James Henderson, the CEO of Exclusive Resorts talked to SherpaReport about the club, its portfolio of vacation residences and travel experiences and how it has grown and evolved over the years.
Exclusive Resorts was founded in 2002 as one of the first destination clubs or “Luxury Vacation Clubs”. It has since grown to offer more than 350 residences and 50-plus curated experiences spanning all seven continents. The core club residences are spacious family vacation homes with an average size of 3,500ft, and are spread across more than 75 of the world's most sought-after destinations.
James Henderson joined Exclusive Resorts as CEO in August 2019, and less than year later covid arrived which significantly impacted everyone traveling, including the clubs’ members.
As members started to travel again during covid, they valued the clubs’ stand-alone private homes and villas (and much preferred these over busier hotels.) And during covid, with so much potential uncertainty, the club offered a lot of flexibility to members in terms of planning their trips and deciding which homes to visit.
Last year the club experienced one of its strongest years for new member additions in over a decade and the more than 4,300 members enjoyed over 16,000 vacations.
Member Travel Club
Exclusive Resorts is all about travel.
James pointed out that when members join, they can choose either a ten-year or thirty-year membership option. While this may sound daunting to some, given that it’s a long-term commitment, it also means that the relationship between the club and its members is not transactional. As James put it when you join the club “you're making a lasting promise to optimize, and invest in, the richness of your life and the real value of your time.”
With a variety of travel options, James says “It’s a great way to travel with children” and adds “then the kids go off to college and you are an empty nester and you can do the Once-in-a-lifetime trips” and continues “then back to older and multi-generational travel.” Under James leadership Exclusive Resorts has placed further emphasis on their regular member satisfaction surveys, with a daily summary circulated within the company, so that everyone is focused on the results.
“The club gives people piece of mind, in these unusual times and this has really helped us” notes James, adding “it offers security, privacy and very high touch.”
James was keen to emphasize that during the peak of covid, when far fewer members were traveling, the club kept all their local Concierge teams – these are the service staff at destinations who look after members and handle their local requests. The reasons for keeping these teams intact, and not letting anyone go, even though members were not traveling as much, was to preserve the knowledge and the relationships.
Similarly with the Vacation Ambassadors, who help members to plan their vacations, the longer-term member relationship means that Exclusive Resorts staff can really learn about a member’s preferences, and their likes and dislikes when they travel.
As James put it, the Ambassadors and Concierges get to know you really well and “know if you are someone who wants to be left alone – or if you prefer very high touch service.” Keeping the staff, even during the huge downturn due to covid, meant all this knowledge and relationships were preserved within Exclusive Resorts.
In most destinations, Exclusive Resorts has their own residences, but in some locations they partner with another hospitality provider. For instance, at Laguna Beach in California or Kapalua Bay on Maui they are partnered with Montage for their 2- and 3-bedroom residences. James pointed out that even at the Montage locations, Exclusive Resorts have their own concierges who are dedicated to the club (and Exclusive Resorts treats these concierges as if they are employees).
Where Can You Go
Exclusive Resorts offers a variety of travel options. As James put it there’s “something for everybody.“
One of the core offerings is 350+ luxury residences in North America, the Caribbean and around the world – in locations that Exclusive Resorts describes as “the world’s most coveted places.” These are typically large spacious, well-located homes with up to 6 bedrooms, and room for plenty of friends or family. A few locations include Deer Valley, Utah, Beaver Creek, Colorado, La Jolla, California, Sonoma, California, Barcelona, Spain, Anguilla, British West Indies and many more. This portfolio sees changes every year, for instance James noted that new homes will be added in Vail, Kapalua, Cabo, Costa Rica and Jackson Hole.
The clubs members only “Experiences” include “Once-in-a-Lifetime” (OIAL) trips of curated group vacations. Over the years, Exclusive Resorts has done 500 departures on 7 continents of these OIAL trips, covering everything from an Antarctic cruise to a gorilla tracking tour of Uganda to around the world by private jet. Newer trips include Uruguay/Argentina, Vancouver to Alaska and India/Nepal.
If you prefer private travel, there are also 20+ pre-set itineraries ranging from short weekend getaways to bucket list vacations. And then there are member events including racing BMWs around a track, teeing off with the pros on top private golf courses, to exclusive access to the world's most celebrated sporting events.
In a good summary of Exclusive Resorts, James commented “We are first and foremost a private club, a community of people, with a shared interest around travel.”