THE INTERVIEW SERIES:
CHRISTIAN JAGODZINSKI – CEO, VILLAZZO

Christian

In our latest interview series, we’re delighted to provide a rare glimpse into the world of Christian Jagodzinski, founder of Villazzo and widely celebrated tech entrepreneur.

An innovator ahead of his time, Jagodzinski made a name for himself in his early twenties launching ‘Telebook’ – Germany’s first fully automated online retailer. The business was snapped up by Amazon and became Amazon Germany. After working as a Director for Amazon for a while, realizing a need to fulfil his entrepreneurial spirit, Christian took an extended sabbatical to travel the world. It was during this time he discovered an untapped niche in the market; premium luxury villas with all the trappings of five-star hotels, for the ultimate vacation. Bringing his passion for luxury travel together with his technical prowess, Villazzo was born.

Q: You grew up in Germany and now live in Miami where Villazzo is based. This isn’t your typical Silicon Valley start-up, tell us a bit about how you came to reside in Florida?

I’ve always loved Florida, especially Miami Beach. The climate is perfect, it’s a cosmopolitan city with an international vibe and ‘happening’ buzz. It feels like a small resort town with a big city in its backyard! We used to have a small office here already in the late 1990s, long before it became the big international destination it is today. All our workers loved it and still do.

Wherever you stay on South Beach, or any of its islands, you’re only ever minutes away from the water, the hottest restaurants, the beach and shops, as well as just 15 minutes from a major international airport hub. Tell me any other place in the world that has the same great set up?

Q: Sixteen years’ on since it launched and Villazzo is still going strong. How do you keep up with an ever-changing online and travel landscape?

We remain true to our core values that we launched with in 2002. These are to provide a five-star hotel service and management for select top-of-the-line vacation villas.
The business was borne out of my personal frustrations renting high end villas. The service lacked any professionalism, it was just people ‘brokering a deal’ forgetting the crucial human touch required to create a memorable vacation.

Unfortunately, this hasn’t improved with the abundance of online villa booking sites, driven by price while compromising customer service. I fear that we have come to see the same cut-throat price competition in the villa market as we have in the airline industry, where customers are willing to give up luggage rather than pay $25 extra – it’s a short-sighted approach.

You only have to look at the excellent service First-Class customers are given, to understand their loyalty to an airline. Despite fierce competition, premium flyers remain loyal to the provider they receive the best service from. That’s really our approach at Villazzo too. We deliver a First-Class experience to our customers (when booking online or with other agents), and the price difference is well worth it.

Q: Tell me a bit about your day-to-day involvement in Villazzo and what your ‘job’ involves?

At the start, I was very hands-on managing all the day-to-day operations, greeting clients and hand-picking the villas myself. I realized that in order to focus my efforts and expand the business, I needed to grow them team. Last year I was delighted to appoint Hanna Talaie as General Manager, who oversees everything now. I still care passionately about the business and work hard to uphold our high standards, so remain involved at a strategic level in my new role as Chairman.

Q: And what is the most challenging part of your job?

Two things come to mind.

First of all, the technical side (website, app, client service systems) has become increasingly important in recent years. While I have a tech background, it remains a challenge to find good developers that can continue to pioneer.

We invest a lot in new properties, this includes educating home owners on ‘the Villazzo approach’ to client and property management. It’s a skill we’ve honed over the past 16 years, which ultimately leads to a better experience for home owners and guests alike.

Q: Villazzo lists Beyonce and Jay-Z, Madonna and Cristiano Ronaldo among its clients, is it just for the super wealthy?

Villazzo-serviced villas do attract an elite customer, with the $5,000+ a night price tag they come with. Acknowledging this, we recently launched our sister company Global Luxury Villas where prices are much lower, and you have a ‘concierge’ service’ instead of a ‘VillaHotel’ service. This is sufficient for a range of clients, and still much better value than a pure online booking site.

Q: What makes Villazzo stand-out from a five-star hotel, or another luxury villa rental company?

We are completely unique. There is no other villa company in the world that offers the level of care and detail that we do. From our carefully curated list of villas and ‘VillaHotel Transformation’ process, to our dedicated service training. We have a reputation for offering the best properties with unrivalled customer service.

While there are many outstanding hotels in the world, none of them can offer the sanctuary, space and privacy or our large estates at Villazzo.

Q: What’s the most unusual request you’ve had to fulfill from a client!?

This is one of the great parts of the job, where you can really make a difference to someone’s stay.

We’ve emptied and refilled a 140ft pool (it took six days!) to ensure it was untouched. We furnished a complete villa with brand new mattresses costing $4,000 each, and once we even bought a Rolls Royce Phantom at short notice for a client, which we later shipped to his home in Europe!

The most decadent request though, goes to one delightful guest who invited us to redecorate their villa for a quarter of a million dollars – the same value as the villa itself. That was a fun weekend for sure!

Christian in Mykonos

Q: If you had to pick a destination in the world for unrivalled luxury, where would you choose?

One of the perks of the job is that Villazzo is made up of all my favorite destinations; Miami Beach, St. Tropez and Aspen.

It’s hard to choose a personal favorite, but Courchevel in France is my go-to destination for skiing, while Mykonos is quickly becoming one of our worst kept secrets! It’s really blowing up in popularity, making now a great time to visit.

Q: Do you have any insider tips for online rental bookings?

If you can be flexible with timings, you can expect less than half price rates travelling off-peak. The downside though, is that you might miss out on all the action and buzz that make these destinations so great.

Holidays are so important, and so brief, that they should be spent well. I can only advise renting luxury villas with Villazzo’s ‘VillaHotel’ service whenever possible, to guarantee an unforgettable vacation. It’s the main reason why I started Villazzo.

Q: And finally, what’s next for Villazzo?

As mentioned, we recently launched our sister brand ‘Global Luxury Villas’ by Villazzo, to offer concierge-serviced villa rentals around the world. While they don’t come with the full hotel setup and staffing as VillaHotels do, they are more affordable and in a greater variety of destinations too.

We have also opened a Villazzo Investment Fund, to acquire properties with great potential that can make money through VillaHotel rentals in the meantime.

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