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Wyndham launches its 25th brand — one that blurs the line of hotel and apartment

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The hotel industry’s growing embrace of extended-stay travel isn’t slowing down.

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts revealed a new brand — WaterWalk Extended Stay by Wyndham — Tuesday that is actually a mix of furnished hotel-style accommodations and unfurnished apartments for longer-term stays. The brand — which is Wyndham’s 25th — entered the company ecosystem through a partnership with WaterWalk, a Kansas-based operator of 11 hybrid hotel-apartment developments.

Related: The ultimate guide to earning and redeeming Wyndham Rewards

The partnership adds 11 WaterWalk properties to the Wyndham portfolio. The brand is expected to fuel growth in Wyndham’s broader extended-stay offering which also includes brands like Echo Suites and Hawthorn Extended Stay.

“In the last year, guest demand for the extended stay segment reached record highs, which has been underscored by demand from owners and developers looking for new opportunities to partner with Wyndham,” Chip Ohlsson, Wyndham’s chief development officer, said in a prepared statement. “Our vision is to offer the industry’s most robust portfolio of extended stay brands, and the addition of WaterWalk marks an important step in that direction — helping ensure we have an offering in every segment, for every owner and for every guest.”

Offerings at WaterWalk properties are divided under the banners of “Live” and “Stay.” Depending on which kind of lodging you book, you might have to bring more than a carry-on bag to complete the overnight experience.

Stay units are fully furnished and have the typical residential-style, extended-stay experience with full kitchens and living areas.

Rates for a weeklong trip in a Stay unit at WaterWalk in Atlanta start at $96 per night this month for a studio suite with a full kitchen; they move up to $151 per night for a two-bedroom suite with a loft and full kitchen.

Live units are unfurnished and are designed for longer-term stays meant to feel like an actual residential experience. These units are available for bookings lasting at least 90 days. While rates weren’t provided, renters must have a credit score of at least 550, an income that’s 2 1/2 or three times the cost of rent and a good rental history.

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The rise of extended-stay hotels

Wyndham’s expansion of its extended-stay hotel brand network comes amid a broader hotel industry embrace of this type of lodging.

Brands like Extended Stay America performed best during the worst months of the pandemic because they cater to a mix of essential workers who must be on the road (even in a global pandemic) and those who use the suites as in-between housing. It appears the world’s largest hotel companies took notice, as Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt each launched new brands in the extended-stay space.

Wyndham is already off to a strong start in the space with Echo’s more-than-265-hotel development pipeline. But WaterWalk is an innovative approach; it has the ability to also tap into the unfortunate reality that demand for housing in the U.S. continues to exceed supply.

While it’s unlikely too many competitors are looking at getting into the business of unfurnished residential units, don’t rule it out.

Nobody thought Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt were kicking the tires on extended-stay brands just a few years ago, and now there’s Marriott’s StudioRes, Hilton’s LivSmart Studios and Hyatt Studios.

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