Why the British 'Airbnb for the rich' sees hotels like Hyatt as a friend, not an enemy

The hotel industry might be a lucrative partner — or at least not an adversary — for the fledgling home-sharing economy.

The first confirmed step towards that was Hyatt Hotel’s new pilot program with Onefinestay. The British startup, often referred to as the “Airbnb for the Rich,” lets luxury homeowners rent out their units while they’re away.

The pilot program between the two companies is an admittedly small step: Onefinestay is giving its renters an opportunity to freshen up at the Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill if they arrive early for their rental.

But, it’s also a first for home-sharing company to make inroads with a large traditional hotel brand, and it’s just the beginning.

“We quite strongly believe this is about complimenting, rather than competing with, traditional luxury upscale hotels,” Onefinestay’s CEO Greg Marsh told Business Insider.

Onefinestay is still in discussion with many hospitality companies, including some of the traditional hotel chains, about other partnerships, Marsh said.

“A natural opportunity here might be to work with an established loyalty points programs. And indeed we’ve recently done a partnership with Virtuoso group and with the American Express Centurion group,” Marsh said.

The company has already learned a lot from traditional hotel operators — it just views itself as one large hotel spread out across the city. It still has concierge services, house keeping, and maintenance teams, plus it uses a lot of the same linen suppliers and staffing agencies as normal hotels.

While Marsh admits some hotel chains are more reticent than others to become partners, it was Hyatt Hotels who first decided to engage with the home-sharing startup. It invested in Onefinestay’s most recent $US40 million funding round, and then created this partnership program.

“Hyatt is always staying abreast of changing consumer preferences and testing new ways to deliver on those expectations. Whether it’s collaborating with Onefinestay, teaming up with Uber, or working with Reaction Housing, we continually look for ways to better the guest experience, both inside and outside the walls of Hyatt hotels,” said Jeff Semenchuk, the chief innovation officer at Hyatt, in an email to Business Insider.

The program in London is just one modest step, but Marsh is already looking at how to partner across all cities with the hospitality industry that is normally its opponent.

“This is an idea whose time has come. There’s a lot that both of these industries can learn from one and other,” Marsh said. “They don’t have to be in such opposition to each other.”

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