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.