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Since 1989, Villas of Distinction has offered discerning travelers a curated selection of luxury villas around the world. Today, it features 2,500 villas, and all properties are thoroughly vetted to ensure quality of product and service as well as guest satisfaction.
A travel industry veteran with previous stints at Travel Impressions, Apple Vacations and more, Steve Lassman joined the Villas of Distinction family in 2004 and now holds the title of vice president of villa product and agency relations for World Travel Holdings’ luxury villa division. (World Travel Holdings is Villas of Distinction’s parent company.) One of his many duties is to oversee travel agent engagement, especially strengthening the company’s relationship with these valuable partners — a responsibility that he does not take lightly.
“Always putting the travel agents’ clients — our guests — first is a surefire way to succeed,” Lassman said. “Agents need you to provide a quality product and service to them, but, most importantly, you have to be accessible and supportive. I learned long ago: Stand with agents and always do your best to help them protect their interests. If they know you are always there for them, they will reward you for a lifetime.”
We spoke with Lassman to learn more about how Villas of Distinction is working with agents, the benefits it provides and what it has planned for future successes.
Why should travel agents recommend that their clients stay in a villa versus a hotel or resort? Dollar for dollar, a luxury villa offers a better value than a comparable resort. We like to say you get the bedroom and bathroom like a resort, but you also get a living room, a dining room, a media room, a full kitchen and an outside, private community space.
There are never strangers in the next room or at your pool. Your table is always ready for your meal; there is no wait; you eat what you want, when you want; no reservations are required; and you will save significantly on your food and beverage costs.
For families, there is no better way to travel than a villa — you can’t beat the space and privacy a villa provides.
How do agents benefit when booking with Villas of Distinction?Since we are not beholden to any one villa or destination, we are able to put clients in a villa and a destination that fit their vacation desires — not our needs. We only put them in vetted and inspected villas, and we offer a full concierge service to make sure we create a personalized vacation experience rather than a cookie-cutter one. We also stand behind what we sell, so there are no surprises or disappointments for the guest.
We also protect the travel agents’ interest: Customers of agents are always their customers — we would never steal their clients.
I learned long ago: Stand with the agents and always do your best to help them protect their interests. If they know you are always there for them, they will reward you for a lifetime.
Are there any current incentives and offers for agents?We are always offering various promotions. One example is Destination Dollars, which is like free money for the guest to use in the destination for just about anything during their stay, including airport fast-track service, boat charters, cooking classes, guided local excursions, in-villa massages, a personal driver, a private chef, a rental car and more.
At specific times throughout the year, we also offer travel agent bonus commissions.
Have you noticed any booking trends? Right now, Europe and especially Italy are hot. We are already selling into 2019 for Europe.
Orlando is one of our fastest-growing markets; families are realizing the tremendous value and experience of our Orlando villas.
We are also seeing renewed interest in the Caribbean, and holiday reservations in this destination are going fast.
What are Villa of Distinctions’ goals for 2018 and beyond?We plan on expanding our product line domestically and internationally. We will continue to help agents compete with the do-it-yourself sites by offering interactive calendars and rates, electronic itineraries, marketing materials and training. Last but not least, we will expand concierge services to offer even more in-destination experiences to enhance the overall guest experience.
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