Luxury Retreats Says Travel Agents Critical To Sales Despite Purchase By Airbnb

by Richard D’Ambrosio
Luxury Retreats Says Travel Agents Critical To Sales Despite Purchase By Airbnb

The Villa Grande Bellezza in Beverly Hills. Photo: Luxury Retreats

Luxury Retreats, the Montreal-based luxury villa rental company, is continuing its push to market to travel agents, even after it was purchased by AirBnB, the sharing-economy website that has impacted agent sales.

In an interview with Travel Market Report, Amr Younes, vice president of Revenue Optimization, said, “Luxury travel has a large affluent travel agency-friendly segment. It’s a channel you cannot ignore if you are going to reach these travelers. What we are asking ourselves is how can we partner with agents and work together to extend this beautiful product to their clients.”

Despite AirBnB’s business model, which essentially circumvents agents, its purchase of Luxury Retreats will have “a positive impact, in the sense of we have a very strong organization behind us. AirBnB made it clear that we’re still good to distribute through travel agents. They understand how important agents are for this particular segment. Even though we are a B2C model, we’re very conscious of what it takes to work with travel agents.”

AirBnB purchased Luxury Retreats in February for a reported $300 million, beating out bids from European hotel chain Accor SA and Expedia Inc. Just prior to the acquisition, Luxury Retreats hired longtime travel industry veteran Robert Eastman into a “business development consultancy role in support of strategic trade partnerships.”

At that time, it said Eastman, who is based in New York, “will play an active role to further increase the company's reach within the travel agency sector. As a resource in strategic trade partnerships, Eastman will be responsible for increasing the presence of Luxury Retreats in the travel agency community by cementing existing relationships and creating new strategic partnerships with key agency groups.”

Formerly, Eastman was managing director of the luxury villa division of American Express, where he founded Villas of Distinction.

Luxury Retreats recently began its outreach to agencies and networks of all kinds and sizes, though Younes declined to discuss who Luxury Retreats is meeting with, and where they may have signed agreements.

“We are meeting with agency owners directly. We want that relationship to be more intimate. We’re working hard to get in front of as many agents as we can. But getting in front of the right agents is tricky. There are some who are ready to sell our product, and others we could be right for, but they don’t have the training to sell our product.”

One of the distinctions of the luxury villa rental company, which lists more than 4,000 properties around the world, is how adept it is in providing for the broader luxury travel experience. For example, Luxury Retreats can arrange for anything from a private hunting tour, a bartender at a villa, or a masseuse.

At one property in Cannes, “the owners were talking with me not about the grounds or the pool, but the anti-drone system for security. They realized that they have a lot of high profile customers, and the press fly drones to film them, and this system confuses the drones to send them away.” Agents can earn up to a 10% commission booking through Luxury Retreats, and, if an agent’s client “comes to us directly, we will honor the commission,” Younes said.

Luxury Retreats will step up its industry visibility this year as it pushes to raise its profile with travel agents. For example, Younes will be a speaker at the American Society of Travel Agents global conference this August in San Diego.

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