Luxury vacation rentals are a perfect blend of the high-end comfort that characterises hotels and the personal touch that distinguishes short-term rentals.
The vacation rental market’s luxury sector has a long history to look back on. Now, it’s going through a renaissance thanks to the rising popularity of luxury travel and the appearance of new players who are matching supply and demand.
Furthermore, luxury travel is leading the post-pandemic recovery. Booking trends show that luxury hotels and vacation rentals are going to be one of the quickest to rebound, making the luxury sector a lucrative place to be in 2021.
So how can property managers prepare for the increase in demand, outrun the competition and get more bookings? To help you improve your marketing mix, we’ve put together a list of the 18 best luxury vacation rental sites to list your properties on.
But first, let’s take a look at some of the vacation rental marketing and distribution strategies used by property managers to get their luxury rentals in front of the right audience.
“Some owners are very picky and limit the number of agencies and OTAs as they don’t appreciate over-distributing their properties in order to keep a flair of exclusivity.”Paola Gheis
The distribution of luxury vacation rentals is very different from that of non-luxury properties.
“In the luxury vacation rental business, quality and finesse are embedded in the property and the value proposition of the holiday experience offered,” says Paola Gheis, Founder at Paola Gheis Vacation Rental Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in developing marketing strategies for luxury villas. “This is also true for the quality of the sales channels used.”
One of the most obvious differences is the number of channels that properties are listed on. In the case of luxury homes, owners and managers are usually more selective.
“Some owners are very picky and limit the number of agencies and OTAs as they don’t appreciate over-distributing their properties in order to keep a flair of exclusivity. Other owners are less strict but they carefully select the quality of the luxury agencies to promote their villas or boutique hotels,” says Paola.
“A Channel Manager is certainly a technology tool that provides a great deal of help to guarantee an up-to-date calendar and reduce time spent on lower added value interactions with each sales distributor used.”Paola Gheis
In order to maximise occupancy and bookings for owners, fast-growing luxury vacation rental websites are using a tech-based approach to connect property managers with a discerning clientele.
Mainstream OTAs are not meeting the needs of these travellers, which presents an opportunity for niche vacation rental websites that curate lists of rigorously vetted, exclusive properties.
While the units listed on these platforms must meet some unusually high standards, their average booking value is also much higher than that of less exclusive properties. All the more reason why property managers who manage such high-end units need to find the right place to advertise them.
“The selection process of niche agencies specialised in luxury and the distribution agreement with them can be time-consuming,” says Paola. “It’s a mutual selection process between owner and distributor. Well-known luxury agencies select and inspect the properties before adding them to their inventory,” she adds.
Once a property passes the listing site’s test, what comes next is an often tedious bureaucratic process involving detailed contracts and long lists of amenities, services and rates. But the good news is, there is a way to speed it up.
More and more luxury vacation rental websites are starting to integrate with Channel Managers, which makes it much easier and more time-efficient to list properties and to manage listings in the long run.
“A Channel Manager is certainly a technology tool that provides a great deal of help to guarantee an up-to-date calendar and reduce time spent on lower added value interactions with each sales distributor used,” says Paola.
So what about traditional booking sites? What’s their role in the luxury segment?
According to Paola:
“Non-specialised OTAs like VRBO, Booking.com or Airbnb fully integrate with many Channel Managers. Unless the owner is particularly strict, it is a good strategy to include these OTAs in the sales channel mix as their use give the opportunity to show up on the first page of Google.”
“We have to look for channels that allow us to work upon request and have better communication with the guest.”Moriya Rockman
What makes it difficult for luxury property managers to work with OTAs is that the luxury segment is not designed for instant bookings. There’s a lot that goes into booking such high-value stays. It’s a commitment from both sides. Owners often have lots of questions and guests have very specific requests when booking luxury holidays.
As Moriya Rockman, Co-Founder and CMO at Smiling House Luxury, a property management company with 1,500 luxury rentals told us:
“This is a global problem of the luxury segment. We cannot take instant bookings, we cannot just take the credit card even if the person has the amount of money that we’re requesting to take. We have to look for channels that allow us to work upon request and have better communication with the guest.”
Trust is a huge factor when it comes to renting out luxury homes. Owners and managers of high-end properties want to have a more personal connection with the guest.
And it works the other way around, too. As Paola says: “Luxury travellers want to speak with the owner. They need more attention and care.”
Niche websites specialising in luxury rentals can provide that sense of trust for both parties. Let’s take a look at which ones you should consider working with.
Plum Guide is “the official selection of the world’s best vacation homes – the answer to ‘what home should I book?’”.
They may not be for everyone (they only accept the best homes at each price point), but if you have high-quality homes, they can help you grow your business by connecting you with discerning travellers who do not use mainstream OTAs to search for accommodation.
Thanks to their high standards, rigorous curation process and discerning audience, occupancy and bookings from Plum Guide are incremental.
It’s not easy to get listed on Plum Guide – homes need to pass the 150-point Plum Test. But those that do get access to a new customer base and an increase in high-value bookings.
Rentals United can help you fast track through the application process.
Top destinations: Europe, North America
Homes & Villas by Marriott International is a curated offering of vacation rentals by one of the world’s oldest hotel chains. It brings together Marriott International’s 92 years of hospitality experience and the local expertise of select property management companies.
They guarantee that their vacation homes are serviced at the same standard that is expected from Marriott hotel rooms. Properties listed on the website are rigorously vetted before being accepted into the program.
By listing your property on Homes & Villas by Marriott International, you can get access to discerning travellers including 133+ million Marriott Bonvoy travel loyalty programme members.
Rentals United is the first European channel manager to connect to Homes & Villas by Marriott International – with us, you can list your properties quickly and effortlessly.
Top destinations: Europe, North America, South America, Caribbean
All Luxury Apartments is a family-owned business with over 20 years of luxury travel and property management experience. They offer an extensive inventory of exclusive apartment rentals in the most prestigious and elegant areas.
The privately-owned listing site builds strong relationships with its customers by providing guests with unparalleled customer service, dedicated concierge services and exceptional travel experiences.
Before joining the collection, the All Luxury Apartments Hospitality Team will interview each property manager in a mandatory screening process to ensure the property meets their quality standards and guest expectations.
Top destinations: Europe, North America, Caribbean
Dream Villas has positioned itself as one of the go-to channels for top-quality homes. The listing site has strict criteria that all homes must meet before being onboarded, instilling confidence in their affluent customer base.
On a mission to build the definitive collection of the world’s best luxury and ultra-luxury homes, the company specialises in selling to guests who don’t use mainstream platforms to book homestays. These discerning individuals earn more, spend more and travel more than the average guest.
Property managers can increase the exposure of their luxury rentals to this tightly-defined audience by getting listed on Dream Villas. The average daily rate in Dream Villas is $1,000 and the average booking value is $8,500.
The top-booked locations are The Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, Florida, California, Colorado, Canada, Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Switzerland, France (Côte d’Azur, Alps), Spain and The Maldives.
Top destinations: North America, Central America, Europe.
Top Villas is a global leader in luxury villa rentals. With more than 4,000 luxury villas in over 50 popular travel destinations and 20 years of experience in the luxury villa rental market, Top Villas is known as one of the best villa rental agents in the world.
The listing site offers handpicked luxury vacation homes, townhouses, condos and private properties both in urban destinations and remote leisure locations. Its most popular destinations include Orlando, Miami, St Tropez, the Caribbean, Asia and beyond.
Guests come to Top Villas for the best service and rates, and property managers for the visibility and increased returns.
Top destinations: North America, Caribbean, Europe
Villa Finder is the market leader in luxury villa rentals in the Asia-Pacific region. Its portfolio consists of more than 2,000 handpicked villas in 14 countries.
The luxury vacation rental site’s top destinations include Bali, Phuket, Koh Samui, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, and Niseko, as well as European destinations like Italy and France.
Villa finder stands out for its competitive prices and top-of-the-line concierge services. It helps property managers increase their profits through a seamless distribution solution.
Top destinations: Europe, Asia
Oliver’s Travels is a listing site that “does not do ordinary”. They offer a selection of luxury villas and extraordinary homes bursting with character.
The company only lists the top 2% of vacation rentals after they’ve been reviewed by their team of experts.
What’s more, they are currently working with TreememberMe to help guests offset their carbon emissions by planting trees in their name. Get listed with them to reach discerning luxury travellers who value sustainability and responsible travel.
Top destinations: UK, France, Italy and more
Coming soon: Oliver’s Travels will soon be connected to the Rentals United Channel Manager. Stay tuned!
BookingLettings is a luxury vacation rental website offering carefully selected villas and apartments in the heart of major holiday destinations. It offers unique experiences for every budget, taste and need.
The listing site curates luxury properties and markets them at affordable prices. Guests can find rentals ideal for big city vacations, outdoor getaways of tropical escapes.
Besides offering lavish villa rentals with premium amenities, BookingLettings also offers last-minute deals for budget-conscious travellers.
Its most-booked destinations include New York City, Orlando, Madrid, Mykonos, Montenegro, Bodrum, Koh Samui, Koh Chang, Bali and Phuket.
Top destinations: North America, Asia, Europe
Stay One Degree is a trusted member’s club for luxury travellers. The company connects discerning owners of handpicked exclusive homes with a vetted member base of luxury travellers.
Not only does Stay One Degree vet all its members, but the company also gives full control of who can book your properties. You can create your own circle of trust: only members who you connect with (friends, family, likeminded people) are allowed to book your home.
The benefit for homeowners? Instead of renting your home to strangers, you can rent to people you trust.
Top destinations: Europe, Asia, Caribbean
CoolStays offers cool places to stay in Europe and around the world. Each of their listings has something quirky, stylish or noteworthy about it.
Their website has a separate section for collections like luxury villas and romantic retreats. It’s not rare to find cabins, treehouses, barns or even lighthouses among their selection of alternative accommodation. Some of the properties listed on CoolStays are breathtaking architectural gems.
Get listed on CoolStays if you have a unique property and want to reach discerning guests who want to stay somewhere extraordinary.
Top destinations: UK, mainland Europe, North America
BoutiqueHomes offers a handpicked selection of luxury vacation rentals, from cabins and beach houses to villas, small hotels and modern architectural marvels.
They are always looking for hidden gems. You can suggest your property by sending them a few photos to help them decide if it’s a fit for BoutiqueHomes.
Top destinations: North America, Europe, Asia
Villaway is a luxury vacation rental company that selects and inspects luxury homes and private villas around the world.
Some of their most popular destinations are Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Maui, Riviera Maya, Cabo and Tulum.
They offer a complimentary concierge service with a variety of options, such as a private chef and catering service, a welcome tour of your villa, private jet and yacht charters and more.
Top destinations: North America, Caribbean, Europe
Villas of Distinction is a luxury vacation rental website that offers villas in top destinations around the world.
From last-minute escapes to their expertly-curated Chairman’s Collection, they have a large variety of exclusive vacation rentals that would wow even the most discerning guest.
Villas with private spas, pools and other top-notch amenities will be matched with their perfect guest on Villas of Distinction.
The company has more than 30 years of experience in luxury rentals. Attract global travellers who seek an effortless personalised stay by listing your villa on their website.
Top destinations: Caribbean, Europe, North America
Dream Exotic Rentals offers curated luxury rentals and experiences in alluring destinations. They have an outstanding variety of honeymoon destinations and options for private island stays.
If your property is exceptionally high-standard and can really take travellers’ breath away, get it listed on Dream Exotic Rentals and start locking in bookings.
Top destinations: Caribbean, North America, Europe
Airbnb Luxe is the industry giant’s luxury brand. They offer a selection of expertly designed home rentals with premium amenities.
These fully-equipped, statement-making homes have been carefully vetted to provide luxury travellers with a one-of-a-kind experience.
When guests book through Airbnb Luxe, they are connected with a dedicated trip designer to make the experience even more personalised and special.
Top destinations: North America, Europe, Caribbean
Haute Retreats is an award-winning luxury vacation rental company. It offers beachfront villas in the Caribbean, luxury getaways in Ibiza, and golf vacations around the world from Costa Rica and Punta Cana to Italy and Bali.
The company aims to deliver outstanding services and memorable luxury experiences that meet the standards of a 5+ star hotel. Besides carefully inspected villas around the world, Haute Retreats also provides luxury event venues, bespoke concierge services and luxury car rentals.
By getting listed on Haute Retreats, property managers whose rentals meet the listing site’s strict criteria can gain exposure to guests seeking true luxury experiences.
Top destinations: Caribbean, Europe
The Villa Collection offers one-of-a-kind luxury retreats in the world’s top holiday destinations. Its collection ranges form premium city apartments and staffed luxury villas to private islands.
Some of the luxury vacation rental company’s top destinations are the French Riviera, Portugal, Barbados, Antigua, Croatia, Spain, Saint Lucia and Saint Barths.
The Villa Collection also offers private jet travel and charter services in collaboration with a specialist partner.
Top destinations: Caribbean, Indian Ocean, South Africa, United States, Europe, Far East, Middle East
Abercrombie & Kent Villas is a luxury vacation rental company with a wide range of luxury villas and ski chalets that have been carefully selected to provide guests with the highest levels of comfort, facilities and service.
The company’s specialists inspect every property before listing them on the website. The company has been offering travel experiences for 50 years and has gone to great lengths to find the best luxury vacation rentals in Europe and the rest of the world.
If you manage ski chalets in the Austrian Alps, the Dolomites, The French Alps or the Swiss Alps, A&K Villas is the best luxury vacation rental site for you.
Top destinations: Europe
Are you ready to build a tech-based distribution strategy? Discover how our enterprise-level Channel Manager can get you more bookings.
Editor’s note: This blog post was published in November 2020 and has since been updated for depth and accuracy.