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Finding a luxury vacation rental might be easier than you thought

(CNN) — Airbnb is growing up.

The popular (and sometimes controversial) home-sharing service announced a new tier of ultra luxurious accommodations in February.

Beyond by Airbnb, as it’s called, will offer entire homes in spectacular destinations with full-time concierge services and once-in-a-lifetime kinds of experience.
Think private villas, butler service, personal chefs, heli-skiing, day trips on a yacht and other bucket-list travel jaunts.
Clearly aimed at those who want to splash out on their vacation without the confinement of a hotel suite, Beyond by Airbnb will most likely incorporate the 4,000-plus existing properties within Luxury Retreats, a high-end rental collection that Airbnb acquired last year.

And yes, every property will be thoroughly vetted. What you see will be what you actually get. (Unlike those dubious apartment listings.)

More options, more locations

However hip it may be with millennials, Airbnb is a little late to the luxury rental party.

Quite a few companies have been providing luxury homes for several years now. Which is actually great news for travelers as that means more options in more locations.

VRBO, which practically pioneered the online home-sharing business, and its sister company, HomeAway, have offered entire homes for vacation rentals since their inceptions. HomeAway has since pulled out a few really exquisite properties and labeled them as Luxury.

And since both are owned by Expedia, it’s now possible to book your entire trip — flights and rental cars included — on one site. Plus, with nearly two million vacation rentals in 190 countries, your options are seemingly endless.

Fortunately, there are plenty of search filters to utilize to narrow down the options, from the number of bedrooms to the type of location (beach or downtown) to the in-house amenities like an outdoor grill and a hot tub.

Rental properties belonging to Exclusive Resorts

This three-bedroom residence, offered by Exclusive Resorts, is located on Hawaii’s Kohala Coast.

Courtesy Exclusive Resorts

High-end perks

Onefinestay has also offered luxury properties since 2009, with the added benefit of vetting these properties in person to ensure that guests walk into a clean, properly maintained house, with toiletries in the bathroom and other hotel-like amenities.
Currently, Onefinestay has more than 10,000 properties in over 200 countries. Recently, they’ve offered guests the use of their new Higher Living concierge service, a complimentary mobile app that will arrange theater tickets, restaurant reservations, personal chef service or excursions during a guest’s stay.
Oasis Collections is more of a boutique luxury rental service with “only” a few thousand homes in 20 cities. But Oasis stresses the luxuries of a hotel by offering Malin+Goetz toiletries, crisp linens, special passes to local fitness clubs, access to some members-only clubs and the services of a “Sidekick,” a local expert who can tell you where to go and what to see during your stay.

One advantage that Onefinestay and Oasis Collections have over Airbnb is that they both have connections to and investments from major hotel brands. Onefinestay is now part of Accor Hotels, which count Sofitel and Fairmont as their brands, while Oasis Collections is linked up with Hyatt Hotels and Resorts. (Hyatt was also an early investor in Onefinestay and Accor was an early investor in Oasis but they’ve since switched positions.)

Loyalty programs

Guests who book with Oasis can actually earn World of Hyatt loyalty program points for their stay.

“With World of Hyatt extending to Oasis, we are able to provide our members with more unique experiences, while still delivering the peace of mind, personalized service and care that is expected from experiences backed by Hyatt,” said Amy Weinberg, senior vice president of World of Hyatt on the partnership with Oasis.

Onefinestay is also a preferred partner of the American Express Travel Program and Virtuoso, which means if you book using an American Express card or with a Virtuoso travel planner, you’re able to get added amenities like an upgraded property or a $100 credit to a “Fridge Fill” service.

Meanwhile, Airbnb has announced a loyalty program for its users, which will debut later this year, but details are sparse.

Big names

Properties available via luxury vacation rentals company onefinestay

This elegant two-bedroom Rome property is available from Onefinestay for $254 per night.

Courtesy onefinestay

Guests looking for truly extravagant homes can also reach out to other established luxury brands like Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton, which have residences on offer at some of their existing hotel locations. These give guests the space and rarefied surroundings they want, but with dependable hotel service behind it.
Another option that would suit the 1% is Exclusive Resorts, which is a membership club for luxury rentals. There’s an initiation fee and then you’ll be required to pay for at least 10 days of vacation for the year upfront. But you’ll have access to stunning homes with personal concierges as well as travel experiences.

(In reality though, super-wealthy guests probably have a travel adviser working on their behalf to book an exclusive residence that can’t be booked, let alone found, online.)

And of course, regular old luxury hotels are still very much in the booking mix.

Mark Blutein, a research analyst with Phocuswright, tells CNN Travel that today’s travelers often view rentals to be on a par with higher-end hotels.

“A third of travelers who booked a rental property stay also considered luxury/upscale hotels (four or five-star) for the same trip,” he says.

Yet as millennials grow older and start to earn more (fingers crossed), as well as travel with their own families and thus require more space, booking through Airbnb, a brand they’ve used since their youth, may seem easier and more comfortable.

News credit : Cnn

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