NEW YORK -- Villa rentals have a low profile on an island known for
lively inclusive resorts. However, villas can prove appropriate for
certain clients -- and lucrative for agents.
Although Jamaica's villas cannot match inclusive resorts in
bang-for-the-buck value and mass-market appeal, "they are a niche
that could be explored and expanded," said Sandra Lewis, owner of
Travel with Sande, a Jamaica-specialist agency in Silver Spring,
Lewis estimated that villa rentals represent only 5% of her
Jamaica sales, with more than 90% of her clients opting for
inclusives. "A villa is a tough sell, and an agent must really
qualify the client as a suitable villa client," she said.
For example, clients must be able to afford it. One of Lewis'
favorite properties, Hummingbird Hill in Runaway Bay, a
five-bedroom, "exclusive house on a hill," is listed on the Jamaica
Association of Villas and Apartments (Java) Web site at $3,740
per week in the summer and $4,550 in winter.
Client expectations will be understandably high at such price
levels, Lewis said.
Agents unfamiliar with the market can turn to an expert
intermediary, such as Jamaica Villas by Linda Smith in Cabin John,
Md., which recently added a calculator feature to its Web site, at
The tool provides an accurate estimate of the per-person cost
for a villa vacation that many people, including agents, mistakenly
write off as out of reach, said Smith.
"I don't think many agents know how to book villas or realize
that their clients can afford them," she said. "Once an agent books
with us, they're hooked, and they get the same compliments from
their clients as we do."
Lewis said that working with a company such as Jamaica Villas,
which pays 10% commission, "is great, but an agent should also be
familiar with the property and its location, accessibility and
staff to be able to match the right product with the right
Arthur Mehmel, president of TourScan in Darien, Conn., described
his typical villa clients as either a family or two to three
couples, some of whom are serious golfers. Mehmel said he favors
villas that are part of resorts for the on-site benefits for
nongolfing spouses or family members.
"For almost everyone seeking a Jamaican villa experience, we
recommend units that are part of larger resorts, such as the villas
at Tryall, Round Hill or Half Moon Club," he said.
Clients who need a lot of space are usually happy at a
condominium-style property, such as White Sands in Negril or Goblin
Hill Villas in Port Antonio, Mehmel said. "These resorts
participate in [tour operator] package deals and are very
affordable, even in winter," he said.
Both properties also are listed on the Java Web site.
Java represents 34% of Jamaica's room inventory, according to Vana
Descriptions of member properties include the number of
bedrooms, air-conditioned bedrooms and bathrooms as well as photos
and weekly rates in winter and summer. Commission is 10%.
For more information, contact Java at (800) VILLAS-6, e-mail [email protected] or visit the Web site.
To contact Jamaica Villas by Linda Smith, call (301) 229-4300,
e-mail [email protected] or visit the firm's Web site.