Villas specialist Cottages to Castles has become “another victim of the internet” and of peer-to-peer companies such as Airbnb, according to a director at the business.
The villa and apartment rentals company will close for business at the end of the month after 30 years, as a result of “increasingly difficult trading conditions”.
Jonathan Magoni said client numbers had dwindled since the advent of websites such as Airbnb. He claimed other villa operators were likely to be facing similar pressures.
The closure of Cottages to Castles comes just weeks after Tui announced it was closing Meon Villas. A spokeswoman for Tui’s Specialist Holidays Group acknowledged Airbnb’s impact on the market but claimed Meon Villas had a different demographic, and that Tui had recently enjoyed growth in villas sold through its Sovereign brand.
Magoni said Cottages to Castles sent 15,000 people to Italy from English-speaking countries at its peak in 2001, but that figure had dropped to 2,000 in recent years.
“The internet has taken the bulk of our business away,” he added.
“We didn’t go bust. Instead, we made the difficult decision to stop the business ourselves following a couple of years of losing money.
“The likes of Google and Airbnb changed everything. We’ve fallen victim to the internet. We aren’t the first and we won’t be the last.
“Property owners no longer need to come to companies such as ours to market their villas. They can go online and do it themselves.”
Bookings for the rest of 2015 will not be affected, but the operator will be contacting agents with clients booked for 2016 to discuss how to retain the booking.