divested a stake it had taken in One Fine Stay, which was acquired by French lodging company Accor.
Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta, who for years has dismissed any existential threat posed by Airbnb, said at the time of Marriott’s Homes & Villas launch in 2019 that it remained uninterested in the idea. “We’ve spent a lot of time talking to our customers, and what our customers, at the moment, tell us is that they don’t need [homesharing] from us,” Nassetta said during the 2019 Hilton Q1 earnings call. “They have places they can get this, and in a sense, they don’t want it from us. … I’m a big believer in focus. We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing.”
Hospitality industry consultant John Hach is less pessimistic than the Hilton CEO, and the equity analysts.
“Within recent years and throughout dealing with Covid-19, hoteliers are providing vacation rental access on their brand websites. This emerging practice enables major hotel brands to actively compete with vacation rental sites and engage their large loyalty membership base with the option of selecting extended stay inventory,” he said.
Of course, Covid has changed the equation, but Wasiolek said it does not mean that the strategic thinking from hotel management has changed. “It’s a whole different type of offering,” he said, and it includes a risk of the guest having a bad experience that is harder for a hotel brand to control.
Unlike AirBnB or VRBO, which is owned by Expedia, the properties in Marriott’s Homes & Villas program are all professionally managed by housing management companies. Marriott CEO Sorenson stressed this as an advantage in the recent earnings discussion, telling analysts, “What people are drawn to in terms of home sharing particularly in a Covid-19 environment is, ‘do you have a place where I can take everybody and where we can be on our own? … I don’t really want an apartment that somebody lives in regularly. I don’t want the old style home sharing because I can’t be certain about the cleanliness or comfort of that.”
“There is a desire to travel ingrained in human nature and people will want to travel, and once they can from a safety and money perspective, they will return,” Wasiolek said. For Marriott, or any major hotel brand, to make a big shift now, “would be shortsighted,” he added.
Marriott built its own ‘Airbnb’ before coronavirus crashed business travel. Did it help? – CNBC