At the end of April, Marriott announced Homes & Villas by Marriott International, a collection of 2,000 bookable luxury homes across the U.S., the Caribbean, Latin America and Europe. The company seems confident that booking its new properties — from California wine country cottages to Irish castles that sleep 17 — will be a breeze.
Today, Airbnb officially launched Airbnb Luxe, “a new luxury experience that makes personal and bespoke travel more accessible to everyone.” In other words, what Marriott is offering, but within a user-friendly booking platform people already know is a breeze.
The development isn’t very surprising. Marriott is the third largest hotel chain in the world, with 5,974 hotels across 110 countries, with 1.1 million rooms between them. Airbnb, though, has four times more properties than Marriott has rooms, with over four million listings in 191 of the planet’s 195 total countries … across an astonishing 81,000 cities. Part of Airbnb’s sheer volume can be attributed to its unique brand of block-to-block variety. The company gives a platform to low-cost, low-expectation casualness (think single rooms, workspace apartments) viral-destined wackiness (treehouses, converted camper vans) and every suburban colonial in between.
Of course, Marriott doesn’t need to replicate Airbnb’s master-of-none MO. It’s been too good at hospitality for too long (92 years) to abandon its model now. But its portfolio does need to expand if the brand’s going to thrive going forward, which is why a collection of home rentals that mesh those “driver’s seat” elements of a personal stay, with the incomparable attention to detail of a global accommodations powerhouse, makes so much sense. Particularly when considering that Airbnb isn’t the only game in town, and other, hotter young brands are eager to usher in the age of the “hometel.”
Fascinatingly, as Marriott borrows ideas from Airbnb, Airbnb is borrowing luxury services and concepts from Marriott and those like it. Consider Airbnb’s quiet acquisition of Luxury Rentals, a high-end mansion, penthouse and villa company. That 2017 deal directly led to today’s launch of Airbnb Luxe.
These new stays sure look like hotel villas if you squint, and some are even on the premises of resorts. They come equipped with a personal concierge (which Airbnb calls a Trip Designer), who will schedule everything from airport pick-ups to lessons on a SUP board to fresh grocery deliveries. Some have personal chefs, most have drivers. You can usually bet on child-care and tennis courts.
Developments like Home & Villas by Marriott International and Airbnb Luxe have landed each company in an indiscernible, almost amusing middle ground where, quite frankly, the biggest winner is us. Picking a place to stay for vacation is nothing like having to choose a sandwich from the big board at a deli you’ve never been to while the guy behind the counter stares impatiently at you. (Just us?) Picking a place to spend lots of money takes loads of time, oodles of research, and will inevitably run into roadblocks, when dates don’t work out or others book before you. The more options the better always holds true for vacation.
So we decided we’d give you 10 to really sink your teeth into from Airbnb Luxe, including villas in Tulum, Florence and Hawaii. Every property has a pool, because we honestly struggled to find any without, and all are quite expensive. Don’t worry. You’ll make it back.
Our favorites below.
VILLA CHIANTI FORNACE
Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, Italy
South Caicos, Turks and Caicos
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
ON THE ROCKS
Palm Springs, California
Updated June 25, 2019; this article was originally published on May 2, 2019.
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