With a plethora of temping options open to the savvy twenty-first century traveller, it has become increasingly important to evaluate each different type of luxury accommodation in its own terms. Interestingly, the reasons for choosing a villa over a hotel come down to similarities as well as differences that have arisen between the two forms of holiday hideaway over the last few years.
In terms of similarities, it was once the case that in order to ensure the most high spec facilities and excellent standards of attentive service from a range of staff, it was essential to book a five star hotel room, but villas now easily match or even surpass this offering. In the past many villa enthusiasts would have cited the flexibility and fun of self-catering as one great advantage, but they are now just as likely to sing the praises of their private chef. If cooking is a passion, luxury villa concierge services now often include the provision of in-villa cookery lessons or mixology classes from regional experts.
There is also the fact that an increasingly diverse cross-section of individuals are seeking out a luxury break, and villas are the only means of accommodating not only large parties but often individuals who require special assistance, or those who want to bring their pets along, or to park more than one vehicle at no extra expense or hassle.
Many luxury adventurers are also choosing to mark landmark events in their lives with extended family abroad, from weddings to graduations, and hotels have long sold themselves as the best context for these events. Villas have taken the best of what hotels can offer and surpassed them. Beyond the obvious cost saving of villas, there is also the attraction of having all the family together in a private members’ club environment, not dashing from one floor of a cavernous hotel to another knocking on doors, or arranging rendezvous in busy lobbies.
Although choosing a private villa over a hotel can be about making cost-effective decisions, it is also about control of budget and flexibility. If a large event is being organised, a villa means no minimum drinks spend or wine corkage. Within a large villa or private estate, the benefits of a whole venue open up, from the opportunity to set up a private wedding by the villa’s infinity pool to the use of the beach for the renewal of vows. There is no need to engage with the hire of a private hotel dining room or individual cover charges.
Staying in a villa can also mean the wonderful bonus of staying in a real town or village and getting to know your neighbours, local shopkeepers and restaurateurs, and generally feeling more resident than a hotel guest.
Whether it’s a former Captain’s house on Santorini or a private island on Mauritius, villas of historic, sometimes national, importance can offer a way into the intriguing narrative of an individual or family in a way hotels cannot possibly emulate. It is a special feeling to be relaxing in what was once the salon of nobility, or the bedroom of an eccentric explorer.
Having said that, though the access to local knowledge and colour can be very attractive, luxury villas also offer a level of privacy that most hotels would struggle to emulate, which is important to everyone from those with a high public profile, to executives seeking respite from networking, to families who do not care to apologise for their children in an overcrowded pool or stuffy breakfast lounge.
There are some destinations where the benefit of a chalet or villa over a hotel has long been recognised, particularly the best ski resorts in Switzerland and France. What has changed in those territories is the sheer exuberance of the offering, from a private cinema and driver in Haute Savoie to canapés in Chamonix. Other luxury destinations such as Thailand and Greece have used villas as their route into the provision of the very top end of style and relaxation. A hectic hotel room in Bangkok or Athens is sometimes necessary and can be fun, but the spectacular natural serenity of villa settings such as Phuket or Corfu is ultimately far more memorable and magical.
Paola Fiocchi Van den Brande is Director of Passepartout Homes Ltd.