Airbnb’s “live like a local” fantasy can quickly morph into a nightmare when your host’s sun-dappled apartment photos turn out to conceal a roach infestation. But hotels can be so homogeneous. Now a new crop of startups is offering a hybrid alternative: apartment hotels, lodging that promises the comfort and roominess of a homestay (minus the flaky homeowner) with the consistency and in-room amenities of a hotel.
New York–based upstart Domio—which just raised a $12 million series A—snags long-term leases on buildings or units in mixed-use apartment complexes, then converts them into sleekly furnished pads with hotel-esque perks. Last year, competing apartment-hoteliers TurnKey and Sonder raised $31 million and $85 million, respectively. These companies claim to offer travelers prices up to 25 percent lower than similarly sized hotels by, for instance, sliding into height-restricted, less touristy neighborhoods and swapping staff for smartphone check-ins and chatbot concierges. (Of course, a glitchy app may make you miss dependable, old-school front desk service.) Even traditional hoteliers are wooing Airbnbers: Last spring Marriott introduced a pilot program of vetted homestays called Tribute Portfolio Homes.
A recent study by hospitality professor Daniel Guttentag found that Airbnb guests prioritized practical factors like price and amenities over interaction and uniqueness. “At the end of the day, people want utter reliability,” says Spark Capital partner and Sonder investor Nabeel Hyatt. Even Airbnb recently acknowledged the trend by launching Airbnb Plus, validated homes that meet more than 100 criteria, from stocked kitchens to “cohesive style.” Boring? Sure. But it only takes one host from hell to recalibrate your penchant for novelty.
This article appears in the February issue. Subscribe now.
More Great WIRED Stories