Following the decline in the city escape, the travel industry has seen a rapid surge in private homes and villa rentals in rural locations for autumn and winter. This has resulted in an increase in new providers adding their inventory to meet the demand for the upcoming travel season, and they have a high set of standards to stick to.
Reports of unpleasant experiences among travellers relating to misrepresented homes and poor safety protocols has prompted industry leaders to enforce a gold standard set of best practice rules and regulations that provide homeowners and clients with more than just peace of mind when contracts are drawn.
Overseas Leisure Group, a leading luxury travel operator based in Miami, has offered luxury villa rentals across the globe for more than 27 years. Approximately 70 per cent of its private villa inventory is off-market or exclusive. The company’s continued success during the pandemic is based upon implementing a resolute set of strict protocols to ensure clients have utmost confidence that every detail has been carefully administered. As part of its unique concept in private homes and villa rentals, clients are offered a series of personal services that go above and beyond the standard accommodations.
Founder and CEO of Overseas Leisure Group, Felix Brambilla, gives us his top ten tips for safely renting a private home or villa and what to look out for prior to closing on a reservation.
When looking for vacation rentals in the private home or villa market, we always advise to go through a travel advisor. They are the gatekeepers who know what the current regulations are within each state or country and whether there are any travel restrictions or quarantine measures in place. Remember, there is no charge to the client for using a travel advisor who earns their commission from the owner or management company. A travel advisor will also have the inventory available, whether domestic or international, and can customise the overall experience and itinerary with activates included.
Ask if there is a field service manager or concierge on-site to oversee and implement the safe destination management practices and protocols within the property. They are the ones who should be arranging the necessary health and safety precautions prior to arrival and on a daily basis. This person also acts as the point of contact for the daily itinerary of activities arranged.
Ensure the property has been personally visited and inspected by the management company prior to arrival, as an extra step to ensure there are no surprises or last-minute mishaps when the party arrives. Each property should adhere to the highest standards of cleanliness and hygiene.
Enquire into the possibility of a virtual tour of the property prior to making the reservation, to ensure there is sufficient space and amenities necessary for your group. This also allows clients to have a preview of the size of each bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living/outdoor areas.
Check what the extra cleaning procedures are and whether they meet CDC requirements, including the frequency of deep cleaning services throughout the planned stay.
Overseas Leisure Group encourages all staff and service personnel to use the Entrsafe health screening App – created for Covid-19 prevention – that allows the user to frequently self-monitor their condition on a daily basis. Ensure all home-based staff are tested within 72 hours of arrival by the party.
Ensure all private chefs and butlers are vetted by management or the field service team.
Families and groups increasingly want outdoor and adventure-based activities during their stay. A travel advisor can arrange these privately for the client but ensure each member of staff has been tested and the equipment is frequently cleaned so the group can remain active and explore in the safest environment.
Whether it’s an on-site or remote concierge being used, ask for assistance with restaurant recommendations, giving options for those with outdoor areas or private dining rooms.
Not every group will plan to eat out every night. Cooking at the property is often preferred, so enquire as to whether the field service manager or concierge can offer an in-home grocery stocking service.
Due to the rise in domestic travel resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic, attractive off-the-grid destinations that cater to affluent travellers have had to combine the privacy of high-end accommodations with a customised itinerary of unique leisure activities that are also offered with best practice protocols implemented with paramount importance.
Off the beaten track retreats, with all the conveniences and comforts of a hotel, have gained popularity within rural and scenic locations that encompass outdoor adventure, such as Montana, California and the Caribbean, for example.
Staycations in a private home, villa or ranch resort have seen an increase in demand among couples, groups and families due to the stringent health and safety measures being implemented by destination management specialists like Overseas Leisure Group.
Rather than accommodations for guests to seclude themselves indoors, private home and villa rentals have grown in popularity for their outdoor adventure, allowing guests to pursue their wellness activities and explore the region safely and with confidence.
“Now the summer is over, when domestic road trips were the preferred way to vacation, perceptions of safety for domestic travel, transportation and lodging are at their highest since the start of the pandemic,” says Brambilla.
“We will continue to see a large portion of travellers journey to more remote, less densely populated locations during the next six months. Private villas have become an excellent option, especially for those wanting to get away and enjoy outdoor leisure activities within a safe environment. Unfortunately, we have seen bad stories spread about mismanaged homes, last minute cancellations, lack of safety protocol and the absence of on-site support. We have implemented a Best Practice management model that we hope will set a much-needed platinum standard for the private lodging sector.”