You Can Rent the French Riviera Villa from Downton Abbey – and Other Exclusive Private Homes Complete with Staff
“I’ve come into possession of a villa in the South of France,” announces the Dowager Countess of Grantham in the upcoming Downton Abbey film. And you can too – complete with a butler and other staff – at least for a few nights or several weeks. The Côte d’Azur villa featured in the movie is just one of the exclusive private homes available to rent through Homanie, a new breed of luxury holiday leases providing equally luxurious hotel level service.
Launched in March 2021, the company’s remit is dream homes with incredible views in exceptional locations with some fifty properties across France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. Added to this Homanie offers “five star service by The Homanists – women and men who are selected for their expertise.” Think chefs, housekeepers, gym trainers and yoga instructors. The whole package is yours from an average of 50 to 60 000€ (around US$53,000 to US$63,000) a week in summer, depending on the property, with some reaching 180 000E (about US$190,000) a week.
Luxury holiday rentals already exist of course but there’s a growing trend for combining the privacy and space of a unique holiday lease with the service and amenities of a deluxe hotel. “Up until now, renting a property has been synonymous with ‘self catering’ – a quick handover of the keys and service which is often cursory. Homanie is now changing all of this by offering an innovative, five star hotel service,” says a spokeswoman for the company.
Similarly from this summer fans of Mandarin Oriental will have the chance to experience the hotel brand in a new way. In a collaboration with StayOne, specialists in “the finest one per cent of holiday homes”, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group has launched a collection of exclusive private houses to rent. Each of which comes with “service provided by a team who have been meticulously trained by Mandarin Oriental”.
Mandarin Oriental Exclusive Homes – from a Spanish private island to an English country estate – include a 24 hour concierge service, in house private chef and daily housekeeping, right down to MO robes and bathroom amenities.
“The luxury home rental market is a fast-growing segment of leisure travel,” says Luca Finardi, Area Vice President & Head of Operations at Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group which became a minority investor in StayOne in late 2020. “We saw the opportunity to introduce luxury experiences that combine the best of both brands. StayOne have the perfect homes, and Mandarin Oriental has the brand reputation to deliver unique personalised service in a luxury environment.”
The inaugural selection of eight properties are based in the South of France, the Balearic islands Ibiza and Mallorca and the Cotswolds in England. “Destinations were selected based on customer demand among our Fan base in the most popular leisure destinations,” says Finardi. “Looking forward, Mandarin Oriental and StayOne will collaborate to identify seasonal collections; diversifying the portfolio and handpicking villas in other key destinations around the world.”
Other hotel brands also have affinities with luxury rentals around the world including North America and Asia. Marriott International launched Homes & Villas in 2019 and prior to that Accor hotel group bought upscale holiday rental company onefinestay.
“While no formal crossover programming or services exist between Accor hotel brands and onefinestay, we are capable of addressing needs or requests our guests or clients may have. This could take the shape of a hotel chef preparing a bespoke, private dinner at a onefinestay property,” says Garth Simmons, CEO Accor Southeast Asia, Japan & South Korea.
Members of the Fans of MO loyalty scheme will be offered further benefits and experiences while staying at the Exclusive Homes. And both Accor and Marriott allow guests to earn and redeem reward points at the onefinestay and Homes & Villas properties respectively.
On a smaller scale ÀNI Private Resorts offers four private homes for rent with full service in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Anguilla and the Dominican Republic. And in London only, Domus Stay has privately owned high end apartments to exclusive townhouses on its books for short stay rentals with the opportunity to arrange guest services such as personal trainers, VIP gallery tours, private wine tastings and art classes.
Multi-generational holidays and landmark occasions are ideally suited for the larger properties. “Customers of luxury villas usually choose them for different reasons to choosing luxury hotels and we wanted to develop this for our clients,” says Finardi. “We saw an opportunity of being able to offer private, stand-alone accommodation options in destinations we have yet to have opened a hotel. Ideally for the coming together of family and friends to celebrate key events.”
And companies have seen increased interest as the world opens up again. “We have noticed since the pandemic a real increase in demand for holidays in private mansions as travellers now favour more intimate places where they feel more secured against the risk of Covid,” says the Homanie spokeswoman.