Agents play ‘important role’ as James Villas eyes growth
James Villas is urging more agents to sell properties from its portfolio as the Awaze brand continues to expand its range of properties.
The villa specialist currently has about 8,000 villas for sale across key Mediterranean destinations such as Spain, Greece, Portugal, France, Italy and Croatia and is eyeing further expansion in 2023 and 2024. It also has a small but growing collection of apartments and townhouses.
Robin Sutherland is managing director for Awaze’s Specialist Brands Division which includes responsibility for James Villas.
He joined in October 2022, with experience across several sectors, with brands such as Expedia and Moneysupermarket.
“I was excited about the opportunity within Awaze to build the global leader in the managed vacation rentals sector,” he said.
“It is a very fragmented sector and there is significant opportunity to drive consolidation and add value to consumers through providing them with real breadth and depth of property choice and great service.”
More: James Villas announces ‘significant’ Croatia expansion
About 250 people work in the Specialist Brands Division with about 50 dedicated to James Villas. The division also includes Fincallorca, Ardennes Etape and Croatia Luxury Rent.
The travel and guest operations teams in Maidstone support James Villas’ direct customers and agent partners.
“We’re working hard to get back to the 120,000 customers who travelled with James Villas in 2019, before all the disruption of the last two to three years,” said Sutherland.
“Through James Villas, we focus on UK customers but through the other brands within the division we also target German, French, Belgian, Dutch and Spanish customers.
“Booking numbers have now recovered back to pre-pandemic levels and with the additional inventory that we are adding all the time, we expect bookings to continue to grow.
“Since the pandemic, we have seen a growth in customers booking later, so we don’t see quite the same forward bookings as we would have done pre-pandemic but 2023 forward bookings are looking strong relative to 2021 and 2022.”
He said James Villas has key strategic partnerships with many UK agency groups, “who each play an important role” in converting customers looking for a villa holiday, or an alternative to a hotel or cruise package.
Expanding the portfolio offers more choice for agents and their clients, he said, adding: “We’re looking to grow booking volumes through all key strategic channels, including that of UK travel agents.
“We have signed back up with Online Travel Training (OTT) where we hope to encourage more agents to become more familiar with the James Villas portfolio, our service proposition, and the tools across our website to help agents find the right holiday for each of their guests.
“Some customers like reassurance and having confidence in not only the quality of the product they buy, but also that support is there in making the holiday right choice, which agents excel at.”
He said the brand saw a “strong” start to the year during the recent peaks selling season.
“There is clearly a very strong appetite for holidays in self-catering villas with pools, and we thankfully have one of the largest selections to choose from, so we’re certainly encouraged by how things have started,” he said.
Commenting on the cost-of-living pressures facing many holidaymakers, he added: “We do see a trend at times like these for consumers to shift to self-catering options like ours where you can better control what you are spending on holiday
“We are seeing stronger growth in our higher-end Signature and Luxury ranges and lower growth in our Classic range, which suggests that the cost-of-living crisis is not impacting everyone equally and it is those at middle or lower incomes that may be changing their plans.
“The other main challenge we have seen in certain destinations is that flight prices are higher than prior to Covid as airlines haven’t yet scaled their capacity back up to pre-pandemic levels as they aim to optimise yields.
“We have seen some growth in villa prices, mainly due to owners dealing with higher energy costs, but we make an effort to keep villa prices as competitive as we can.”
Other Awaze brands include Cottages.com, Novasol and Hoseasons.
The company was rebranded as Awaze after being bought in 2018 by US-based private equity firm Platinum Equity from Wyndham Worldwide for $1.3 billion.
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