WITH Asians traveling more than ever, the luxury villa market is gaining grounds among affluent travelers who want to be away from crowds while still taken care of. There’s nothing to not like about a luxury villa stay – you get loads of privacy, you can fit multiple people into a single villa, and you might even get your own private pool and staff.
In a way, it’s like having a hotel all to yourself.
One company that’s built itself on the luxury villa market is The Luxe Nomad, a villa booking site that broke out in 2012. What started out as a platform to advertise flash sales is now a swanky booking site with properties across many countries in the world from Bali and Maldives to Mykonos and Santorini.
Founder Stephanie Chai told Travel Wire Asia that the concept of villas appeal to Asian travelers because they tend to travel in large groups, or with family. When traveling with family, privacy and comfort are important factors, both which can be easily ticked off during a villa stay.
“In a luxury villa, there is a lot of privacy as most villas are usually standalone properties or the rooms are set far apart from each other. You also get a lot of space and most come with private pools and in some cases, private onsens,” she said.
“It’s great for families and groups because there is space for everyone. You also get completely personalized service because it’s one team that will get to know you over the course of your stay and will be able to provide customized service to suit your individual needs.”
In some cases, staff at luxury villas are made up of notable alumni with hospitality backgrounds from brands like Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton.
As the cherry on the cake, private villas are often equipped with a kitchen, a living room, a dining space, and sometimes, your own washing machine. This means families can get a feel of being in their own homes without forking out additional charges for laundry and food.
At the moment, trendy areas for villa bookings are Bali, Koh Samui, and Phuket – all immensely popular islands in the region. However, she notes that Hakuba, a village in the Japanese alps, is experiencing a revival through bookings of snow-topped chalets and cabins.
Niseko, a town in Hokkaido, is also seeing a surge as Japan climbs the ranks as a ski destination. “While there are no villas in Niseko, there are some amazing ski chalets like the Glasshouse,” Chai said.
Many of the properties listed in The Luxe Nomad’s Nikeno listing pages are starkly beautiful – lone cabins amidst a blanket of snow, surrounded by naked branches. The experience would most certainly be lost if you’re checked into a generic city hotel.
Rise of luxury Chinese travelers
Chai’s biggest clients are travelers from Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Singapore, but she added that no one group can surpass the exponential growth of Chinese spending.
“For example, Bali has always had Australians as their top visitors but they’re now neck and neck with Chinese travelers. It cannot be denied that the future of the travel industry [belongs to] Chinese travelers, [and] it’s going to be very important to a lot of hospitality properties,” she said.
The site welcomed an influx of Chinese visitors, and Chai wants to ease the booking process by working on a Mandarin-language site, due to launch soon.
“Social media is [also] key to marketing towards Chinese luxury tourists. The Chinese are early adopters of technological trends who conduct their research on digital platforms and often turned to their mobiles to book their outbound travels,” Chai said.
The brand has promptly jumped aboard Weibo and WeChat to market their villas, aided in part by a Mandarin-speaking customer service team.
“A few years ago, the Chinese market was all about packages. Ten years ago, you would not expect Chinese travelers to book a villa in Phuket but hearing back from our villa partners, approximately 60 percent occupancy is [made up by] them,” she said.
“They are very similar to the international market in that they’re aware of the top brands out there but the difference is that a large percentage of them still prefer hotels over villas.”
It’s also important to recognize the Chinese free, independent traveler (FIT), an increasingly important intersection when talking about Chinese traveler trends.
Chai said Chinese FIT travelers want to be able to tell a story and share their experiences with others when they go home. She said: “They’re looking for a special experience rather than something generic, preferably something that is local and unique.”