Few people would argue that staying in a luxury villa with its own oceanview swimming pool, jacuzzi bath tub in the master suite and private cinema room is anything but fabulous. But seasoned villa guests will also tell you that even the most luxurious properties are only as good as the staff that run them.
Or Villa Expert, Max Vee, uncovers some of the secrets of high quality service at private villas in Asia.
With the exception of kings, queens, dignitaries and movie stars, most people know what it's like to be ignored by the staff at a hotel reception desk, or be left sitting at a table in a busy restaurant waiting to order your meal.
You might even have raised your voice to complain at being treated so badly when it happened. But in a world that increasingly chases time, such experiences are common and often there's really no-one to blame.
By contrast, if you've ever been followed by persistent sales staff in a department store, or badgered by vendors at a tourist market, you will also know that over zealous service can be just as bad, or even worse than a lack of personal attention. The pressure to please the person that's supposedly offering you their help can be so intense that all you want to do is run for the door.
If you glance through the millions of hotel reviews, recommendations and comments posted daily on the world's travel websites, it soon becomes clear that today's most sophisticated global travellers appreciate service that's A. Personal, and B.genuine. And having stayed in and reviewed more than 100 private villas in Asia over the last few years, not to mention a good few four and five star hotels, I must say I have to agree.
The staff at the best villas in Thailand and Bali make you feel special and welcome from the moment you arrive. A warm smile is usually their first gift, followed by a cold towel and a welcome drink, both traditional greetings for visitors to your home in Asian cultures.
From that moment on they are literally and willingly at your service — available at a moment's notice, but also discreet. Yet such levels of personal service are not offered begrudgingly. What also comes through is pride. Pride in their country, its culture and natural beauty. Pride in their cuisine, and pride in their job. All of which shine through as you interact during the stay.
Respectful and gentle by nature, it's always a real pleasure to feel the warmth that most Thai and Balinese people bring to their work in hospitality. And this is even more true as a villa guest because of the one-to-one contact you share. When the villa manager asks what you need, enjoy or prefer during your stay, when the chef comes out of the kitchen to discuss your favourite food or recommend dishes, when the cleaning lady takes time to play with your kids, then you know they really care.
Of course, hospitality means different things to different types of people. Some guests like to be treated like royalty, others prefer more independence, but when it comes down to the basics, every business traveller, holiday-maker, honeymoon couple and VIP guest simply wants their individual needs to be understood and catered for with a genuine smile.
This is why destinations like Thailand and Bali constantly hit the top of the hospitality list. The mild, friendly character of the local people is expressed through hospitality in a way that citizens from many other parts of the world normally spend years learning.
If you then add professional training and spoonfuls of local knowledge, its a winning combination that sees guests return to the same destination and private villa, year after year.
by MAX VEE