New competitor in luxury travel market: vacation rentals

By Gina Kramer

The global travel market has already begun to redefine itself during the economic crisis, offering more options than ever for travelers that are quickly becoming hot new trends. Vacation rentals such as condos, whose owners used to give renters not much more than a key to the main door, are now determined to prove equal, if not better, than all-inclusive resorts and upscale hotels. Current developments such as an increase in the supply of vacation rentals, as well as changing preferences of travelers are encouraging the growth of this trend.

One of the reasons why new vacation rentals are appearing on the market is also the pressure to rent, as vacation homeowners feel a declined income from pensions, investments, or employment. The demand for vacation rentals also has increased. Travelers are now looking for more of an authentic experience, providing more privacy and value. This trend was influenced by the altered consumer mentality that emerged during the crisis, when hotels tried to create beyond-luxury experiences to lure clients. In response to the growing trend, even well established luxury hotel chains, such as Ritz Carlton and Rosewood, have started to add the option of vacation rentals.

Vacation Home Rentals, LLC, the largest independent vacation rental site in North America, predicts the vacation rental market will grow 13.1 percent in 2011. HomeAway, Inc.—the world’s leading online vacation rental marketplace—finds in its latest “HomeAway Vacation Rental Marketplace Report” that 8 out of 10 vacation rental owners anticipate their rental business this year will be stronger or about the same as it was in 2010.

HomeAway lists the reasons why vacationers might find vacation rentals and condos to be more attractive than traditional hotels: “home-like experience” and “more room” are listed as top reasons for their choice of rentals. Other advantages of vacation rentals are listed as “more privacy,” “better value,” and “more authentic travel experience.”

Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen, a group of luxury boutique condo hotels in Mexico, have already seen a current grow in their rental occupancy by 50 percent compared to the last year. The properties, located in the internationally popular beach town of Playa del Carmen, function as a 5-star hotel and are managed and branded through one on-site property management company that rents condos as hotel suites.

Similar research in the United States shows that, for instance—Rocky Mountain Vacation Rentals, a vacation rental provider for the high country of Colorado—had a 139 percent increase in annual sales from 2009 to 2010. Of this increase, vacations in Vail, Colorado accounted for 82 percent of revenue over the past year.

Instead of getting an average hotel room, guests of Condo Hotels stay at posh suites with elegantly decorated living rooms overlooking the turquoise Caribbean Sea, and enjoy multiple spacious bedrooms with private bathrooms, and watch sunsets while lounging on personal terraces or rooftops.

“Instead of being cramped in one hotel room in sharing beds, families can relax and enjoy the privacy that the separate bedrooms and bathrooms can offer,” says Jack Perlman, the developer.

Almost all condos feature private outdoor Jacuzzis and pools, and rooftops at all four properties boast high-end kitchen appliances and BBQ grills. Having an option of cooking one’s own homemade dinner and enjoying it on a terrace overlooking the beach, adds to the more personal experience a vacation rental can provide.

While creating an atmosphere of one’s own luxury home, Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen adds the services of a 5-star hotel, such as 24-hour security, an indoor parking garage, room service, and daily maid service. As it would be at a hotel, all units are equipped with luxury toiletries and fine linens, and their mini bars are stocked with gourmet food and top-shelf drinks. Rocky Mountain Vacation Rentals also offer similar hotel-like services, including a 24-hour maintenance, pool & Jacuzzi access, housekeeping, ski lockers, and parking.

Condos in Mexico however, are determined to show consumers that they go above-and-beyond a typical mini-bar offering you would find at a hotel. Guests can get the services of a private chef, personal shopping, babysitting service, concierge, and transportation in luxury cars. The upscale Beach Club is complimentary for guests, and everyone receives passes to a modern fitness center. On site, there are two gourmet restaurants, a health café, a luxury spa, a beauty salon, a gourmet deli and market, and a soon-to-open scuba shop.

In Colorado, Rocky Mountain Vacation Rentals also offer the convenience of planning their guests’ entire vacation, including lift tickets, activities at a discount, and even dinner reservations at the best restaurants in town.

Finally, there are the costs that come into consideration. According to HomeAway, vacation rentals are on average at least 50 percent less expensive per square-foot than hotels. Rates at Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen start at around $180 per night for a 1-bedroom condo suite during the low season. At Rocky Mountain Vacation Rentals, you’d be able to find a 1-bedroom Vail condo with hotel services from $350 per night. In addition to offering more for the money, vacation rentals also bridge the gap between staying at a fancy hotel—where everything is sterile and not-to-be-touched—and a relaxed home environment. Why not combine both, and create a luxury home-away-from-home atmosphere?

To find out more about Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen, visit condohotelsplayadelcarmen.com.
To find out more about Rocky Mountain Vacation Rentals, visit rockymountainvacationrentals.com.

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