Owners of high-end apartments and villas around the world are differentiating themselves by offering customized concierge services and immersive experiences.
By Kelly Potts
Imagine creating perfect macaroons in the kitchen of an award-winning pastry chef in Paris; enjoying a fireworks display from the comfort of an Irish castle; taking extravagant boat rides around ancient coves in Greece. These are just a few of the bespoke experiences that are now being offered by vacation rental services around the globe.
As travelers search for more tailored itineraries and concierge amenities during their luxury getaway, brands like Paris Perfect, Adams & Butler and White Key Villas provide an authentic, culturally immersed experience for clients who want the total destination package.
Madelyn Byrne and husband Philippe Willems created Paris Perfect about 20 years ago when they found themselves traveling back and forth between their apartments in London and Paris. They decided to rent out Willems’ Paris apartment to family and friends while he joined Byrne in London, and were then inspired to offer unique rental options for vacationers looking for a true Parisian experience.
Dedicated to providing travelers “la vie Parisienne,” Paris Perfect offers concierge services in addition to bespoke excursions including skip-the-line tours of local attractions, day or night cruises along the Seine river in a private yacht and specialized shopping tours in the city’s best boutique shops.
“Our goal is to find that experience that a client wouldn’t normally do at home, that they can really enjoy doing in Paris,” says Byrne. One new service the company offers is called Paris Perfect Gourmet. “We explore the neighborhood shops together and offer exclusive cooking classes with gourmet chefs,” says Byrne. The hands-on experience includes an award-winning chef showing travelers where to buy ingredients, how to cook meals and even how to make the most of leftovers.
Byrne jokes that being married to a Frenchman requires a love of food — and Paris certainly makes that love come naturally. In fact, Byrne thinks that every family who visits Paris should have a “scavenger hunt” that requires each family member to look for a different type of food in shops around the city to create the perfect Parisian meal together. “I want families to do that more than anything else,” she says, “It’s an experience that everyone should have in their life.”
The company has also transitioned into real estate in addition to vacation rentals, helping over 90 owners find apartments in Paris. Byrne, who mentions that Paris fascinated her from her first visit, still enjoys the village-like atmosphere that the city provides. “We want our owners and guests to share in the magic of living in a small village in Paris,” says Byrne, “Paris is to be lived and savored and enjoyed.”
Top photo by Martin Morrell, courtesy Paris Perfect
Bottom photo courtesy Paris Perfect
Top photo courtesy Wikicommons/TheLizardQueen
Bottom photo courtesy Adams & Butler
Founder and CEO Siobhan Byrne Learat developed the business plan for Adams & Butler as her thesis for her MBA at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School in Ireland. By 2003, her thesis was a reality. “I set up Adams & Butler to satisfy the need for add-on services at the high-end level, but I soon realized that there was a huge gap in the market for a ‘one-stop shop’ luxury vacation experience in Ireland,” she says.
Now, Adams & Butler is exactly that one-stop shop, combining high-end experiences and services with private vacation rentals. With themed itineraries ranging from ‘Glitz & Glamour,’ offering luxurious spa treatments, shopping and a horse-drawn carriage tour, to ‘TV & Movie Tours,’ bringing you to locations where scenes from Game of Thrones, Outlander and Downton Abbey were shot, Adams & Butler offers excursions to appeal to anyone. “At the moment, our most popular requests are for food, whiskey and genealogy tours,” says Learat.
The company is often asked to assist clients in researching their roots in Ireland. “We can put together a specialized ‘Trace Your Ancestor’ itinerary using our expert genealogists,” Learat says. “The final result when you meet those long-lost cousins over a cup of tea are tears streaming down the face of joy and laughter!”
Learat mentions that her favorite offering is living the real Downton Abbey experience. “We can arrange for you to stay with an Earl as his guest in his private castle — like having a real Downton Abbey experience,” she says. The itinerary can include tea with the Earl and his cousins, private tours and a few rounds of golf at the five-star Lough Erne Golf Resort.
“We have people on the ground in Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales as well as Africa who are constantly on the lookout for new experiences and properties for us to include in our itineraries,” Learat says. “We have access to so many people just to provide that perfect experience that’ll stay with you for a lifetime.”
Left photo by Costas Mitropoulos, courtesy White Key Villas; Middle and right photos by Louisa Nikolaidov, courtesy White Key Villas
White Key Villas was founded in 2008 in Greece, when founders Dimitris Giannakopoulos and Anna Deimezi realized that families were not fully satisfied with vacationing at luxury hotels. Marketing Director Elena Fotiadi mentions, “the reason for this was not that the level of services was inferior, but the fact that in a hotel compared to the villa experience, they could not enjoy the sense of privacy, which is essential for spending quality time with their families.”
Because of that, Fotiadi says that most of White Key Villas’ typical clients tend to be families or a group of good friends who want to spend some quality time in a relaxed, private environment. The company prides itself on not only its large selection of villas, but also finding the right option for a client. “We know our villas and our destinations very well,” says Fotiadi, “We believe that half of the success is to make the right villa selection for our clients.”
White Key Villas offers travel and lifestyle amenities that can include services tailored to each client: an off-the route private helicopter transfer to a boat ride around ancient coves, or a toy package/baby equipment waiting upon your arrival are just a few of the lifestyle and travel experiences that White Key Villas includes. “Our list of services is endless: car rental, airport transfer, chauffeur, private jet, personal chef, yacht rentals, personal trainer, yoga classes, childcare and everything else you can imagine,” says Fotiadi.
White Key Villas has properties in 26 different locations throughout Greece including popular locations such as Mykonos, Corfu or Santorini, but Fotiadi notes that they also manage some stunning properties in more off-the-beaten-track beachfront locations with stunning sea views.
“Knowing that 95 percent of our clients are families with children and being parents ourselves, we know how to point you and your clients in the right direction with respect to children having the best time,” says Fotiadi. “Our main assets are our people and our years of know-how that ensure a sophisticated experience from booking to departure.”