Mandarin finds its match in luxury rental space

Hospitality industry analysts are calling a newly announced partnership between Hong Kong’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group and luxury vacation rental platform StayOne a well-fitted alliance between like-minded luxury players allowing travelers to experience the finest one percent of home. It brings eight high-end European property rentals, dubbed “Exclusive Homes,” into the hotel chain’s lineup. The rentals range from a 600-acre private estate in the Cotswolds, U.K. to a private island near Ibiza in Spain.

In keeping with Mandarin Oriental’s standards, company executives say the Exclusive Homes will include benefits such as 24/7 personal concierge services, private chefs, exacting housekeeping standards, COVID-19 safety standards, high-end amenities like opulent bathrobes, and other exclusives for Mandarin Oriental’s regular guests.

“I’m not sure how the economics of it works out, but I think it’s a perfect extension of the Mandarin Oriental brand,” Robert Hecker, a managing director for Pacific Asia at consultancy Horwath HTL, told HOTELS. “I don’t think it’s a reaction to Airbnb. It’s just a smart and good-fitting add-on to what Mandarin Oriental can offer its customers. No doubt others will follow suit.”

Bill Barnett, managing director for consultancy C9 Hotelworks, Bangkok, called the partnership an industry trend that was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Exclusive holiday homes fit into the hotel branded residences category and have increasingly become more important to global hotel chains, as between 20% to 30% of pipeline luxury hotels across the world have a residence component,” Barnett said. “Hence, hotel operators are increasingly building capacity in this space.”

La Maison vue de Saint Jean, Èze-Mer, a villa that sleeps 12 atop the heights of Èze in the French Riviera

Barnett added that Mandarin Oriental’s move follows in the steps of Accor and its onefinestay alliance. “Even in Asia, Dusit International bought over Elite Havens a few years ago, as it understood it needed a channel for holiday homes,” he noted.

Hecker theorized that the newness of Mandarin Oriental’s deal will give the chain “some sheen … but I don’t think it creates any sustainable advantage over other luxury hospital brands that get into the space, unless there’s subsequently a shortage of such vacation rentals available for other brands.”

StayOne, formerly called Stay One Degree, was founded in 2018 by Thomas Bennett and Jorge Munoz. It dubs itself the world’s first luxury travel social marketplace and now boasts a collection of more than 3,500 properties over 250 destinations. Its network plays on the idea of few degrees of separation between members to build trust, like a “LinkedIn meets Airbnb for avid globetrotters,” according to a September 2020 profile on Net-A-Porter.

Eric Levy, principal and managing director of Singapore-based consultancy firm Tourism Solutions International (TSI), theorized that Mandarin Oriental recognized how StayOne platform members match their own company’s typical guest profile.

“The affiliation is actually a two-way relationship,” Levy said, “where the StayOne members are exposed to [Mandarin Oriental] as the best of the best within StayOne, and help build a relationship” with them as potential Mandarin Oriental guests.

Furthermore, Levy added, adding Exclusive Homes in sought-after locations establishes the Mandarin Oriental brand “at a pace that is not possible” through traditional hotel building.

Levy concluded that the StayOne deal raises Mandarin Oriental’s profile “in the exclusive residential market that can only benefit its projects that include a residential component.”

Indeed, breaking into new markets was intended, a Mandarin Oriental executive told HOTELS.

“Mandarin Oriental is always looking for ways to further meet the evolving needs of our guests while simultaneously growing our base of fans around the world,” said Luca Finardi, area vice president of operations and general manager of the Mandarin Oriental, Milan. “Providing a branded home rental product will differentiate Mandarin Oriental Exclusive Homes from other luxury villa offerings, thereby serving a greater variety of customers and bringing the brand to new markets in which we may not yet have hotels.”

Though Mandarin Oriental declined to disclose its marketing plan and terms of its StayOne deal – other than to call it a strategic investment made in 2020 – company executives noted that their choices were based on guest feedback and considerable research, as well as “home-specific insights” from StayOne.

According to StayOne’s website, the offerings currently start at €3,795 a night and can go as high as €30,175 a night.

When asked about expansion beyond the opening eight properties, Finardi said, “It’s a little too soon to say, but we guarantee it will be to dynamic destinations with rich culture, heritage and history, and complement our current portfolio.”

Added James Riley, group chief executive of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group: “We look forward to working with StayOne to identify many more perfect homes to include in the collection.”

The initial eight Exclusive Homes were announced as the following:

  • Tagomago: A 148-acre private island near Ibiza in the Mediterranean that sleeps 10 guests in the island’s sole residence
  • The Palms, San José: A 10-guest villa on Ibiza’s southwest coast
  • Villa Lagarto, Jesús: An 8-guest villa in a gated community overlooking Ibiza Town
  • Villa Oxygen, Grimaud: A 10-guest home above the bay of Saint-Tropez, in the south of France
  • La Maison vue de Saint Jean, Èze-Mer: A 12-guest home in the heights of Èze in the French Riviera
  • Villa Puesta del Sol: A 10-guest cliffside villa near Port d’Andratx on the Mediterranean island of Majorca
  • Ca’n Miquelet: An 8-guest Spanish villa with 32 acres on a hilltop above Deià on Majorca
  • Cirencester Estate: A 600-acre Georgian estate fit for 20 guests in the U.K.’s Cotswolds region