The world’s biggest hotel company has moved into private home rentals

Homes & Villas by Marriott International launched in May, offering luxury home (and villa and castle) rentals across the world, including in Maine.

Ocean’s Edge Cottage in Boothbay, Maine. –Marriott International

At the beginning of May, Homes & Villas by Marriott International launched, marking the world’s biggest hotelier’s official move into the home rental market.

With a portfolio of more than 2,000 select homes, villas, and castles located in more than 100 destinations throughout the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and Latin America, it’s a significant expansion of the already massive Marriott empire, which includes Sheraton, Ritz-Carlton, and Westin among its 30 brands.  

“It’s a nice start,” said Stephanie Linnartz, Marriott International’s global chief commercial officer. “The range of properties is amazing: from private beach villas to castles to urban lofts. It’s important to note, these include 40 new markets where there are no Marriott hotels. It has expanded where we offer stays.”

Broughton Hall in Yorkshire, England. —Marriott International

Marriott is working with established property management companies in all locations. In the US, Turnkey Vacation Rentals oversees properties in 12 states, with a large concentration in Florida. In New England, so far the only properties are in Maine.

“Maine is a great place to start; it was at the top of our list,” Linnartz said. “We would be interested in looking at properties in Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, and other areas in New England. The emphasis is on properties that meet our requirements.”

Those requirements are top-notch design and furnishings, 24-hour support and check in, WiFi, and children’s amenities, if needed.

Phippsburg, Maine. —Marriott International

Rates are as varied as the properties, from the two-bedroom Sea Glass Cottage in Bar Harbor (sleeps four; from $157 per night), to the six-bedroom Ocean’s Edge Cottage on Pratt’s Island, 10 minutes from Boothbay Harbor (sleeps 14; from $873 per night). Taxes and a cleaning fee can add up to $500 to the total cost.

The move, said Linnartz, is influenced by market changes, including the success of the 2008-launched home renting/sharing service Airbnb, and more upscale companies like One Fine Stay, a luxury vacation rental service founded in 2009 and acquired by Accor Hotels in 2016.

“For several years, the explosion in home rentals and home shares showed a definite trend we were watching closely,” Linnartz said. “Our company always makes sure we are on top of trends.”

East Boothbay, Maine. —Marriott International

What distinguishes the Homes & Villas offering, Linnartz said, is its “consistency in giving an unparalleled experience.”

“Others can be great or terrible; we offer consistency in our product,” she said. “We have very strict standards. The property managers partnered with our team visited so many sites. The right term is ‘highly curated.’”

Though the plan is to expand the number of properties worldwide, that will not include budget stays.

“We are interested in growing in the luxury market and thoughtfully expanding,” Linnartz said, “but only in the luxury market.”

Rutherford Island in South Bristol, Maine. —Marriott International

Before launching Homes & Villas by Marriott International, Marriott experimented with a pilot program, Tribute Portfolio Homes, which ran last year in four European cities. The test results revealed bookings were mostly made by long stay leisure travelers, and a high proportion of those travelers were part of the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program.

“We tested and learned,” Linnartz said. “Among the guests who booked a property in the pilot, 87% of them were Marriott Bonvoy members. Members can earn and redeem points, the same as in a Marriott hotel.

“So,” she continued, “maybe you’re a road warrior and you’re staying in Sheratons and Courtyard by Marriott and all our hotels around the country. You can redeem your points for a family vacation in a villa in Tuscany.”