Laura Del Rosso
Laura Del Rosso

Travel agents who specialize in luxury travel are reporting a jump in demand for villa vacations, according to Judy Sweetland, marketing director of Private Trade Winds, a company that sells high-end villa rentals around the world.

“From comments we've heard this year from travel agents, there's a huge interest in villa travel,” Sweetland said during a recent webinar for the Travel Institute. Private Trade Winds' survey of travel agents who book its products shows that 69% of agents are suggesting villas more often, 92% say that villas have gained in popularity and 83% believe it is the new trend in luxury travel.

Sweetland said the typical villa vacationer is affluent, with a median income of $250,000 per year and assets of $2 million. They are typically in their mid-40s, married and have children. “They are happy, optimistic people, and they have an affinity for luxury brands,” she said.

It's not a niche that every agent will want to pursue because it involves special sets of skills, Sweetland said.

“You've got to have exceptionally high level of service skills and lots of patience. You've got to be tactful and assertive,” she said. “Everybody wants to provide good service, but when you're working with luxury travelers you need to step up your game and to offer all these things to the 10th power.”

She added that villa vacations require qualifying clients carefully because they are “not for everyone. You have to know when it's the right fit because not everyone wants a villa experience. Some people want a hotel experience.”

The definition of villa vacation today is much more than the romantic villa in Italy, which is the experience most people associate with villa vacations, she said. Accommodations run the gamut, including chalets in the French Alps, a private island residence in Belize, a suite in Dubai, staterooms aboard the World cruise ship, penthouses in Las Vegas, beachfront condos in Hawaii and a tony ranch in the Sierras.

Her company defines the term “villa vacation” as any classic or modern vacation rental that's been updated to superior status in a coveted location within a sought-after destination and with all the services of amenities of a five-stay resort.

Unlike vacation rentals that are commonly found online, villa rentals include luxurious bed linens, bathrobes and bath amenities. Services of a chef, baby-sitter and concierge are available, and there's a property manager on hand to answer questions and orient clients to the villa's amenities.

Prices range from $350 per night for luxury condos to $10,000 per night to the largest estates. Private Trade Winds pays 12% commission and offers agent incentives and a referral program.

“It's a fun niche; it's got its challenges, but if you're a person who can provide great customer service, you need to know more about villa travel and have it as an option,” Sweetland said.

Private Trade Winds is the sponsor of the Travel Institute's newly revised specialist course, “Selling Villa Vacations.” For more see www.thetravelinstitute.com.

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