The world has changed over the last few years, and our definition of luxury has changed with it. Gaudy experiences now feel gauche: Why spend $25,000 a week at an island retreat just to share pool space with Instagram influencers when you can rent a private villa for the same price? With travelers in search of exclusivity, the realm of property rentals has exploded. It’s not a new trend: Vrbo has been active since 1995, and Airbnb commands $75 billion of market value, with six million active listings.
But now, global hotel brands are racing to capture their share of the market, using their expertise in delivering five-star service to create experiences that go above and beyond. French hospitality company Accor—of the Raffles, Faena and Sofitel brands—also owns Onefinestay, through which owners can lease their properties. It offers many of the amenities one would expect from a hotel, including private chef services, a 24/7 concierge, childcare and in-room spa treatments. Onefinestay currently manages more than 2,700 listings across 50 destinations, and this year has announced a range of new additions from Provence to Manhattan.
For hotels in particular, the addition of branded properties opens the possibility of beefing up existing inventory with residences. Search for a hotel room at the stunning Rosewood Mayakoba in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, for instance, and you’ll be shown not only the typical range of Lagoon and Oceanview suites, but also a number of freestanding residences—including the spectacular Founder’s Villa, a 16,300-square-foot, six-bedroom beachfront house that goes for $25,000 a night.
“In a residence, you’re able to provide services beyond what a typical hotel can provide, such as wine curation and exceptional private dining,” says Brad Berry, Rosewood Hotel Group’s vice president of global residential development. “We can offer in-home experiences in a functionally designed space that allows us to do that.”
And it’s not just corporations getting in on the game. On Cape Cod, one of the Wequassett Resort and Golf Club’s most popular bookings is its freestanding three-bedroom Mother Goose House. It offers the seclusion and intimacy of a private home but is just a short walk from the five-star property’s pool deck. And just across the sound from there, Nantucket businesswoman Tessa Cressman has launched The Green Market Farm, a seven-bedroom short-term rental estate on Wauwinet Road. As the owner of a catering business and market, Cressman is able to offer her renters bespoke chef and event-planning services and uses her experience as a lifelong Nantucketer to curate custom itineraries so visitors can see the island as locals do.
On an island awash with rental houses, it’s how she chooses to stand out. “I want to show guests a more authentic, natural side of the island,” says Cressman. “We’re providing more service than any other rental, and privacy that even the best hotel here can’t touch.”