The pandemic can be blamed for a lot of things, but one positive outcome are some of the changes in the way we now travel. One growing trend – as a result of having been grounded for so long, no doubt – is the fact that many of us want to travel deeper and stay longer in a given destination. Dubbed ‘slow travel’, this way of traveling allows us to get under the skin of a place and connect properly with a locale. Not only does this benefit local communities, as travelers tap into small businesses and local tour companies, but it also has an abundantly positive effect on travelers, who come away feeling enriched and enlightened by their authentic experiences.
One notable side effect of this trend is the growth in the holiday home rental market. In IGMS’ recent ‘Global Travel Trends’ report, it states that, according to ResearchAndMarkets, the global vacation rental market was valued at $169.9 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $220.4 billion by 2024, growing 6.3% over the forecast period. Staying in a home-from-home allows travelers to have privacy and the flexibility of having a place to call their own; space to stretch out and the freedom to come and go as they please.
Taking prime position in the accommodation market, even hotel companies are muscling in on the sector. Many leading brands – from Four Seasons to Aman – are now offering apartments, residences and villas as options for their guests. Homes & Villas by Marriott Bonvoy, for instance, is one such example and is a growing collection of 100,000+ premium and luxury whole home rentals located throughout Europe, the Middle East, Africa, the Caribbean, the United States, Canada, Latin America and Asia Pacific. The brand has a focus on curating the best luxury homes in the most sought-after destinations, an extension, if you like, of the Marriott brand.
“Leveraging Marriott International’s deep knowledge in delivering exceptional hospitality experiences, each home is professionally managed and meets the company’s design, cleanliness, safety and amenity standards,” says the company.
“Homes & Villas by Marriott Bonvoy is still a relatively small but fast-growing part of the company’s overall business. We have grown our supply over 30x since launch, starting with just 2,000 homes to now having 100,000+ homes globally. The home rental offering helps to broaden Marriott’s travel ecosystem and offer more choice to our guests and members, with the vast majority of destinations being new to the Marriott portfolio. New markets include Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and India.”
One major destination, where the home-from-home market is coming into its own, is in Orlando, Florida, which typically sees tourists touch down to stay in one of the many hotels attached to the major theme parks. As a practical alternative to this, Marriott Bonvoy has a wide choice of modern homes (some 3,900 properties, in fact) in the region, catering for families, groups of friends and larger groups, with some homes and villas found in the Championsgate gated community in Four Corners, Florida – just a short 12-minute drive to Disney World.
Perfect to retreat to after a day spent in the parks, a Marriott Bonvoy townhouse-style house (looked after by a local management company Blue Sky Villas) offers all the amenities and space you need when living out of a suitcase. There is an open-plan, double-height living room, complete with squidgy sofas and a Smart TV, soft rugs underfoot and modern art canvases on the wall. The sleek, modern kitchen, in shades of white and slate grey, comes complete with a double American-style fridge, and a Keurig coffee machine – ideal for breakfasts on the go or for rustling up dinner after a day exploring. Meanwhile, the separate laundry room is a welcome find for families, with its large washer and dryer – just the thing for zapping the holiday laundry.
While the villa is handy to enjoy Orlando’s theme parks and shopping outlets, it is also perfectly placed for those wanting to explore further afield. Winter Garden, for instance, is just a 30 minute drive west from downtown Orlando. The charming community, found on the bank of Lake Apopga, is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and its pretty, tree-lined streets ooze old-age appeal. Drop into Plant Street Market, a hub of artisan food sellers, from chocolatiers to sushi-makers, and enjoy a show or film at Garden Theatre, which has been standing since 1935.
Winter Park is another must see town. It may have a similar name to Winter Garden, but the town is, in fact, found to the north of Orlando. Here, you can enjoy scenic boat tours of Lake Osceola (which is made up of a series of three lakes connected by narrow canals dating back to the 1800s) and also visit the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, which holds the most comprehensive collection of the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany – from his famous Tiffany lamps to an elaborate chapel interior he created in 1893.
When you return to your villa, it feels good to call it home. Outside is a heated pool and hot tub in an enclosed patio area; while upstairs you can flop in one of the five bedrooms – including a fun, Mickey Mouse themed-room for the little ones – and all come with en suite bathrooms. Comfy carpets, deep beds and elegant lighting elevate the feel of the house into hotel-style accommodation. Yet, there is none of the inflexibility that comes with checking into a hotel – with breakfast times, in-room cleaning and lack of space to spread out to contend with. Championsgate, in fact, has its own mini water park and even a club house to tap into, with a gym, concierge and restaurant, so guests can access hotel-style amenieties to elevate their stay if they wish. Nearby, there are also supermarkets and a choice of restaurants for those who want to stock up or eat out.
As an extra bonus, because Homes & Villas by Marriott Bonvoy is part of the award-winning travel program Marriott Bonvoy, it means that members of Marriott Bonvoy can earn and redeem points at all homes. “Homes & Villas by Marriott Bonvoy’s place in the wider Marriott Bonvoy ecosystem mean its guests can gain access to all the other benefits provided by Marriott Bonvoy through the points they earn on stays,” adds the brand. “This includes access to the industry’s widest range of extraordinary hotel brands, the ability to earn or transfer points on trip add-ons like flights or car rental, or the opportunity to use their points to splurge on amazing once-in-a-lifetime experiences through the Marriott Bonvoy Moments platform.” So, while you have the benefits of a home-from-home, you can also enjoy the spoils of hotel living, making it a win win for modern-day travelers.
For more information on what to do in Orlando: visitorlando.com