A European experience in the making. The new destination club, Botiga plans on launching its initial portfolio of homes to members by winter 2008. Botiga is already showing signs of promise. The club is on target to reach 20 Founder Members by the end of June 2008. They currently have three properties secured in their portfolio and three more are on the near horizon for purchase.
"We have been planning this for over three years. It is important to us that our members get what they want. Botiga is a club owned by its members for its members. So early on we started listening to potential members and began to implement their ideals for the ultimate vacation experience," says Kit Harrison, Co-Founder and Managing Director Membership. "As Europeans, our primary clientele has a distinct style, language and philosophy. The mindset is very much focused on members owning equity in the club, thereby benefiting from any increase in value of the properties over time."
Club management firmly believes that the design of Botiga must fit the way its members travel. And its members know how to travel well. They expect the best and know what they want. "Our members are sophisticated wine and food connoisseurs and they know and appreciate fine architecture and design," says Harrison. "It all comes down to a passion for travel and the joy of sharing these experiences with like-minded individuals."FOUNDERS AND STAFF
In 1997 founders Kit Harrison and Peter Scott established Decsent, a boutique collection of five-star, fully staffed, ski properties throughout the Alps. Coming from the hospitality sector, Harrison and Scott bring the inside experience and know how to launch a club like Botiga.
They have taken this knowledge of five-star hospitality and quality, and built a club around its members' preferences. "Team Botiga" includes all staff and management. Each property will be fully serviced with additional local support staff in place to fulfill member requests while they are on vacation. "We plan to employ 300 property and support staff over the next four years," says Harrison. "The career opportunities are fantastic for keeping people involved with the club. We only hire quality people who can fully grasp all aspects of the hospitality business. That way we can retain knowledge and keep the consistency of exemplary service."THE HOMES
Founder Members can begin booking time at the club's exclusive properties in Val D'lsere, St Moritz and Marrakech starting this summer for use from December. The official launch for the wider memberships in March 2009 will include three more properties. Ultimately the club hopes to offer destinations, not only in Europe, but all over the world for a variety of retreat options.
When choosing a vacation retreat for himself, Kit Harrison says: "I am definitely driven by the season, the mood I'm in and who I am with. I have two young children who love the sea, but when there's snow in early January, you will absolutely see me in the deep powder on the slopes of Val D'lsere or Klosters."
Harrison's vacation patterns are similar to Botiga members. Basically, wherever the members desire to go, Botiga will plan to have a property available in that location.The three types of properties are:
- Botiga Retreats are spacious, private residences valued at up to $10 million.
- Botiga Lodges (members' only boutique hotels) are larger properties where members can book a suite. These properties are likely to be in excess of $10 million in value and offer members unique experiences like staying at a castle in Scotland, bone fishing in Cuba, diving in Mozambique or safari in Botswana.
- City Retreats are the smallest properties with an average size of 1,600 square feet. They are valued at $6.5 million and up depending on the location.
Botiga uses a point system for allocating vacation weeks. They believe that this system allows for more flexibility in reserving properties. "The points system gives members the simplicity and transparency they need and a wealth of travel possibilities, plus the option of giving time to family and friends," says Kate Thompson, Botiga marketing director.
The club's three property types range from 20 to 350 points per week. Members can use their points throughout the year as they desire. The point system allows a full member to take an average of at least two peak and two off-peak weeks per year, while Affiliate Members can book four off-peak weeks. Members can then book additional weeks to use the remainder of their points, keeping in mind that some properties require fewer points than others.
The reservation policy also allows for space available weeks (all time booked within 100 days of travel) with a reduced rate of 1% per day. This is designed to significantly increase the potential number of weeks members can use and provide good availability for both those who like to book far in advance and for those who like to book more last-minute.
|Membership Level||FOUNDER CHARTER
(1st 30 members)
|Annual Dues||No fee for 2 yrs**||No fee for 2 yrs**||$54,600
|Usage||Peak and off-peak||Off-peak only||Peak and off-peak||Off-peak only|
*All above figures are based on the exchange rate EUR=1.56USD
**As a "Thank you" to the Founder Members, no annual dues will be collected from them for their first two years. In addition, the Founder Members who introduce five or more new members to the club within those first two years will receive a third dues-free year. Once this grace period is over, Founder Members will contribute annual dues - at the same level as Charter and Affiliate members respectively.
As membership numbers grow, the club plans on expanding not only their properties, but their locations as well. Initially, there will predominantly be a European focus the first summer of operation, 2009. "We will then launch new destinations with the changing of the seasons," says Harrison. "We will have homes in the Caribbean and Southern Africa within the following year."
Botiga intends on opening six properties for member usage by May 2009. Additionally they intend to have nine further properties by the end of 2009. After that they plan to add a further 16 properties by the end of 2010 and 18 in 2011. The goal is to have approximately 350 members and a 60-property portfolio by the end of 2012.
The club has no plans to place a cap on membership. They will continue to purchase properties as needed to keep the member to property ratio at 6:1 or lower. However, Harrison states that Botiga is "not on the scale of larger (US based) clubs and never will be." The management and founding members want to keep the club very much boutique for a more personalized and relationship-based experience for all.
It's very interesting to see a new club emerge with a hospitality heritage. Many of the initial destination club founders had entrepreneurial backgrounds including real estate backgrounds, but very few had luxury hospitality experience. They had to learn this key aspect, as they grew their clubs. Starting with this experience is a promising foundation.