Ten years ago, short term villa rentals were still a fairly niche choice in the Caribbean. Most travelers preferred the familiarity that well-established hotels offered. It was an intrepid few who chose to strike out alone, staying in unknown properties, where the quality was untested.
Fast forward to today and vacation villa rentals in the Caribbean represent the ultimate in elegance and seclusion. The bar for luxury has never been higher and the most exclusive villas offer all the comforts and amenities of luxury hotel, with more space and more privacy. Exceptional properties are enhanced by warm, personal service, and the option to have complete vacations designed by destination experts.
The Rise of Vacation Rentals
Before the Internet gave rise to booking engines and online travel agents, most travelers to the Caribbean stayed in hotels and resorts. Renting a villa was uncommon, both because finding such properties was tricky, and because there simply weren’t many from which to choose.
But in the space of a few years, VRBO, Booking.com, Airbnb and others exploded on to the scene, completely changing how people booked vacations. Suddenly every rental property in the world could be found, and many second homeowners saw an opportunity to offer their properties for short term rent.
The Need for Standards
While this suited the budget vacationer looking to make their dollars stretch further, it was time-consuming to trawl through thousands of options. And as discerning travelers soon realized, booking directly with an owner offered no guarantee in terms of standards and quality. What an owner might consider clean, or their idea of a fully equipped kitchen, a private garden or large terrace, didn’t always match the client’s.
Property management companies were the logical response to this: these companies set standards and ensured every property they represented met those standards. They provided the much-needed quality control and, in curating a collection of properties, provided the traveler with a pre-filtered, independently verified selection. Additionally, at the top end of the market, property managers raised the level of service, with knowledgeable representatives available to answer every question, take care of special requests and design tailored itineraries.
A Pandemic Boom
Although Covid-19 froze travel plans initially, it ultimately led to a boom for short term vacation rentals. After so many months apart, what better way to gather with loved ones while remaining socially distanced, than in a private villa?
The surge in demand inevitably led to new, inexperienced property management companies forming seemingly overnight…but not all offered the level of service their customers expected.
In response, major international hotel brands have partnered with property managers in the past couple of years to replicate their resort-style service and standards in privately owned villas, thus lending unknown villa rental businesses the reassurance of their brand.
While a viable solution for new companies with little hospitality expertise, for guests seeking a refined, polished experience, it is the smaller, well-established property managers, who offer years of expertise, a select portfolio of properties and a truly personal service style, that still have the edge.
Staying Ahead of the Luxury Curve
As the concept of luxury continues to evolve across all industries, creators, tastemakers, and trendsetters strive to surprise and delight with evermore indulgent products and services.
Luxury villas now often surpass hotels in terms of space, privacy, and extravagant amenities. Beachfront locations, heated pools, and non-motorized water sports are now standard amenities, but the most exclusive properties go much further: among The Source’s portfolio are villas with gyms, home cinemas, and tennis courts, others with massage rooms and hair salons, and some with pool tables, wine cellars or pickleball courts. These are no cookie-cutter properties - each is completely unique and has its own story to tell.
In terms of service, for boutique property managers like The Source it has meant constantly raising the standard of their offering. Beyond handpicking the most suitable villa for guests we have become luxury travel designers, creating completely bespoke itineraries, booking activities, and organizing events.
It demands listening carefully to guests and in turn consulting with owners who are designing and building vacation homes, to ensure their properties are equipped to delight the most discerning travelers.
It’s the attention to detail and the finesse that set independent property management companies apart from the competition. At the Source, our decade of experience in crafting unforgettable holidays is not something that can be readily imitated, and with the industry predicted to grow rapidly in the next five to ten years, we are well positioned to grow with it.