With home-sharing revolutionizing the rules of vacation accommodation, villa rental companies are constrained to adapt to the rapidly changing market in order to keep up with new rental trends. While the home-sharing market is estimated to be currently worth $100 billion and is expected to rise to $170 billion in 2019, this isn’t merely about an increase in travelers staying in rental apartments, the changes go far deeper. UltraVilla’s network of top boutique luxury rental companies are witnessing this on a daily basis. Sink or swim? Here’s what they have observed about these new villa users and how our savvy villa specialists are shifting position to ride the wave of this home rental revolution.
An Increase in Last Minute Bookings
It’s not surprising with the growing “mobile phone” culture and the convenience of “insta-booking” that last minute bookings are a growing trend noticed by several of our experts. According to global expert Tim Roney of Villa Concierge, this is especially the case with famous and wealthy clients, whereas K.D. Burke of Blue Sky Luxury, Barbados’ premier villa rental company, notes that the last minute traveller has definitely been a trend over the last six months or so, making bookings windows much shorter.
Shorter Stays in Convenient Destinations
The rise in low cost flights to Europe and enhanced transportation links to Central America and the Caribbean mean that travelers can more easily get away for short stays of three to five nights, a trend detected by Meghann Cundall of Carimo Villas in St-Martin. The island is home to one of the largest airports in the Caribbean and with regular daily flights from North America, Central America, the Caribbean and Europe they host a high number of international short and long stay guests.
“This upturn in short stay bookings, aren’t only for last minute requests,” precises Meghann. “We’re getting these requests as far as a year out. While we’ve likely been having requests like this for some time, the reality is we’re considering them more and more now because of the introduction of Airbnb to the villa market.”
This is a bit of a catch-22 for villa companies which have traditionally been very set on seven-night minimums and therefore are unsure if it’s worth accepting shorter-term rentals. “Everyone still believes that taking shorter stays prevents longer rentals,” continues Meghann. “However, if shorter stays mean more guests, this also leads to more reviews and overall provide the same level of service – but to more people. It only means we’re busier and we’re also keeping the villas occupied. And a four or five-night rental might leave a gap open for a 10-night rental for the next guest which could easily happen too.”
So what’s the best approach? Meghann suggests finding new ways to please these new client requests while continuing to offer the best products available such as adding on supplementary fees for shorter stays or extra fees for housekeeping due to more frequent turnovers.
Family Travel, A Surge in Villa Resorts & Multigenerational Vacations
Most of our experts have noticed a rise in family travel. “It used to be the other way around, but kids are foremost these days,” states Laura Blair of In Villas Veritas. “Trips are now being specifically tailored around their activities.”
One way to families are choosing the approach this is by staying at villa resorts. This option provides families with the private villa experience, accompanied by the personal staff and facilities of a hotel atmosphere. “Villa resorts have kid camps and all kinds of fun activities for them to give the parents a break as well,” notes Laura.
“Out of concern that the children will get bored in a private villa, where there will be fewer activities, parents are finding a resort offers the ideal choice which can fulfill their adult needs as well as well as those of their kids,” elaborates Sylvia Delvaille Jones of Villas and Apartments Abroad. “There are well organized kids’ club where little ones are kept busy with arranged fun things from scavenger hunting, dressing up like pirates, face painting, arts and crafts, splash pools and a whole range of activities for the older children and adults like snorkeling, kayaking, boogie board, giant water slides and tennis courts. The resort can also arrange for off-property exploration and adventures like helicopter fly over volcano, river tubing, zip-lining, scuba diving, swimming with sharks, cave explorations and cultural excursions.”
To please the parents, these villa hotels are making sure they have spas and other luxurious amenities for adults. “Spas are big and these resorts are competing for the best spas,” details Tim Roney of Villa Concierge. “Many are trying to up their game with special features like manufacturing their own products from natural local ingredients.”
Families aren’t only turning to these villa resorts, most of our our experts have seen a boost in multi-generational holidays. “Younger couples bringing their parents and family,” observes Mara Solomon of Homebase Abroad. “We’ve seen lots of younger couples beginning to replace the Baby Boomers as the primary travelers, and organizing trips themselves!”
These trips are often to celebrate a special occasion or milestone birthday, so the families want private, quality time together. “Renting a villa can also be financially beneficial,” explains K.D. Burke of Blue Sky Luxury. “There’s value for money when traveling with larger groups and needing special services and requirements for all ages.”
Millennials & the 21st Century Villa
The driving force behind much of this rental revolution, and with a good amount of their disposable income allocated to travel, millennials are a rapidly growing villa clientele and have different requirements than their baby boomer parents or the Generation Xers with their young families.
“I find the new generation of villa guests wonderful to work with,” enthuses Tim Roney. “They tend to prefer contemporary interiors and are fine with spending a bit less money and being a short drive from the beach rather than taking a more expensive beachfront house.”
This preference in millennials for modern villas was commonly felt by our experts across the board. “This isn’t a problem in places like the Caribbean where they can have their choice of sleek contemporary rentals,” comments Sylvia Delvaille Jones. “However, it can be more of a challenge in Europe, where villas are often more classic. Some villa owners are finding way to attract these clients by improving their interior design and decoration to give their properties a modern feel, as well as 21st century features and amenities. This is particularly the case with Tuscany, where the law requires historical buildings be preserved. Instead, villa owners are modernizing the interiors whilst maintaining their exterior structures.”
Sylvia has also discerned that millennials often seek out villas with in-house spas and professional gyms “so they can keep up with their exercise routine while watching the TV for updates on the stock market, business and political news. They can also be impulsive, so the villa needs a good butler who can arrange that big catamaran for sundown champagne cruise, a yacht for a day to enjoy the beauty of the coastline.”
They want to be assisted on their travel whims, yet Tim Roney notes they tend to require more advice about how to deal with staff at a villa and less advice about which restaurants to book, which they usually research on their own. Considering all of this, many new destinations on the rise to satisfy these millennial desires, like certain Caribbean islands.
“Barbados has always appealed to the older visitor, but we are keen to grow our millennial guests given the wide range of activities available here alongside the best-in-class homes and staff services,” says K.D. Burke. “These younger travelers seek authentic experiences and ways to customize the holiday for their own need – villa stays allow just that and our concierge team are best placed to provide unique trips.”
This growing quest for unique travel experience is overall more prevalent in this new wave of villa clients, both young and old.
“My feeling is that villa guests are increasingly looking for authentic experiences, experiences that they can’t find at home, that can only be experienced there,” claims Ileana von Hirsch of Five Star Greece. “They want a local cook not hotel cuisine, they want to walk to a taverna or village, they want to make friends, see how local life is, find the secret beaches, have less well known but more intimate sightseeing experiences that they feel no-one else has felt or seen or discovered. They are almost like explorers, who want to bring unique storied home with them.”
Similarly, Sylvia Delvaille Jones says travelers are considering their holiday as “an all-inclusive adventure, a journey where they learn new things along the way and meet others of a different culture. I cannot stress enough just how much this can be beneficial for family travel. Exposure to other cultures, isn’t merely an educational experience, It builds character and self-confidence in children. Depending on the length of stay, it’s extremely valuable to incorporate activities like arranging a soccer match with local kids in Italy or Spain, visiting a local school in the Caribbean and making kites with the students or a salmon fishing outing on a lake or river with a seasoned gillie in Scotland or Ireland.”
In addition to “activities,” food and wine have been climbing up the ladder of holiday requirements and villa owners have needed to adapt accordingly. “This has always been the case in Europe, but the Caribbean owners are rising to the call from travelers,” says Sylvia.
“Clever villa owners have poached top chefs from the world’s leading restaurants at hefty costs,” explains Sylvia. “Villa owners are sending their cooks to work with chefs or to attend cooking schools for a more sophisticated dining experience and diverse menu. Whereas yachters know about tiny islands such as those in the Grenadines chain of islands for delicious fresh seafoods. Bequia has some excellent restaurants where yachters stop to dine, and chefs replenish their kitchen stock with fresh fish, fruits and vegetables at the local market.”
New Destinations on the Horizon
This quest for adventure and experiencing the moment is also playing a larger role in the choice of destination. Perhaps this is why Mara Solomon of Homebase Abroad has seen an increase in guests needing to go offline and take a tech detox. “With so much of our daily lives revolving around our phones and computers, travelers really enjoy putting those away for the duration of the trip,” she says.
“Vacationing in the summits of Switzerland and France is really taking off,” says Sylvia Delvaille Jones. “I have seen an uptick from my American clients wanting to enjoy the freshness of the clean air, the outdoor living, adventures, nature walks, summer events taking place, lake activities and beautiful nature walks experiencing breathtaking views, the beautiful wild flowers and animals. These summer destinations speak to the families who can do more fun things together much more so than other destinations.
“The young and healthy are looking for challenging outdoor activities, the steep mountain peaks, the rapids of a river for kayaking, the big waves of the ocean for surfing. Some islands are building and importing activities they can install and those islands with natural sites/resources creating exciting and challenging adventures out of sites they already have such as the walk in volcanic crater in St. Lucia in the Caribbean. Lesser visited destinations are waking up and getting in the game by adding exciting activities to attract more holiday seekers.”
In addition to these types of active holidays, Tim Roney has seen an increase in clients looking for villas instead of hotels for their trips to large scale international special events like Coachella, the Super Bowl and the Cannes Festival du Film. As such urban apartments are becoming a solid alternative to hotels.
Looking to the Future
What can villa specialist do to further embrace these new villa users and keep afloat in the market that might seem to be on the brim of saturation?
“I try to encourage these new clients to think of villa rentals as their holiday away from home,” says Meghann Cundall of Carimo.
Tim Roney also has some good advice for these new villa users: “They search online for villas at a destination and then judge the properties within their price range primarily by the images. The value of a villa specialist is knowing the property and the aesthetics of it, knowing what you cannot see in the images. Thus I find they often contact me with a specific house to book, but upon closer consideration of the client and the villa it could be a wrong choice even though it looks like the right choice.”
These experienced villa specialists not only represent the best villas on the globe, they know them inside and out and have the insight into the best ways to turn a trip into a real travel experience. Peruse all of our destinations here.