Villa operators are seeing “pockets of positivity” as travellers look for the flexibility of self-contained accommodation, according to a Travel Weekly Webcast on how to sell villa holidays.
James Villa Holidays commercial director Dave Woollcott, GIC The Villa Collection programme coordinator Claire Kalatzis and CV Villas’ operations and sales manager Louise Wade joined features editor Katie McGonagle to offer advice for agents on tapping into increased appetite for villa holiday.
Woollcott said there were “green shoots” for 2021 bookings but that demand in 2020 was likely to be limited to certain destinations. He said: “There will be customers who still want to travel [this year]. I think numbers won’t reach demand we’ve had previously in the lates market, but there will be a lates market but it will be softer and potentially more region-specific.
“At the moment we’re seeing more customers interested in Cyprus, Greece, Croatia, less so mainland Spain and the Spanish islands. The Algarve is trending quite nicely for us at the moment – so we are seeing pockets of positivity and areas where customers are wishing to travel to.”
He added: “We’ve already had new agency groups contact us interested to work with James that we haven’t worked with before. They see the value in a villa holiday and that it might be more interesting than, dare I say, cruise holidays at the moment. There are other holiday types that might see a period of softness and hopefully we can enjoy some of that new business and retain those customers going forward.”
Flexibility, isolation and the opportunity for multigenerational or extended family holidays were all identified as key factors in selling villa holidays in the current climate.
Kalatzis said: “I think what everybody will be looking to do at this point is reconnect with their family and villa holidays offer that. Pre all of this, we were getting a lot of multigenerational calls I think that’s just going to double and triple. People will be wanting to spend time with people they’ve been isolated from for so long, yet they will still be in a safer environment because they can be together as one unit and go out as much or as little as they want, they can order food or shopping in. if they’re a little bit scared of taking that step to travel, this is a safer step to take.
“All of our transfers are private so you’re going to be with your family. You’re going to get to spend quality time with grandma and grandpa that you haven’t seen for three or four months, and relive some of those memories that you’ve missed out on in the last few months.”
CV Villas has removed location guides (villa books) from its properties and introduced rep calls via Zoom amid a number of measures to improve hygiene protocols and reassure customers.
Wade said: “ For me, a villa holiday is all about choice – you have far more choice with a villa holiday than you do with any other type of holiday and at the moment, that is absolutely key for our customers because every customer has different concerns. You can understand where they’re coming from but in a lot of cases, a villa holiday really does meet all of those concerns because a customer can choose whether they want a maid in during the week, whether they would like to have a chef or a cook in, or whether they would like somebody to deliver their shopping to them. Their eating time isn’t dictated to them, they get to choose who they are in close proximity with.
“We’re going to start doing Zoom rep services rather than immediately having someone physically at the villa. If the client would like to see one of our staff, of course our staff will be there – socially distanced and wearing PPE – but it’s all down to the customer and I think that’s where villa holidays will come into their own. The customer can dictate exactly the type of holiday that they want while getting the facilities they could have had in a hotel.
“That’s where travel agents can really push the villa product – it’s entirely down to the customer what kind of holiday they have.”
Wade added that customers were looking not only for isolated, rural villas but also for those within walking distance of restaurants, towns and other amenities.