UnderTheDoormat's Merilee Karr brings hotel standards to homesharing

The AHC runs October 9-10 at the Hilton Manchester Deansgate. Image credit: Questex(Photo credit: Questex)

With a potential market size of £3.5 billion in London alone, the home-accommodations market is firmly part of the hospitality landscape. Its positioning and the market will be a topic of discussion at the Annual Hotel Conference this October when founder/CEO of UnderTheDoormat, Merilee Karr, joins a panel session discussing "Alternative Accommodations." 

In advance of the conference, Karr talked about the importance of accreditation throughout the sector and the pace of growth.

Where did the inspiration for UnderTheDoormat come from?

I saw the need through my own travels and wanted to create an environment where people could enjoy a home space but with the professionalism of a hotel. Home accommodation is going through the same revolution hotels did over the past 30 years when hotel brands became beacons for consistency, security and quality. 

[Launched] in 2014, UnderTheDoormat delivers reliable brand standards for those people seeking a home-accommodations offering. We have essentially built a distributed hotel [network] across London with over 250 properties and promise to deliver the same quality regardless of location, length or purpose of stay. 

My background as a property manager with Shell where I managed the maintenance of over 12,000 petrol stations across 43 countries–itself a dispersed network of properties–puts me in a good position to manage the technology, property and logistical requirements for UnderTheDoormat. 

How do you ensure the standards you promise are delivered?

Merilee Karr is the founder/CEO of UnderTheDoormat.
Photo credit: The AHC

Through my other role, as chair of the U.K. industry body, the Short-term Accommodation Association, we have established an accreditation scheme which provides accreditation for companies or hosts of home accommodations. A significant part of the accreditation process is extensive inspections from third parties, which is how we ensure quality standards have been validated. UnderTheDoormat is naturally part of that accreditation scheme. My vision is for everyone who offers home-accommodations services across the U.K. to become accredited. I believe the industry as a whole and customers would benefit from consistently delivered standards and this scheme is a significant step toward ensuring this.

Where does this segment of the industry go next?

I expect in five years’ time every hotel group will have a home-accommodations offering. I anticipate this happening through a mix of organic growth and acquisition, the latter occurring as the industry matures. We are observing trends where hotels are trying to change their offers to be more like a home with shared communal spaces, increased flexibility and individual design styles clearly showing a response to the customer demands.

And the future for UnderTheDoormat?

In addition to our branded home-accommodations product, we are also growing a marketing and distribution service to help smaller property managers be at the top of their game and reach a broader and wider network of customers. We’re delighted to have welcomed StayCotswold as the latest addition to this platform who we can support with our technology, infrastructure and distribution expertise.

It’s a really exciting time. We’re helping meet the needs of consumers as travelers continue to tell us they want an authentic experience–home accommodations is perfectly positioned to provide this.

Don’t get me wrong, hotels serve a brilliant purpose and I don’t believe that will change. But home accommodations, with flexibility, security, quality and consistency is now mainstream and eager to grow, both from consumer demand and host participation. I’d love to see hotels and home accommodations talking as one voice for the hospitality industry. I wouldn’t be surprised if UnderTheDoormat was part of a hotel group one day but let’s wait and see on that one.

Karr will be participating in Alternative Accommodations on October 10 at 9:05 am. The AHC runs October 9-10 at the Hilton Manchester Deansgate. It is produced by Questex, the parent company of Hotel Management magazine. Many hotel operators will be eligible for the hotelier rate of £250.00 plus VAT to attend the conference. This rate is available to owners of up to 10 self-operated properties. Email [email protected] for more information.