Last fall I found several Marriott hotels sell their rooms for less on Airbnb than at Marriott.com. Marriott isn’t ok with this and cracked down on the specific properties I noted, but the practice continues and one guest even managed a successful best rate guarantee against an Airbnb listing.
So I was just booking a trip to NYC for later this summer. Since I’ll be staying for a week and I have already hit 75 nights at Marriott, I figured I’d check AirBnB as well. As I was looking around on AirBnB, I noticed a picture that seemed familiar, and as it turns out it was the same Marriott hotel room listed on AirBnB for $100 cheaper/night. It’s not like they were discrete about it either, the description of the AirBnB listing clearly spelled out the hotel name and made it clear that you are actually booking/checking in at the hotel.
I’ve even documented instances where the difference in room rate was over $450 per night!
Hotels sell through Airbnb to
- reach a different market not searching Marriott.com or Expedia, and
- price discriminate, pick up business that’s more price sensitive while not undercutting the higher rates they’re getting through traditional channels.
Marriott is hurt when it’s possible to book their own rooms cheaper somewhere else, so the practice isn’t actually allowed. Plus they have their own homesharing site so Marriott hotel properties are fueling inventory for the competition – and it’s Airbnb getting a cut of the revenue instead of Marriott!
I’m surprised Marriott’s agent acknowledged the room the guest found was the same and agreed that it was the same hotel, actually. Usually it seems they’ll go to any length to deny a claim. But you may want to use Airbnb listings against the Best Rate Guarantee and lower your room rate by 25% of take 5000 points if someone else is paying. Here’s Marriott’s Best Rate Guarantee.
When price is the same you’re going to want to book direct, because
- You’ll receive elite benefits (while third party stays aren’t supposed to)
- You’ll earn points, and Airbnb still hasn’t launched a rewards program
- You’ll earn credit towards elite status
- Sometimes third party bookings get worse rooms, though it’s unclear how scofflaw properties posting their inventory to Airbnb treat Airbnb guests
However if a Best Rate Guarantee doesn’t work to match and even lower the Airbnb rate, book on Airbnb because the savings can be worth forgoing Bonvoy benefits.
What’s perhaps most striking is that even after I pointed out to Marriott several of their hotels that were doing this back in November, they didn’t assign someone to continue to Google “airbnb+[Marriott brand]” to suss this stuff out. Though I suppose there’s a certain laziness combined with desire not to anger owners – perhaps they view it as better in the short run to let owners generate incremental income and not give them a reason to reflag with another brand (taking their fees with them).