Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer
Ritz-Carlton Destination Club
What’s in a name? For members, more and less than you might think at the recently launched Ritz-Carlton Destination Club. With a price point similar to a high-end Swiss watch and annual unit sales that in fashion, jewelry and timepieces would label it as Couture or Limited Edition, Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief Douglas Gollan talked over the phone with Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer, Bob Phillips, to find out exactly how the brand evolved and what you get when you become a member.
ET: What is the history of The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club?
Bob Phillips: If you go back to the beginning of The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club (previously The Ritz-Carlton Club), which this year celebrates 10 years of operation, we were a solution for consumers who wanted a specific destination, wanted more space and services than a hotel, and didn’t want the worries of owning and maintaining a second home. We were an alternative to a second home and we removed the hassles of ownership. The legendary services of The Ritz-Carlton were the tipping point for our success.
ET: Why is The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C. getting into the destination club industry at this time?
Bob Phillips: It’s not so much that we’re entering the destination club industry, as we listened to our Members and evolved The Club to offer two membership options. The Club has evolved to not only offer Home Club Membership (identical to the successful fractional ownership offering) and the new Portfolio Membership.
We did see another segment of the market where Members could explore the world. Our Members are lifestyle oriented, have a passion for golf, food and wine, etc. And, we have Ritz-Carlton hotels and clubs in the places they wanted to go, so we were able to go from a relatively narrow offering to a broader platform.
ET: How is The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club different from other destination clubs?
Bob Phillips: At its core, The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club redefines the very idea of a destination club. We’re blending the attributes of luxurious vacation home living and heightened travel flexibility within an equity based model, while also maintaining exclusivity and privacy.
The experience we are providing is very different. It’s about ‘Member Experience Planning,’ and it is centered on the idea of managing the experience. If you think about managed health care or financial planning, you’ll get what we are doing. Each member gets a Membership Experience Manager, and for each member we create a Vacation Passport, a document that the Experience Manager uses to plan both next week and five years from now.
Say your son graduates in 2011. We will put it in the passport as an event you may want to plan a trip around, and as we get closer we figure out what the trip should be.
On the next page is the Next Vacation and that becomes an itinerary, and then we kick into a whole different gear. It could be a family vacation, a romantic getaway or four buddies playing golf.
ET: Are members limited to Ritz-Carlton accommodations, restaurants and services?
Bob Phillips: Not at all. We are in many instances using third party providers. For example, in Aspen for the Food & Wine festival we will secure your tickets to the various events, plan wine tastings and schedule reservations in new restaurants. We are connecting the whole idea of bespoke travel.
If you are familiar with the concept of a docent, the definition is ‘a purveyor of expertise.’ We have created a network of docents if you will. So for example, in one place you might have a retired restaurateur taking you to a wine tasting or introducing you to the chef at a new restaurant, or if you wanted in Beaver Creek to go mountain biking, it might be a mountain biking expert who lives in the area who will be your guide. The idea is about community and connecting members with people who share their lifestyle passions.
ET: Can you describe the membership options?
Bob Phillips: There are two vacation options—Home Club and Portfolio Memberships. We are the first branded hospitality company to offer a points-based membership, Portfolio Membership. It brings broad possibilities to travel the world, including exchange to more than 70 Ritz-Carlton hotels.
ET: What are your plans for expansion for The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club? What new properties are currently underway?
Bob Phillips: In 2009—Kapalua Bay, Maui, Hawaii opened in May and North Lake Tahoe is scheduled for December 18. Opening in late 2010 is Vail.
ET: How many original members are still around?
Bob Phillips: The Ritz-Carlton Club brought approximately 3,000 members to the new Ritz-Carlton Destination Club. Many have been members since early sales in Aspen and St. Thomas a decade ago.
FAST FACTS ON THE RITZ-CARLTON DESTINATION CLUB
Relaunched as The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club in April, it is an equity-based destination club with legendary Ritz-Carlton service.
Two deeded membership types:
Home Club Membership which provides a one- to four-bedroom, titled residence and guaranteed usage at their favorite resort every year.
Portfolio Membership which affords the opportunity to discover a wide variety of locations, accommodations and experiences around the globe through the use of points. Members who enroll in Portfolio Membership may exchange 25 percent of their points for access to more than 70 Ritz-Carlton hotels and resorts worldwide. Portfolio Memberships offer a beneficial interest in a land trust giving Members a deeded asset and the opportunity to customize their vacation travel to myriad of locations. A points-based currency is used to reserve a variety of accommodations throughout The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club.
Abaco, The Bahamas
Aspen Highlands, Colo.
Bachelor Gulch, Colo.
Kapalua Bay, Maui, Hawaii
Kauai Lagoons, Hawaii
North Lake Tahoe, Calif.*
St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.
San Francisco, Calif.
Residences* offer – approximately 570 – 2,800 square feet of living space featuring a fully-equipped kitchen, dining room, living room with entertainment center including a gas fireplace, TV, surround-sound receiver, DVD and stereo/CD players, master suites with walk-in closets, full-size washer and dryer, and Wi-Fi or high-speed Internet access.
*Can vary by location
Holiday Access – Holidays vary by property within Portfolio Membership. Those who purchase the additional Holiday Purchase Package gain heightened access to holiday periods, not guaranteed access. Or if they select Home Club Membership, most properties offer a fixed interest guaranteeing them access to a specific holiday.
• Pricing from the low $100,000s to the low $800,000s per membership
• Beyond the membership costs and dues – Members may also incur the cost of groceries, Ritz Kids program and other such items
Transparency — Financial program transparency is achieved through a third party trust manager and the trusted, Ritz-Carlton brand name
Portfolio Membership Point Values – Point values for trust properties are adjusted based on the marketplace, and values for the hotel exchange program are dictated by hotel owner best available rates.
Resale Program – A program is under development for Portfolio Membership. Currently, Members may independently sell, will or transfer their asset like any other form of real estate. As for Home Club Memberships, they may list with The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club or use the above options.
www.ritzcarltondestinationclub.com / 800.278.0121