All together now
The “latest” travel trend, apparently, is renting a villa to holiday with family and friends. This is hardly new and was known as “house party tourism” a decade ago, but reinvention is everything in the hospitality industry.
That word villa does have a romantic ring, suggesting you could be at Lake Como with, say, George Clooney, eating olives and slurping Italian reds, when you are actually on the Mornington Peninsula with Uncle George, a barbie and a beer.
I can further reveal that the process of renting a holiday place to share is now known as “togethering”.
It took me a while to stop shuddering at yet another liberty with the English language and now I can’t un-see that word, any more than I can deal with the Myer Christmas “Giftorium”, where you probably can’t buy a villa but there’s sure to be a Lego dwelling, its pine trees in symmetrical green skirts and a perfectly proportioned little family sharing the lawn-mowing and the washing-up. This is an idealised world in miniature, of course, but the holiday house getaway is also a rose-coloured concept.
Inevitably, there is envy over which couple gets the best bedroom (first in, best dressed, I reckon). This will be the “master” with ensuite, views from a lovely terrace, and space for his-and-hers yoga mats and not the tuckedaway chamber with bunks and a door that is close enough to open without getting out of bed.
Then there’s the matter of who is appointed “villa mayor” (yes, it is a “thing”) to decide such matters as cooking and barbecuing rosters and shopping duties. You can save money this way, and it is fun to all muck in and catch up; in places such as Bali there will be butlers and even on-site cooks.
But the protocols are a minefield and no one tells you that in the fine print.
As an example, a generous friend rented a villa in southern Thailand about this time last year. It was a 10bedroom mansion and he invited everyone he could think of to stay, anticipating only a small number would pay the airfare and get time off work.
But before you could say “Make that bed!” the villa was booked out and not by his dearest friends but the B List (his words) of those who, like long-lost aunts and uncles you feel obliged to ask to a wedding, he didn’t really want to see from one Christmas turkey coma to the next.
The other new phrase doing the tourism rounds is OOHlies. It’s a take on schoolies; the acronym stands for Off Our Hands. The idea is being pioneered by recently reopened Vomo Island in Fiji’s Mamanuca group, which has beach and hillside villas and packages for couples.
The idea is to send your school-leavers to a nearby island while you, perhaps with a group of fellow parents, have a break on Vomo and then meet up as a family at holiday’s end. It’s the ultimate in sleepover kids’ clubs and might be all very nice for the parents, but pity those couples on other islands when the schoolies arrive en masse. OOH no.