Interview with Joe Poulin, Founder of Luxury Retreats

By Paul Joseph

Becoming a successful entrepreneur at any age is hard enough, but to do so at just 17 years old is almost unheard of.

Step forward Joe Poulin, founder of Luxury Retreats, a company that creates personalized luxury villa vacations across the world. Back in 1999, the Canada-born teenager lived with his parents in a small town outside of Montreal, designing websites.

But during a chance business trip to Barbados, Poulin had the idea for a global villa rental platform – a concept that didn’t exist at the time – and began investigating how to make the idea reality. It was the genesis of a business that now boasts over 2,000 villas in over 50 destinations. sat down with the entrepreneur to find out more, and he began by talking about the rigor that goes into the selection of every villa chosen by the company.

“Our global team of passionate travel enthusiasts and partners hand pick and personally inspect each luxury villa ensuring that its guests are offered the very best. As a full service villa rental company, Luxury Retreats offers guests complimentary concierge services, worldwide guest support, as well as villa specialists who help travelers find their perfect villa - all without charging any membership fees,” says Mr Poulin.

Luxury Retreats' 2,000-plus properties span virtually every corner of the globe, with villas in the Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaii, Italy, France, South Africa, Thailand, and Bali. Most recently, they launched in Los Angeles, Morocco, and Bonaire. So what is the key criteria for the kind of villa they would add to their portfolio?

“We’ve developed an exclusive 100+ point inspection that our Quality Inspectors apply when viewing villas. We want to ensure that we’re offering the best villas in any given market. Beyond the obvious amenities, some of the key questions we ask are, ‘Does it have a pool or is it beachfront? Is it well maintained? Is it exceptional….does it wow you?’”, he says.

Mr Poulin describes Luxury Retreat’s typical clients as “affluent, well-traveled people living primarily in North America”. He says that guests spend on average $2,000 USD per night for a week, on the villa alone.

As much as finding the right villa for a client, key to the company’s success is its concierge service. How does it work exactly?

“Once our villa specialists have helped our guest find the perfect luxury villa we then assign the guest a dedicated concierge. Our concierge team will arrange for airport transfers, car rentals, and for the villas to be pre-stocked with customized grocery lists based on the guests’ dietary needs. Some guests may request specialty wines to be flown in or even their favorite milk from a specific organic farm. Guests are limited only by their imagination!” Mr Poulin says.

When it comes to high end travel, where money is often no object, there are always stories of extravagant, outlandish requests. And Luxury Retreats has its own classic tales to tell.

“We have a guest who lives in the UK and he loves waking up early in the morning to feed his ducks. During his villa vacation in Barbados he called his Luxury Retreats concierge and asked if there was anything that we could do to make his mornings more interesting. Our concierge worked hard in making it happen and in the end, we arranged to have ducks brought in to stay on the pond of his Barbados villa. Just one example of the many things our amazing team has done for our guests,” he tells us.

Inevitably, many of Luxury Retreat’s villas are located near water. But how many are in areas that may appeal to, and indeed can accommodate, superyacht owners and charterers?

“We currently have a guest of ours who’s arriving at his Luxury Retreats villa in the Caribbean via a superyacht. I would advise your readers to consider our Caribbean portfolio of over 900 villas or our properties in Greece,” he says.

Mr Poulin also offered some tips for other young, budding entrepreneurs considering setting up their own companies.

“One of the keys is the need to hire excellent leaders. Without a great management team in place your company will be limited in how quickly it can grow. I would also like to say finding your niche and being passionate about it is key. You need to be prepared to put in the hours and this is why being passionate is so important,” he says.

When it comes to the future, Mr Poulin believes the most important factor will remain providing customers with value beyond what they can gain elsewhere. He also believes technology will remain crucial to advancements in the industry.

“I think that luxury companies like Luxury Retreats, which invest so heavily into technology and focus on solving problems, will be the ones that truly succeed,” he says.

“At the end of the day, you need to add value or else clients will move on elsewhere. Make it easy for people and they’ll keep coming back."

With Luxury Retreats continuing to blossom and add new, stunning villas to its portfolio every year, there remains little doubt that this is a company here to stay.

By Paul Joseph