Marriott International is launching a home rental program as it struggles to stay ahead of the shifts in the hospitality industry, largely brought on by Airbnb. Pic: Marriott Vacation Club
Marriott International, the biggest hotel operator in the world, is launching a home rental program as it struggles to stay ahead of the shifts in the hospitality industry, largely brought on by Airbnb.

Starting next week, guests will be able to book homes in 100 markets throughout the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America, Marriott announced late Monday. 

Homes & Villas by Marriott International was first reported by in the Wall Street Journal. The wide-ranging offerings include an 18th century Irish castle and a six-bedroom London townhouse with an indoor climbing wall.

"The launch of Homes & Villas by Marriott International reflects our ongoing commitment to innovation as consumer travel needs evolve," Stephanie Linnartz, Marriott's Global Chief Commercial Officer said in a statement. "What started out as a pilot a year ago is now a global offering, providing our guests with the space and amenities of a home backed by a trusted travel company, and the very best in loyalty benefits."

Marriott's move highlights the growing overlap between traditional hospitality leaders and such alternatives as Airbnb as they jockey for control of a changing industry. 
Airbnb offers 6 million listings worldwide, far more than any other hospitality company; last year, its sales eclipsed Hilton's, according to data from Second Measure.

Already the biggest name in hotels with nearly 1.3 million rooms around the world, Marriott will now be the first major hotel chain to offer its own home-sharing services.

Other hotels have tried to cross into the home-sharing business through acquisitions, but none has seen much success.

Paris-based AccorHotels purchased Onefinestay in 2016, but the investment hasn't been very fruitful. Hyatt Hotels invested in high-end home rental service Oasis Collections in 2017 but sold it last year, blaming regulatory issues.

The 2,000-some rentals available through Homes & Villas won't be managed by homeowners, but by third-party property companies. Rentals will be eligible for points through Marriott's loyalty programs, just like they are through Marriott's other brands, including Sheraton, Ritz-Carlton and Westin.

"These trusted property management companies provide guests a professionally cleaned home with 24/7 support, high speed Wi-Fi, premium linens and amenities, and family-friendly conveniences upon request," Marriott said in a news release.

The full program follows a successful year-long pilot in Europe, which involved 340 properties in Rome, Lisbon, Paris and London. Nearly 90 percent of customers who booked homes through the pilot were members of Marriott Bonvoy, the company's recently renamed loyalty program. The average stay was three times as long as a typical hotel stay, the Bethesda, Md.-based company said in a news release.

Just as Marriott dives into the home rental market, Airbnb is dipping its toes into hotel territory. In recent months, the San Francisco-based company has invested in the Indian hotel-booking company Oyo Hotels & Homes, acquired Hotel Tonight, a discount hotel-booking company, and announced its first hotel in New York City: 10 floors of converted luxury apartments in Rockefeller Center. The company has also doubled its boutique hotel, hostel and resort listings in the past year.

Airbnb's success has been hampered by the company's battles with local governments in markets around the world, which claim Airbnb listings function as hotels while sidestepping regulatory restrictions.