March 16, 2017

Private villa rentals in Barbados contribute immense value to the country’s biggest earner and broadly enhances the tourism product. Their incredible potential which demands innovation and encourages competition within the local accommodation sector ought not to be wielded against this market sector but ultimately honed and effectively utilized.

There is no escaping the incredible power of this market. Vacation Rentals are one of the online travel markets hottest and best funded segments which is growing nearly twice as fast as the travel market over all. According to a new study completed by Phocuswright this February, revenues generated from private home accommodation in the US alone are expected to surpass $36 Billion in 2017.  The industry is facing rapid growth worldwide with Airbnb (owning no real estate) being worth more than Hilton and Hyatt combined.

Barbados has one of the most sophisticated hospitality industries in the world and with that said, it is no surprise that our villa rental product has blazed the trail that the rest of the world has followed. According to Tech Crunch, it was announced just last month, that Luxury Retreats, a company that started with its very first villa in Barbados, has been sold to Airbnb for USD $200 Million. Private Villas have been available for rent in Barbados long before the internet existed when the only way to learn of their existence was to read the black and white advertisements in the London Times or to be fortunate enough to be invited to stay.

In 2017 we live in a vastly disruptive economic world, fueled by our indomitable demand for unencumbered accessibility and freedom.The internet has built and provides trust to consumers, trust that provides the confidence for the modern traveller to experience fulfilling and enriching stays consistent with their expectations.

Caribound has been offering hand picked, professionally managed and furnished hotel standard private villa accommodation in the affordable luxury market since 2011. We have witnessed and evaluated real and interesting trends as it relates to the lifestyle changes of these travellers. For example, our clients include young families with children from both North America and Europe who chose to stay in rented accommodation for 4 – 6 weeks at a time, while their children are enrolled in online schooling and taking part in extracurricular activities such as tennis with local children. Another dynamic trend relates to retired travellers who chose to live and lead normal lives in Barbados for 1- 2 months every single year.  Although some hotels offer self catering accommodation, most hotel rooms average 200 square feet and are just not suitable for the lifestyles that a selection of our clients chose to lead while here in Barbados.

In 2012, Caribound signed a deal with Virgin Holidays. This arrangement is comparable to the deals which many of the large hotels on island have with the UK’s largest tour operator. The deal allows for affordable hotel standard, health and safety certified villas to be packaged with flights to Barbados. On our many days of touring, I asked our English Virgin Holidays Reps, the reasoning behind this sudden move into the private villa market and their answer was simple. Barbados is a safe Island, thus making it an ideal candidate for private home rental accommodations. They further exclaimed that the internet has provided the modern traveller with enough information to instill the confidence required for a successful independent experience of a villa holiday. Indeed with smart phones on hand, the modern lost tourist need not even ask a soul for directions without asking their smart phone first; and if that fails, that good ol’ bajan hospitality still exists. But that confidence to experience the independent travel excursion, replete with trips to the local markets, supermarkets and a new exploration of authentic Barbados is already afoot.  We are seeing many tourists exchange the old-age luxury concept of being totally catered for within the comforts of a hotel, for longer stays in private, cost effective, independent accommodation world wide.  

Certain vila products inherently require elevated standards- as is the case with Virgin Holidays.  We toured over 25 developments on Island with Virgin Holidays of which only 2 were suitable based on the UK’s extremely rigid ABTA and FTO Health and Safety Standards, one of which is Vuemont (a development designed for the elderly) and Mullins Bay both situated in the parish of St. Peter.  Among the strict health and safety requirements which our properties must satisfy include an absence of gaps in hand rails or barriers greater than 10 cm between each railing, the requirement for all hand rails to be a minimum of 1 metre high, the requirement for private villa pools to be cleaned and tested once per day and finally, the requirement for each villa to be covered with 1.5 Million Pounds of third party liability insurance. While Barbados can utilize many of the ABTA FTO Health and Safety procedures for Villas such as those which pertain to fire safety (i.e mandatory fire extinguisher, smoke detectors and fire blankets in all villas) there are some which would be extremely difficult, costly and unreasonable for the average villa owner to implement. It must be remembered that homeowners are average citizens, they are not multi-million dollar hotels with hundreds of staff and millions in revenue and duty free concessions; and it is for this reason that they should not and cannot be held to the same requirements.

There are high quality and budget options in most markets, Expedia offers 1 – 5 star options and the private home rental market is no different. This is not to deny the importance of quality control- Caribound vets all of our properties across all market segments to ensure that our luxury and affordable luxury properties meet standards appropriate for their categorization.  It however cannot be the case that each isolated incident which flows from the short-term villa rental market is used as a threat to the industry. There are problems in any business but it is disingenuous for competitors and regulators to seek to paint the industry in broad strokes based on a case which admittedly failed to meet appropriate standards. The nature of our trust in this market is through forums such as Airbnb and Expedia where hotels, like villas can receive honest and frank assessments by visitors enabling the market to determine whether to utilize a product; or not. The reality is that problems are increasingly rare and that most private villa stays go just as smoothly as any hotel stay. It would not be surprising if the percentage of great stays were more favorable in private villas, as hosts have the time and passion to give each individual guest their undivided attention.

The bottom line is that the market has spoken and the short term villa rental market is here to stay. Disruptive in the best way possible; empowering and expanding; it is through this process that we are discovering the new frontier of abounding economic freedom. The fuel of disruption is us, our new world, our younger generations  that powerfully demand openness, efficiency, authentic connections and the raw and real truth in a world that has forever suffered from fragmentation and concealment.

Lily Dash

CEO Caribound