Agents researching accommodations for clients in Paris might consider an apartment stay. In many ways, it’s a good alternative to a hotel. Travel Agent spoke recently with two prominent apartment rental specialists: sisters Lisa Byrne and Madelyn Byrne Willems.
Daughters of an Air Force pilot, the sisters spent considerable time in Europe growing up. Now both garner top accolades in the professionally-managed apartment and villa rental business. Byrne is the founder of ItalyPerfect.com; Byrne Willems, the founder of ParisPerfect.com. The family also operates LondonPerfect.com.
The goal of an apartment rental is to help clients “live like a native.” By that, Byrne Willems means a city center apartment, ideally on the romantic and lively Left Bank. Paris Perfect has a total of 80 apartments in its portfolio.
“We’re very careful about the ones we take on. We’ve helped owners purchase and remodel them. They’re all very well-maintained and comfortable,” Byrne Willems tells Travel Agent.
A resident of Paris herself, she oversees three Paris Perfect offices in the city.
“I always draw from my own experience in living here. I know what it’s like to buy the wrong kind of cheese and be scolded for it,” she said.
“An apartment stay provides flexibility that you wouldn’t normally have. Sometimes not everyone wants to go out at the same time. But in Paris, there are nice places to have a three-course lunch at a reasonable price. In the evening, it’s fun to simply pick up some cheese, salad and a baguette. You can sit around with a glass of wine, look at the Eiffel Tower and talk about the day,” said Byrne Willems.
Mary Anne Desmond of Explore by Design, a Protravel International agency in Scottsdale, AZ, says apartment stays can entice all types of clients.
“It appeals to a couple planning to stay a week or longer. It lets them experience the culture, go out and shop for groceries and generally live the life of that particular destination. Families of course love them because European hotel rooms are small. Sometimes there’s no large lobby to gather in. With an apartment, everyone can get together,” she said.
Families with teens make a particularly good target.
“Teenagers are hungry all the time and that can get pretty expensive. With an apartment, you can keep a stocked fridge,” she said.
Another growing segment: clients wishing to unwind from bike trips or cruises.
The typical Paris Perfect client, said Byrne Willems, spends a week in Paris and a week in the south of France (where they plan to expand soon).
New this year, Paris Perfect is offering neighborhood tours and five different day trip itineraries for a modest price. Examples include a baguette baking and tasting tour as well as cooking classes at various schools
It’s part of an evolution of the business inspired by agent and client feedback.
“Where a travel agent can provide added value is in helping clients sift through the volume of properties out there. Agents hire us because they want someone they can count on. We vet all the properties ourselves. We look at every single one and reject quite a few of them. We feel really good that we focus on what we know we can do really well,” said Byrne.
Her advice to agents thinking about suggesting the rental route to clients?
“My advice is to use references from other agencies. I would also check that all the rentals are certified. Ours are. All our employees are full-time, they’re all bonded. We have offices here that are open seven days a week. But we’re not the only company in Paris. There are other good ones,” she added.
"Paris Perfect has a commission program for travel agents," said Byrne Willems. "The amount depends on the volume of annual business. Travel agents like the fact that we go the extra mile to help their clients."