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Fodors Destination Guides: No villas.

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Oct 5th, 2012, 06:00 AM
  #1
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Fodors Destination Guides: No villas.

Why no villas? In many of the islands villa accommodation outnumbers hotels by a very large margin.

Why leave out this huge market?
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Oct 5th, 2012, 09:44 AM
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Maybe because it would be impossible to keep current with individual villa rentals. It's hard enough to keep up-to-date with hotels and resorts.
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Oct 5th, 2012, 11:10 AM
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I update for Turks and Caicos. When the island is featured in a separate book all by itself, we had some villas. It was In Focus Turks and Caicos.

Since then, the tiny island has 200 villas! All are nice, all have something to offer. Completely impossible to not only keep up, but have one empty for inspection. Yu can't show up a vacation rental with guests and say, please I need to view it for Fodors!

They also change so quickly, sometimes they sell and new owner doesn't rent, sometimes they go to long term rentals, not appropriate for the books.

They do mention a couple of booking agents and VRBO though, but it's just general.
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Oct 6th, 2012, 03:59 AM
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On the online guides there is no mention that villas are an option at all.

St Barts, at 8 square miles, has around 500 villas, and it terms of beds, all the hotels combined make up a small fraction of this.

One would think that there would at least be a mention of the villa option, and at best details of agencies and/or featured properties. Inspections aren't that difficult to organise, best done low season.
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Oct 6th, 2012, 05:26 AM
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Jr, inspections are extremely difficult to organize. Most deadlines are in peak season. Even in off season, you feature a particular villa, and the next inspection it is booked.

Plus guidebooks are for the bulk of the travelers.

These forums are great for travelers seeking private villas. Especially forums such as Tripadvisor where you can ask a specific villa and chances are you'll get an answer. Much more suited.

Villa options and their booking agents are mentioned in the printed books. Can't feature any properties without inspections, and therefore no individual villas are named.

With villas, you can get 54 max guests. (based on weekly rentals) With resorts, you can get 54 guests in one week. So many more buying guidebooks with the resorts.

Sounds like something you want to start? Maybe starting with St. Barth, you can organize inspections and maybe start a website of villa guidebook? For an island like St. Barth, maybe even Mustique, might work!
8-)
Although I must say, villa rentals in general, are more well traveled guests and don't usually buy guidebooks? Just a guess.
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Oct 6th, 2012, 07:38 AM
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Also are you talking about the information here on their website? Or specifically hard-copy printed guidebooks?

If you mean in print, that ever *harder* to keep accurate. I unofficially did a walk around and "update" to Fodor's Puerto Vallarta guide on my last trip and ended up with 3 single spaced typed pages to send them. That's how often businesses open, close, move location, etc. I can't imagine trying to inventory villas on an island and keep it current... in print (online, maybe).
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Oct 7th, 2012, 03:18 AM
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"Plus guidebooks are for the bulk of the travelers"

Thats what I'm saying. In St Barts 80% of tourists are in villas.

I'm not saying that every villa should be listed, but

a) Mention that villas are there and a popular option
b) List villa rental companies, on a free or paid listing basis.

It makes no sense just to gloss over their existence.
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Oct 7th, 2012, 06:16 AM
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Is it down to money again?

Hotels offer free accommodation or incentives to be reviewed while villas don't?

I do think villa accommodation is generally increasing so maybe this will be reviewed in future editions.

One other point I've noticed is that as soon as places on vrbo have several positive reviews they often become very popular (and booked solidly). Advertising and reviews seem to have even more of a positive effect for villas than hotels.
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Oct 7th, 2012, 12:47 PM
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I don't see how individual villas could be listed but I think mentioning villa listing agencies in the online destination guides should be included since some of them are mentioned in the print guides.
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Oct 8th, 2012, 03:22 AM
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"Hotels offer free accommodation or incentives to be reviewed while villas don't?"

Well that has to be wrong. Are you saying the best reviewed hotels are the ones that have given the most incentives?

Hardly impartial.

I'm wary of VRBO.

For one, they appear to have erroneously taken on the appearance of an "official owner's site", whereas they are just one of dozens of similar competing companies.

They don't offer that much of a choice, with maybe ten to twenty percent of villas available in any given destination.

Also the owners don't have an obligation to move people in case of construction, water leaks, power outages etc whereas agencies do.

The owners also don't carry bonding.

There are many horror stories of owners "disappearing" after cashing the money, and recently I heard a case of someone falsely renting a villa they had absolutely no connection with.
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Oct 8th, 2012, 10:22 AM
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Really? I thought "VRBO" was Vacation Rental By Owner. No "companies" at all just individuals??
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Oct 8th, 2012, 11:16 AM
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We do recommend villa rental companies in all the destinations in the Caribbean where they are appropriate. This applies to the print-book. I have no say over what information moves over to the web site, but the information is certainly there for our readers, and I don't really know why it's not available on Fodors.com. We try to include what we can but can't possibly publish the entirety of our coverage on the site. For example, in the years when I was covering individual private villas those were only in print-books, not on Fodors.com.

At one point, I had made a real effort to include individual villas reviews for destinations where they were appropriate (St. Barth or Montserrat, for example). There are some technical reasons why this program wasn't continued, but more important, our leadership decided that wasn't the direction we wanted to go, so we stopped covering individual villas. In part, too many villas are represented by multiple rental companies, too many came on and off the market every year, and the volume was too much for writers to keep up with. As a result, we no longer recommend specific villas, though we continue to recommend villa resorts, where you can rent an individual home (such as Guavaberry Spring Bay on Virgin Gorda or Sea Horse Ranch in the DR).

I'm not sure that answers your question, but it would be an enormous task to keep up with all the private villas. We can do a good job with hotels, and that's one of our strengths, so we've decided to do that. But pick up the newest edition of Fodor's Caribbean, and you'll find a list of the best villa-rental companies on each island.
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Oct 8th, 2012, 12:22 PM
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Really? I thought "VRBO" was Vacation Rental By Owner. No "companies" at all just individuals??

VRBO is a company that contracts with villa owners to represent their properties just like any other, Luxury Retreats, Home Away, Villa Renters, Caribbean way, Tripadvisor etc etc.

There are dozens.

How the villa owner wishes to pay for this representation is up to them, it may be commission or pay per lead.

It is true that with VRBO that you speak directly to the owner, however that carries the caveats that I mentioned above. (Bonding, insurance etc)
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Oct 8th, 2012, 12:29 PM
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Doug, thanks for your reply.

I think where I am headed is listing villa rental companies online.

As you say, it is too complex listing each and every villa, even a selection, however hotel and resort reviews don't necessarily list each and every room which would be a nightmare to keep up to date.

However each rental company does vary in the service it provides and has varying ranges of villa coverage.

Could they not be rated and reviewed?
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Oct 8th, 2012, 12:52 PM
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Most of my writers prefer management companies that are on-island and can troubleshoot and provide services. I don't really like VRBO myself. I prefer the comfort of knowing that a local professional will be available to give me my keys and arrange for whatever I need (and will steer me to the right place rather than forcing me to do all the research myself). Others would prefer to cut out the middle-man. Either is an acceptable way of doing the rentals.

I hope we'll be able to list the companies online. We recommend only the companies we feel are worthy of our readers' attention but don't normally provide real reviews of villa-management companies. Our format doesn't really lend itself to that for several reasons.
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Oct 9th, 2012, 07:07 AM
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Because I update Turks and Caicos, I can speak for Turks and Caicos.

Most properties do not give free nights and incentives. We are paid by Fodors a general salary, where we go spend it to review is actually the writers choice. Most inspections don't require an overnight, they do require viewing the property, some rooms, speaking with the GM.

We cannot solicit freebies. We can accept them if offered, but we Give a letter stating that acceptance does not guarantee a good review or that it will even be printed.

Once in a while we do get offers, but with bad economies offers are less and less. With all the properties I inspect for TCI, in the last 2 years I got only 1 free night at one resort. I pay regular prices for everything, including meals for the restaurants.

As for VRBO, again speaking for TCI, every single villa in TCI is listed on VRBO. Many also overlap and list in multiple sites. Yu probably wonder how I know that every single villa is listed? Provo is a tiny island. I know many people on island. I am familiar with most villas, have viewed the majority, know every property manager on the island.

As far as TCI goes, many villa owners love VRBO, and usually don't have a choice to be listed at other booking sights. These booking sights pull these villas from VRBO, Homeaway and Flipkey and list them as they are representatives. They are not. To use TCI as an example, many of these booking agents have never been to these villas, do do any work for them, basically have a pretty website. They ask for 15-20% commissions, and all they do is book it, none of the work. AND they make duplicate listings with VRBO, Flipkey, others, competing directly with the owners!

Why would villa owners want to give up 15% just because these booking agents happen to have a pretty website and not do any work other than refer?

So personally, at least for TCI, VRBO is the best recommendation!

While I can't speak for St. Bart, and I realize what you're saying, I can speak for TCI. The writers for Fodors are very thorough, and are very familiar with the island coverages, so that's where these forums come in great! You can always get up to the minute info from us here! 8-)

Again it's about numbers too villas can only have 1 guest at a time, and change quickly. Resorts get the bulk of travelers, and therefore they are ones in general buying the guidebooks!

I love your idea of starting a webpage listing of villas in St Barth. Keep us posted! (but if you charge for it you can't list it here;-) )
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Oct 9th, 2012, 10:50 AM
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Thanks Blamona, interesting

<>

Really? Honest? That is shocking, I have only heard of that happening once.

On St Barts (I am in the business if you hadn't guessed) VRBO representation is a lot lower. (Homeaway owns VRBO BTW, it's no secret).

While there are companies listing St Barts, as well as every other single island and Mexico, Tuscany and the lord knows where else, most of the agencies are indeed proper agencies, with web listings indeed, but personnel who have visited the villas, many times.

For me, the advantage of an agency is that client is going to get, on top of the financial security, a range of choices.

No villa owner is going to say "Oh you can't see the sunset from my house, however this other villa on the other side of the island does have a sunset view and is better adapted for kids"

Some owners "get" working with agencies and do very well out of it. Making sure that the travel consultants keep their property "front of mind", keeping the property well maintained and making sure the clients are happy.

They are also at complete liberty to request that their villa not be listed on Flipkey or wherever (Flipkey are dreadful at having multiple listings of the same villa).

Another bonus is that agencies do de-list villas.

I have had people say

"Oh, I found such and such direct with owner"
"Ugh, you mean the one where the electricity goes out three times a day and the sludge in the pool that no agency will touch?"

Not making it up!

How would we go about getting villa companies for St Barts listed online?
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Oct 10th, 2012, 07:38 AM
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Fodors is geared for travelers who are visiting a destination for the first time. In that regard, including reviews on villas seems too specialized for this purpose. If I am visiting an island for the first time, I am not likely to rent a villa off the bat.... For a returning traveler who doesn't need the general information about the destination, another forum for villas is probably more realistic.
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Oct 10th, 2012, 08:35 AM
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Actually, I disagree with that. Fodor's is not geared to the first-time visitor. Our content is useful to anyone who might be visiting and need guidance, whether for the first or eighth time. We're actually aimed at experienced travelers who are looking for a particular type of experience. The only group of travelers I'd say who aren't really going to get the most out of our content are those on really tight budgets. They don't typically buy or guides, and we don't really write specifically for them.

The villa decision has nothing whatsoever to do with the frequency of our readers as visitors to particular destinations. It has everything to do with the practicality of maintaining specific review of individual villas for all the reason I outlined above.
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Oct 10th, 2012, 08:49 AM
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For updating Fodors, we get a salary. How we spend it and where we choose to stay is up to writers discretion. As for free stays and incentives, they are few and far between these days with bad economies. As a writer, inspections don't require an overnight stay, it requires, an inspection. We also present a letter to GMs and restaurant owners. The letter states that although we can accept comps, there are no guarantees for a good review or that it will even make it to print. In the last 2 years I personally had 1 offer, everything else was at cost.

I also write trip reports as I travel frequently. If I happen to get a comp, I always disclose that in my trip report, here and on Tripadvisor. As for restaurants, I never disclose I'm a writer until after the meal.

I could tell you're in the business. I happen to be in it too. As I stated, I was speaking for TCI.

I have tons of personal experiences of glamorized booking agents pulling info from Homeaway and VRBO, listing on their sight and collecting monies just for answering the phone or having a pretty website?

If a traveler wants to book my villa, and they find it on VRBO, why do I want them to call a glossy website to book it, pay a 15-20% just because they refered it, and have the chance to have them suggest another villa instead so I don't get the sale? Not good personal business.

Now if you're talking about property managers listing the villa, and they are the on call 24/7 during the vacationers stay, then it's worth their commission. You're getting a service for the monies paid out.

Booking agents are just that, just to book. After they charge the vacationer and send the owner the info, then they pretty much wipe their hands clean of anything. This has happened at TCI numerous times to numerous villas.

As far as VRBO, every villa at TCI is listed there. Most villas are listed at multiple sights. TCI has a terrific overall reputation for their villas, so nothing wrong to go directly to the owner there. Booking agents have no extra guarantees.

And most of the islands are tiny. If there's a bad villa owner, in this day and age of internet, etc, the bad owners don't last long.


As for getting villa companies listed online, you need to start your own website/business, etc. Or you could take up advertising.
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