by US Technology Reporter and Laurence Dodds, The Telegraph, April 29, 2019
The world's largest hotel chain is launching a rival service to Airbnb in an attempt to seize a chunk of the home rental business before the latter company swallows it entirely, according to reports.
Marriott International, which also owns Sheraton, W Hotels and Ritz-Carlton, wants to preempt Airbnb's impending public float and may launch the new service in the US as early as next month.
It plans to reward guests of its new service with loyalty points that they can spend in its existing portfolio of 5,700 traditional hotels, said people familiar with the project.
The new service will build on a pilot programme Marriott ran in the UK last year, in which it joined forces with London-based home rental company Hostmaker to let out 212 homes in the capital.
It comes as Airbnb itself expands into the hotel market, adding luxury tiers such as Airbnb Plus and acquiring the last-minute booking app HotelTonight for an undisclosed sum.
But all the big hotel chains remain behind Airbnb in their number of guests, with Marriott hosting an estimated 1.3m and Hilton 900,000 compared to Airbnb's estimated 4.9m.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Marriott executives feel that the home rental market has become so big it can no longer be ignored, and want to build on a pilot program in Europe in which Marriott joined forces with the London-based home rental company Hostmaker.
Other US hotel chains, such as the Hilton and Hyatt groups, have reportedly also been exploring home rental services. Accor, the French hotel giant, has acquired the luxury home rental site Onefinestay, and Hyatt previously owned a stake in Oasis Collections, though it was bought out last year.
Starting a home rental service might also cause problems for Marriott, because many of its hotels are franchises whose owners might feel that the new service is cannibalising their pool of potential guests.
Airbnb's chief executive, Brian Chesky, has described its push into hotels as part of building an "end-to-end travel platform" which embraces all possible forms of travel. It is facing stiff competition for cheap travel from booking services such as Expedia, Booking.com and Trivago, all of which now offer home rentals.
A spokesman for Airbnb said of any new home rental services: “We welcome them to the party and wish them bon voyage.”
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