With about 5 million listings, Airbnb is the biggest platform for home rentals in the world. It may soon be getting some stiff competition with deep pockets, however: Sources tell the Wall Street Journal that Marriott will next month be launching the first phase of its own US home-sharing business, modeling the program after a pilot program it has already undertaken in Europe. Even though Bloomberg notes that Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson has said in the past that his company isn't after the same budget-conscious consumers that Airbnb is, "it's clear that the home sharing phenomenon is here to stay, and hotel companies want to make sure they get their piece of this pie," one industry expert tells the Journal.
Marriott could face new challenges, including maintaining its fire and safety standards in private homes, as well as alienating its own franchise owners with more competition. It also may not be the only large US hotel firm jumping into the home rental fray: The Journal reports Hyatt and Hilton are in the exploratory phase themselves on the possibility. Part of why Marriott is making its move now may be tied to an anticipated Airbnb IPO next year—the hotel operator might want to get in before Airbnb goes public and expands even further. Fast Company, meanwhile, sees both the positive and negative side of this news for Airbnb: The good news is that if Marriott is trying to get into the home rental business, that business must be booming; the bad news is that more competition could make investors leery on the eve of an IPO. (Read more Marriott stories.)