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Why people are turning their backs on hotels

More and more people are choosing to spend their treasured holiday time in villas rather than hotels. Alastair Loxton, CEO of Ministry of Villas, explains why this is the case, and how his company can help you find the perfect villa for your next trip.

Ministry of Villas specialises in villas in Asia
A villa stay is a great option for group travel

How did Ministry of Villas start? We launched in 2013 after encountering multiple disappointments searching for villas while on holiday ourselves. We learned how challenging it can be to find the right property and ensure all the details are taken care of: it would sometimes take days to get hold of a villa owner, or we would find that the villa we wanted was unavailable – or completely unsuitable. After mastering the art of finding and planning our own villa holidays we started the company to usher in a new dimension of personal service for private accommodation bookings. In short, Ministry of Villas was designed to marry amazing villas with cutting-edge booking technology and exceptional personal service.

How has the company grown since then? It took off like a rocket! Our timing couldn’t have been better; there is a global shift in demand from hotels to villas, as people are travelling more often and wanting privacy, personalised service and a new dimension of luxury. Today, given the explosion of private accommodation options, we’re becoming a kind of Michelin-star guide for villas here in Asia. Where other companies invite anyone and everyone to list their properties, we put quality first, personally inspecting each property and only working with partners of utmost credibility. We’re adding approximately 100 villas per month to our platform, focusing on tourist meccas such as Bali, Phuket and Koh Samui, as well as winter hotspots like Niseko and Hakuba in Japan, and emerging destinations, including Lombok and Chiang Mai. Currently, we have 25 staff located in offices across Singapore, Australia, Japan, Indonesia and India.

Tell us more about this shift in demand from hotels to villas. There is an illogical nature to the way hotels are fundamentally designed. When you’re on holiday with family and friends, you want to maximise your time together. So why would you want to be isolated in separate rooms (maybe even on separate floors) and meet in a public place? In a villa, the world literally revolves around you: private pools, personal butlers and chefs, chauffeurs, not to mention locations as beautiful and varied as secluded rainforest retreats to absolute beachfront mansions. Plus, when you travel with friends and family, economies of scale kick in, and the cost of renting a private villa is often less than staying in a hotel. This is why we say, “Stay just one night in a villa and you’ll never stay in a hotel again.”

Ministry of Villas CEO Alastair Loxton
Alastair Loxton, CEO of Ministry of Villas, started the company to offer a personal service for private accommodation bookings

What are the advantages of booking a villa through Ministry of Villas over a sharing portal? The sharing economy (with Airbnb leading the charge) has certainly helped inspire travellers who would normally book a hotel to experience staying in a villa. However, there’s a lack of quality control, making it inherently risky, with no one to turn to for independent advice or help; and the peer-to-peer booking process can be inefficient. We believe adding personal service to the equation was needed to make booking a villa holiday a truly luxurious and stress-free experience. The finest properties in Asia aren’t listed on Airbnb or other sharing economy websites for this reason. An extension of our service is arranging a chauffeur to meet you at the airport and escort you to your villa. If you book through Airbnb, you’re on your own, and it can be tricky finding a privately owned property in a foreign country. We look after you from the moment you touch down. In addition, when booking with Ministry of Villas you’ll receive extras that you won’t get anywhere else, free of charge. These “Ministry Upgrades” range from a bottle of champagne on arrival, all the way through to helicopter transfers. Finally, Ministry of Villas was selected as the official villa partner for the iconic MasterCard Priceless campaigns in Bali, Thailand and Japan. Keep an eye out for Priceless Experiences on the website, where MasterCard cardholders can select from the likes of a complimentary in-villa personal masseuse to private Balinese dancers or traditional cooking lessons in your winter chalet in Japan.

What makes a great villa? Many different factors; our core prerequisites include a high standard of maintenance of the villa, grounds and facilities, and exceptional levels of service from staff. Nearly every villa on our platform has a private pool – that’s a must these days. Going further, I’ve had the pleasure of staying in villas with billiard tables, whirlpools, saunas, kayaks, sailing boats, even a personal water park! What makes a villa truly great is when it has exactly what you dream of having on your holiday. There really is something for everyone. In addition, we focus on the service side to ensure a seamless holiday experience – we provide a concierge for local information and assistance, chauffeurs, arrange in-house chefs, even babysitters. These are the additions that mean not only will you have a great villa, but a seamless and stress-free holiday.

A SNAPSHOT OF AVAILABLE VILLAS

• Villa Stella, Bali: “A three-bedroom palatial beachfront mansion, over 1,000 square metres in size, with personal butlers, chef and 24-hour security. From just US$500 per night for six guests, it’s absolute luxury for less than the cost of a 4-star hotel.”

• 88 Place, Chiang Mai: “Epitomising the new trend in modern-come-traditional villas, every room here has exquisite art and funky furniture, and it caters to couples and families alike, with a games room, rooftop lounge and infinity pool with riverside views.”

• Villa Malouna, Koh Samui: “This stunning absolute beachfront property is perfect for groups and especially families – children have their own eightbed ‘funzone’. Watch fishermen cast their nets by day, and enjoy exquisite sunsets by night.”

FOUR VILLA HOTSPOTS

• Canggu, Bali: “The hottest of hot locations in Asia – the evolution of this once sleepy fishing village is incredible; it’s the next Seminyak.”

• Hokkaido, Japan: “An amazing area to explore, on the back of Niseko’s rise to prominence as one of the world’s best ski resorts”

• Lombok, Indonesia: “Bali’s neighbour is booming – particularly the Gili Islands.”

• Chiang Mai, Thailand: “Incredibly wellpositioned, with Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Southern China all close by.”

For booking and information, visit ministryofvillas.com

This article first appeared in the Oct/Nov edition of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue!

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