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Marriott Challenges Airbnb with New Luxury Home Rentals

Sarah Feldberg




The house spans three bedrooms and 2,700 square feet, set on 4 acres of the former Spreckels Estate in Sonoma, which belonged to a family of sugar barons who created the Legion of Honor, owned much of downtown San Diego and once stormed the Chronicle offices, shooting publisher M.H. de Young in response to an unflattering story. (Guns were apparently prevalent in the newsroom in those days. A newspaper advertising clerk fired back, and though de Young was hit twice, he survived.)


Today, the grounds house a newly built home with Sonoma Valley and Mayacamas Mountains views, 14-foot-high wood ceilings and French doors that look out onto a grand pool. It can all be yours — for a tidy $1,979 per night.


The home is one of the first listings through Homes & Villas by Marriott International, a new division the hotel giant started this month with 2,000 luxury properties in 100 markets throughout North and Central America, the Caribbean and Europe. The new business brings Marriott International — which already controls more than 1.3 million hotel rooms around the world through brands like the Ritz-Carlton, W Hotels and Westin — into more competition with short-term home rental players like VRBO, HomeAway and Airbnb.


In 2018, the company started a pilot program to test home rentals in three European cities. Linnartz said the success of the pilot led directly to the start of the new Homes & Villas division and provided some key data for the hotel company: Almost 90% of guests during the test were members of Marriott’s loyalty program; 75% were families and groups traveling for leisure; and they stayed an average of 5.1 nights — about three times the average stay at a hotel.


While Marriott is dipping a toe in home rentals, Airbnb has gradually begun to move into traditional hotels and tours. In 2016, the company started its Experiences arm, which connects guests to activities like dumpling classes and Instagram photo shoots hosted by locals. Last year it partnered on home-booking "apart-hotels" in Orlando and Nashville, with plans to add up to 12 more by the end of 2019. In March, Airbnb acquired last-minute hotel-booking engine HotelTonight, and the company is working with a developer to convert 10 floors of Rockefeller Plaza into suite-style hotel rooms bookable exclusively on the platform.


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