|Andaz Residences Maui at Wailea|
Interest in villa rentals is on the upswing for a number of reasons. They can be ideal for family and special-occasion travel, couples traveling together and anyone interested in privacy and flexibility.
“Villas work so well for multigenerational travel as everyone can dine together, have outdoor space, pools and can have housekeeping, chefs and a concierge team provided with their villas,” says Jill Taylor of JetSet World Travel, Inc. “We also love the hotels that have villas on property as then the client has the use of the hotel facilities and their staff to help.”
Of course, villa rentals also present their own set of special challenges. Travel Agent spoke with Taylor and other villa rental experts about how to best maneuver this rapidly growing market.
Andaz Residences Maui at Wailea: Tropical Villa Vacations has added an exclusive new villa at Andaz Residences Maui at Wailea to its collection of luxury homes, estates and villa vacation rentals on Maui. One of only 12 privately owned Andaz Residences Maui, the SeaGlass villa is a three-bedroom, four-bath residence offering 3,234 square feet of indoor and outdoor living space. This villa provides a hip, casual atmosphere with a sleek, contemporary design and a sprawling outdoor lanai with garden and private hot tub. SeaGlass can accommodate up to eight guests (six adults maximum and two children).
Andaz Residences Maui is located at the 15-acre beachfront Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort. Tropical Villa Vacations’ guests at SeaGlass villa enjoy full access and charging privileges to all of the resort’s facilities and services, such as multiple pools (including four cascading infinity pools), the 14,000-square-foot Awili Spa and dining options including the locally sourced Ka’ana Kitchen and the celebrated Morimoto Maui. Tropical Villa Vacations has, since 1995, offered a custom collection of luxury vacation rentals in Maui.
For active clients interested in Hawaii, David Rubin, CEO of DavidTravel in Corona del Mar, CA, recommends Pure Kauai.
“They’re fantastic. We had a client who stayed at a villa for several months. Each day, they asked what excursions the clients wanted to do,” says Rubin.
Get Expert Help
If there’s one piece of universal advice, it’s to get help from an expert.
“There are so many ins and outs with villa rentals. It’s important to work with a supplier who has expertise in this area," Rubin says. .
“As with anything, you need to know your product and know what you’re selling. To do that, you need to do your own site visit. Otherwise, you should contact a reliable company that has done its due diligence and made their own site visits,” says Joyce Falcone, founder of The Italian Concierge.
“Sometimes with a larger company, you might get an agent who sells villas. Perhaps they have some paperwork in front of them but they haven’t actually set foot on the property. You may also see the same villas on different websites, but with different names,” Falcone cautions.
Likewise, travel advisors need to get the word out to clients that they, the agents, “know and use reputable companies that we have vetted, as there are so many independent companies out there that can cause a lot more headaches than worth,” says Taylor.
Ask the Right Questions
When it comes to villa rentals, it’s crucial to know which questions to ask.
“Location, neighboring properties, is there Wi-Fi? If a client is staying at a Four Seasons or The Peninsula, you’d know what standards to expect. You wouldn’t find dusty rooms or frayed linens. But you need to be very diligent with villas. Sometimes it’s worth having a steam cleaning done before the clients arrive, just to be extra careful,” says Rubin.
Jody Bear of Bear & Bear Travel says information is key to advising clients properly.
“It’s important to ask questions such as is the house fully staffed? How many hours per day is the staff there? How often are linens changed? A lot of villas come with chefs or a cook. Those are two different things. Remember that if you have problems with staff, there is usually nothing you can do unless you go through a reputable company that also acts as a concierge,” says Bear. Air conditioning is another important detail.
“When you have a property built in the 1700s or 1800s, you will have fans. But you won’t have air and that can be a big concern in the summer. Of course, many of the villas have thick walls, so that can help,” says Falcone.
JoAnn Kurtz-Ahlers notes, “Clients don’t want a lesser standard of living when they’re on vacation than they have at home.” Her company, Kurtz-Ahlers & Associates, represents luxury properties such as Villa Manzu on Costa Rica’s Peninsula Papagayo.
“A lot of villas were built for families that wanted one master bedroom and several small bedrooms. That’s problematic when you have groups of couples traveling together. Villa Manzu has eight bedrooms and everyone is over 1,000 square feet. It also has a permanent staff, not one that’s brought in for a booking. If you have people hired just for a particular booking, they might not know the villa,” says Kurtz-Ahlers.
Villa rental clients don’t always want to simply stay in place.
“Most travelers who come to us for villa rentals want a comprehensive tour also. For example, they will want a 12-day tour of Italy that includes three or four nights at a villa in Tuscany. We incorporate the villa into the tour and we book a full-service villa at a resort such as Castiglion del Bosco, which provides the best of both worlds. It’s a proper villa with all of the service and amenities that travelers find at resorts,” Ashley Ganz, owner of Artisans of Leisure, tells Travel Agent.
For Italy bookings, Falcone will work with agents to provide a full range of services. Among them: transportation to and from the airport, licensed guides, specialty visits, winery tours, cooking lessons and even ballooning.
“We provide a spiral-bound notebook with information on restaurants, local products and shops. We also have a 25-page destination guide to Italy with tips on language, culture and etiquette. We even recommend movies to see and books to read to help get ready for the trip,” says Falcone.
JetSet’s Taylor, who is something of an Italy specialist, singles out Monteverdi Tuscany villas as a product she loves to sell because, she says, the location in the Val d’Orcia is a perfect place to be based. “The views are great and the staff is on property to help with any needs for our clients as well as the amazing restaurant that has some of the best food in Italy,” she says.
She also books Castiglion del Bosco and other Abercrombie & Kent villas because they “have an option for a host and that is always helpful, so clients have someone who is available 24/7 if they are not staying in a villa that is associated with a hotel. This helps alleviate any problems while clients are traveling.”
Options Are Expanding
While traditional favorites, such as Tuscany, Lake Como and the Amalfi Coast remain top-sellers for Falcone’s and Taylor’s Italy clientele, options are expanding worldwide to meet increasing demand for villa stays.
“Abercrombie and Kent have their Sanctuary properties. And more and more hotels have residential units that can be rented as villas. Four Seasons Hualalai on Hawaii’s Big Island has residences, as do a lot of Ritz-Carltons. They’re a great option, because you have the services of a full hotel staff,” says Rubin. Bellmen in particular can be handy.
“Something that can be a nightmare is when a high-end client has to carry luggage up two or three floors. That’s a prescription for a ruined back and a bad holiday,” says Rubin.
“The villas that are attached to hotels or resorts are a good option for the high-end clients. The amenities will be standard and brand trustworthy,” says Bear.
As far as destinations, Hawaii is known for its villa offerings, says Rubin.
“We’re finding that interest is growing for every part of the world, from Cape Town to the European countryside, and here in the U.S. as well,” he adds.
“New villas are coming up in other countries. We were contacted by a man who had a villa in Bulgaria that looked amazing,” says Kurtz-Ahlers.
Closer to home, villa rentals are a popular option in Mexico. Sean Emmerton, villa program director for Journey Mexico, tells Travel Agent that Punta Mita and Los Cabos offer the highest quality of product, while the Riviera Maya is the most in demand with clients.
The company’s portfolio stands at 115 villas and counting.
“Our villa business is growing by leaps and bounds. One of the things that sets us apart is that we have onsite staff. We have offices in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico City and Cancun,” says Emmerton.