French based hotel giant the Accor Group are now in advanced discussions to acquire 100 per cent of the Atlanta based luxury villa rental company, Travel Keys, who offer over 5,000 properties in more than 100 destinations in the Caribbean, United States, Europe, Asia and Africa including over 200 located on Barbados.
Accor currently operate over 3,700 hotels in 94 countries spread across a myriad of brands from budget, economy and climbing up luxury properties. Those brands include Ibis, Novotel, Sofitel, Pullman, Raffles and in our particular case, Fairmont, which is represented here by the Royal Pavilion.
According to a Travel Weekly media release ‘The combination of Travel Keys with onefinestay and Squarebreak will provide AccorHotels with a unique offering of about 8,500 addresses in the luxury private rental market, with highly curated properties in both the vacation and urban segments’. The final joining of the two companies is expected to happen in the second quarter of 2017 after customary due diligence.
It would appear that it is Accor’s way of covering every market possibility and client profile. They know that traditional hotel guests often graduate to more open and flexible types of accommodation, especially when they are on holiday -and they desperately want to hold onto the loyalty of their clients across every conceivable type of lodging options.
The present CEO of Travel Keys, Bobby Gibson, said on the announcement that ‘Our objective is to offer extraordinary experiences to our guests, i.e. the best homes in the best locations with the highest level of service. At the same time, we cater to extremely demanding hosts who find their unique assets mismatched to the mass market offerings found in emerging peer to peer marketplaces’.
Accor will obviously use their marketing expertise and vast resources to grown this segment and ultimately this will benefit the destination.
Our villa sector has grown into an enviable product offering and perhaps the only disappointment is that we do not see more co-operative promotional activities amongst our major local companies to highlight the variable choice and affordability within the various choices.
Go onto the Barbados section of the Travels Keys website (barbados.travelkeys.com) and among the 212 choices offered many of which are on a beach or near the beach, villas with two bedrooms and two bathrooms from US$275 and three bedrooms, three bathrooms from US$350 per night, depending on the month. For families especially, this appears to be a very reasonable alternative to comparable hotel accommodation and perhaps a great deal more could be done to get this point across, again in a working-together way.
After the record arrival numbers reported last year, the new CEO of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association recently stated that the start of the peak winter season has been disappointing for its members with both reduced occupancy and spend and ‘he isn’t expecting things to improve’.
With the end of critical high season already in sight, we have to ask the question again, how do we as a destination get across to all our major markets that we can offer value-for-money?