In the era of Airbnb, travelers have gotten comfortable with the idea of choosing between a full-service hotel and the extra perks of a home rental -- like kitchen access, lounge areas, and interaction with locals. It's not a particularly surprising (or, at this point, new) development. We want more immersion, more culture, and a taste of what it's like to actually live in the destinations that we visit. Hotel brands, however, have been taking note; in fact, more and more are starting to manage their very own vacation rentals, so that guests don't have to choose between the comforts of home and the comforts of the hotel at all.
For just one example, Be Mate launched last September and comes from the trendy Spanish chain Room Mate (which we've featured over the years for its affordable-chic accommodations). Each apartment rental is within walking distance of a Room Mate or partner hotel, where guests first check in for a quick orientation as well as instructions for getting to the rental. 24/7 concierge support and troubleshooting -- say, if an appliance is broken -- is complimentary, while guests can opt for a la carte services like housekeeping, event tickets, transfers, and more. In the fall, 25,000 apartments were available for booking in 10 cities across North America and Europe; by the end of this year, BeMate hopes to expand to 200 cities.
Interestingly enough, the company's president, Enrique Sarasola, also highlighted security as a main draw for booking a rental through a hotel. After all, we've all heard of Airbnb horror stories, from both the renter and homeowner perspective. Guests who might be wary of doing business with strangers can feel better knowing that Be Mate's team personally visits and vets all their apartments and handles all communications and payments. In other words, the chances of something going wrong should be much lower here -- but if it does, you know who's responsible for sorting it out.
We heard that the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group also launched a Private Residences collection last fall, but it's not just the hip hotels or uber-luxe properties that are jumping on the bandwagon. Wyndham Hotel Group has been in the rental game for decades, similarly managing regular inspections, local check-in and check-out processes, and more. At the end of 2013, it also launched a home exchange program, enticing more homeowners to join their portfolio in exchange for comped stays. They now have a whopping 100,000 properties worldwide.
While we can only hope that this trend continues across the board, one thing's for sure: Travelers now have more options than ever when it comes to accommodations. And we have no complaints about that.