The premium holiday rental market has reinvented itself and is growing in the Algarve. Sublime homes that provide total safety, discretion and comfort with countless luxury services are the new trend for unforgettable holidays
The worldwide pandemic has redefined our way of living, including our holidays. The consequences of the impact of the novel coronavirus have been felt all over the world and, as a result, the inevitable demand for safer holiday options has gained a new dimension.
Those looking to enjoy their well-deserved break away from crowds without, however, giving up all the comfort, convenience and privacy they desire, have increasingly chosen to rent high-quality homes in the geographical area of the famous Algarve Golden Triangle: the areas between Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo and Vilamoura. The premium rentals have truly taken on new life, so Essential Algarve wanted to know more about this niche market, which, now more than ever, has sparked the interest of those visiting the region.
Operating in the Algarve since 2006, SandyBlue is one of the top companies in the rental sector of exclusive villas for holidays in the Golden Triangle. “Although 75% of our clients are British or Irish, this year there is a lot of demand from Portuguese customers for this type of product,” explains Joe Mountain, the company’s director and co-founder. “Since the pandemic started, these top-end Portuguese customers have been considering more the option of renting luxury, modern and high-quality villas, something that didn’t happen so much before”, he says. “This type of client used to travel out of Portugal at this time of year. Now, they’re opting to take their holidays in their own country, but without relinquishing any comfort,” he states.
The usual clientele is mainly families of big business people or famous celebrities who value their privacy and prefer to keep a low profile. “Some arrive in their private planes and we set everything up, from their welcoming to their departure. They demand properties that are finely cared for. Usually, the demand is for villas with large pools, near the beach, with a fast Internet connection, and always with beautiful finishes, with exceptional supporting services and with great attention to hygiene and the overall cleanliness of spaces,” he reveals.
Mountain became familiar with the Algarve in the 1980s, and at the first possible opportunity decided to live and invest in the region. With his wife Erika and three daughters, in 2008 they moved permanently to the Algarve and they started the business on the back of their own portfolio of 13 properties in the Golden Triangle area. Earlier this year, operations director Anastasia Takield invested and became partner and co-owner of SandyBlue, having seen first-hand the significant opportunity to expand the higher-end rental offering. For this season, SandyBlue has over 200 elegant properties available, 75 of which are totally exclusive. From “luxurious villas that aren’t even on the public lists published online, for around €40,000 a week, to private villas for families with sea views or more sheltered in nature for €20,000 a week”, there is plenty to choose from. However, overall “the average price is around €6,000 per week”, he says. About 55% of clients are frequent visitors. For Mountain, it is obvious that “right now, people prefer to enjoy their family holidays in their own small group, which you don’t usually get in a hotel”.
Another differentiating aspect that has been increasingly demanded is the “provision of private and bespoke services within the property”, such as, “grocery delivery, massage and beauty treatments, therapies, training sessions, chauffeurs, as well as private chefs available 24 hours a day”, among others. “We need to try to please and meet each client’s expectations. I remember a client who requested a resident DJ just to play ambient music in the pool area during their stay,” he recalls.
To combat the effects of the pandemic, the company recently launched a new concept called “SandyBlue Longer Stays”, which proposes prolonged stays of anywhere from 28 days to around six months. “We’ve had a lot of British clients that wanted to spend lockdown out of their country, somewhere that was considered safer but with total quality and comfort. This is a new trend that has been very successful so we decided to make this concept available full-time.” In fact, according to Mountain, another peculiarity of the times we live in is that “this summer season in the Algarve should be extended, with clients looking at holidays until at least October, and with much longer stays than usual”, he reveals.
Meanwhile, Vale do Lobo resort has 64 properties available for rental during this ‘extended summer’ period. “The average daily rate across the portfolio is about €500 per night, but the cost for our best villa, for a week, is €18,900,” explains Paulo Pinto, executive administrator of Vale do Lobo resort. “From our portfolio, the luxury apartments and villas with pool and Jacuzzi are the most popular for this season,” reveals Magdalena Osmola, the resort’s marketing director. “Of course beachfront location is of top importance and so is proximity to Faro Airport.” According to Osmola, access to other facilities such as for tennis, golf, fitness, dining options and organised experiences is “an important factor in decision making as well”.
As for what has changed in the way visitors conduct their holidays after the pandemic, the marketing director says there is increasing demand for “private accommodation options with almost a ‘touch-free’ approach to the entire holiday process”. That is to say, there is a growing concern to avoid places with a lot of people, like hotels. Paulo Pinto complements this idea: “This year, in light of adapting to the idea of ‘new normal’ we’ve definitely seen a surge in interest in our large private villas”, which offer features that are increasingly valued, such as privacy and safety along with a more ‘contactless’ service for the client — “a fully online check-in process, personal safety kits, or private holiday chef experience to name a few”.
However, Magdalena Osmola stresses that accommodation is not everything. “In the concept of ‘new normal’, the evermore conscious traveller no longer solely looks for comfortable premium accommodation, top location and safety. These are merely basics. For the new, evolved luxury client, the entire holiday experience is far more important,” she explains. Therefore, the goal for this season is to offer an “effortless resort living” experience. “We offer the destination, comfortable and desirable accommodation, indulgent facilities, but also a real taste of what our owner-residents experience on a daily basis,” she says. “With this ‘new reality’ in mind, we’ve prepared a selection of experiences to make sure guests’ time with us reflects the true meaning of relaxation with activities to get everyone moving, re-connecting with the surrounding nature or inspiring their creative side.” Osmola explains that the resorts hopes these experiences can become a way for clients to “kick-start healthy habits, such as walks or meditating at the beach, and leave with a refreshed sense of wellbeing”.
In the opinion of these professionals, the advantages of renting property in the last months of summer reflect the possibility of customisation and the ability to design a bespoke stay. “Whether clients want to eat outside at one of our restaurant patios or have an in-villa private chef experience,” says Osmola. However, the marketing director sees a greater concern and demand for connection with nature. “It’s all about enjoying the best of what the destination has to offer — getting away from the city, into nature, breathing the fresh air and sea breeze. Of course, hygiene and cleanliness are also high up on the list now, and that’s one of the reasons why we decided to obtain Clean & Safe certification immediately,” she states. And although the UK is the resort’s main geographic market, with these new conditions, Vale do Lobo has seen “an incremental growth of Portuguese tourists”, notes Magdalena Osmola.
Mark McSorley, general manager of Quinta do Lago’s Hotel & Residences, also corroborates the idea that the Portuguese premium rental market is growing strongly. With more than 20 years of experience in renting holiday homes, the resort has 54 properties available this season. From two-bedroom apartments to 10-bedroom villas, prices range from €2,500 up to €30,000 per week.
This year, the clients are mainly “nationals travelling with family, in search of comfort, privacy and, in most cases, a ‘wow’ factor”, McSorley describes. Private classes with personal trainers or similar sports professionals are usually the top requests, but there is also a great demand for private chefs to cook all the family’s meals in the comfort of the home. “Here, our guests feel safe, and that’s why families are making the most of the homes they rent for holidays,” he explains.
For McSorely, the advantages of having a late holiday at Quinta do Lago are “enjoying a totally personalised and unique experience, in luxury villas with large indoor and outdoor spaces where you can really relax and enjoy your free time”, but above all, the possibility to “enjoy life outside the resort”, which, thanks to its enormous extension, maintains a “low density” throughout the year, since visitors are “surrounded by 2,000 hectares of the Ria Formosa Natural Park and, of course, the beautiful beaches”.
McSorley also highlights that the Quinta do Lago resort has been awarded the Clean & Safe seal by Turismo de Portugal, as well as a Safe Travels certification from the World Travel & Tourism Council. “We believe that travellers now are more invested in being in natural, safe, low-density destinations. At Quinta do Lago, our active, outdoor lifestyle, family values and unrivalled natural location are the perfect tonic for life after lockdown,” he states.