Largely in response to the growing competitive threat posed by Airbnb and other players in the home-sharing rental space, major hotel companies, including AccorHotels, Hilton and Hyatt (which invested in Oasis Collections), have been accelerating their expansion into the vacation rental industry game. This summer, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts launched its Four Seasons Private Retreats, expanding its own rental portfolio, as well.
The world’s largest hotel company, Marriott International, whose brands include Ritz-Carlton, Sheraton W Hotels and Starwood, launched a pilot program last year in Europe allowing rental guests to accumulate and redeem loyalty points through its Bonvoy loyalty program in the same way that they would do at other Marriott properties and hotels.
The Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest were replaced in February with the launch of the Marriott Bonvoy app. The app was designed to make it even easier for people to search and book hotels across Marriott’s portfolio of 6,700 participating hotels across 30 brands in 130 countries, engage in mobile check-in (with an alert sent when the room is ready), use mobile key (in select hotels) to enter the room, submit mobile requests for service and amenities, and chat with representatives before, during, and after their stay.
By all accounts, the home-sharing pilot proved to be successful, leading to the announcement, in April of this year, that Marriott would launch of its Homes & Villas by Marriott International program, offering 2,000 luxury properties in over 100 destinations around the world around the world for a minimum three-night stay.
Now, five months later, Marriott has announced that BookingPal, a provider of software technology solutions for vacation rental property managers and owners worldwide, has been named the exclusive provider of connectivity technology for all property management suppliers on the newly launched Homes & Villas by Marriott International platform.
Marriott’s offering of luxury rentals in the alternative accommodations space comes at the same time that Airbnb is rebranding its high-end rental offerings as Luxe, which launched early this summer. While Marriott has focused on offering luxury properties, it has also explored ways to contract with property management companies that would manage on-site logistics and in-person support.
Of course, Marriott would be required to abide by the same city restrictions as platforms like Airbnb. Marriott’s home-sharing pilot platform in Europe was launched in partnership with London-based property management company Hostmaker.
BookingPal will bring its advanced vacation rental technology to Homes & Villas by Marriott International. The solution provider’s advanced distribution technology and intelligent automation tools are used by thousands of vacation rental managers and owners to increase their booking volume and revenue, and to simplify their guest acquisition operations.
Homes & Villas by Marriott International will leverage the company’s connectivity platform, inventory management portal, reservation and payment engine, central reservation system, and customer service portal. In a statement, Jennifer Hsieh, VP, Homes & Villas by Marriott International, said, “Marriott has a history of innovation, and BookingPal’s capabilities have helped us quickly establish our new home rental offering providing guests, including members of our travel program Marriott Bonvoy, with more accommodation options to meet their evolving travel needs.”
Marriott has launched a large number of high-profile technology-enabled initiatives over the past year. It has also launched a number of less-buzzworthy initiatives that have nonetheless served to enhance the quality of the guest experience. With the acquisition of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, for example, Marriott immediately enabled members of its loyalty programs – Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest – to link their accounts, allowing members to have their status matched across all three programs, which was no easy feat from a technology and data integration perspective.
Other examples, including the introduction of personalized app experiences with Mobile Check-in, Mobile Requests and Mobile Key, demonstrate how the company seeks to leverage technology in new ways to connect with guests.
“Digital transformation is not only speeding up, but it is broadening,” said Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott, in discussing the company’s continued innovation in hotel guest-facing technologies. “It’s in every aspect of our business.”