Offering a different kind of private resort

Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

The increase in multigenerational family travel and the growing demand for private home rentals are giving rise to a hybrid of sorts in the luxury-travel sector: private resorts that offer all the services and amenities of the finest hotels along with the privacy and exclusivity of traditional villa rentals.

Among the newest entrant is Ani Villas, with properties in Sri Lanka, Anguilla, Thailand and another set to open in the Dominican Republic in the summer.

With estates offering up to 15 bedrooms, private pools, including one with a waterpark-style slide in Sri Lanka  tennis courts, spas, chefs, private butlers and personal trainers, Ani Villas CEO Ira Bloom said the product remains relatively unknown and often misunderstood by the market at large.

"I think when people hear it described, they think it's a product for billionaires," he said. "But there are a lot of people who can actually afford it."

Bobby Gibson, CEO of the luxury-villa rental site Travel Keys, which counts Ani Villas among the best of the reputable and agent-friendly, commissionable companies it represents, said the private-resort concept isn't new, but is "certainly something that is gaining traction."

"We really love that product," he said, noting it makes it very easy to create truly personalized vacations and small group events.

 "At the end of the day, I don't see how [luxury resorts] can compete with this product. They have everything," Gibson said, noting one of the other private resorts his company represents, the Nandana Estate in the Bahamas, even has a private airstrip.

At Ani Villas, Bloom said, the all-inclusive rates start at around $1,000 a night per room, plus a 10% gratuity, a price Bloom said is comparable to what small groups would spend at a Four Seasons or a comparable luxury resort.

"Obviously, it's not mass-market, but we're catering to millionaires, not billionaires," he said. "It's a lot more attainable than most people understand."

Bloom said the company started out as a more-traditional private-villa rental company, "where the guest gets the bill at the end for whatever they consumed," then moved to the all-inclusive pricing that covers everything from food and drink to fitness trainers and tennis pros, massage treatments and special activities for adults and children alike, "so that they don't feel they are being nickel and dimed."

While the company still has the word "villas" in its name, Bloom said they have thought about removing it, because villa means so many things to so many different people.

"Until we have something to replace it with, private resorts is where we have gotten to now," he said. "I feel like we have a product with great demand, if people understand it exists. Once they realize what we do have to offer, we have a growing return base."

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