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Vacation Homes: Staying Loose

Nikki Prange

Destination Clubs typically appeal to couples and families who like to travel widely without the costs and inconveniences of owning multiple vacation homes. But the clubs, which offer the promise of five-star vacations in multimillion-dollar homes in far-flung locations, are not without their drawbacks, including restrictions on travel dates and high up-front membership fees and annual dues. These shortcomings are precisely what Brent Handler, cofounder and former president of industry leader Exclusive Resorts, aims to address with his latest destination club, Inspirato.

Handler describes Inspirato, which launched in Janu­ary, as "the next generation destination club." He says the venture combines the most attractive aspects of the club experience—quality, service, and privacy—with the flexibility and lower overall cost of vacation rentals. "People love the destination club model but sometimes get frustrated with the up-front fees and the difficulty of getting what you want when you want it," explains Handler, who calls renting a villa online "vacation roulette." The Inspirato experience, he adds, is basically the same as that of other destination clubs, but "we just changed up the recipe."

Instead of acquiring real estate to amass a portfolio of residences, Handler’s recipe calls for signing multiyear leases with vacation-home owners. This approach helps avoid debt and, thus, the high membership deposits required to offset that debt. The lease model also allows the club to address space limitations by adding properties to satisfy demand during peak periods.

Inspirato members pay a onetime, nonrefundable initiation fee of $15,000—plus an annual renewal fee of $2,500 if they choose to return—to access the club’s properties and services. (This figure compares to about $160,000 for a standard, base-level membership deposit with Exclusive Resorts.) Members then pay nightly rates to stay in Inspirato’s homes (about $750 on average, but possibly as high as several thousand dollars on holidays). The fees vary based on the destination, season, duration of stay, and how far in advance reservations are made. Members can travel as often as they wish, and they pay only for what they use.

Inspirato’s current portfolio offers more than 40 homes, and they range in value from about $2 million to more than $10 million. The club has multiple properties in popular locations such as Aspen, Colo., Anguilla, and Tuscany, and in several cases leases residences within top resort communities, including Esperanza in Los Cabos, Mexico; Fairmont Kea Lani in Maui, Hawaii; and Montage Deer Valley in Park City, Utah.

Vacations planned through Inspirato come with the services of personal vacation advisors who handle pre- and post-trip arrangements, and a destination concierge who takes care of airport transportation, grocery shopping, and reservations while members are in residence. The club keeps the travel experience consistent from location to location by seeing to it that most homes feature custom furniture, Rivolta Carmignani bedding and linens, Agraria bath products, and top-of-the-line kitchenware. (Resort-community homes are outfitted with the community’s furniture and products.) Some residences also offer technology packages that include premium audiovisual equipment, iMac computers, and iPod docks.

With its amenities, services, and flexible travel options, Inspirato may well prove to be the next step in the evolution of destination clubs. The venture is certainly off to a good start, having sold more than 300 memberships within the first 100 days of its founding. "Industries change and consumers change," says Handler. "What Inspirato is doing is taking an existing customer desire and reshuffling the deck on how the experience is delivered."

 

Inspirato, 303.586.7771, www.inspirato.com

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