St. Barts Villa Rental Agencies :: Wimco
In my never ending quest to bring you the very best that St. Barts has to offer, I recently interviewed Stiles Bennet, Director of Marketing at Wimco, one of the best St Barts villa rental agencies on the island!
1. Who is Wimco?
Wimco was established in 1983 as the US based marketing, reservations and finance arm of Sibarth villa rentals in St Barts. Over time Wimco added other destinations in the Caribbean and Europe to its portfolio. St Barts remains the company’s core focus. In all we represent 260 villas in St Barts, and we have exclusive marketing and reservations rights to 150 of those. Filling the 150 exclusive villas we represent along with Sibarth is our top goal.
Wimco is widely recognized as one of the top villa rental companies in the world due to its product expertise, the experience of its reservations agents, its product selection process insuring that we represent only the best homes in each destination, and its high quality of customer service.
2. Why is Wimco/Sibarth so strong on St Barts?
Sibarth was the first villa rental company on the island, established in 1976. Wimco was the first US based company dedicated to marketing St Barts. Over the years Wimco has invested heavily in marketing St Barts as a vacation destination, first through print ads, public relations, direct mail and trade shows, and more recently adding email and search engine marketing and website promotion. Each year Wimco pays for top travel writers from US and European magazines to come down to the island to learn about, and experience, St Barts, and to see the quality of our villas. In effect Wimco has acted as the unofficial Ministry of Tourism for the island since the ’80’s. This translates to greater awareness, and a large client base.
3. Why should people seeking out a villa in St Barts choose you?
There are several reasons who people interested in renting a villa in St Barts should use Wimco. Our agents know the villas intimately, we have 150 villas that are exclusively represented by Wimco/Sibarth, so we have the largest selection overall. we can arrange almost anything on the island, and our local partner Sibarth has the largest and most experienced on-island staff to get the clients to their villas from the airport, to deliver all the services the client requested, and to manage any issues that come up while the client is on the island.
4. How are bookings handled ? Do customers get an immediate answer?
Clients calling Wimco about a specific villa get an immediate answer to their booking request if they are asking for availability for one of our 150 exclusive villas. We can book those on the spot. That is the advantage of exclusivity.
For the other 110 villas we represent on a non-exclusive basis, we have live availability online so we can easily tell the client which dates the villa is available – that is an advantage over most local villa companies. That said, we still have to check first with the owner before we can confirm the villa booking with the client. This is the same process any other villa rental company has to go through for non-exclusive villas.
5. New villa rental agencies are popping up on the island; do you feel that customers in search of something “new” would prefer a new competitor to good ol’ Wimco ?
There are several reasons to choose Wimco over a new villa rental company. A new company only has access to the non-exclusive villas that every other agency on the island has access to, no advantage there. Most new companies have only a small customer service and reservations staff. Wimco/Sibarth have a 50+ person staff on the island managing airport pick-ups, concierge services, villa maintenance and so much more, plus Wimco’s 50+ person staff in the US managing reservations, customer service etc. Wimco/Sibarth have deep and long standing relationships with every restaurant and service provider on the island, so we can get that tough restaurant reservation, and can arrange a service that goes above and beyond the call of duty.
6. Let’s talk a little bit about villa owners: why should they give you the keys to their villas?
Wimco/Sibarth together have the largest client base of any villa rental agency, and the largest marketing budget for attracting new clients to St Barts. As a general rule, owners come to Sibarth very early in the construction process to inquire about listing their villa with Sibarth because they understand that Wimco/Sibarth has the ability to fill their villa better than any other agency. We work closely with Sibarth Real Estate as well, so owners who are buying a villa in St Barts understand the advantages of putting their villa into the Wimco/Sibarth villa rental program. The number of villas that are exclusive to Sibarth/Wimco is growing, a sign that the owners understand the advantages of listing with us.
7. Do you feel that the villas in St Barts are moving to become “more upscale,” quickly enough to compete with, say, Anguilla?
There are two issues here, one, how is the island of St Barts developing, and two, how does the quality of the villas on the island compare with villas on other islands. The island enjoys a unique advantage over most islands in the Caribbean. It is uncrowded, crime free, sophisticated in an understated way, and is stunningly beautiful. The shops and restaurants are second to none, and the French culture is a plus for most visitors.
The villas on St Barts are increasingly sophisticated, while still remaining comfortable. Its important that there always be a good selection of moderately priced villas so first time visitors to St Barts have a reasonably priced option. The villas at the high end of the market are smaller than those on Anguilla, Barbados or St Martin, but are not inferior from a features and amenities standpoint. One of the biggest issues clients bring to our attention is the intermittent electrical problems, which is out of the control of many villa owners. While there is some construction on the island, it is less than in many other islands, so the complaints about noise are no more than they’d be in Anguilla for instance.
8. So what does “a-day-on-the-job” look like for you? I don’t want to give away the secret sauce for having a successful villa rental business in St Barts, however I will say that it’s a pleasure marketing St Barts as a destination, so my job is very enjoyable
9. St Barts: new taxes, rising euro … what is the impact on vacationers?Everything in St Barts is priced in euros, so for the US based client the island has become more expensive than some neighboring islands in the Caribbean. The tax de sejour also increased the cost of coming to the island. Our villa rental business continues to grow, but we have heard that clients are eating out less often, and may be shopping less during their vacations.