Wolf Worster is the founder and CEO of Sirreti, an exclusive membership community where like-minded companies and individuals can network, converse, and partner in the luxury & ultra-luxury vacation rental market. The company’s members span 20 international markets with a membership base which includes luxury property owners, property management companies, villa agencies, travel agents and celebrity managers. Wolf has over 18 years experience in the UHNW sector and is a trusted strategic consultant and public speaker at international events and conferences. Read on to discover more about his career and the luxury holiday villa market.
Please tell us more about how you started your career in this sector.
I started about 19 years ago assisting a colleague booking Russian oligarch clients into very high-end chalets in the Swiss and French Alps. Within a year, I took the business over and expanded internationally. Once “global”, clients started offering their homes for me to manage and rent on their behalf, and my homeowners started booking their stays at my growing inventory of properties. Since they were of the same social economic status, the property standards and budgets were a perfect match, which resulted in my company growing very fast.
And, so far, what have been the highs and lows of building a successful business?
A good example may include the 2008/09 recession which gave me an opportunity to “re-set” the business. Whilst my competitors (very few at that time) reduced their prices, a couple even temporarily closed shop, I actually increased prices – a bold move I know, but I also knew that the UHNW and billionaire clientele would not change the way they travelled, even as they lost some of their wealth. This pigeon-holed me to the very top end, bringing my average weekly bookings to over US $142,000.
Covid provided me another re-look at the industry and thus Sirreti was born shortly thereafter.
Describe a typical day – if such a thing exists.
We have been able to build a great team at Sirreti, including two social media managers, a small team of writers, a graphic designer, an administrative support and an entire data team – so I have some great coverage from some very experienced people. This allows me time on a daily basis to connect with our data team regarding Sirreti Insights, (our industry report on luxury private accommodations), speak with potential new members, communicate with members, and business planning for Sirreti for the mid and long term. I also have more time to accept speaking engagements and moderate industry panel discussions which I have done throughout Europe this year.
Sirreti should not be confused with booking platforms. It’s an association whose members include luxury travel agents, celebrity managers and others who book private accommodations for the very high net worth and (those with a net worth of $5M – $30M) and the ultra-high-net-worth (those whose net worth exceeds $30+ million). What criteria must your members meet to be part of the Sirreti community?
We have several categories of membership including owners of luxury properties who wish to rent their homes, property management companies, villa agencies and of course those you have mentioned, the travel agents and other 3rd parties who book the homes. In all categories of membership, we have an extensive application form and often we ask for industry or client references. We in fact, unfortunately turn down more member applications than we accept. Travel agents must provide some information that they indeed have the clientele for our property, property manager and villa agency members. For properties, we firstly establish the locations of the property(s), then the physical characteristics, the service standards and the price point.
Your members’ properties cover 20 different territories, are there any locations you don’t yet have a presence but would like to?
We would like to have more members from the Caribbean, South America and South East Asia.
And what is your strategy for entering new markets?
So far, we have been lucky and have been able to expand by word of mouth. Although our sector is growing very fast, it’s still small compared to other niches in the luxury travel industry, and people talk.
You have a deep passion for the industry and a wealth of insight into traveller behaviours – what are the key observations you’ve noted about the target audience who rent uber luxury villas?
The “uber luxury properties”, those in the US $100K a week or more, are still often rented by successful business professionals and their families. One trend we have been noticing is the growth in younger renters, very young in fact, in the 25+ range, mostly from the US.
What is your key piece of advice for new investors in the luxury holiday home market?
Choose your location wisely. Just because you happen to like a destination, it doesn’t mean that is where the bookings are. A couple of very successful investor – operators come to mind: littleharbourestates.com which are three luxury vacation rentals in Anguilla and luxuryincapri.it and luxuryincortina.it are two luxury vacation rentals in Italy whose owners are building at least two more, ultimately building some great brand value.
Sirreti Insights is an industry first and is currently being compiled, due to be released in the fourth quarter of 2023. Please tell us more about this invaluable report.
Sirreti Insights will be the sector’s first report on global luxury private accommodations. Our goal has been to “undercover the data behind the wealthy guest”. Our data team has been at it for almost a year now, gathering information as to what the very-high net worth and ultra-high net worth want in terms of location, style, size, amenities and services in a luxury villa or chalet rental. We also undercover how often they stay in luxury private accommodations vs hotels, how they book it, what form of transportation they use, where they come from, their ages, and how they made their wealth. We also report on third-party bookers, be it luxury travel agents, celebrity managers, personal assistants, lifestyle membership companies and family offices.
And are you able to share any snippets from the research for the insights report so far?
As mentioned earlier, the growth is in younger renters, very young in fact, in the 25+ range, mostly from the US.
Almost 80% book their luxury villa or chalet stay through a third party.
In terms of how they made they accrued their wealth; we know that approximately 77% of the VHNW and the UHNW that stay in luxury private accommodations are self-made.
Luxury is highly subjective – what does it mean to you?
Freedom, quality, comfort, safety and earned.
Finally, what is your life motto?
Be good to others, the earth, and yourself