The sharing economy has typically been connected with budget or mid-range travelers looking for a deal along with a unique experience. But in recent years, luxury services have moved into the space, offering new opportunities for travel agents working with the most discerning travelers.
The sharing economy has always been associated with a flexible, self-service style of travel, from young discount-seekers crashing in spare bedrooms to mid-market urban explorers discovering the quirks of other people’s kitchens. But as the sharing economy matures, it’s finally catching up with luxury travelers who expect all-encompassing, guest-centric experiences.
For travel agents, this is an exciting opportunity, as companies and services in the space are providing curated, intensely vetted properties, as well as personalized, best-in-class customer and support services. Agents can partner with these providers to construct personalized vacations that satisfy the needs and expectations of high-end travelers.
Luxury Experiences for the Discerning Individual and the High-End Group
While a traditional sharing economy traveler looking to splurge on a once-in-a-lifetime getaway may be content to book a “villa stay with personal chef and butler services” on their own, high-end travelers with exacting expectations will be more likely to turn to a travel agent who can ensure that the villa is well-maintained and meets their privacy requirements, the cook makes excellent food, and the butler speaks their language.
This type of traveler is not just looking for a beautiful property with a few extras, but a full-surround, elevated travel experience. They expect to work with agents who understand their perspectives and will provide personalized service and offerings throughout the booking process and the vacation.
“Authenticity matters to them” says Amr Younes, vice president of revenue optimization at Luxury Retreats. “They want their experience to be unique, individualized, and different from other trips.” This intensive curation can create trips of a much higher quality than a straightforward stay on a high-end property, bringing about a true luxury travel experience.
The growing availability of curated luxury rentals via the sharing economy also offers new options to groups who may find economy and appeal in larger-scale accommodations such as villas and castles. Travelers drawn to these types of unusual luxury accommodations are unique globetrotters on the lookout for experiences that go beyond the typical glossy travel brochure, and travel agents would be savvy to take note.
A castle or villa may be an ideal site for a family reunion, small corporate retreat, or friend-group getaway. Noteworthy, beautiful, spacious, and accommodating, these options can be paired with services on par with five-star hotels. And when rented for a group, they can be even more economical per person per night than a high-end, or even mid-range, hotel.
While some planners of such group events may want to book rentals themselves, others will realize that working with a professional travel agent can help them create the most effective package for the occasion. Agents, often in collaboration with personal concierge teams, can help planners discern which location, type of accommodation, and services will be the best fit for the group’s needs, how to best arrange for group transport to out-of-the-way countryside locations, and whether to add on excursions or cultural experiences.
Luxury Rentals for Elevated Experiences
The types of enhanced experiences high-end travelers now look for go beyond the quality and style of the accommodations involved, though those accommodations will always be central to such curated vacations. All other elements of the trip start with and emanate from a basis of exceptional lodgings, and expand into travelers exploring the world with the people who matter to them most.
Sharing economy companies that are engaging with the high-end market focus on providing fully vetted, secure, and distinctive properties to satisfy these needs. At Luxury Retreats, for example, fewer than five percent of applicant properties are accepted to the site after a 240-point inspection. Once the homes are listed, they’re regularly re-inspected to ensure high levels of quality, security, and cleanliness.
Particularly fitting for the luxury sharing economy market are rentals of magisterial, historic, and unique properties that can provide travelers with unique, authentic getaways. Villas, castles, country estates, and upscale condominiums are solid options for this segment and increasingly available through sharing economy platforms and service providers.
Additionally, even more unusual properties in destinations around the world are increasingly enticing to high-end travelers who want something as unique as it is luxurious, especially in the age of social media where the most extraordinary experiences serve as social currency. The options are creative and diverse, ranging from cliffside Hawaiian villas surrounded by rainforests and waterfalls to luxury ski lodges to coastal Mediterranean estates overlooking on vineyards and orchards.
Luxury properties make up a small portion of sharing economy offerings, and many travelers will opt to book such accommodations on their own. But there’s a strong and growing segment of the travel market comprised of agents skilled at leveraging these resources for high-end travelers and groups. Those who take advantage of the opportunity will be at the leading edge of luxury travel.
To learn more about how travel agents can take advantage of the sharing economy in luxury hospitality space, visit Luxury Retreats.