Marriott expands to vacation rentals, including several properties in Austin

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the popularity of vacation rentals and short term rentals continue to climb, one legacy hotel chain is looking to offer those types of properties too. 

Marriott International’s Homes & Villas site went live on Friday, allowing people booking on the Marriott website for stays of three days or more to see options to rent a home during their trip. 

Homes & Villas by Marriott International is described as a new offering by Marriott from a handful of trusted property managers, including one Austin company: TurnKey Vacation Rentals.

A property in Austin featured on Marriott International's Homes & Villa's site. This home rental is offered through Austin-based company TurnKey Vacation Rentals (KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard). 

Homes & Villas Program 

On April 29, Marriott announced the Homes & Villas program, offering 2,000 homes to rent in more than 100 places globally. Homes & Villas told KXAN they picked these rentals based on existing Marriott International hotel locations as well as where the rental companies they worked with had “exceptional inventory that met their high standards.”

Members of Marriott Bonvoy (the new name of the Marriott rewards program) can now earn and redeem points when staying at one of these “highly curated homes.” Previously, these points were only usable at Marriott’s 29 hotel brands. 

Marriott says the program was sparked by “evolving traveler needs” and the success of a pilot program they ran a year ago. During the pilot, the hotel chain found that the average guest’s stay at one of these home rentals was more than triple the typical hotel stay. 

Marriott says these new rental properties give guests options like multiple bedrooms, large kitchens, and in-unit laundry. The program is being rolled out in places defined as “key leisure markets,” and Marriott plans to expand it to more places in the future. These properties can be expensive, they are described as “luxury”  and “premium” homes. 

A spokesperson for Homes & Villas told KXAN via email that the target demographics for these properties are, “families and groups of friends traveling for leisure and looking for premium offerings with 1+ rooms for 3+ nights.”

TurnKey Vacation Rentals

TurnKey Vacation Rentals, an Austin-based full-service vacation rental property management company, announced last week that some of their rental properties (including some in the Austin area) will be available through the new Marriott platform. TurnKey’s properties on Homes & Villas will be in 36 different areas, including Austin, Destin, North Lake Tahoe, and Park City. 

Before TurnKey’s properties were added to the platform, they were audited and reviewed by Marriott to meet the company’s standards for regulation, design, and amenities. 

TurnKey CEO and Co-founder T.J. Clark explained that his company began talks with Marriott about a year ago because the hotel chain was “looking to do something really different in the market that didn’t exist yet.” 

Clark describes these home rentals as having “a fine, hotel level of experience and hospitality,” 

“We think this will be a great thing for Austin, we think it brings the vacation rentals more mainstream,” Clark said, adding that he believes it will bring many travelers to Austin. 

Clark thinks Homes & Villas is tapping into a type of traveler who isn’t looking for traditional hotel accommodations. 

“When people use a vacation rental they are often a larger group, so five is about the average number of people that travel with us,” Clark explained. “They spend a little bit more because they are getting a larger property, and they want to stay together.” 

He believes that the market for booking a place to stay is changing, with more and more guests looking to stay in a home. 

Impacts on the hotel industry

Scott Joslove, President and CEO of the Texas Hotel and Lodging Association, said he would be very surprised “if we don’t see this type of activity [like Home&Villas] taken on by other lodging brands as they deem it appropriate within their portfolio.” 

The rise in popularity of short-term rentals has certainly been felt by legacy lodging companies, he noted. 

“There’s been a huge growth in the amount of short term rentals in a number of communities, and I would point out Austin in particular,” he explained. 

Joslove said that THLA supports any brand or short-term rental operator. 

“We simply also support the right of municipalities to regulate short-term rentals based on their local preferences,” he said, explaining that his organization’s priority is to keep all companies offering places for tourists to stay on an equal playing field. 

He acknowledged that different regions may have different needs when it comes to regulating lodging. 

Joslove said in coastal communities or resort communities, it’s more likely a large percentage of properties are vacation homes and thus those areas may need policies with fewer limitations on hotels and short term rentals. However, he thinks there should be a distinction in cities like Austin, where he believes more of the homes are “primary family residence.” 

Under Austin’s current short-term rental rules which were passed in 2016, the city will have phased out any non-owner occupied short-term rentals from residential areas by 2022. These non-owner occupied short-term rentals, known as Type 2 Short-Term Rentals, are ones where the owner doesn’t live on site or isn’t associated with the site. Under Austin’s current rules, these Type 2 rentals can still be built in commercial areas, and homeowners who live on their property and want to rent it out for a short time can still do so.

Companies like TurnKey, Airbnb, and HomeAway.com have expressed willingness to work with the city to change its policy before the sunset takes effect. But Joslove, who also serves on the city’s Tourism Commission, supports the kind of regulation Austin has. 

“Traditional lodging brands like Marriot or Hilton or Hyatt or Best Western can’t locate a hotel within a residential area, but short term rentals can proliferate in residential areas without any limitation unless the city has the power to restrict that,” Joslove said. “We feel that every community should have the power to determine what’s appropriate, and we should all abide by the same rules.”

“I don’t think the move by Marriott to engage in some short term rental activity changes the industry position or even Marriott’s position as of the right of municipalities to control short term rental proliferation,” Joslove said. 

Back at TurnKey Vacation Rentals, T.J. Clark said he hopes the new Homes & Villas program actually helps city leaders see that traditional hotels and rental properties can collaborate in harmony. 

“We hope this will convince the Austin City Council that the way forward is that premium rentals can coexist in Austin and that it’s a good thing for the city,” Clark said. “Hopefully, we can find a solution where these properties are well cared for, they are respectful in neighborhoods and they bring a valuable customer to Austin, both from an economic standpoint, but also from a cultural standpoint.”

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