Wimco, the Newport, RI, and London-based luxury vacation villa and hotel reservations company, reports that demand is up for utilizing private villas for vacation stays. The company’s bookings for fiscal year 2003/2004, through September 7, are up 29% over the previous year.
“The 2004 winter, spring, and summer season has been our best year yet,” says Janis Gordon, Vice President of Marketing and Sales. “Travelers really cherish the calm and peacefulness of the Caribbean. It seems to be seen as a safe haven in a turbulent world. We’re seeing that business is better than ‘back to normal,’ since the lowest period of 2001.”
Industry trend is up overall
The Vacation Rental Managers Assn. (VRMA) conducts research into the vacation home rental market for the U.S. and USVI. VRMA reported that revenues were up in 2003 by nearly 10 percent and are predicted to grow even more in 2004.
In Europe, where Wimco maintains an inventory of over 300 villas in France, Italy, Greece and, recently, Morocco, there is no organization such as the VRMA to conduct industry research.
However, Wimco reports that its European business from North America is slowly coming back after three sluggish years.
“Demand from Americans for Italy remains strong,” says Gordon. “Our Italy villa business nearly doubled, in spite of the weak dollar. France, too, seems to have rebounded, and the word on the street in Paris is that the Americans are back, and the French are welcoming them warmly. Greece has just hosted a near-perfect Olympics, so we are expecting next summer’s demand for Mykonos and Greek island travel to blossom.”
Also in line with industry trends, Wimco notes that its mid- to higher-end villas book more often and earlier than those more competitively priced. The VRMA and Wimco also both experience, as do hotels, later and shorter notice bookings, higher guest expectations, and significantly greater use of the internet for research and decision-making.
Wimco, with an award-winning website (www.wimco.com), has been fine-tuning its internet programming for several years now.
“The internet frees up our reservationists, all of whom inspect our villas and are familiar with our destinations, to offer specific solutions to clients looking for a unique travel experience or locale,” says Gordon. “Clients are increasingly doing their initial research and preferred selections on the internet before calling a reservations agent about specifics and additional needed services.”
Wimco has also positioned itself to anticipate and exceed guest expectations by providing the kinds of concierge services that clients expect from fine hotels, another trend cited by the VRMA.
“We provide any number of services for our clients, from babysitters to maid service to equipment and service rentals. Our guests have come to expect an incredible level of convenience during their villa stay,” Gordon says.