• HomesAway: Primarily catering to high-end travelers, HomesAway (800-374-6637, www.homesaway.com) currently features more than 70 properties in Italy, France, Spain, Scotland and Croatia and is actively looking to expand into South America and the Caribbean. A preferred Virtuoso supplier, HomesAway provides a local host with each rental who serves as a translator, itinerary planner, concierge, guide and local insider.
Pre-trip planning is provided by the company's travel advisors. Each house has a pre-arrival inspection, complimentary shopping service prior to arrival and a minimum of three hours of housekeeping per day. Garden and pool maintenance is provided along with weekly linen changes, twice weekly towel service and a copy of the "Home & Regional Handbook," customized for each property, which has information on nearby villages, must-see sights and information on the home. Select properties have a full-time cook and housekeeper. Additional staff, such as cooks, drivers and babysitters, can be arranged, as well as extra local hosting hours.
While all of the company's information is posted on the web site, HomesAway has travel advisors based in the Toronto office who have personally visited every property in each region. Travel advisors can help agents choose the appropriate home, whether it's for clients with young children or older travelers. Advisors can also help match properties to the traveler's taste (casual elegance or more glamorous styles) and can even recommend nearby towns that are safe for teens to explore independently.
For special requests, contact Maija Palkeinen, vice president, at 416-849-8119 or [email protected]
• LaCure Villas: Another luxury villa company, LaCure Villas (800-387-2726, www.lacurevillas.com) has more than 1,000 villas, castles, farmhouses and stately homes in its portfolio, which spans 12 countries and 23 Caribbean islands. Clients can rent villas throughout Europe, North Africa, Mexico, Asia and the Americas, though the most popular destinations are Tuscany, Umbria, the Amalfi Coast, Provence, Côte d'Azur and the Caribbean. While most properties are private, LaCure has some luxury beachfront condominiums and groups of beachfront private villas that share a swimming pool. The company prides itself on highly personalized service and has an 80 percent repeat rate to back it up.
While all villa and house rentals are perfect options for families and group travel, LaCure specializes in medium-priced to high-end luxury rentals, special occasion travel, destination celebrations and family travel. LaCure also has expertise in catering to celebrities, heads of state, royalty and business tycoons. Sixty percent of bookings are multigenerational vacations.
Most properties are equipped with a staff; ground transportation, local concierge service, and customized itineraries with guides can be arranged. Contact Tim Roney, director of worldwide sales for LaCure Villas, at 800-387-2726 ext. 333 or via e-mail at [email protected]
With 75 percent of bookings through the retailer community, LaCure has a strong relationship with agents, who can earn 10 percent commission on bookings. American Express Platinum and Centurion agents have access to a villa training program; however, LaCure will arrange similar group training upon request.
Through December 14, LaCure is offering a $1,000 booking bonus for the Nelson Gay House in Barbados. Clients will receive a welcome grocery pack, roundtrip airport transfers and four hours of complimentary water sports (sailing, windsurfing, water skiing and snorkeling) valued at $1,350.
• ResortQuest: Customized vacations are available through ResortQuest (www.resortquest.com, 800-GO-RELAX), which features a broad range of individually owned accommodations. Clients looking for a free-standing house can book a cabin in the woods or a vacation home (ideal for groups and families). ResortQuest's lodges are hotel-style or condominium-style accommodations in mountain destinations. Cottages are smaller versions of vacation homes that may feature kitchenettes instead of full kitchens. The company's condos, villas and townhouses are individual units typically in multi-unit complexes.
Rental properties can be booked in more than 50 destinations, so clients looking for beach, ski, golf or mountain vacations will have no problem finding the perfect property. Prior to ResortQuest's recent sale of its Hawaii portfolio to Interval, the firm managed more than 13,000 beach properties and more than 3,700 ski properties. Commissions start at 10 percent.
• Vacation Rentals 4 Agents: As part of the RCI Global Vacation Network, Vacation Rentals 4 Agents (www.vacationrentals4agents.com, 866-844-2017) offers thousands of villas, condos, cottages, resorts and homes in the U.S. and overseas in Italy, France and Great Britain. Options range from a one-bedroom condo that sleeps four in Orlando to a six-bedroom villa in Tuscany, all at a much lower rate than a hotel stay, according to the company.
Commissions range from 10 percent to 20 percent. Vacation Rentals 4 Agents pays 12 percent on resort condo bookings and 10 percent on villa and cottage bookings. At times, promotional offers are available for 20 percent commissions. Bookings can be made via the GDS, calling a vacation guide at the toll-free number or by registering on the company's web site, dedicated solely to travel professionals.
The company recently launched an online education program through The Travel Institute E-Learning Center. Agents who complete the program can earn a $50 bonus after their first booking. The program covers the benefits of booking vacation rentals, targeting the vacation rental customer and offering various resources.
• Wimco: The West Indies Management Company, otherwise known as Wimco (www.wimco.com, 800-449-1553), has access to more than 1,400 villas in the Caribbean and Europe. In the Caribbean, Wimco represents privately owned properties on St. Barts, St. Martin, Barbados, St. Thomas, St. John, Virgin Gorda, Tortola, Grand Cayman, Turks & Caicos, Nevis, Anguilla, Mustique and Saba. Core destinations in and around Europe are Italy, France, Greece and Morocco. In Italy, Wimco represents coastal and inland villas throughout Tuscany, Umbria, the Amalfi Coast and Sicily. In France, villas are located in Provence, the Côte d'Azur and St. Tropez.
Wimco can arrange a complete villa vacation, including airfare, car rentals and destination-specific services. In the Caribbean, for example, the firm will secure dinner reservations, spa treatments, babysitting and boat excursions. In Italy, Wimco will arrange guided tours of wine estates, cooking classes and in-villa chef services.
To help match your clients with the ideal property, Wimco has 15 specialists for various destinations who personally visit each villa. Phone reservations are encouraged; however, agents can view availability and make bookings online. Agents earn 10 percent commission on all rentals except those on St. Barts, which pay 7.5 percent commission.