Very few global villa experts have the experience, the exceptional repertoire and the acute and creative attention to detail as Sylvia Delvaille Jones. Her immense professionalism and flare do not go unnoticed, leading her to be named once again a Condé Nast Top Villa Specialist for 2016. Sylvia takes us back forty years to tell us how she ended up in the luxury villa rental business and some of the special secrets to the success of her company Villas and Apartments Abroad.
“Greetings from a restored farmhouse in Umbria, a sprawling beach house on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, a luxury golf estate in the Grenadines… I have been lucky and privileged to be able to enjoy all the holidays of my clients over many years, costing me nary a penny.
“I enjoy each holiday because I work with my clients to come up with the best experience that speaks to all the senses, sparking curiosity and educating as we navigate. I am on the vacation with them even before the holiday starts by carefully selecting the villa, climbing waterfalls or crawling through beautiful underground caves with the kids, deciding where to go dancing and finding the little shack on the beach that served the best jerk chicken, tacos or pasta.
“Yes, I have lived each of my clients’ journeys very personally, right down to checking with the cooks in the Caribbean which nonperishable food items and snacks for the children that might be scarce or not available on the shelves and way families could save on food cost by packing a suitcase. I’ve also told those meat and potato golfers to freeze their favorite cuts of steaks and pack them in their golf bags so they would enjoy fantastic BBQ steaks and lobsters. Customs agents did not search the golf bag of a golfer going on a holiday. For a group of 12 that was a big chunk of change saved! For a wine and spirits distributor and a gourmet food supplier, I preordered delicacies like smoked salmon, pate and cornichons. Depending on the occasion sourcing that leg of lamb or the turkey for Thanksgiving, selection of wines and spirits and have them delivered to the villa prior to their arrival.
“I recall a particularly fun experience when I knew the local family were going to host the visiting family for tea one afternoon, I made sure there were some commonalities between the two families so they would have some topics of conversation. One of the experiences I love arranging is for people with common interests – like stamp collectors, bridge players, cigar connoisseurs or antique cars buffs – to meet and share their knowledge of their shared interests.
“I am very sensitive about making sure that a client is the right match for the villa and the owner and vice versa. It is very important to me that my client feels welcome and the owner greets them warmly, happy to meet each other. I give careful thought if the client is high profile, the average age of the group, overall makeup of the party and any celebratory celebration that will be hosted at the villa. Race and nationality also are truths that I keep in mind. Yes, psychology, instincts and picking up on the unsaid but what speaks loudly are important guides when I match villa and client.
“I was introduced to villas when I worked for the tourism department developing the concept of villa rental for families as an alternative to hotels. An attractive proposition as it was less expensive to stay in a beach cottage than a hotel, while enjoying privacy, space, your own pool or beach and a fantastic cook. From those days, I remember three simple cottages owned by three nuns – sisters from an affluent family. Those cottages turned out to be extremely popular with families with small children. On a grander scale were three Georgian style beachfront villas sitting side by side and also owned by three sisters, a wedding gift to each girl from their very affluent parents, heiresses to the Red Stripe Beer and Appleton Rum family.
“It was from this first experience 40 years ago that I developed a close bond with clients, still searching for those unique and different flavors they would not have found on their own, whether they are spending 5,000 dollars for a family of six or 500,000 dollars for a private island or a historic chateau surrounded by vineyards in Bordeaux, Chianti, Chile or Argentina. Tailoring each person’s experience to match their profile while adding in a splash of local spice and flavour capped with breathtaking surprises are the things I personally love doing for my clients.
“As one of the pioneers in this field of travel, I have encouraged others who were starting up their own companies. Some would call me up, asking if they could come by to have a chat. I made many friends with colleagues this way. Some have become leaders and extremely successful in the industry.
“Keeping up with advancing technology and the requirements of speed and efficiency, the evolution of amazing architectural styles, interior design and decorating – true artforms – and the rapid changes and standards of luxury travel are exciting and jaw dropping. The children of clients, the picky millennials, are now my clients and working with owners to help them rebrand by restyling in order to stay in the game is a thrilling challenge, one which I’ll continue to take on with gusto!”
Thank you very much for the vivid story, Sylvia!
Have Sylvia assist you in designing the most incredible holiday virtually anywhere on the globe by contacting her at this link.