CJ Invest, Transactions

Nocturne Acquires WIMCO, Forging a New Caribbean Villa Power 

In December, leading Caribbean villa provider WIMCO Villas was purchased by Nocturne Luxury Villas.

The deal follows last year’s acquisition by Nocturne of another major St Barth villa provider, St Barth Properties, forging a significant new villa player for St Barth and making Nocturne and even more noteworthy company in the broader Caribbean market.

To learn more, Caribbean Journal Invest talked to Stiles Bennet, President of WIMCO.

Talk about the Nocturne transaction.

We are excited to announce that in mid December, WIMCO Villas was purchased by Nocturne Villa Rentals. WIMCO’s owner Tim Warburton was a pioneer in the luxury villa rental market in St Barth, and he felt the timing was right to step aide, and that the team at Nocturne was an ideal candidate to carry on WIMCO’s customer-centric legacy.

Please tell us about Nocturne Luxury Villas.

 Nocturne Villas was incorporated in 2021 as a vehicle to acquire and manage villa rental companies that operate in exceptional vacation destinations. The ideal target are local companies that both manage the villas in their portfolio, and have a commitment to providing their clients with superior on the ground concierge service. Their first acquisition was Exceptional Stay in Telluride. Then in July they acquired St Barth Properties. In December, they acquired WIMCO Villas and its sister company WIMCOs in St Barth.

How do you foresee working together with St Barth Properties?

We are continuing to operate as two independent companies, while exploring ways that we can learn from each other. At the outset we are learning about how each other operates, and are sharing best practices, with an eye to making each company even more effective in delivering great service to villa rental client and home owners.

What improvements do you see being able to offer to your clients and owner partners?

On the client side, we are increasing the staffing in our pre-arrival concierge department so we can offer even better consultative vacation planning services, helping our clients to set-up every aspect of their vacation…from flights to rental cars to private chefs to special excursions. The better organized our client’s vacations are, the better experience they have in the villa, the more likely they are to repeat, which also benefits the villa owner.

What sets WIMCO apart from other villa companies?

Two things have always distinguished WIMCO, the deep destination and product knowledge of our teams, and a commitment to delivering amazing service across all departments. That will continue under Nocturne, and in fact we hope to be able to share our best practices with other companies in their portfolio so that together we provide best of breed service across a range of exciting destinations.

Will WIMCO’s presence change in St Barth?

We are growing, adding members to our St Barth concierge team, so that’s one positive change clients will see and feel. Our concierge services offices will remain in what we feel is the ideal location for delivering amazing service, in central St Jean, directly across the street from the arrivals door at the St Barth airport.

Will WIMCO be looking into new markets?

Yes we will, when we identify extraordinary destinations where we can represent exceptional homes, and deliver superior on the ground service to our clients. In the Caribbean we are selectively expanding our private island villa portfolio. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that we will also launch a villa rental program in Telluride, where we will represent the homes managed by Exceptional Stays, who we will partner with to provide great on the ground service to our clients.

How has the villa vacation marketplace managed the pandemic?

I can only speak to how WIMCO has managed through this era. We work closely with our local partners and employees in the region to insure the villas we represent are clean and well managed, and we closely follow the news published from all local governments about what is required to enter each destination, so we can keep our clients well informed.

The pandemic itself didn’t stop people from wanting to travel…and the popularity of vacationing in a private villa soared due largely to the perception that you could safely isolate in comfort and style with your family or friends in a villa. As long as an island or destination is open, regardless of what is required to enter it, there have been people who want to vacation there.

Regarding how to manage through this, we saw our greatest value to the client as being their most accurate and timely source of information about what is required to enter a particular destination. Our Caribbean travel blogs with vaccination and testing requirements for each island have been read by three quarters of a million people since the pandemic started. The effective management and sharing of information about what’s required to vacation during the era of covid has been critical to the health of the industry.

What are the biggest trends in villa vacations right now?

Some trends we are seeing is an increase in interest in arranging private chef dinners in a villa to mark a special occasion, and the increased demand for smaller villas for a couples get away vacation.

Where are the hottest markets for villa vacations right now?

St John, Providenciales in the Turks & Caicos, and St Barth.

Why is St Barth such an important villa market?
Well, to start with, St Barth a beautiful tropical island topographically, with mountains, pristine beaches and charming villages. Layered on top of that is an amazing culinary scene, and some of the most chill yet sophisticated “beach bars” in the Caribbean…so its a really desirable place to vacation.

Private villas play a huge role in the economy there as the island has only a few dozen hotels, and combined they offer less than 500 total bedrooms. The private villa rental market in St Barth totals 800 villas with over 2,500 bedrooms…so the travelers renting villas are a critical contributor the island’s economy. You’ll also find villas of all sizes in St Barth, from cozy one bedroom romantic retreats to 10 bedroom villa compounds, offering something for everyone.

What is your outlook for the villa vacation market in 2022 and beyond?

It would seem that the popularity of vacationing together with family or friends in a spacious private villa will only increase in the near-term. It’s likely that the interest in having access to great service while you are in one of these villas will also continue to increase. We will likely see more and more hotels and resorts building stand-alone villas within the grounds of their properties in response to this. The private development of villas designed to be rented out by week will also continue to increase. The other thing that is likely to persist even after the pandemic is behind us is the phenomenon of renting villas for extended stays and an interest in working remote there, splitting time between vacationing and working.

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