Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

THE INTERVIEW SERIES:
CHRISTIAN JAGODZINSKI – CEO, VILLAZZO

Tuesday, December 25th, 2018
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.

THE INTERVIEW SERIES
ALEKS ALEKSANDROVA
SALES AND OPERATIONS ASSISTANT, VILLAZZO

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

In our ongoing series of interviews, we catch up with Aleks Aleksandrova, Sales and Operations assistant at leading luxury rentals website, Villazzo. Aleks is responsible for the day-to-day management of clients and supporting the overall operation’s function. Here we find out more about her role.

Q: You were born in Bulgaria, before finishing your studies in USA. How has this global breadth helped you in your role?

I’ve always found it extremely useful to speak multiple languages and have an appreciation of other cultures.

During my travels throughout Europe, I’ve learnt to understand different values, something I apply to my work every day when dealing with international clients. Above all, my humble beginnings taught me to be kind to everyone, something I still hold dear today.

Q: You work both in sales and operations, how do you bring both of these roles together?

Both parts of the business complement each other well. The one shared goal is to create an amazing unforgettable experience for our guests. Every part of my job involves creating or selling that dream, and ensuring that the whole process runs smoothly for everyone.

Q: What is a typical working day like for you?

It’s a real mix – no two days are the same. On the sales side I spend a lot of time in the office responding to clients, scheduling showings and reviewing the beautiful properties on offer. When working in operations it’s more ‘front line’ with a real buzz about it. From dealing with reservations to adding personal touches for clients, to visiting properties and ensuring everything is in pristine condition. We take a lot of pride in the way we present our properties, to ensure every need is met – attention to detail is crucial.

Q: What trends are you seeing in the travel industry at the moment?

There continues to be lots of competition in the vacation rental market, with travelers looking for next level luxury. However, there’s nothing that rivals Villazzo and the five-star service we offer, we’re in a class of our own – it’s one of the reasons I love working for the company!

Q: What requests do you most enjoy from clients?

I really enjoy organizing and planning special events for our guests. Anniversaries, birthdays, graduations… even engagements! It’s humbling to think that I could play a role in someone’s special day, and make it even more memorable for them and their loved ones.

Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?

Multi-tasking comes with its challenges. Dealing with requests from homeowners to staff, as well as customers at the same time requires a certain kind of organization and forward planning.

Q: What makes Villazzo stand-out from its competitors?

Undoubtedly our five-star customer service and commitment to providing only the best for our guests. There is no other brand offering what we do – gorgeous homes in the lap of luxury, at the best prices available.

Q: What is the key to successful customer service?

It goes back to my humble beginnings again – being kind. Also, always doing my best. At the end of the day, I can take pride knowing I’ve done the best job possible.

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

I have a real affinity for Indonesia, specifically Bali. The people are just wonderful, the customer service is outstanding, and the culture is so different to America that I find it wholly fascinating. It’s a fabulous place to visit.

Q: What’s your top tip for someone looking to book a vacation rental with Villazzo?

Don’t think twice – just do it! You won’t regret it.

THE INTERVIEW SERIES – DAVID SONTAG – SALES DIRECTOR, VILLAZZO

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018
David Sontag

In our ongoing series of interviews, we exclusively speak to David Sontag, Sales Director at Villazzo. With more than five years’ experience in the luxury sales industry, David has also worked for The Miami Herald and The Miami Heat, before joining Villazzo in 2016.

Q: Tell us a little about your objectives as Sales Director at Villazzo?

My main objectives are to book homes in each of the destinations we serve, while increasing revenue year on year. This involves finding homeowners that are interested in joining our VillaHotel program, and continuing to keep Villazzo at the front of their minds.

Q: Villazzo is known for its unrivalled vacation rentals in incredible locations. What do you look for in new properties?

We always look for the best homes in the best locations in the destinations we offer, many of which have the ‘wow’ factor. Our reputation means that owners trust us with their homes and work with us exclusively. We enjoy finding likeminded partners that we can build long-term relationships with.

Q: Currently, Villazzo is present in five global locations around the world. Where would you like to see the next destination on the map?

Our customers enjoy being inspired by the luxury vacation rentals we offer. Beverly Hills is a destination with tremendous opportunities for growth, and we’re seeing a demand for homes in the area, so watch this space…

Q: What makes Villazzo unique, that entices your elite clientele back time and again?

It’s all about the high level of service we offer. When a client first contacts Villazzo, it’s because they’ve heard about our concept, and have seen photos of our properties online. But, it’s our five-star service that gives us a real advantage, which is unrivaled and unmatched by anyone.

After we’ve completed the booking process, guests are introduced to our operations team (David & Aleksandra). They work effortlessly to plan the guest’s itineraries, and ensure their every desire is met. Between these two and their in-house teams, they pull out all the stops to make every experience special. Guests leave feeling cared and catered for, and we notice that many return – not just to the same destinations, but others in our portfolio too.

Q: What is more important – great customer service or a great villa location?

They’re both equally as important as each other, but for different reasons. The homes, and their location are often the motivation for guests to get in touch – and what makes us stand out against competitors. However, it’s our five-star service that we’re known for. The service begins during the first initial call and continues even after a guest checks out. Our goal is to make a personal connection from the start. Once a guest arrives and stays with us, it’s the outstanding customer service that gets them to return, and we go beyond the usual expectations to make sure guests are satisfied.

Welcome

Q: You’re extremely well-travelled with a love of luxury – how does this help in your role?

Having a knowledge of luxury, how luxury is defined, and what’s expected from a luxury experience helps define my role. I appreciate that customers want a professional, polite approach, as well as access to some of the best luxury villa rentals.

Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?

We’re often asked to help plan itineraries that create memories that last a lifetime. This is a challenge we love, but can take weeks, if not months of planning.

Q: Have you noticed any interesting trends in the industry at the moment?

The increased demand for private rental homes continues. As travelers look for a more personalized service, this is something we can help with at Villazzo.

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

Rates tend to be more favorable during mid-week stays. If you have a limited budget, try and look for properties that don’t include a weekend stay.

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

This is personal to everyone’s taste, after all, there is luxury to be found in every destination. For me, it’s a combination of a perfect property matched with five-star service to create a memorable stay.

THE INTERVIEW SERIES – DAVID SIAUVAUD – OPERATIONS DIRECTOR, VILLAZZO

Wednesday, September 5th, 2018
David Siauvaud

In our ongoing series of interviews, we exclusively speak to David Siauvaud, Operations Director at Villazzo. With more than seven years experience in the hospitality trade, David worked for a number of leading hotel brands before joining Villazzo four years ago.

Here we exclusively catch up with David about this role at Villazzo and the importance of customer service.

Q: You’ve studied in Ireland, worked as a head waiter in hotels in France, been a product manager in Mexico, and now head up operations for Villazzo in Miami. Tell us how you made the leap – both in terms of the role and location!?

I’ve always loved to travel and my studies have taken me far. I’ve found that working in several countries has excelled my career. It has given me a wealth of experience and the opportunity to discover other cultures and their approach to hospitality for a well-rounded view.

Q: Tell us a little about your day-to-day role.

As with all things Villazzo, good customer service runs through the company. As such, my role centers around bringing all the departments together to make sure they run smoothly, and customers remain at the heart of what we do. Maintaining a consistently high service worldwide is integral to this role. Overseeing the company financials is part of the day-to-day running of the business, to ensure budgets are managed too.

Q: From your time in hospitality, you witnessed first-hand the importance of good customer service. How do you deliver this to an online audience?

In the digital time we find ourselves in, immediacy is everything. Being able to respond quickly and helpfully is very important to our customers, and being reachable is key to the industry.

Q: What does Villazzo offer that a five-star hotel doesn’t?

When customers book a luxury vacation home with us, they can enjoy all the trappings of a five-star hotel, with the added benefit of complete privacy and a totally tailored experience. Everything is arranged as the guest desires, and that makes us special.

Q: You’re extremely well-travelled with a love of luxury – how does this help you in your role?

It’s a great advantage to understand guests, both on a cultural level and in their language. It allows us to connect more easily with customers and help anticipate their needs.

Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?

Ah yes, last minute requests are always fun! But it gets the adrenalin rushing and our team are brilliant at rising to the challenge – never failing to please. As mentioned before, I’m always ‘on’ and available, which means the business must always come first, but that’s not a problem as I’m passionate about what I do!

Villazzo Team

Q: What makes Villazzo stand-out from its competitors?

We have a really dedicated and passionate team that live and breathe hospitality. We share a common love for welcoming guests to our own houses, so it’s a pleasure to welcome guests to the beautiful luxury vacation homes we offer. It’s an extension of what we do!

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

Dubai does luxury like nowhere else! They have an innate understanding of how to treat customers, offering everything they could desire, and then some! Personal helipads, private chefs, gold-drenched four poster beds – no request is too ambitious.

Q: Do you have any insider tips for online rental bookings? (e.g. specific requests, days that are cheaper than others?)

Surprisingly, the longer you stay the more affordable the trip. And don’t be afraid to make requests prior to your stay. After all, we’re here to deliver a five-star experience and want you to have the best vacation.

THE INTERVIEW SERIES – HANNA TALAIE – GENERAL MANAGER, VILLAZZO

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018
Hanna Talaie

No-one knows luxury travel better than Hanna Talaie, General Manager of leading online luxury villa booking Villazzo. With more than 11 years’ experience in the industry, a degree in International Business and Management, international experience working and studying in both Germany and the Netherlands, and a passion for travel, she gives us the lowdown, in our first in a series of insider interviews.

Q: What does your role as General Manager involve?

I’m responsible for managing all departments across the business, to make sure they run smoothly and to offer support if there’s an issue. Our ethos is to deliver to the high standards our loyal clientele expects. At the same time, we need to make sure we differentiate ourselves as market leaders.

Q: Villazzo is known for its commitment to customer service, how do you achieve this?

As cliché as it sounds, I love coming to work. I’m very lucky to be surrounded by a great team who enjoy what they do. Our clients are at the heart of our business, and we prioritize their every need and requirement to ensure we take great care of them. Our approach is to offer guests the attention and experience as you would give your family – simply the best of the best!

Q: What’s the most challenging part of your job?

It’s fair to say that we self-impose very high standards. Our biggest challenge is to exceed our own set goals and to make every stay better than the previous for guests. We stay up to date when it comes to technology and trends, especially since the hospitality market is ever-changing and highly competitive.

Q: You’ve worked for the company for eight years, what makes Villazzo stand out from its competitors?

We are very price competitive, have a full local operations team with dedicated concierge services and have exclusive contracts in some cities. But most of all, we go above and beyond customer expectations to provide a hotel-like experience, with personalized services for guests. This ranges from little touches like premium towels and bespoke toiletry selection, to a white glove Butler service. We make the impossible request, possible – a challenge we love to take on! Villazzo only employs people with a ‘Yes’ attitude, who will care for guests and go beyond their expectations.

Q: What qualities do you look out for when appointing properties for Villazzo?

Location, location, location! That aside, to fit in with our luxury vacation rental portfolio, properties must be very well maintained and the interior needs to be clean, new and wow. We only consider properties that have a property manager to ensure we have an immediate contact.

Q: You’re well-traveled, where do you choose to vacation?

Anywhere that I can gather cultural knowledge. I have a bucket list of places that I am intending to see. I was recently in Iceland; the next trip will be Japan.

“The feedback we have from clients is overwhelming and I strongly believe they feel the extra TLC they receive from us.”

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

The longer you stay in a property, the better value it becomes, as the nightly rate goes down. Of course, our business is seasonal and much like hotels, there are on and off-peak times to travel. Outside of the holidays and school breaks, you can usually bag a better bargain! I have also seen lots of online fraudsters, so always advise using a reputable online rental company such as Villazzo, where you can speak to an actual person too.

Q: Are there any travel trends you’re noticing at the moment?

Yes, people are moving away from the traditional ‘plan a holiday’ method, and being more spontaneous and last minute. We’re also noticing that short stays are growing in popularity, allowing visitors to move around more, and weekend getaways are very ‘on trend’ too.

Q: Finally, why do you recommend someone reading this should book their luxury travel villa with Villazzo?

Villazzo has a very detail-oriented team that thrives on pleasing customers. We enjoy welcoming clients from all over the world, for every type of occasion. We have a very knowledgeable, motivated team who will create a memorable and bespoke stay for your trip. The feedback we have from clients is overwhelming and I strongly believe they feel the extra TLC they receive from us.