From pandemic-proof retreats to travel bubbles, the travel industry has changed in waves since 2020. As a result, many eager visitors started looking for more meaningful travel excursions that made lasting impressions and memories. Even still, the industry is bouncing back and readjusting to new consumer travel habits.

VML Intelligence met with self-proclaimed nomad turned entrepreneur, Stephanie Farr, the founder and CEO of luxury vacation home company Maya Luxe. Stephanie tells us more about how the pandemic changed her own perspective as a traveler, her career in the industry, and how themes of connection and community continue to drive her today.

Tell us about Maya Luxe and your career in the travel industry.

I've been living in Riviera Maya, Mexico for over 15 years, and I eventually moved here with the intention to start my company, Maya Luxe. I always loved Latin America. I love traveling. I specifically studied abroad in Mexico for a few semesters in university just because I wanted to learn Spanish and I fell in love with the culture.

After five years at another travel company out of Montreal, I quit and I traveled the world for a year and a half. When I returned to Mexico, a former homeowner that I had worked with asked me if I wanted to start a concierge company with her. That, following the love that I had for the culture, for Mexico, I decided, OK, this is it. I'm going to move here, and I'm going to try and give it a shot and develop Maya Luxe.

Before the pandemic, I was running my company remotely. I would spend nine months in Mexico. Then, I would go to Canada for two or three months, or I'd continue to travel. I founded Maya Luxe on remote work beliefs: always traveling and being a little bit of a nomad. Even though Mexico was my home base, I still had the nomadic flair of traveling around and exploring new destinations.

I was always on the go. But when the pandemic hit, it really helped to ground me more. Then, when the world opened to travel again, I felt differently. I've already done that for 15 years. I learned through the pandemic that I loved being grounded to one spot. That's something that's really shifted for me: really having appreciation for where I live.

For the first time in a long time, I actually had an opportunity to just be and to say, OK, what do I want to create with this knowledge? What do I want to do with it? Where do I want to go with it?

I had a newfound appreciation for community. So, from a business perspective, we're trying to create that. We're trying to capture what it means to create community. If you're a guest at Maya Luxe, you're now part of the community, too.

Our new motto is that community is a new currency for travel. People want to belong after so much time in isolation. They’re looking for that sense of connection.

A sunny view of a pool beside a luxurious villa, with palm trees and the ocean in the distance.
Villa Semilla, courtesy of Maya Luxe

How does Maya Luxe foster community, and why is that important to you?

We create unique community experiences in our villas for guests and locals. For example, we’ll host a Health and Wellness day where we invite our guests to come to one of our villas, and we also invite our staff, our villa owners, and any members from our local community to come and join these experiences. It could be a cooking class, it could be making cold pressed juices or doing a yoga and a breathwork class. Our whole concept is we all belong, and from a business perspective it's amazing, because we're exposing the villas to the community.

We went from a villa rental company offering concierge services to an experiential company offering villas. So, our “why” became creating incredible experiences for guests.

We also have sustainability initiatives in our villas. We're working with our homeowners, for example, to eliminate single use plastics in the properties. We are working on waste management projects and a coral reef restoration project. I always come from a place of gratitude and look at how much that this destination has offered me for 15 years. How can we give back? We integrate with the community through the experiences we do with our villas, but we also take ownership in what's happening from a sustainable level in the destination as well.

You mentioned your own travel habits have changed. What are you looking for as a travel expert?

My general rule of thumb is to discover two new destinations a year. When I travel, I love to go to boutique hotels. I love to explore.

I love immersing myself in different cultures, not just going to travel to a place as a vacationer. I’m here to learn the culture, learn the language whether I stay for two weeks or a month.

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