A Home Away From Home

Friendly to families and their budgets, condo and villa vacations are on the rise—and the Cayman Islands, one of the Caribbean’s capitals of this market, are no exception.

The economic downturn has tightened clients’ purse strings across the board, and it’s no question that families are looking for more cost-effective ways to travel to their favorite destinations. Villa and condo vacationing has benefited from that trend, says Penny Cumber, managing director for Cayman Villas. “They’re more economically friendly, usually less expensive than hotel rooms—quite a lot less expensive, in fact. You can rent a whole condo for the same cost as a room in a hotel.” Plus, Cumber continues, guests in hotels are more likely to incur large supplementary costs: “You eat out, you have tax, you have a gratuity of 20 percent on hotels, rather than the 5 to 10 percent you pay for condos. So we’re full of savings.”

And if villa vacations were ideal for travelers on a budget before the downturn, they’re nearly irresistible now. Like most of the travel industry, Cayman Villas has made concessions to draw in clients in these tough economic times, designed to make their stays more affordable and convenient. “We make sure to be very flexible. In the economic downturn, we want to bring in as many [clients] as we can. We used to have a minimum stay of one week, but now that’s actually coming down to three nights in some cases. You can get a nice, big villa for three nights.” The move was designed to appeal to “staycationers” within the Cayman Islands, but also means that travelers from the U.S. can enjoy a long weekend in a tropical paradise at a fraction of the cost of traditional resort accommodations. “People are traveling more often, but for less time,” Cumber notes.

made to order Though Cayman Villas caters to all sectors of the travel market—“We certainly appeal to honeymooners; we have special rates for two people in larger villas,” Cumber notes—condos and villas are especially suited to groups of people traveling together, including families.

“They feel better with a fridge and a sink and a stove where you can cook up breakfast,” Cumber says, adding that the Cayman Islands share the problem of high importing costs that you’ll find in the rest of the Caribbean, adding to the high price of going out for meals. Families staying in villas or condos also have more control over their experience: everything from the layout of their accommodations to the foods stocked in their kitchen. Parents can decide how much personal space each family member needs, including (and especially) themselves; Cayman Villas offers accommodations up to seven bedrooms. And they can even special order snacks for picky eaters in the bunch. “We have something for every single taste and budget. Travel agents give us as many details as possible about a guest, and we’ll match them to the perfect property. We can provide baby gear, extra bedding, and a provisioning service to put the groceries they requested in the room before the guests arrive. We can provide liquor, food and drink, and special requests such as gourmet baskets or fruit bowls.” Families don’t even have to cook for themselves if they don’t want to; Cayman Villas can also arrange for private chefs to cook up a multi-course gourmet meal for a special occasion or just a family-friendly dinner to give mom and dad the night off. “You tell us what you want and we’ll arrange it,” Cumber says.

Families can also choose a location that’s right for them, from the action close to George Town and along Seven Mile Beach, to more remote, relaxing areas. “Some of the villas farther south, along the rocky, sandy shorelines, are less expensive. There are those in the middle of Seven Mile Beach, with a lot of activities, and that appeals to people…. Some families prefer something less busy. If they have younger children, they might prefer that sort of thing—they don’t want to be with other people on the beach. They might prefer a little, unique, private house in the north side.” Though the Cayman Islands aren’t large in area, the vibe from place to place can differ greatly, making it a destination that appeals to many different vacationers.