Helium Report: Look Before Leaping Into Destination Club Membership

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Benefits are compelling and industry model is viable, but some clubs will struggle.

Helium Report today announced the release of the most comprehensive, objective guide to destination clubs, the fastest-growing sector in luxury vacation travel.

Destination clubs provide affluent families access to large luxury homes typical of private vacation residences, coupled with the high-end amenities and services of five-star hotels, and with the flexibility and choice of a world-wide network of homes in dozens of destinations. Membership costs typically include a one-time deposit of approximately $300,000 and an annual fee near $20,000. A large portion of the deposit is returned when a member leaves the club. These costs and terms can vary substantially. There are over twenty clubs, including industry leaders Exclusive Resorts and Tanner & Haley.

The new 50-page Helium Report: Decision Guide to Destination Clubs analyzes the cost/benefit tradeoffs of destination clubs against traditional options such as timeshares, home purchase, luxury hotels, and single-residence clubs such as the Four Seasons. “We find destination clubs to be a viable and attractive new offering,” says Helium Report CEO Greg Shove, “For the right customer, the cost is equivalent or better than 5 star hotels or luxury rentals, and the benefits are superior. The new Helium Report addresses these questions: are you the right customer, and which club is best for you.”

Club benefits typically include 30-days of vacation time at club residences, travel-planning services, online booking, on-site concierge, grocery-buying, cleaning, and other in-residence services. The residences are typically $2-4 million homes, with luxury kitchens, AV systems and other amenities. “There are exceptions on both ends,” says Bill Youstra, Helium Report’s Executive Editor, “While the average buy-in is $300,000, they range from under $100,000 to over $1 million. The home quality and amenities scale accordingly.”

The Decision Guide emerged from interviews with club founders, CEOs, members and prospective members. “One member summarized it this way: it’s all about the extra bedroom. This provides the flexibility for bringing another family, in-laws, or children’s friends,” said Shove, “Another remarked that in the one year as a member, he’s seen his relatives more than in the past ten years.”

Nonetheless, there are areas of concern. “You’re buying into a frothy new category,” notes Jamie Cheng, the lead author of the report, “Each club has a unique pricing plan, ownership structure and risk profile. We’ve already seen a small number of start-up clubs slow or stall.”

In general “non-equity” destination clubs commit to refund the majority of the membership deposit when a member wants out, typically when three new members join. “We’re looking for greater transparency and assurance,” comments Shove, “There have been improvements, but they’re inconsistent across the industry. “This is a six figure financial decision, so ‘Buyer beware’ holds true in destination clubs.” A more recent industry development is that some clubs offer members a deed or investment interest on the portfolio of homes, so that in the event of a club failure, the member would still hold an asset reflecting the initial deposit. “If a prospective member cannot get answers to the important due diligence questions, then we suggest they consider another club,” advises Shove.

The Helium Report: Decision Guide to Destination Clubs – available at http://www.heliumreport.com – offers an overview of the industry, comparison tables, cost-per-night analysis, summaries of each club, and a breakdown of membership options and risks. A section titled “Analyze” discusses key parameters and worst-case scenarios, compares equity versus non-equity models, and debunks the often misleading member-to-home ratio. The heliumreport.com website offers prospective members ongoing commentary and a list of 175 Key Questions to consider when evaluating club membership.

Note To The Editor

If you would like to receive a copy of the Helium Report: Decision Guide to Destination Clubs, or speak with a Helium Report analyst, please send an email with your full contact details to jamie@heliumreport.com

Methodology

Helium Report surveyed active destination clubs. Each club was sent Helium Report’s destination club survey and interviews were conducted with club executives and/or founders. Additionally, Helium Report interviewed current members and prospective members at each stage in the decision process.

About Helium Report

Helium Report provides objective guidance and information to affluent consumers at http://www.heliumreport.com and in published reports and buyer’s guides. Helium Report is an independent new media venture that is not affiliated with any media company or destination club.

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Jamie Cheng
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