Bahamas Shows Highest Vacation Rental Growth


The popularity of vacation rentals in the Bahamas surged by 79 per cent last year, the greatest increase for any destination, with this trend expected to continue through 2010, a leading rental firm told Tribune Business yesterday.

Spokesperson Heather Whipps said Luxury Retreats specialised in high-end villa rentals, and saw an increase in requests coming in for the Caribbean region, inclusive of the Bahamas.

According to the company's regional numbers, the Bahamas showed the top increase in interest with 79 per cent, while the Turks and Caicos showed a 14 per cent increase. France showed increases of 41 per cent, the US 24 per cent and other popular 2009 destinations were Mexico, St Maarten, Italy and Barbados.

Director of product development for Luxury Retreats, Nick Guezen, said he expects the trend for the Bahamas to persist because of its US proximity and the increase in airlift to these islands.

"We expect our Bahamas villas to continue to do well in 2010 for a number of reasons. American and Canadian travellers are still preferring to stay closer to home this year, and the Bahamas is very convenient and accessible," said Mr Guezen.

"Many carriers added new flights to the islands recently and those with private jets are a short hop from the US coast. Luxury Retreats is also putting an increased focus on the Caribbean in 2010, and will be adding villas to our collection, so the selection of rental villas on the market will be more varied."

The company represents several high-end properties in the Bahamas, including Plantation Cove, a $4,500 to $10,000 per night villa in western New Providence; Freeport Villa Two, a $15,000 to $3,000 per night villa on Millionaires row in Grand Bahama; and La Bougainvillea, a $400 to $1,000 per night Eleuthera villa.According to a press release issued by Luxury Retreats, the use of private villas has been the fastest-growing segment of in the travel industry.

"In the company's figures throughout 2009, and especially last quarter... Luxury Retreats Villa Rentals increased by 14 per cent over 2008," said the release. "There was a revenue boost of 50 per cent during the same period."

The Bahamas government has sought to regulate the vacation home rentals industry, so that they adhere to a similar tax regime as resorts and hotels.

President of the Bahamas Hotel Association (BHA), Robert Sands, said the Ministry of Tourism and the private sector have begun to address the growth of these properties.

He said that if they represent a significant part of the tourism sector they must contribute to the marketing tools to promote the Bahamas.

Mr Sands said, though, that timeshares do not fall under the umbrella of the BHA, although some hotels and resorts, such as Club Land'or and Atlantis, operate those sorts of facilities.

According to Interval International, a leading global provider of vacation services that represents several properties in Grand Bahama, there has been a positive trend in the appeal of the Caribbean market.

According to a recent release by the company, members and new vacation property buyers have increased their interest in this region and have chosen it as a "top destination of interest".

"Member demand for vacation exchange and resort rentals in the Caribbean is strong and we continue to affiliate new projects throughout the region," said David C. Gilbert, executive vice-president of resort sales and marketing for Interval International.

"In today's environment, shared ownership offers resort developers a compelling business model with multiple profit centers and higher occupancy levels than hotels. In the case of mixed-use projects, it also provides the potential for cost-saving operating synergies and reduced marketing costs."

Mr Sands said because the vacation home rental market is fledgling and rapidly growing "we need to pay more attention to it".

Source: The Tribune