The Design Of A Great Vacation: Quintess and the Destination Club Experience
As with many great ideas, the destination club idea was not born in a vacuum. Its distant ideological cousin, the timeshare, originated in the '70's in Europe. It was a simple idea, buying space for time, but because of some developers' sales techniques, the timeshare developed a less than stellar reputation. However, the idea itself remained viable, and it evolved – from owning a 1/30th share in a small apartment, to owning shares in much more substantive residences, and in the clubs themselves,. The membership deed or the fractional share all came with significant amenities: private chefs, limo drivers, dedicated destination hosts, existing only to make dinner arrangements, acquiring the best concert tickets, creating worry-free vacations on every known dimension.
The destination club idea took hold in the early 2000s. In the beginning, were the nonequity clubs, then came the equity based ones. With the former, the member did not own anything, paid a one-time membership deposit, annual dues, and vacationed in elite destinations in $2-6M homes. With the equity-based clubs, the members owned the clubs, bought the homes and had much to say in the club management.
But there was a dark side to this idea – and it was its explosive and unexpected growth. In 2003, the sales volume was a modest $513.M. In 2006, it ballooned to $2.5B.
All went well until the industry hit a major bump in July of 2006, with Tanner & Haley, the first Destination Club, to bankrupt, followed by many others. Out of the 31 functioning destination clubs extant in 2006, there are now, in 2010, five. But these five are strong,fiscally transparent, and consumer-centric, taking a lessons-learned approach from the failed clubs. The equity-based clubs, where the members own the residences, are Equity Estates, and Abercrombie & Kent Residence Clubs. The non-equity clubs, are Exclusive Resorts, oldest and largest, Ultimate Escapes, the second largest with has multi-leveled membership plans, and, Quintess arguably, one of the smaller and most boutique-like, with many architecturally significant homes, all priced at 4M and up.
Quintess developed slowly, adding very few homes to their club each year, but each characterizes the unique vacation experience of the member, combining the experiential design elements of play, adventure and sanctuary. Pricing for Quintess ranges from a one time membership deposit of $210,000 to $715,000 with additional annual dues. Quintess has recently added one home in Canouan, in the Caribbean Grenadines, and two more in Aspen. As of this writing, Quintess is the only club with four homes in Aspen.
Recently, I asked Ben Addoms, original founder of Quintess, and now Chief Marketing Officer and member himself, which of the destinations and residences would be on his short list of favorites understanding that Quintess residences span all the way from Koh Sumai and Bora Bora, to Halkidiki, Greece. His answers underscore the deep affection and loyalty members have for this type of vacationing, where the positive memorable experience is the result of sensitive home/destination/vacation design.
Here is his short list:
" This is not in order of priority: they are all my favorites.
Amangani – In Jackson Hole, Wyoming:
"This home was architected by a young Jackson Hole resident, Tim Grimes, whose use of windows almost everywhere, brings the beauty of the Tetons right to you, each moment you are in or even outside the home. It has five bedrooms, and there is no place better, after a full day of skiing, snowboarding or hiking, than here to watch the smooth sunset fade over these ice-laced, serrated mountains."
Canouan -- "These are our newest Villas, and the island of Canouan, probably the most difficult place to get to, but once you are there, the last place you would ever want to leave. The Villas, of an Addison Mizner-esque Mediterranean design, are right on the ocean, and we wake up to the views of Carenage Bay. If there was but one place I would want to go every year, our Canouan Villas would be on the very short list. A week here restores your soul and your sanity."
Napa Cuvee – " This home is like living in your own resort, as it is a six bedroom home designed with cedar, redwood and stone: rustic materials. It is also surrounded by 100 foot high pines, and overlooks the Meadwoood vineyard. It is peaceful, yet close enough to Napa and Sonoma so you can easily take wine tours and eat at some of the great restaurants in Napa and Sonoma."
Kola Ke Aloha on the Big Island of Hawaii
" Ke Aloha means Beloved, and I feel this way whenever i come to one of our homes in Hawaii. This home is located within walking distance of Anaeho'omalu Bay. There is something about just waking up to the sound of the Pacific... If you snorkel just ff the beach at Sunrise, you can see shy creatures never quite comfortable in sunlight -- octopus, eel and colored nudibranch. All members needs to do is make this journey once, and they will be a Kamainas( returners) always.
Tuscany – Villa Tavernaccia, near the hill town of Fiesole
"For me, vacationing is about good times with family and friends, but sometimes it is also the moments of solitude that really restores. I will always recall looking out on the Tuscan countryside from this Villa – it is a Renaissance villa, designed and restored many times. It sit on the top of all, surrounded by 23 acres of vineyards, olive groves and old-growth hardwoods. It is also a place where Princess Diana and Prince Charles vacationed in 1986, so for me, it has a wistful, meditative quality. I arose early once morning and went to the tower to watch the daylight chase the late evening shadows from the small villages below. And for at least 10 minutes, I simply, was: connected to the destination, the Villa, and the moment. This is, ideally, what happens when the home, the destination, and the vacation are in perfect balance, all strong elements in great vacation design."