Top Villa and Condo Rental Internet Booking Sites
Welcome to 'Phuket 2.0', the coming of age for non-traditional hotels and villas, which now compete with the traditional cookie-cutter hotel supply. There are currently 38 new hotels in the development pipeline, which will add another 6,455 'rooms' to Phuket, 34 percent of which fall within the condo-hotel or hotel-managed villa sector.
Compound this with the number of freestanding products underway that will be rented out through agents or directly by owners and through web sites, and the amount of non-traditional hotels will represent more than 50 percent of the island's hotel market. At the same time, accommodation booking trends on the internet are growing at break-neck speed. Web bookings for many hotel-managed villa properties account for between 30 to 50 percent of their business.
Low-cost airlines like AirAsia, Tiger and Jetstar have also seen the region catch up with the rest of the world, with customers preferring to make their travel plans, reservations and transactions online.
The evolution of web-based booking for hotels is no newbie. There are several well-established hotel-booking websites sites such as Expedia, Agoda, Travelocity, Wotif and the newly-launched Phuket Booknow, to name a few.
Given the property boom in Asia this past decade, – and the amount of mixed-use products in key resort destinations such as in Phuket, Bali and Koh Samui – the playing product is now evolving. There is growing demand for more personalized products; niches are evolving to suit the broad spectrum of guests' tastes. The variety of villa types runs the gamut from catering to those seeking the ultimate in luxury and privacy to multi-generation family groups who prefer to stay together in one location rather than renting out several individual hotel rooms.
I recently viewed on the web some of the sites available offering alternative types of accommodation in Phuket. Of course the web is vast and the choices almost endless, so I apologize for any omissions, oversights or non-inclusions in the limited time I had to carry out this research.
The sites listed here are in no particular order of rank or preference. Many of the companies also operate flash sites and secondary domains with specialized products in addition to what's been listed.
One of Phuket's better-established domains, phuketvillarentals.com, is associated with the management company Phuket Island Property Services (PIPS), which also provides management services and furniture fit-outs for residential projects.Their key properties include Baan Chai Nam, Surin Springs, Laguna Villas, Kamala Hills and Club Lersuang. While their focus is on villas and apartments, most of their products are aimed squarely at the large scale mid market.
Koh Samui's well-established firm Villas and Homes recently opened a parallel operation on Phuket and now operate phuketvillasandhomes.com. A smaller offering is on tap here, ranging from Jivana, a high-end product over the bridge, to Coolwater in Kamala and Kata Gardens in the south. Property services and estate management operations are also linked in as an offering.
One of the island's true success stories, Phuket.com, has expanded its hotel listings to include sections for villas, bungalows and apartments, though linking these mainly to property offerings.
Apartments on offer include Allamanda and Grove Gardens, while villas include Sri Panwa, Sai Taan, Rising Sun and Laguna.Asia Web Direct, which was bought out a few years ago by mega success story wotif.com, is a leader in site traffic.
One of the flashier sites in this genre is phuketvillasonline.com – connected to villarentalasia.com by the Indonesian company Private Leisure – is expanding its offerings to Bali, Lombok, Koh Samui and Sri Lanka.Many of the products listed are hotel managed, such as Aleenta and Phuket Pavilions, which suggests that the strategy is focusing not only on providing bookings for individuals, but is acting as a third-party travel retailer for hotel operators wanting to tap into the larger potential basis of customers.
Tying in phuketluxuryvillas.com, the site provides little direct information on its product pages, requiring consumers to ask for details. The owners of this site have many other sites on the web. It is a good example of domains utilizing content through other agents and working to share booking revenue.
Successful consolidators of this nature have a sound business model. Take wego.com, for example, which operates in the hotel space.
Many more products are out there, such as myasianvilla.com; shibumithailand.com; phuket.net; and siamrealestate.com – the list goes on and on. Google will find you many more for you.
With sales in decline at the moment, more property agents are shifting their business models, but there remain some significant long-term regulatory and governance issues. In most countries, sellers of accommodation are required to have travel agency licenses. However, many on-line booking sites either ignore that requirement, or use questionable offshore operations.
Other challenges for operators that are bubbling under the surface include the issues of taxation on bookings – hotel projects deemed to be operating without licenses – and income tax on the revenue of private owners.Issues facing the consumers using sites that only act as third-party vendors include their ability to have any complaints resolved and obtaining refunds in the event of insolvency.
As with many things on web 2.0, the rules have yet to be written, but one thing is for certain: these sites offer a whole new set of offerings. Diversity is continuing to change the way we travel.