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Making Sense of Three New Luxury and Premium Vacation Rental Brands

July 21, 2019
9 min read
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Renting a luxury vacation home isn’t an entirely new concept, but in just the last month, two new luxury vacation rental brands have debuted: Airbnb Luxe and Four Seasons Private Retreats. And that doesn’t include other new premium homesharing brands, such as Homes & Villas by Marriott, which officially launched in late April.

But what makes these vacation rentals different from others — aside from the higher price tags — is that they’re not just emphasizing more premium amenities, but also a variety of services that compete with the most luxurious of hotel accommodations.

This is one of the main reasons why Airbnb launched Airbnb Luxe on June 25.

“Today’s luxury traveler is craving more than just high-end accommodations; they seek transformation and experiences that leave them feeling more connected to each other and to their destination,” Brian Chesky, Airbnb co-founder and CEO, said in a statement. “With Airbnb Luxe we are applying the same approach we’ve used since we launched Airbnb more than 11 years ago — creating local, authentic and magical travel moments now in amazing places to stay — to reimagine the way people think and experience luxury travel.”

Melissa Biggs Bradley, founder of Indagare, a New York-based luxury travel planning company, said she’s seen more and more luxury vacation homes flooding the market as well, but she isn’t yet sold on them.

When booking private accommodations for her clients, she said the most important thing to look for is “no surprises."

"The most important factors are knowing exactly what will be delivered in terms of product and service.”

Her high-net-worth clients, she said, still generally prefer hotels over vacation rentals.

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“I have definitely seen more supply recently than demand,” Biggs Bradley said. “Some clients are looking for space and privacy and a hotel alternative but not the vast majority of our high-net-worth clients. Many of them still love the hotel experience and how it differs from being at home. It is not just a change of location that many seek when they travel, but a change of routine or process. Having breakfast in bed in a hotel or going down to breakfast in a fabulous dining room is part of the vacation mindset that a vacation rental brand cannot deliver. For those who are looking for space and privacy, the options are amazing, but the single most important aspect remains reliable service, which rentals just don't have the same reputation for.”

That being said, the newest entrants into the luxury vacation rentals space are emphasizing the ability to do just that, like having a chef cater an entire private dinner at home, or to arrange special travel experiences and activities.

Here’s a closer look at Airbnb Luxe and Four Seasons Private Retreats, as well as how they compare to Homes & Villas by Marriott.

Photo courtesy of Airbnb.
Photo courtesy of Airbnb.

Airbnb Luxe

The more than 2,000 homes you’ll find here are definitely a step above the homes you’ll find via Airbnb Plus, but unlike the homes in Airbnb Plus, all of these are professionally managed in some way, and Airbnb conducts continuous inspections of the homes to ensure that the quality is always up to the more than 300 points of inspection standards it has implemented for homes to even qualify for this tier. Airbnb isn’t the property manager, per se, but these homes are all managed by local vacation rental professionals. The average nightly rate for these luxury homes is $2,000 a night.

You’ll find Airbnb Luxe homes in all corners of the world, from Europe and North America to Australia, New Zealand, Asia, the Caribbean and Central America.

Most of the Airbnb Luxe homes are privately owned, and only a small portion of the inventory is exclusive to Airbnb, which means there’s a chance you could find the same homes listed on other sites. However, booking these homes via Airbnb means you also have access to an Airbnb Luxe trip designer who can assist you 24/7, as well as help you arrange or book Airbnb Experiences.

The only way to book an Airbnb Luxe home is to go through or to book directly with one of Airbnb’s trip designers, so it’s not possible to arrange these accommodations through a luxury travel agent.

If and when Airbnb launches its own loyalty program, there will likely be a loyalty tie-in as well, but for now, there is no loyalty program connection. So, until then, use a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve to earn 3x points on your vacation rental, or opt instead for a card that helps you earn and redeem points or miles on your Airbnb stay.

Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Private Retreats.
Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Private Retreats.

Four Seasons Private Retreats 

The more than 750 rental villas and residences that you’ll find as part of this new collection of luxury homes are all managed directly by Four Seasons, which acts as your property manager. Unlike the homes you’ll find on Airbnb Luxe or Homes & Villas by Marriott, these homes are all directly managed by Four Seasons, and the brand isn’t using any outside third parties to help service them.

For someone like Indagare’s Biggs Bradley, that’s a definite bonus. “Four Seasons Private Retreats comes with an incredible history and track record of hospitality. They set the standards for five-star service for many years and so are synonymous with excellence,” she said.

Similar to how Spain’s Be Mate apartments are located close to their sister hotel brand, Room Mate Hotels, these homes are also positioned within close proximity to Four Seasons properties, giving guests access to Four Seasons restaurants and bars, fitness centers, spas and other amenities.

Currently, you’ll find them in 21 locations around the world, including the Seychelles; Kyoto, Japan; Whistler, British Columbia; Koh Samui, Thailand; and Costa Rica. Upcoming locations for these homes will include Los Cabos, Mexico, and California’s Napa Valley.

If you book one of these homes, you can also work with Four Seasons to arrange special experiences, whether it’s a private dinner party prepared by one of Four Seasons’ executive chefs, or even a private yoga lesson. The global average nightly rate is $1,400, but some homes might be as much as $25,000 a night.

“These offerings are the perfect complement to our hotels and resorts, closely linked, yet offering guests more space and flexibility to suit their discerning travel needs,” Paul White, president, residential, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, said in a statement.

You can reserve these homes through a luxury travel agent such as Biggs Bradley, or you can book them directly on Four Seasons’ channels, as well as on online travel agency platforms that also advertise Four Seasons hotel rooms. There’s also a chance that you may find some of these homes on other rental platforms, but booking them through Four Seasons ensures that you have Four Seasons as your direct property manager.

Like Airbnb, Four Seasons doesn’t have a formal loyalty program, so you won’t necessarily be able to earn points for these stays, but the company does famous have its own internal guest recognition program that keeps track of guest preferences, stays and other details.

Photo courtesy of Homes & Villas by Marriott.

Homes & Villas by Marriott

In late April, Marriott announced it was formally expanding its homesharing pilot into a full-fledged business, called Homes & Villas by Marriott. These homes aren’t nearly as expensive as the homes you’ll find on Airbnb Luxe or Four Seasons Private Retreats. Instead, these homes are more comparable to Airbnb’s Airbnb Plus tier of verified home listings.

Like Four Seasons Private Retreats and Airbnb Luxe, however, the inventory you’ll find here is also not exclusive, meaning there’s a chance you could find the same homes on other platforms and channels. But by booking via Marriott channels, you can earn and redeem Marriott Bonvoy points. The earn rate for Homes & Villas by Marriott is the same as what Marriott offers for its extended stay hotel brands, which is five points for each $1 spent. Eligible Bonvoy members can also earn bonus points based on their elite status, as well as elite welcome gifts or special amenities

There are currently more than 2,000 homes to choose from in 100 destinations worldwide, and while Marriott isn’t directly managing these properties like Four Seasons is doing with its homesharing product, Marriott has teamed up with a handful of professional vacation rental managers to ensure the quality of each stay. These partners include established property managers like TurnKey Vacation Rentals, LaCure, CPG and London Residents Club, among others.

Guests who book these homes also get 24/7 support from Marriott and enjoy amenities such as high-speed Wi-Fi, premium linens and amenities, and family-friendly amenities when they request them. You can also use your Bonvoy points to book special tours and activities or experiences, including exclusive Bonvoy Moments that Marriott has developed with partners in destinations around the world.

Featured image by Photo courtesy of Airbnb.
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.