Consumers' desire to stay in alternative accommodations when
traveling is showing no signs of waning. In recent years, travel advisors, too,
have noticed an uptick in the number of clients asking for hospitality options
beyond traditional hotels.
Advisors today are answering that call by booking
alternative accommodations that are commissionable and professionally vetted,
two considerations that providers such as Airbnb lack.
Phocuswright's U.S. Consumer Travel 2019 report found that
in the previous year, 30% of respondents had booked a private accommodation,
defined as the rental of a home, apartment or shared space. That number stood
at 32% in 2015 and 26% in 2016. Younger travelers, especially Generation Z, were more likely to book private
accommodations, Phocuswright found.
Similarly, MMGY's recent Portrait of American Travelers
survey found that 29% of respondents reported having used sharing economy
accommodations during at least one vacation in the previous year. That number is
slightly higher than in the past three years, when between 20% and 22% reported
using accommodations from the likes of Airbnb, Vrbo or HomeAway.
This year's survey also found that 34% of travelers said
they are likely to use sharing economy accommodations in the future.
Chris Davidson, executive vice president of research and
insight and head of MMGY Travel Intelligence, encouraged travel advisors to
consider alternative accommodations for their clients, considering their
It's a space that many advisors are no strangers to, as
client demand has increased in recent years.
Becky Powell, president of Protravel International in New
York, said interest in alternative accommodations has "absolutely"
grown among Protravel's clients. During the festive season around the holidays,
Powell said, it can be difficult for advisors to even find villas to book
because of their popularity.
"Especially people who are doing multigenerational
travel," Powell said. "That's what they're doing: They're bringing
their family and friends."
Melissa McKinley, owner of Travel With Melissa in Plano,
"Villas, particularly, tend to be very important, for
example, just to keep everybody under one roof when you have multigen groups or
groups of really close friends going to celebrate something," she said. "It
just makes it more social. They enjoy the time together with each other versus
being in separate rooms in a hotel."
She said Protravel advisors mainly book clients in villas
that are commissionable from companies like Villas of Distinction or Cuvee.
Steve Lassman, vice president of villa product and agency
relations at Villas of Distinction, said the company offers more than 2,500
vetted accommodations in 52 countries. They range from one-bedroom apartments
all the way up to 42-bedroom estates. Nightly rates range from $300 to $75,000.
Commission is 10%.
"Luxury villas are one of the fastest-growing segments
in travel because it is the perfect alternative for families and friends who
are seeking accommodations that require more than one bedroom," he said. "And
a villa is [a better] value for a guest than any comparable resort.
The vetted aspect of offerings from companies like Villas of
Distinction makes a big difference to travel advisors, many of whom shy away
from booking alternative accommodations on sites like Airbnb and Vrbo.
Among them is Sylvia Lebovitch, an advisor with the New
York-based Ovation Travel Group.
"I wouldn't risk my reputation to book certain
alternative housing vendors because I can't guarantee the quality of the
accommodations that one sees online," Lebovitch said. "We work with
reputable organizations that ensure the quality of the products and that they
are vetted and are appropriate for our clients."
McKinley also shies away from vendors that don't vet
accommodations first. Instead, she uses suppliers like Wimco Villas and Luxury
In addition to a villa often being the right kind of
accommodation product for groups traveling together, McKinley said alternative
accommodations also offer some unique opportunities to enhance a client's
experience; for example, hiring a private chef to cater to the client's needs.