Which is why we were initially drawn to take a look at Next Great Place, launching to for limited public beta today. Functioning sort of like a cross between E-Harmony and Match.com for travel, the travel sale site bills itself as an “online travel planning company” and pairs qualified travelers with pre-screened resorts (in Cabo San Lucas and Vail/Beaver Creek to start).
Founders Tom Fillipini (co-founder of Exclusive Resorts) and Erik Mitisek have extensive travel industry experience and know the ins and outs of the travel market, but they found it increasingly difficult to plan travel for themselves and their families and find qualified luxury lodgings without the use of a travel agent who may or may not be motivated more by commissions than by providing the best possible experience for the traveler.
Unlike other sale sites, where travelers themselves browse and choose their preferred resort, Next Great Place puts the planning into the hands of dedicated (and salary, not commission-based) employees who then vet the proposals through pre-selected suppliers. After generating a “vacation request,” travelers will have customized proposals waiting in their inbox within 48 hours.
Travelers then have 48 hours to purchase the trip and lock into the preferred pricing. While the site is certainly limited in terms of locations and properties available at the current moment (there are about 10 resorts and only two locations on board), we’re intrigued by the model. The competition for business gives suppliers the incentive to engage in price competition and transparency, and also allows travelers to “lock in” on preferred pricing for times when occupancy may be low.
In our brief trial, we found the sample process of selecting a resort to be easy – simply check the box on preferred amenities (spa, golf, babysitters, ect.) and the resort comparisons come back with a simple click. The entire process took under five minutes!
We’re happy to report that the site is free … for now (register at www.nextgreatplace.com and you’ll be approved within a day or so), but they’re considering adding a yearly subscription fee of around $1,000. Book once, and you’ll receive that in credit towards your stay. We understand the need for a business model, but we’re not sure that travelers who have so many free resources on their hands will want to pay that high of a price for the service that can essentially be replicated for free on a number of other platforms. The site promises to add up to 100 destinations in the next five years, which would certainly be an enticing prospect.
The resorts are pre-vetted by Next Great Place, and, with names like Capella Pedregal and Esperanza currently on board, we’re sure that the business is committed to partnering with resorts of the highest caliber.
Unlike other villa rental sites, Next Great Place guarantees a response and pricing within 48 hours – so there’s little uncertainty and waiting.
We’ll certainly be watching to see if this model is replicated by other sites and to see if Next Great Place continues to grow.