At the end of April, Marriott made waves when they announced their plan to go head to head with Airbnb with their new home rental platform.
And now it's live. The platform, called Marriott Homes & Villas, launched for bookings on May 9, according to the Frequent Miler. And these properties are bookable using both cash and Marriott Bonvoy points.
The service makes Marriott the first major hotel company to offer home-rentals in the United States. The hotel chain has been piloting the concept in Europe, which was the model for domestic operations. It also gives them the ability to compete with the likes of Airbnb and HomeAway, two platforms that have no doubt made a huge impact on the hotel industry.
What You Need to Know
Unlike Airbnb and HomeAway, the rental properties offered through Marriott Homes and Villas are only offered through select vacation property management companies and not one-off real-estate owners.
To book any of Marriott's Home and Villas properties, you must first go to the Homes & Villas website. However, at the time of this story publishing, I haven't been able to find any properties outside of the U.S. with available dates. No matter the location or the dates selected, I continue to get the following message:
I assume this is just a temporary IT hiccup, but we will keep an eye on availability for international Homes and Villas locations.
Booking a Marriot Home or Villa
If you are looking for a property within the United States, there are a lot of options and the interface seems to be working well. For example, I did some searching for the Lake Tahoe area for a long weekend in March of 2020.
I came across this lovely three bedroom cabin on the California side of the lake going for an average of $419 per night during the dates I had selected.
After factoring in a cleaning fee that equates to 22% of the booking cost ($283) and $140 of taxes, you would be looking at a total cost for the weekend of $1,680. Considering this property sleeps a total of seven guests, that would be $240 per person for the weekend.
Also, if you are paying cash, you will earn Marriott Bonvoy points on the rental at a rate of 5 points per dollar, plus the standard bonuses for Marriott elites.
Booking with Marriot Points
But the story doesn't end there. Unlike Airbnb and HomeAway who don't have loyalty programs of their own, you can actually use Marriott Bonvoy points to book these properties.
In order to do so, you will enter your Marriott account information during the booking process which will put a hold on your reservation until they and verify your account information and that you have enough points in the account to make the booking.
Overall, this seems a little clunky and I am not sure if being able to log in to your Marriott account directly is something they will add in the future.
Using our example above, the total cost for our long weekend paying cash was $1,680 after factoring in the cleaning fee and taxes. However, if using Marriott Bonvoy points you can book this same reservation for a total of 240,000 Bonvoy points.
This works out to a value of 0.7 cents for each Marriott point you use ($1,680/240,000 points). I checked a few other reservations and that seems to be the standard redemption rate for properties within the U.S.
In my opinion, this is a pretty good value for Marriott points as you should be able to get similar value for hotel stays. According to the Frequent Miler, when they were testing this concept in England, points were seemingly only worth 0.4 cents each.
Since it isn't yet possible to book properties outside of the U.S., it isn't clear yet whether 0.7 cents for each point will be the standard redemption rate worldwide or only within the U.S.
It is also important to know that Marriott's 5th night free on award bookings does not apply to Homes and Villas bookings.
The current state of the Marriott Homes and Villas platform likely won't appeal to the average Airbnb user looking for a cheap apartment rental. The properties offered currently seem to be more elaborate vacation homes that can accommodate many guests than the small studio style apartments that make Airbnb such a great option for budget travelers.
This may change in the future, but that is my take away after browsing properties available within the U.S.
I love that Marriott is entering the home rental market and making the properties bookable with points. However, there are a few things I think could use some improvement.
For starters, the current process for booking with points seems a little bit clunky. You don't actually log into your Marriott Bonvoy account to make the booking. You fill out a separate form where you enter your account information and somebody at Marriott has to verify that you actually have the points available to make the booking within 48 hours.
Next, there is not currently a way to pool Marriott Bonvoy points with other members for the purpose of booking a property. I have to imagine that more often than not, there will be groups of people with Marriott points spread around in different accounts interested in making a booking.
Currently, there isn't a way to do this unless users transfer their Marriott points into one account before making a reservation. While possible, it isn't the most user-friendly process, and certainly falls short of Hilton's points pooling process which is industry leading.
Marriott could really differentiate themselves if they provided a user-friendly way for multiple users to combine points quickly and easily for the purpose of a Homes and Villas booking.
Marriott's home rental platform, Homes and Villas is now live for bookings within the U.S. It isn't currently possible to book anything abroad, but stay tuned to see if that is added soon.