Gorgeous luxury holiday destinations for a post-lockdown world
- Credit: Vakkaru Maldives
Whether it’s a holiday of a lifetime or a rescheduled romantic retreat, Sophie Georgiou of Cheshire’s niche bespoke travel company Luxury Villa Living opens up about the challenges faced by her business, and how she has turned the negatives into positives. Here are her top destinations for an indulgent escape
It’s been a turbulent year – and that’s without any wobbly plane trips through the clouds – but as the world slowly starts to open up again, Cheshire’s Luxury Villa Living is excited about that first post-lockdown getaway.
Sophie Georgiou, director of the bespoke tour operator, based in Alderley Edge, says those destinations with increasing vaccination rates like the Greek islands, or those with low Covid rates, like the Caribbean, will be high on the agenda.
‘There is likely to be a big demand for villas in these locations, so I'd advise starting to look as early as possible, especially if you are tied to specific dates,’ she says.
‘We know that privacy is going to be especially important for travellers this year, and villas, yachts and private islands really create that sense of safety and exclusivity.’
But it isn’t just about the destination or the accommodation, Sophie says – rather the whole holiday experience.
‘It really plays to our strengths and in-destination contacts that we can organise incredible extra experiences, like private dinners, spa treatments, water sports and celebrations, as these are the moments that make holidays truly memorable,’ she adds.
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When it comes to luxury holidays, Sophie reckons Barbados, the Maldives and Greece will prove especially popular this year.
‘I personally cannot wait to get back to travelling and am regularly dreaming of the Caribbean,’ she says. ‘We offer a fantastic villa there, called Lelant, which is simply stunning and overlooks not only the Caribbean sea, but also the 16th fairway of the Royal Westmoreland Golf Resort.
‘Guests at Lelant also get optional access to the exclusive Royal Westmoreland Beach Club on Mullins Bay, so it’s great for a bit of indulgence and a change from the villa’s own pool.’
With many couples having to postpone weddings and honeymoons, rescheduled romantic retreats are on the cards, too.
‘The Maldives is always a favourite with honeymooners and I absolutely love the villas at Vakkaru Maldives in the Baa Atoll,’ Sophie says.
‘The overwater villas are just stunning, and as the resort is on a secluded reef island, couples really do get all of the beautiful views and luxury service that they could want, as well as intimacy, seclusion and tranquillity.’
For a family trip or holiday with friends, larger places like Villa Xavier in Mykonos are a perfect option, particularly for 2022. ‘It has its own private pool, barbecue, gym, smart TV, Jacuzzi and sleeps up to 36 people, so it offers plenty of space for everyone and is ideal for getting the extended family together, when it is safe to do so,’ Sophie adds.
Sophie took the helm of Luxury Villa Living when her mother Colette Powell, who founded the company, retired in 2017.
Having originally joined the company as a concierge manager, the mother-daughter team worked closely to craft the company’s bespoke driven ethos and luxury services, with Sophie’s husband Jake joining the company in 2019.
Together the couple have continued to grow the business.
‘Having worked in travel, mum really saw the potential for a company that combined finding specialist villas, yachts, ski chalets and private islands, with the service and packages of a luxury tour operator on a bespoke level – and she was driven to create a company that did just that,’ Sophie says.
‘She was also the one that instilled in me the values that I think are most important to me personally and us as a company – hard work and kindness will always pay off, and the word ‘no’ doesn’t exist in our vocabulary.’
While the past year has been challenging and full of uncertainty for the travel industry, Sophie has stayed true to her mantra and refused to dwell on the negative.
Instead, she has used the time to adapt the business, including a significant evolution of the brand and work with suppliers and destinations in order to bounce back with an even stronger collection of holidays.
‘Many of our clients are business owners who have also experienced huge stress over the past year, and are eager to get away as soon as international travel is safely possible,’ Sophie says.
‘They truly value their time away, as it is the only time they can really disconnect from work, spend quality time with friends and family and fully relax.’
Sophie spent her time looking at the website and brand to ensure its online services and visual identity communicated their brand values.
‘We wanted to ensure that every touchpoint is to the same high standard that clients can expect of our tailor-made holiday experiences – from first contact and before they’ve even decided on a destination,’ she says.
‘It is really important that a platinum level of service is embedded in everything we do, and as our shop window, the website is crucial to that.
‘There is already a myriad of rules to navigate around where people can travel, and how. Our role is to understand all of that and work with it so that our clients don’t have to.
‘They can trust us to ensure that they will be travelling safely and within government guidelines, both from the UK perspective and for their destination.’