Like Airbnb, but for rich people

From the marinas of Monaco to the slopes of Aspen, it’s no secret where the wealthy like to go on holiday.

But where they stay is more of a mystery. Rental homes offer space and privacy, while luxury hotels come with “as you wish” service staff willing to bend over backward to keep wealthy clientele happy.

With “ultra luxury” villas, affluent travelers can have both. The houses, which represent the pinnacle of the luxury real estate rental market, come with palatial grounds, private chefs and nightly rates that equal many people’s monthly mortgage payments. 

‘Ultra luxury’ homes 

One such company is Icon Private Collection, where users can search for “ultra luxury villas” with budgets that begin at 10,000 British pounds ($13,450) per night. Another, UltraVilla, connects travelers to luxury homes from Saint Martin to the South African vineyards of Franschhoek.

Villas of Distinction distinguishes its best villas with a different term. Its “Chairman’s Collection” houses feature premier locations, architecture and privacy, as well as “exquisite design both indoors and out,” according to the company’s website.

Another Chairman’s Collection pick, Turks & Caicos’ La Dolce Vita has nine bedrooms and over 12,300 square feet of space.

Courtesy of Villas of Distinction

Of more than 2,900 luxury rental houses, only 35 qualify for the special designation, said Steve Lassman, vice-president of Villas of Distinction.

“We have a couple of new ones coming within the next 30 days that are incredible,” he said, adding that some will feature private jet service starting in 2021.

Other companies are more location-specific. Luxico rents five-star “ultra villas” in Australia that come with daily maid service, personal butlers, designer linen, stocked refrigerators and a “sommelier’s honesty bar” supplied with top wines and liqueurs. 

‘Private resort’ homes

Staff members, most of whom were trained at Aman Resorts and Four Seasons hotels, can organize special requests, from firework celebrations to landing helicopters inside the villas. They recently held a “Moana”-themed birthday party at the Thailand location with the staff in full costume, said Bloom.

Amenities, too, are more akin to a resort than a rental house. Set on 20,000 square meters along the southern coastline, the Sri Lankan location has its own tennis court (and tennis pro), Ayurvedic spa and activity coordinator for the kids.

Despite the global coronavirus pandemic, all four properties are open, said Yeshi Phuntsho, the company’s managing director of operations.

“Àni Anguilla and Àni Dominican Republic are running normal operations,” he said. “We have actually been very busy there as people prefer to travel private because of Covid.”

Ani Private Resorts employ children’s activity coordinators to organize treasure hunts on the beach, baking classes and crafts.

Courtesy of Ani Private Resorts

The locations in Thailand and Sri Lanka are open for domestic guests only.

Like a private house, each location hosts only one group at a time, said Bloom. Rates include meals, beverages (including alcohol), spa treatments, personal training, cooking classes and children’s entertainment.

The company used to charge a la carte but going through an itemized list of charges wasn’t a “super fun” way to end a trip, said Bloom.

“Going luxury all-inclusive now allows our guests to not worry about anything and just be in the moment,” he said.

Rates: from $4,625 per night (8 adults) or $9,625 (28 adults)

Historical homes