From super-modern remote hideaways in Finland to island buy-outs in Bali, luxury travellers are increasingly going to be looking for private homes, villas and exclusive-use properties as they pick up travel plans post-lockdown.
Agents can make sure they grab a slice of this well-heeled action too, and Carrier is already feeling the effects of this desire for people to gather in such incredible properties to connect.
“Our average selling price has increased more than 70%, with bookings for 2021 departures exceeding £30,000 and this has grown even further for forward bookings into 2022 with an average booking value of over £40,000,” said Carrier’s head of marketing Natasha Towey.
“We see this as a combination of people upgrading and willing to invest more in their next holiday due to missing out on so many escapes in the past 12 months alongside bookings with a larger number of passengers and groups, so more people wanting to travel and spend real quality time with those people they have missed most,” she added.
Carrier’s suggestions include the incredible Octola Lodge, set in 300 hectares of private Finnish Arctic wilderness which offers exclusive buy-outs for groups of up to 24 (from £29,640 for a week with Carrier). And not only does it offer extreme remoteness, there’s a seasonal chance to meet Father Christmas in his native home, hunt for the northern lights and indulge in Nordic spa traditions.
You would expect villa and home-stay companies to be benefiting from these trends too, as is the case with CV Villas.
“When the government first announced the roadmap, CV Villas saw huge increases in booking enquiries for the summer, showing there is a real appetite for villa holidays this year,” said managing director Tristan Symondson.
“There is no better way for families and loved ones to reunite following a tumultuous year, and with plenty of space at our properties, customers can rest assured they can travel safely and can maintain privacy throughout their holiday.”
Fellow villa and homes specialist Oliver’s Travels has also seen demand surge, especially closer to home.
“Demand for UK and close-by European properties skyrocketed, and the day after the announcement was our second biggest booking day in history,” said Oliver Bell, co-founder at Oliver’s Travels. “Cornwall and Devon are almost fully booked for the whole of summer and are making up 40% of all our overall bookings. We are seeing a sharp rise in bookings abroad for Europe, contributing to 60% of our bookings, with France, Greece and Italy proving the most popular.”
Oliver’s Travels has also rolled out Cookaway, pitched as a “concierge service for staycation holidays”, and offering the delivery of a non-subscription recipe box to the holiday home so the group can create an impressive meal themselves if they prefer not to have a private chef in the home.
Generally however, Oliver’s Travels said a private chef is still the number-one service requested, and the company has an ongoing partnership with Dineindulge to match local cooks recommended through villa owners who all take extra precautions to ensure they are Covid-compliant when cooking in the home.
Full of ideas for beautiful properties around the world from penthouse apartments in New York to ski chalets in Val d’Isere, is a new trade-only luxury accommodation platform, Onee Luxury Travel. It gives agents access to a curated portfolio of professionally managed high-end properties, with visibility of commission rates for each one and a seamless booking process via a platform designed with agents firmly in mind.
Already well established in the home-stay market, Accor’s OneFineStay said demand “had never been greater” for the high-style private homes it offers, with guests appreciative of the reassurance its implementation of the strictest of cleaning and hygiene protocols brings.
“Over the past year we have seen an increase in guests looking for secluded homes that offer a luxurious environment without compromising on safety, meaning they can truly relax,” said Amanda Dyjecinski, chief brand and marketing officer of OneFineStay.
“Our villa bookings have held up over the last year and this year are stronger than ever; we are also seeing our average booking value rise. Services such as a helicopter ride to a private island for lunch, and in-villa services such as celebration dinners have become increasingly popular as guests still want indulgent experiences, whilst limiting contact with others.”
It’s a given clients will value the privacy and possibly remoter locations offered by villas or exclusive-use properties, but some may also look for particularly high style criteria that match or exceed their own homes, and Welcome Beyond offers a range of architectural homes, such as Freiform in South Tyrol, Italy, a project designed by Martin Gruber as a “hybrid between a luxury guesthouse and a nature observatory”.
And once travel is up and running again, it will be useful to have a range of new and interesting ideas for clients, such as a culturally immersive trip to Sri Lanka, but combined with a beautiful villa there, such as those featured by specialist Eden Villas. The company has a dedicated agent portal and founder Jack Eden said he conducts frequent agent web sessions to showcase their portfolio and keep agents fully updated.
“Really, the best advice I can give to agents wishing to sell villa stays is to know the property, inside and out in every detail. And I’d advise finding out all the less enticing points as well as the good ones!” said Eden. “Agents should also know the area the villa is located in, whether it has neighbours and if there are, whether they are commercial or private properties. Are there any staff, and what is their experience and their roles?”
He added it was also important to match the group with the villa type. “All the villas in a portfolio might be lovely, but they may be catering to a specific demographic or group – some will be better for families with small children, others for all adult groups, some for foodies and so on. And I would always encourage an agent to focus on villas that are professionally managed, so you know someone is ‘on the ground’ to look after guests in case something unexpected happens.”
The rush to book a UK spot is on for the summer for sure. Oliver’s Travels offers loch-side luxury at Tarbert Country Manor (pictured), a nine-bedroom 19th-century manor on the west coast of Scotland with a private pebble beach and a cinema room (from £1,830 a week), or the nine-bedroom Cotswolds Farmhouse with a new outdoor pool, from £5,476 a week.
For anyone seeking a private London retreat, The Apartments by 11 Cadogan Gardens launches on 12 April, with six apartments, each on their own floor, for a full Chelsea experience (from £350 per night). Another newcomer is No.1 The Townhouse at Great Scotland Yard Hotel, which launches as a five-storey, two-bedroom Georgian residence on 19 April; guests will be welcomed with a complimentary seasonal hamper from Fortnum & Mason (from £4,500pn, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Another grand option in Scotland is Glenapp Castle, a 21-bedroom Relais & Chateaux hotel on the Ayrshire coast, which includes its new four-bedroom Penthouse Suite, The Endeavour (from £12,950 per night for up to 42 guests, including breakfast).
The British love affair with France runs deep and there is no shortage of incredible homes and exclusive-use options to consider, from Oliver’s Travels’ Villa Bizet, a six-bedroom villa on the French Riviera with a pool (from £10,452 per week), to taking over Domaine des Etangs, a 13th-century castle and boutique hotel which sits in 1,000 hectares of Charente countryside. The meticulous restoration of the chateau covers its seven bedrooms, library, dining spaces and an attic turned into a games room (pictured). Also in the gardens (and included in the private hire) are six farmhouse cottages, a vegetable garden, Gallo-Roman baths, two pools, floating tennis court and a gourmet restaurant. Exclusive hire of Domaine des Etangs starts from €25,000 per night (mid-September to mid-April) or from €45,000 (mid-April to mid-September) and covers the entire property, including the castle, restaurant, farm cottages and all facilities.
Puente Romano has always been a luxury favourite, but Carrier suggests its separate four-bedroom residence, Villa Pereza, with direct beach access. There’s a nice new twist offered now – private tutoring for two children, perfect for those looking to catch up on any missed lessons this year. Parents can also book Spanish fencing lessons with a master who starred in The Mask of Zorro, or tennis lessons with Marko Djokovic; seven nights costs £108,470 per family (six adults, two children) departing 14 August.
Encourage clients to enjoy a stray from the norm and enjoy the lovely island of Paxos, where Simpson Travel has added the Thymari Estate (pictured) for this year. As an exclusive-use option, it can sleep 17 people across a series of five villas set on a lush hillside on the island’s north-east coast. Two beaches are a meander away, and electric buggies are also on hand to get around the grounds, along with two Jeeps for use on the island. Guests are also able to hire the owner’s 26ft yacht, which takes up to 12 guests. The Thymari Estate costs from £23,000 for a week in July, including breakfast and a choice of lunch or dinner (flights and transfers extra).
Italy is dotted with beautiful private stays, from Tuscan villas, to coastal hideaways. Stylish choices from Welcome Beyond include Villa Abruzzo in the far north of the province of Abruzzo and in close proximity to the Adriatic coast (weekly rates from €8,000, based on six sharing) and Freiform (pictured), a countryside home in South Tyrol which just melts into the landscape (from €340 a night). On a grander scale, Castello di Vicarello is a 12th-century castle in the Tuscan hills, complete with nine suites, two pools, vineyard and olive oil production, and an open kitchen. The property hosts to up to 22 guests, and exclusive-use hire starts from €12,000 per night.
New for this year is Masseria Gemmabella a seven-bedroom option in the Puglian countryside, complete with four restored trulli – traditional little houses with conical roofs (from £15,000 per week for up to 14 people). Or for lakeside living, 16th-century Villa Pliniana pitches itself as the “most luxurious villa on Lake Como”, offering guests a stay on an 18-acre estate with 18 bedrooms, a private boat dock, helicopter pad, spa and services of Il Sereno, the sister hotel nearby (from €130,000 for seven nights).
One of the hottest new properties on the luxury scene is Lopud 1483, the conversion of a Franciscan monastery that opened last year on the northern tip of Lopud island in Croatia. The project has been described as a “living art gallery”, steered by art collector Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza, while the 13 original cells of the monastery have been transformed into five suites and there are also “alchemy bars”, in-house meditation experts and a sacred garden in the grounds. Lopud 1483 sleeps 10 guests and is available for exclusive-use between April-October from €10,000 per night, half-board (email@example.com).
In South Africa, Fynbos Family House at Babylonstoren (pictured) in Franschhoek has just made a stylish debut. The five-bedroom Cape-Dutch villa is the latest project from husband-wife team Koos Bekker and Karen Roos, who as well as creating Babylonstoren also launched The Newt in Somerset to much acclaim – Fynbos is available from £2,920 per night.
Some people may be contemplating a longer stay away from home this year, combining work and some holiday time, and for a change of scene, they could swap day-to-day mundanity for a month’s “workcation” at Villa Azzaytouna, just outside Marrakech. The three-bedroom spacious Moroccan home is part of CV Villa’s Above portfolio, which means it includes 24-hour concierge service, an in-house chef and daily housekeeping, and there is also a spa room (from £42,000 per month in May).
Or if clients like the idea of retreating to Kenya on a private safari, Lengishu is an exclusive-use property on the Borana Conservancy with views across the Laikipia plains, available via Abercrombie & Kent for seven nights from £6,250pp including international flights based on 12 sharing.
Slipping into the Indian Ocean down your own slide from the Private Reserve at Gili Lankanfushi (pictured) could be just the antidote people are looking for. This standalone overwater estate has four bedrooms, living space, gym, spa, open-air cinema and infinity pool and costs from $74,970 for seven nights for up to eight guests, including breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Or maybe clients want to hire an entire island? Options include Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi, available from £1,077,608 for a week on a full-board basis, including return seaplane transfers and island experiences for up to 100 guests. They will have full run of the resort, staying in everything from overwater villas to safari-style tented options in the heart of the island, and can snorkel the 9km house reef, explore the Coralarium – an underwater art gallery and coral regeneration project – or swim with turtles. Rate includes full-board, seaplane transfers and island experiences such as yoga and snorkelling.
The Island Buyout Package at Lux North Male Atoll includes use of the six-hectare island with 67 villas, for a sizeable family reunion or special celebration; starting from $180,000 per night (available until 31 October, minimum three-night stay), including daily breakfast, lunch and dinner, and airport transfers. And for a smaller option, COMO Cocoa Island has a wellbeing focus, so the group guests on a buy-out can feel healthy and refreshed, with a third of the island devoted to the COMO Shambhala Retreat. They will stay in 34 overwater villas and island buy-outs include daily breakfast and a choice of lunch or dinner; starting from £25,745 per night, inclusive of speedboat transfers.
Or maybe suggest a cultural escape in this part of the world, in Sri Lanka, combined with the privacy of Eden Villas’ options. The company has a dedicated agent portal and its properties include Claughton House, designed by legendary architect Geoffrey Bawa, available from £674 per night.
Nihi Sumba, a remote hideaway on an island twice the size of Bali, offers the chance to escape to a unique pristine wilderness, with space for up to 80 friends and family across 29 pool villas, available for around $1 million a month.
The Nihi Resort Buyout comes with the chance to explore this hidden paradise, hiking dramatic waterfalls, seeing ancient villages and riding Sumbanese horses along the beach – and feeling good about it, as the rate includes a 5% donation to Nihi’s philanthropic arm, The Sumba Foundation.
There’s a plethora of high-end exclusive options in this part of the world. Carrier suggests ANI Villa in Anguilla, which boasts 10 suites, a coterie of butlers, chef, housekeepers and even a children’s activity coordinator; from £222,720 for a week (based on 16 sharing from 6 November).
Silversands in Grenada has nine sleek hill or beach pool villas, and a Work From Paradise offer, meaning those who stay 14 nights or more can unlock extras such as 45-minute daily personal workout session (from £2,577 per night). Or for those into wellness, suggest one of the new two-bedroom villas at Body Holiday in Saint Lucia, Villa Aurora and Villa Calypso. As with the main hotel, daily spa treatments, food and beverage are included in the cost of the stay, from $3,768 per night.
OneFineStay has some gems also, such as a teeny island for two in Belize, Gladden Private Island (from £3,115pn), to the larger scale, 93-acre Little Whale Cay in the Bahamas, offered up as a “private kingdom”, with the island boasting its own airstrip, a flotilla of boats and space for 12 guests across three homes (from £12,091 per night). And, of course, it wouldn’t be an exclusive feature without St Barths – Le Sereno Villas as is a trio of homes, designed by Christian Liaigre and each with over 7,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, private pool and access to 24-hour service, as well as the amenities of neighbouring hotel Le Sereno; from €4,600 a night.