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With the rise of several popular websites that offer consumers an easier way to find apartment rentals and house swaps, more travelers are interested in booking private villas for their vacations. Likewise, Travel Impressions, a tour operator that only sells to travel agents, is seeing a rising demand for its villa product in Mexico and the Caribbean. The tour operator started The Villa Experience by Travel Impressions program in 2010 and has recently added villa rentals in Mexico, including Azul Villa Esmeralda, by Karisma and Hacienda del Mar, both in Riviera Maya; Puerto Vallarta Beach Club and its 11-bedroom sister, Villa Verano; and Villa Paraiso, a 7,000-square-foot, six-bedroom Mediterranean villa located in the private gated community of Punta Bella, just outside of San Jose del Cabo.
“Demand for luxury product in Mexico continues to match supply growth, including from travel agents in California and the Western U.S.,” said John Hanratty, chief operating officer of Travel Impressions. “Much of our recent product development in Mexico has been targeting this demographic with luxury resorts and villas from high-end brands such as Karisma, Paradisus, Secrets and Velas Resorts, as well as Le Blanc by Palace Resorts. At the same time, we’re taking advantage of Mexico’s popularity by negotiating exclusive offers and incentives from our supplier partners.”
The Villa Experience program offers customizable villa stays. Agents also profit, since villa bookings average seven nights per visit.
Travel Impressions has also observed a sharp increase in multigenerational travel as well as destination weddings and honeymoons throughout Cancun and the Rivera Maya as well as Mexico’s west coast. Hanratty sees potential growth for villas being booked for destination weddings and other group travel.
Selling a villa vacation demands a different skill set than selling a resort vacation, and Hanratty sees a need to educate travel agents on how to successfully sell villas. To this end, Travel Impressions has a number of educational programs in place. These include Social U by Travel Impressions, a free webinar series that draws up to 700 agents for each event; the Dimension series, which provides a PowerPoint presentation for agents; and the TI Ambassador Program, which empowers a select group of travel agent applicants to become ambassadors for eight of the company’s resort and destination partners in Mexico and the Caribbean.
“We’ve also made enhancements to the travel experience with the introduction of the Cancun airport business lounge,” said Hanratty. “This adds a touch of comfort for VIP clients at a modest cost.”
Agents can enhance their clients’ flight experience with access to the Cancun airport business lounge in terminals two and three for $25 per person. The lounge operates from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily and offers everything from massage chairs to Wi-Fi access.
This expansion in Mexico is duplicated by similar initiatives in the Caribbean. Experiencing a continued increase in demand for Caribbean vacation products, Travel Impressions has further expanded its portfolio throughout the area, with 18 additional properties in 11 different countries. In 2013, the Villa Experience by Travel Impressions will offer new luxury villa vacation experiences in Barbados, Jamaica, St. Martin and Turks & Caicos.
As more vacationers look to experience a destination the way a true local might, villa rentals are going to continue to grow in popularity. Travel Impressions gives agents an easy way to ride that tide and make their clients happy.