Elegant Stay Away Vacays
Business Traveler|October/November 2020
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Elegant Stay Away Vacays
Luxury villas offer amenity-laden features, cultural immersion and as much COVID-proofing as you ever want
By Lark Gould

Some call them “isolation vacations.” Others call them corona breaks – safe travels to beautiful spots where you can cut away from your crowded daily life and try out a new normal in holiday-making without getting tripped up by COVID-19 wor ries of gloom and doom.

The key is in the choice of dwelling. Say “villa” and your world opens up on a selection of magnificent manses where the only outsiders you see will be the ones you choose to see. Should you say the word “contactless,” and even those coveted hospitality services will obligingly disappear.

Vacation villas have been a long standing standard in the world of hospitality. But these are usually leftto celebrities, CEOs and heads of state who prefer to forego the grand lobbies and vibrant porte-cochères for the personal garage and labyrinth of bedrooms, dining areas, recreation studios and impenetrable pool grounds to be found in lone dwelling places far afield where mountains rule and lake waters hold the sky.

Largely a best-kept secret of the rich and famous, villa vacations are having their day in COVID times. Prior to the pandemic, hotels historically dominated in performance compared to their short-term rental counterparts. In 2019, for example, average hotel occupancy rates skewed 11.4 percentage points higher than vacation rental occupancies and nearly 20 percentage points higher when compared to multi-bedroom estates.

However, as hotel occupancies bottomed out at 17.5 percent in March, down 77.3 percent from the prior year, villa vacation occupancy rates fell “only” to 36.4 percent, and has since increased 60 percent from those lows. During the stretch from early April to early July, the global vacation rental industry rebounded as pent-up travel demand led to a 257 percent increase in global bookings, according to hospitality consulting firm STR.


While popularity is growing, nightly rates make many of these villa vacations out of reach – especially for those who are traveling alone or as a couple. The draw, however, is the “pod.” That is, friends and family members deemed to be COVID-free who want to spend bonding moments together in a mountain chalet or a compound on the beach. With safety and more fun in numbers, suddenly a villa that sleeps eight – or 18 – pencils out to a great way to while away time during the Great Pandemic of 2020.

According to a recent survey by Virtuoso of its network travel advisors that cater to upscale clientele with precious, offthe beaten path vacation recommendations, top travel trends during these COVID days include “contactless travel,” “microvacations,” remote vacations, multigenerational vacations – and travel pods. Jet-setting has been replaced by RV roadtripping; bar-hopping has been replaced by couch cocktails; dining out by dining in; turndown service by turning away service. And traveling around the world has turned into single destination sojourns.


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October/November 2020