In Part One of a series, Travel Market Report provides an overview of villa products and clients.
A villa vacation may seem more exotic than an all-inclusive resort stay in Mexico or a cruise to the Caribbean cruise, but selling villa vacations is within reach of any travel seller with a diverse clientele.
Peter S. Carideo
Travel sellers should not fear villa sales, said Peter S. Carideo, CTC, president of CRC Travel, a Signature-member agency in Chicago. “I don’t think it’s any different than selling a custom package to someone.”
No single description applies
But a villa vacation may not be what you think.
“A lot of people have a mistaken idea that when you say the word ‘villa’ it means, across the board, that clients want to go to Bali and feel like they’re the only house on the island,” said Ron Skinner, owner of Patrik Travel, a TRAVELSAVERS agency in St. Louis.
In fact there is no single description of a villa or villa vacation.
Range of villa options
“Sometimes villas can be tied to a resort, and sometimes they can be standalone, without all the bells and whistles of a full resort,” said Laura Lukasik. Lukasik is manager of Viking Travel Service in Westmont, Ill., an Ensemble member.
Villas are also available in a variety of locations. The most common villa destinations are the Caribbean, Hawaii, the South of France, Italy and French Polynesia.
Range of villa clients
Villa clients are also a diverse bunch.
Some clients want the resort experience, while getting more privacy by staying in their own villa. These clients want their activities planned for them and they want multiple dining options.
Then there are people who want to do it all themselves. “There are some people who really like privacy and don’t want to be tied to a resort, who just want the peace and quiet of the villa surroundings and their family,” Lukasik said.
One generalization about villa vacations does tend to hold true. While there are some couples who like the villa experience, most villa clients travel in groups – either with friends or extended family.
“A typical villa client could be a multigenerational family who wants to be all under one roof – or a group of friends,” said Carideo.
Range of villa budgets
Another mistaken assumption is that villa vacations are for the super-rich. Not so, Lukasik emphasized.
“There is a definitely a budget range for villa vacations,” she said. “There are price ranges from kind-of budget to top-end luxury.”
In fact, with a large-enough group, villa rentals are sometimes more cost-effective for travelers, she added.
“Often it’s a family and they’re looking for a villa to cut the cost, because they’re getting the right size villa, but it’s only one unit to pay for. The cooking facilities also bring down costs.”
Villa prices often depend on the economy of the villa location as well as the number of villas in a location. For instance, Jamaica has lots of affordable villas, Skinner pointed out.
Qualifying is a must
To ensure clients are happy with the villa you recommend, it’s critical to qualify them.
First, find out if they are a villa type of client, and if so what type of villa client are they? Second, what do they want to pay and what do they expect to get for what they’re paying?
“Are they the kind of people who want to relive some hippie roots,” Skinner asked. “Then it can be a standalone place near the beach. Or is it the type of person who wants to go to the Seychelles?”
As an example, Skinner told Travel Market Report he recently put clients in a Sandals villa, because he knew they’d been to and enjoyed a lot of upscale all-inclusive resorts. So he knew they were amenities-driven people who like to have a variety of activities on-hand.
“They need help keeping themselves busy. Other customers say they want to go to the beach and they don’t care if they see anybody else the entire time.”
To find the right match in terms of a villa’s physical attributes, Lukasik often asks clients what kind of home they live in year-round.
“People aren’t going to want to stay in a villa that’s less than what they’re living in year-round. For example, do they expect marble countertops?”
Next time: Travel agents share advice on selling villa vacations, including top sources of product knowledge and how to recommend villa vacations.