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Villa Vacations on the Rise as Elixir for Pandemic Woes

Privacy and safety at top of mind for “bleisure” travelers booking villa and estate vacations

July 23, 2020

As travel in these pandemic times has been altered greatly by where we can go, how we can get there, and how we choose to arrange for our stay, thought has turned to private villas and chalets in scenic, if not breathtaking, destinations.

To that end, private villas and chalets are getting keen attention from those who want to vacation safely in encapsulated comfort.

Whether traveling abroad or closer to home, those who are planning their vacations are now, more than ever, looking to private quarters for their stays. Especially popular with families who want to stick together and enjoy each other’s time with multi-gen vacations, villas and luxury estates are seen as offering sophisticated hotel level services combined with the healthy security of a private home without other guests.

A recent survey from Business Insider reports vacation rentals around the world have jumped 127% since early April — possibly a sign that people are slowly starting to travel again. New Zealand, Germany, France, U.S, and Australia are leading this recovery trajectory.

Business Traveler spoke with villa and private estate expert Sean Emmerton, president of Destination Marketing International and curator of such properties around the world through Elegant Mexico and a new site soon to be live:, about what advantages a villa vacation brings and how these options differ from other similar products in luxury hospitality. Such manses can be used by business travelers for business as well as pleasure, whether it is an incentive vacation for top performers, a high-end retreat for bonding and strategy meetings or a buyout for bigger meetings.

1) What is a villa and how is it different from a regular vacation home booking?

A villa tends to be a more upscale residence with services, such as housekeeping and concierge services. A villa can typically include staff, such as butlers and chefs, bartenders, nannies, etc.

2) Why would a traveler seek out a villa over a high-end hotel stay?

Villas provide considerably more space than a typical hotel room. There is also more privacy with self-contained amenities, such as private pools — eliminating the need to use a hotel/resort pool. Many villas, as can be found with Elegant Mexico properties, include full staff, full concierge desk and such in-demand resort amenities as a private beach club and private health and well-being center. Villas also minimize the contact with strangers, which is important during the COVID-19 situation and will continue to be so.

The cost per person tends to be lower than a high-end resort, especially with respect to the food and beverage costs. The cost per person per day will generally range from $60 – $100 per day for all food and beverage consumption. Many high-end hotels/resorts will charge $20 – $25 per cocktail, $50 per person for breakfast, etc.

Villas are also an excellent option for high-profile guests as they provide the privacy allowing them to relax by the pool without being photographed by other guests. Many times they can be greeted at the private aircraft door and taken to their villa without ever being noticed to enjoy a completely anonymous vacation.

3) What are the most popular destinations for villa bookings?

For us, it is Los Cabos — by far. However, most beach destinations in Mexico are very popular, as are beach destinations in the Caribbean. Many destinations, such as Tuscany, Umbria, Corfu/Greece, etc., are also very popular for villas and private residence vacations.

4) Please describe a typical villa in, say, Mexico.

Stays can vary greatly depending on the villa management company. With EM, we hold the client’s hand throughout the process from booking the villa, doing complete pre-arrival planning, grocery shopping, transportation, etc., and servicing their needs while staying at the villa through butler and chef services, restaurant reservations, music and fireworks for celebrations … whatever the guests request.

We provide transportation upon arrival, and then one of our concierge team greets them along with the villa staff so they can be oriented to the villa environs. We can go over their itinerary with them while they enjoy homemade salsas, guacamole and margaritas. We try to plan as much as possible prior to arrival, however, whatever they need to add, cancel or change while in residence, is given to their dedicated butler to handle for them. At the end of their stay, our concierge team will present their final bill with their food and beverage costs, transportation, in-villa spa services and club incidentals. Once agreed and the bill is signed, we take them back to the airport in our private transportation.

5) Why is interest in villas rentals exploding currently?

I feel that due to COVID-19 and the concern over health and safety and social distancing, villas provide an opportunity for a luxury vacation experience that eliminates all the stress involved in being in a new environment with people you do not know.

Villas also provide a very personalized service experience guests see the same staff every day and the staff can quickly adapt to guests and anticipate what they will want. Many guests will only rent our villas if the staff members they know and are familiar with are available! We have had many instances where a guest will change their dates based on such staff availability.

I also feel that even affluent travelers are becoming irritated with the exorbitant cost of food and beverage at the top resorts. While they can afford it, it doesn’t mean they want to pay $25 for a margarita. Value is becoming very important and villas represent excellent value. It is also difficult for hotel accommodations to compete with the size and amenities of a luxury villa, especially EM villas that have so many resort amenities.

6) What amenities usually come with these rentals? What types of amenities are easily available to those who book villa rentals that are not so easily procured through other types of bookings?

With our EM Del Mar villas, for instance, the following list is included for every villa regardless of the size of the villa. With our other villas, we can easily provide full staff for an additional fee: