When John Birt, sadly now passed, first started Samui Villas and Homes as a local island management and rental agency some 15 years ago, the market for private villa rentals was still in its infancy. Investors were just starting to buy land and build luxurious second homes on the island, so Mr. Birt saw an opportunity to get a foothold in a market that he felt was sure to expand. He was right.
What was to be a small business venture has since become a serious enterprise with some 350 Thai staff and 8 foreigners on the team. Now called Luxury Villas and Homes, the company exclusively manages, operates and rents out more than 100 properties in Thailand, and a further 60 villas, including several on the Indonesian island of Bali, make up to its impressive regional portfolio.
“We have extended the portfolio over the years and now see a wide spread in terms the popularity and demand for different types of holiday villas,” says Andrew Craig, Group COO. “The core of our business is still families based in major Asian cities and a secondary market of European travellers who visit the Thai islands during major holiday periods. New emerging markets such as Russia and China have also become more and more important, and Indian travellers are on the rise due to the economic growth experienced over the past decade.”
Such rapid expansion and diversification has created a highly competitive marketplace for villa rentals in key locations such as Phuket, Koh Samui and Bali, but even with tough competition, Luxury Villas and Homes has managed to maintain its position a market leader. Andrew Craig puts this down to a committed team, effective marketing and new market penetration, along with careful selection of quality products to offer guests and sub-branding to better match different customers’ needs and expectations.
The company became Luxury Villas and Homes in 2012 with its exclusively managed villas branded under The Signature Collection and The Boutique Villas; owner managed properties offered as The Holiday Collection and villas located outside Thailand forming The International Collection. The company’s estate agency wing, Exclusive Properties, is also known for the high quality of island real estate services offered to potential buyers. In 2009, the company also launched The Signature Weddings to match growing demand from returning guests who not only wanted a villa vacation but also wanted to hold their own private events in a villa. Starting with a couple of modest weddings, they focused on offering bespoke services with every detail pre-planned and personalized. The events division quickly expanded and now holds over 40 weddings and celebrations plus per year.
A key factor in the success of LVH has been the firm’s consistent focus on providing personalized guest services to complement the private villa experience. Right from the start, hospitality has been the key to creating a loyal customer base and the LVH staff team has grown along with its portfolio. A good number of villa staff have been with the company for more than a decade and demand for additional staff such as private chefs has seen the operations etam expand considerably. ”Positions range from administrative roles such as management, accounting, human resources and marketing to the operational side with events management, villa management, engineering, gardening, cooking, housekeeping and security,” explains Mr. Craig. “The operations team receive regular training sessions that range from first-aid training provided by Bangkok Samui Hospital to Barista training by Bon Cafe and how to pour Champagne by the people from Moet & Chandon.”
The personal touch is certainly appreciated by villa guests, and LVH enjoys an exceptionally high return guest rate with many first time clients recommended by their friends and colleagues. This lead to the implementation of Returning Guests specials, with details such as guests’ favourite chef and even the Thai dishes they prefer kept on file. The list also includes a number of actual villa owners who often stay in their property for part of the year and have their own special requests, which may extend to a particular flower they want set up in their room or a certain welcome drink on arrival.
“The way our staff interact with their guests is ultimately what makes them feel completely at home in the villa,” adds Wayne Hue, Director of Sales and Marketing. “It is also one of the things most commented on by guests. Basically, whenever a guest arrives or villa owner returns, we strive to know what they want and provide it before they even ask.”
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