Hotel or vacation rental? New site says: How about both?

When Sandra Sabatini booked a short-term rental apartment in Vancouver this summer, she got more than she bargained for.

Sabatini’s $80-per-night accommodations, which she describes as “beautifully decorated and spare” were part of a lodging industry experiment that launches today. Sonder is a startup that is trying to combine the reliability of a hotel with the authenticity of a rental. In a sense, it may have already succeeded.

The site, named for the German word for “special,” has been testing its concept for the last several months through Airbnb and other online booking sites. It aims to find a space between hotels, with their standardized list of amenities and services, and home rentals, which can offer more privacy and space and, often, lower cost.

Sonder describes its units, such as the one Sabatini booked, as “hometels” and requires each apartment to pass a rigorous 237-point inspection before joining its collection.

The Sonder idea isn’t necessarily new. The $29 billion-a-year private accommodation market has struggled with its uneven accommodations for as long as rooms have been rented. Professionally-managed rentals and at least one other startup have tried to address the inconsistency that travelers can encounter between properties. And while Sonder represents one of the most organized efforts to date to fix the problem, some guests already seem to be thinking differently about their accommodations. It’s an idea that may be of benefit to you when you look for lodging options during the upcoming holiday travel season.

“Like being at home, only better”

“Sonder’s premise is that there’s no need to choose between the dependability and security offered by the known hotel brands, and the better value, the larger space, and the character of a short-term rental,” explains Francis Davison, Sonder’s co-founder and CEO. “You can have both.”

And both is what Sabatini says she received in Vancouver.

The unit came with everything she would want in an apartment, such as modern appliances, but was as well maintained as a hotel.

“It was like being at home, only better,” says Sabatini, a writer who lives in Guelph, Canada. “No clutter, no repairs. Everything works, everything is clean and it is all at your disposal. No calling up the front desk, no noise from wedding receptions or partying teenagers. It was lovely.”

She didn’t have to call the front desk, but if she had to, Sonder offers a 24/7 concierge service for its guests. But it also addresses some of the rental industry’s shortcomings by ensuring each bathroom is fully stocked with hotel-like amenities, such as shampoo, conditioner, soap, and body lotion. Sonder’s kitchens include a minimum complement of pots, pans, plates, and place settings, plus a microwave, stove, and coffee pot.

The units also come with fast, reliable Wi-Fi with speeds of at least 10 Mbps, and at no extra charge.

A “mainstreaming” trend

What’s happening behind the scenes—and how can you benefit from it on your next vacation?

Douglas Quinby, a vice president for research at the travel industry research firm Phocuswright, says Sonder is part of a trend toward the mainstreaming of alternative accommodation.

Increasingly, travelers will be able to easily compare a Hyatt, a Hilton, an independent hotel, and Joe’s apartment, all in one search display, he predicts.

“This is already happening—more and more, travelers are cross-shopping all forms of accommodation,” he says. “Travelers don’t think in our industry silos, and the travel industry needs to make it easier for travelers to find the best accommodation for them.”

In other words, travelers already aren’t really differentiating between hotels and rentals. Instead, they’re focusing on the amenities and services they receive with their accommodations. Travel agencies and online sites are following suit.

Leisure travel opportunity

That more or less describes how Alejandro Liberman felt when he rented a Sonder apartment in Boston this summer through Airbnb while the company was still in test mode. “The apartment was beautiful, spacious, light, and nicely decorated,” says Liberman, a geologist from Buenos Aires.

He paid $1,055 for a week, which came to about $176 a night, plus an $80 cleaning fee and $94 service charge. But, he adds, “any three star hotel room would cost that or more.” (Both Liberman and Sabatini say they’d stay in a Sonder apartment again.)

Sonder isn’t alone in this new crossover market. Another company, Oasis Collections (its motto: “Home Meets Hotel”) is vying for guests who want the best of both worlds. Initially, they’re targeting corporate travelers, which may be a big opportunity for leisure travelers who are looking for a hotel-like experience. After all, Thanksgiving and Christmas weeks—the busiest for leisure travel—are slow times for business travel.

Sonder will offer more than 500 hometels in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Montreal, San Diego, and Vancouver. It plans to open inventory in Miami, New York, San Francisco and Toronto by the end of the year. But the real growth isn’t something you’ll be able to track in a spreadsheet. Quinby says the effect of Sonder and Oasis on the lodging industry could be profound. More rentals will embrace standards—and more travelers could cross over and try a hometel.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirportParkingReservations.com

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at AirportParkingReservations.com, ParkSleepFly.com, AirportParking.com, and ShuttleFinder.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by G1G.com

Since its inception over three decades ago, G1G has continued to revolutionize the travel insurance industry by being the only aggregator to operate a customer portal, placing all of the user's primary needs in one place. We have continued to innovate and disrupt the market by reimagining the way travel insurance can be delivered to the end user in ways no competition can. Simply put, no one knows the market as well as its founders and no one else shares G1G values and mission.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

VisitorsCoverage is one of the world’s most trusted providers of travel insurance for millions of global travelers in over 175 countries. Working with top-rated travel insurance partner providers, VisitorsCoverage’s award-winning search, compare and purchase technology simplifies the travel insurance process and finds the best deals for the coverage you need to explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at VisitorsCoverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend