As travel circles and sputters amid plans made, plans changed and plans canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, one travel formula is seeing great success as a fun and safe alternative to staying in crowded hotels.

Thoughts have turned to private villas and chalets in scenic, if not breathtaking, destinations for vacations long and short and with all the pampering one can handle.

Whether traveling abroad or closer to home, those who are planning their vacations are now, more than ever, looking to private quarters for their stays. Especially popular with families who want to stick together and enjoy each other’s time with multi-gen vacations, villas and luxury estates are seen as offering sophisticated, hotel-level services combined with the healthy security of a private home without other guests.

A recent survey from Business Insider reports vacation rentals around the world have jumped 127% since early April — possibly a sign that people are slowly starting to travel again. New Zealand, Germany, France, U.S, and Australia are leading this recovery trajectory.

MultiBriefs spoke with villa and private estate expert Sean Emmerton, president of Destination Marketing International and curator of such properties around the world through Elegant Mexico and a new site soon to be live:, about what advantages a villa vacation brings and how such bookings differ from other similar options in luxury hospitality.

Such manses can be used by sophisticated travelers for business as well as pleasure, whether it is an incentive vacation for top performers, a high-end retreat for bonding and strategy meetings or buyouts for bigger meetings on top of the vacation advantages these options provide. For leisure travelers, the concept means peace of mind, slowing down and living like a local — with benefits.

1) What is a villa and how is it different from a regular vacation home booking?

A villa tends to be a more upscale residence with services, such as housekeeping and concierge services. A villa can typically include staff, such as butlers and chefs, bartenders, nannies, etc.

2) Why would a traveler seek out a villa over a high-end hotel stay?

Villas provide considerably more space than a typical hotel room. There is also more privacy with self-contained amenities, such as private pools — eliminating the need to use a hotel/resort pool. Many villas, as can be found with Elegant Mexico properties, include full staff, full concierge desk and such in-demand resort amenities as a private beach club and private health and well-being center. Villas also minimize the contact with strangers, which is important during the COVID-19 situation and will continue to be so.

The cost per person tends to be lower than a high-end resort, especially with respect to the food and beverage costs. The cost per person per day will generally range from $60 to $100 per day for all food and beverage consumption. Many high-end hotels/resorts will charge $20 to $25 per cocktail, $50 per person for breakfast, etc.

Villas are also an excellent option for high-profile guests as they provide the privacy allowing them to relax by the pool without being photographed by other guests. Many times, they can be greeted at the private aircraft door and taken to their villa without ever being noticed to enjoy a completely anonymous vacation.

The Greek island of Corfu is a popular spot for villa stays.

3) What are the most popular destinations for villa bookings?

For us, it is Los Cabos — by far. However, most beach destinations in Mexico are very popular, as are beach destinations in the Caribbean. Many destinations, such as Tuscany, Umbria, Corfu/Greece, etc., are also very popular for villas and private residence vacations.

4) Please describe a typical villa in, say, Mexico.

Stays can vary greatly depending on the villa management company. With EM, we hold the client’s hand throughout the process from booking the villa, doing complete pre-arrival planning, grocery shopping, transportation, etc., and servicing their needs while staying at the villa through butler and chef services, restaurant reservations, music and fireworks for celebrations ... whatever the guests request.

We provide transportation upon arrival, and then one of our concierge team greets them along with the villa staff so they can be oriented to the villa environs. We can go over their itinerary with them while they enjoy homemade salsas, guacamole and margaritas.

We try to plan as much as possible prior to arrival, however, whatever they need to add, cancel or change while in residence, is given to their dedicated butler to handle for them. At the end of their stay, our concierge team will present their final bill with their food and beverage costs, transportation, in-villa spa services and club incidentals. Once agreed and the bill is signed, we take them back to the airport in our private transportation.

5) Why is interest in villas rentals exploding currently?

I feel that due to COVID-19 and the concern over health and safety and social distancing, villas provide an opportunity for a luxury vacation experience that eliminates all the stress involved in being in a new environment with people you do not know.

Villas also provide a very personalized service experience guests see the same staff every day and the staff can quickly adapt to guests and anticipate what they will want. Many guests will only rent our villas if the staff members they know and are familiar with are available! We have had many instances where a guest will change their dates based on such staff availability.

I also feel that even affluent travelers are becoming irritated with the exorbitant cost of food and beverage at the top resorts. While they can afford it, it doesn’t mean they want to pay $25 for a margarita. Value is becoming very important and villas represent excellent value. It is also difficult for hotel accommodations to compete with the size and amenities of a luxury villa, especially EM villas that have so many resort amenities.

6) What amenities usually come with these rentals? What types of amenities are easily available to those who book villa rentals that are not so easily procured through other types of bookings?

With our EM Del Mar villas, for instance, the following list is included for every villa regardless of the size of the villa. With our other villas, we can easily provide full staff for an additional fee:

  • Personal butler
  • Private chef for breakfast and lunch (cost for food and beverage additional)
  • Pre-arrival planning & concierge staff
  • Daily housekeeping services
  • Golf cart
  • Offsite activity coordination and in-residence spa services
  • Access to the restaurants, bars, spa and golf course at the neighboring One&Only Palmilla
  • Exclusive Villas Del Mar and Espiritu Del Mar amenities: Club Ninety Six Beach Club and Kids Club, Club Espiritu Fitness Club and Spa
  • Restaurants, boutiques, beaches, golf and tennis a short walk or golf cart ride away from villa
  • 24-hour gated security and emergency medical response

7) What types of trends are you seeing in this market?

Length of stay has not really shifted too much. We have an average stay of about four nights, outside of the major holidays where a five- to seven-night minimum is required.

With villa types, we are seeing many of the resorts being built with a residential component, so this is certainly increasing the available properties. However, these tend to differ from stand-alone villas as they are more of a connected condominium setup.

We are seeing more multi-generational family bookings as well as groups of friends. Our largest villas tend to be the most requested, where in the past it was often two- to three-bedroom villas. This is completely reversed now.

8) Please address what questions a prospective guest should ask when exploring a villa rental.

  • What are the deposit and cancellation policies?
  • Is there an additional fee for staff?
  • How much should I expect to pay for F&B?
  • What kind of security does the development/villa have?
  • What are the medical options in case of an accident or illness?
  • What kind of customer service, maintenance and concierge support should I expect while in residence?