Hyatt Hotels Corp. invested in onefinestay, a
closely held company that enables travelers to rent upscale private homes, the
rare instance of a major hotel operator aligning with the burgeoning
home-rental industry. Onefinestay matches homeowners looking to rent their
residences in London, New York, Los Angeles and Paris with travelers. It manages
a portfolio of more than 2,500 homes with a combined value of more than $5
billion, said the company.
It is unclear how much Hyatt invested in onefinestay, but a
person familiar with the matter said it was part of a nearly $40 million round
of funding that was completed at the end of last year. Last fall, Hyatt sold
for about $220 million a time-share operation with units in states like
Florida, Arizona and Colorado. The company doesn’t view that business as the
same as onefinestay’s urban home-rental operations.
Onefinestay has a fraction of the inventory managed by home-
and vacation-rental firms such as Airbnb Inc. and HomeAway Inc., which
each have more than a million listings, according to a report from investment
bank Evercore Partners. Hyatt’s investment is likely to capture the
attention of rivals such as Marriott International Inc. and Hilton
Worldwide Holdings Inc., which hotel consultants say have been
monitoring closely the impact of the home-rental companies on the lodging
Hyatt’s stake in onefinestay is the clearest sign yet that a
major hotel operator views the home-rental market as a viable business. For the
most part, hotel executives have tried to distance their companies from the
home-rental startups. They have said these firms aren’t competitors because
they don’t offer the same security measures and quality-control found in hotels
and don’t necessarily compete for the same customer.
Executives at onefinestay, launched in London in 2010, say
the company provides a service closer to what is found in a luxury hotel than
the chains acknowledge. The company partners with owners of higher-end properties,
setting a price for the guest’s stay and charging the owner a fee. It also
offers a higher-level of service than the larger home-rental companies
including Airbnb, though that company recently said it would be pursuing more
vacation rentals as tighter local government controls impede on its core urban
Staff from onefinestay greet visitors when they arrive at
the home and provide them with a 24-hour hotline in case they get locked out or
something at the home goes wrong. Onefinestay homes are stocked with fresh
linens and towels, and an iPhone preloaded with apps recommending local shops,
restaurants and attractions.
The high-end home-rental companies may find they face some
of the same legal challenges as Airbnb. In New York, for instance, politicians
have said that many Airbnb hosts run afoul of a 2010 state lodging law that
prohibits people from renting their apartments for fewer than 30 days unless
the occupants are also present.
Onefinestay hosts could be in violation of the same New York
law if they rent entire homes for less than a month. But with only about 500
listings in New York, the company hasn’t faced the criticism that Airbnb has
seen with its much larger New York listings.
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