CV Villas is hoping to grow trade business once consumers start thinking about summer bookings for 2021.
Bookings through travel agents currently represent around 20% of all business for the specialist, but this has the potential to grow to a third, managing director Tristan Symondson said.
He promised a suite of products that could helps agents, as part of a wider “digital transformation” the firm has been going through, the results of which should be rolling out in the spring, he told TTG.
“Agent business is hugely important to us, and I see no reason why we can’t build trade sales further, and without cannibalising our B2C business,” he said. “We offer price parity for agents, a very experienced team, and great service.
“We know it can seem complicated sometimes making a villa booking, but our team know each property well and can guide agents as to which ones suit which clients. The new tools we roll out will help too.”
As a sign of its trade focus, Chris Etheridge was hired in January as business development manager, the company’s first new hire since the pandemic started.
Etheridge will now provide tailored support for new and existing agent partners, including a new CV Villas Facebook group, and as a new incentive, any agent who makes a booking in February for travel in 2021 will automatically qualify for a £20 Amazon Gift Voucher.
As a result of the pandemic, Symondson said clients were now looking for villas that were even more secluded and remote than usual.
“People might have shied away from ones that were quite remote in the past, but some people now want to be even more reclusive in their choice,” he said. “Waterside houses are also especially popular.”
Last year, CV Villas adapted to what became huge surges in last-minute demand, as destinations opened up and closed as options for UK clients, with multi-generation family groups particularly keen to gather for a reunion in a villa. “I see that trend continuing this year too,” he said.
Average booking value has also leapt up, with people having more to spend as a result of less holidays.
“People are spending more than they would have previously, whether upgrading to an even more beautiful, larger home, or booking two weeks instead of one, as they would have done previously,” he said. “Average booking value is up by 15% as a result.”
As more people choose to take a “workcation”, and switch their kitchen or spare room at home for a glossier locale, CV Villas has also seen its length of stay increase.
This was up by 25% overall, according to Symondson, with people often asking “how strong is the WiFi” before confirming longer stays, and Greece proving especially popular for this.
CV Villas does now offer a selection of villas deemed the best for “working from home” on its website, and is running a competition for two people to win a month-long “WFH stay” in a villa.
“There were some weeks in 2020 when we actually exceeded bookings in 2019 – and people definitely still travelled knowing they would have to quarantine on return and were acceptant of that,” he said. “Others asked us to extend the stay – even swapping villas, which was possible in many places, as we have options within a few miles of each other.”
In 2021, CV Villas will be featuring around 800 options in Greece, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Croatia, Turkey, Morocco, the Caribbean, Florida and most recently, Sri Lanka.
He said there hadn’t been “huge Caribbean demand”, given stricter entry requirements in most countries, with Greece and Italy remaining most popular.
“Greece and Italy are usually our biggest destinations – and that stayed true for quite a lot of last year, as they remained open to us for quite long into the season; they’re also what looks to be booking the most for 2021 as well,” said Symondson.
CV Villas’ Above product – which offers an enhanced level of services in some villas – has also proved popular.
“Those who were still confident to travel wanted to treat themselves even more, so requested Above, which includes housekeeper, a concierge on hand as the bare minimum and often a chef,” he said. “We can also provide villa hosts, waiters and bar tenders: it’s like turning the villa into a little boutique hotel and as guests split the cost accordingly, it works out well.”
He added that while consumer confidence was currently being impacted by changing restrictions and government’s mixed messaging around booking holidays, the prospects for this year remained good, especially with the increased interest in private villa stays as a result of the pandemic.
“Once we get going again, there is definitely growth to be had – we were in good shape going into the pandemic and believe that demand will return,” he said.
“We’ve spent six months investing in and working on digital platforms that will make us even more efficient when things pick up.”