Villas of Distinction has been in business for over three decades, and “what has contributed to our success is the travel advisor community,” Willie Fernandez, General Manager and Vice President for Villas of Distinction, told Travel Market Report. “I’ve been in the business for a long time – at one point I was a travel advisor myself – and I know the value that travel advisors bring.”
That was the idea behind the luxury villa rental company’s new #WithYouToStay campaign, aimed at “supporting the travel advisor community in every way possible, because they support us.”
It offers advisors up to $750 in bonus commission for every 2020 and 2021 booking. It’s valid for new bookings made now to May 31, for travel through Dec. 31, 2021, although Fernandez said he can see it being extended. Villas of Distinction is also giving advisors money for their clients, with their choice of up to $2,000 in Destination Dollars or up to a $2,000 Amazon gift card.
Villas of Distinction also launched its “Peace of Mind” policy, adapting new rebooking procedures, relaxing payment terms to honor clients’ villa investments, and updating cancelation policies up to 28 days prior to arrival.
“Travel advisors are our number one source of business, and we will do everything in our power to support them,” he said. “We’re going to be here with you to make sure the agency public remains strong.”
On the Villas of Distinction website, on any villa page, there’s now creative assets that state ‘we highly recommend the use of a travel advisor.’ If a consumer asks for a recommendation, Villas of Distinction will introduce the guest via email to an advisor, usually selected based on proximity. Fernandez said he’s also going to be filming a video this weekend for the Villas of Distinction social media pages, once again encouraging our consumers to use a travel advisor.
“We want to send as much business as we can back to a travel advisor,” Fernandez said. “In all of our marketing, email and social, we’re promoting the use of a travel advisor. Our emails have already encouraged folks. We want more and more consumers to understand the value a travel advisor brings, and having that advisor work with us.”
These villa vacations, ranging from $15,000 to $200,000, is something a consumer shouldn’t try and book on their own, Fernandez said, but rather speak with a travel advisor who is “harnessing years and years of travel and travel planning, and who knows all the little secrets, you’re allowing someone to do all that heavy lifting for you.”
For what the future holds, Fernandez said people are just waiting for that small sign that things are open and safe. Guests who are still looking to travel in 2020 are taking a wait and see approach, while a majority of new bookings, upward of 80%, are for 2021.
Fernandez said that while guests probably won’t be going to Europe, they’re likely to go to the Caribbean and unique places in the U.S.
Villas are also in a better position for the post-coronavirus world, Fernandez explained.
“The moment that glimmer of light shines through that it’s okay to travel again, the demand of the villa will be unprecedented. You’re in your own private space, with people you’ve either been in quarantine with or know are safe.”
Staffed villas are cleaned daily, and if they’re not staffed, the villas are deep cleaned right before a new guest arrives, making it an appealing option for some travelers. If a client wanted to add additional housekeeping, that’s also an option.
At the end of the day, Fernandez said, “we work in the most resilient industry of them all. We have overcome financial meltdowns, H1N1, Ebola, SARS, and we will be back and we are here to stay.
"While people may not move, or change their TV, the one thing they will never stop doing is traveling. It’s in their blood, even if it’s just for a weekend getaway. I see it all day long, they want to experience the moments that are special through traveling.”