When the likes of Airbnb and HomeAway first made inroads into the travel industry they created two distinct clubs; established hotels on one side and home rentals on the other.
Now, the lines between the two are blurring as the wider travel industry evolves to cater for the move towards local experiences and unique stays.
AccorHotels is looking to add Travel Keys, a travel broker for high-end villas into its portfolio after last year snapping up London-based Onefinestay to expand its reach into the luxury serviced homes market. The hotel giant has also bought a 30 percent stake in Oasis Collection– which bills itself as home meets hotels platform catering to both leisure and business travellers – and invested in SquareBreak, another digital platform offering premium accommodation in resort location.
“We have seen hotel operators expand in traditional hotel segments through M&A,” says Ben Smith, Vice President, Global M&A at JLL Hotels and Hospitality. “Platforms like Airbnb are an extension of what traditional hotel companies have been doing all along, and in one view not so dissimilar to apartment hotel operators. It is not overly surprising that hotel operators would also be interested in acquiring home rental platforms. Accor now has 8,500 addresses in the luxury private rental market.”
Travel companies too are keen for a slice of the action – and revenue – of these alternative accommodation platforms. Expedia acquired HomeAway in November in 2015 and last year opened an Asian office in Singapore as part of its growth plans in the region.
Collaboration and consolidation ahead
It’s not just a case of global players buying up the market disrupters – collaboration is also another way to go. Luxury collection, Châteaux & Hôtels, for example, announced a joint initiative with Airbnb in 2016 whereby it would offer culinary experiences as part of Airbnb’s Trips venture and put its rooms up on the website.
Such “creative partnerships” between hotel companies and alternative accommodation platforms could also be a way for the latter to grow beyond their existing business models.
Recent research from JLL suggests that home rental sites and the alternative accommodations market account for approximately 10 percent of hotel room bookings in the top global gateway markets such as New York, London and Paris. However, the number of rooms offered by these online platforms is showing some signs of slowing or plateauing growth in urban gateway cities due to the regulatory environment and the number of willing hosts reaching a structural cap.
This may be one reason why Airbnb splashed out on Luxury Retreats to build its presence in the high-end home rental and service sector. And there could well be more consolidation between home rental platforms.
“The lodging industry is still one of the most fragmented consumer industries and there are clear economies of scale, so it is likely that there will be further consolidation going forward. M&A will continue between traditional hotel companies but will likely also involve home rental and online distribution platforms,” adds Smith.
Evolving with the times
As the vacation home rental market matures, it’s also driving innovation among the hotel groups to stay ahead of the curve. Marriott International is targeting travelling families and groups of friends by creating communal spaces such as a kitchen and lounge area outside rooms in its Element brand.
New hybrids are also springing up, such as the Ovolo group’s Mojo Nomad where guests can live and work at selected Ovolo hotels in Hong Kong and Sydney. Zoku, a new hotel in Amsterdam, which is dubbed as “a combination between Airbnb and a WeWork coworking space“, already has plans to expand internationally despite being less than a year old.
While disruption from home rental sites and alternative accommodations remains relatively small in the grand scheme of the global lodging sector, change is rippling through the sector. As the sharing economy continues to develop, more innovative products and new business models will help to meet the evolving needs of modern travelers and in turn, shape the future of the industry.