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The hotel industry and the home-sharing market have long been pitted against each other. And since its launch in 2008, Airbnb has led the charge in the skyrocketing sharing economy. But two other major shareholders in the home-sharing market are Homes & Villas by Marriott International (HVMI), which launched May 2019, and Onefinestay, which was acquired by AccorHotels in 2016.
Neither company is immune to challenges driven from the coronavirus, but they do have one significant, powerful advantage: travel advisor partners. (Both companies offer commission to advisors.)
Jennifer Hsieh, vice president of HVMI, acknowledges the home-sharing market’s sharp drop in demand and increase in cancellations, which were consistent with the broader travel industry. But she believes that home sharing will see a faster resurgence than most travel segments.
“We are already seeing a recovery as consumers are eager to plan a getaway for a much-needed change to their current lifestyle, or they are booking vacations further out as something to look forward to,” she said.
Amanda Dyjecinski, chief brand and marketing officer for Onefinestay, is also confident that short-term rentals will see renewed interest as more guests seek privacy.
“Brands will have to deliver additional reassurances such as consistency, high standards of service, hotel-quality housekeeping standards and potentially even external certification,” she said. “Onefinestay is well placed because we’ve always operated at the luxury end of the home-sharing market, delivering a higher standard of service and hospitality.”
Below, Hsieh and Dyjecinski share their predictions on how the home-sharing market will adjust and recover.
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Partnering With Travel Advisors Will Be Crucial.Onefinestay anticipates that the role of the advisor will become increasingly integral in the travel planning process.
“In the immediate future, travel might seem riskier and more complex,” Dyjecinski said. “Guests will look to trusted experts for advice and guidance on which destinations are open; the extent of that openness; and additional insights into how they can enjoy the travel experience in the wake of coronavirus.”
Guests will look to trusted experts for advice and guidance on which destinations are open; the extent of that openness; and additional insights into how they can enjoy the travel experience in the wake of coronavirus.
Dyjecinski says that the company has doubled down on this partnership via a relaunched travel partners section on its website. There, advisors can learn more about booking benefits, sales team contacts and more.
Meanwhile, Marriott is currently working to launch a pilot program with Marriott’s Luxury Travel Advisors who operate in North America, Europe and Middle East source markets, says Hsieh. The program will offer a selection of luxury homes and villas to advisors’ luxury clientele.
Cancellation Policies Will Be More Forgiving.Countless advisors and clients were burned by inflexible cancellation policies following the coronavirus outbreak. As a result, people are reasonably wary of booking future trips.
Hsieh says that flexibility will be key in driving consumer confidence to book stays with HVMI. As a result, the company has introduced lenient cancellation policies that are not typical for the home rental industry.
“Working with our home management companies, HVMI has introduced a new 10-day cancellation option for summer travel that applies to bookings made after May 6 for arrival before or on Aug. 1 of this year,” she said. “We hope knowing that they can make changes up to 10 days ahead of their planned arrival dates helps travelers plan summer getaways.”
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Hsieh adds that this cancellation option offers guests a full refund with the exception of the $75 credit card processing fee.
Likewise, Onefinestay has updated its cancellation policy to balance the needs and demands of its guests and homeowners.
“In our City Collection for example, if an eligible guest booked a nonflexible rate and a postponement isn’t possible, then we are offering them vouchers that are valid for 12 months and can be used toward a stay in any one of our 5,000 homes and villas worldwide,” Dyjecinski said. “The majority of our guests accept this solution as they know they’ll be traveling again once this is over.”
Apart from the amount of space that a rental home provides, the ability to control who comes into contact with shared spaces will be an important factor for these travelers.
Already Stringent Health and Safety Measures Will Ramp Up.According to Hsieh, HVMI has a competitive advantage in times like these.
“Marriott International has been built on 93 years of operational excellence,” she said. “We have the ability to bring our experience and resources into the home rental space, and we know travelers need to feel confident especially when it comes to cleanliness. This commitment is shared by our hand-picked home management companies that take care of our properties.”
New health and safety measures include COVID-specific disinfection and enhanced training procedures, based on input from experts in hygiene, infection prevention and vacation home rentals. Marriott International recently launched its Marriott Cleanliness Council, as well.
Meanwhile, Onefinestay is also expanding upon its commitment to the health and safety of guests.
“In our City Collection, for example, we control the end-to-end cleaning,” Dyjecinski said. “Every home is ventilated and thoroughly prepared by our team of trained housekeepers before and after each stay. Our linens are washed at a commercial laundry. We clean all accessible rooms and surfaces, including disinfecting high-touch areas as well as inside cupboards and appliances. Weekly housekeeping is included, but guests can also request additional housekeeping throughout their stay, and we are happy to perform further deep cleaning upon request.”
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Entire-Home Rentals Will See a Faster Recovery.Entire-home rentals will have inherent advantages in the wake of COVID-19, says Hsieh. She notes that such properties are typically located in drive-to destinations that are immersed in nature, and they also provide assurance of cleanliness.
According to Hsieh, entire-home properties offer benefits including contactless arrival via access codes that allow consumers to enter and stay without any interaction with others. They also provide full privacy and control over an environment; amenities such as access to washer-and-dryer machines; proximity to pools, beaches and lakes; and professional cleaning services.
Rentals With More Space and Amenities Will Be in High Demand.Indeed, Onefinestay’s Dyjecinski believes that practical attributes — such as an open-plan living space and a well-equipped kitchen for homecooked meals — will make home rentals an appealing post-coronavirus option.
“For luxury travelers, individual homes with large spaces, gardens, pools, in-home entertainment and private gyms may become even more enticing than before — but only if the experience is married with premium services and professional hospitality,” she said.
Hsieh predicts that travelers will be looking to reconnect with family and friends who they have missed while under stay-at-home orders, and thus may be traveling in groups.
“Homes that can accommodate larger companies are sparking interest,” she said. “Apart from the amount of space that a rental home provides, the ability to control who comes into contact with shared spaces will be an important factor for these travelers.”
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