Inspirato: Another travel flash sale site joins the mix

Just when you think you’ve seen them all … another travel flash sale site launches. The latest? Inspirato, the pet project of Exclusive Resorts co-founder Brett Handler. They tackle the deal concept with a twist – travelers pay an up-front fee to join the site and then enjoy ongoing discounted rates for the site’s portfolio of brand-owned, full-service properties. Ironically enough, it appears its closest competitor also comes from another Exclusive Resorts alumnus – we covered the launch of Next Great Place earlier this month.

Care for a flash sale? They created iDeal to offer a flash sale model that’s more similar to sites like SniqueAway and Jetsetter, offering special packaged programs at an additional discount for specific date ranges.

What we love?

  • Deals are open to the public, so everyone can see what’s being offered- but only members can book.
  • Many of the deals offered are actually on private home properties (more than 40 are currently in the portfolio) in desirable locations like Vail, Aspen, Anguilla and Italy.
  • Reservations can be booked up to a year in advance, and, because you still pay individually for room nights, there’s no limit to where or how often one can travel.
  • A Personal Vacation Advisor learns each member’s preferences and assists in vacation planning, residence selection and booking, while a Destination Concierge offers local expertise and dedicated assistance before arrival and during the member’s vacation.

What we don’t:

  • It’s expensive – the fee to join is $9,500, and rising to $15,000 on March 31, and the yearly renewal is $2,500.

What you want to know:

  • The average cost per night for all the homes in Inspirato’s portfolio is approximately $1,000, with some value season rates as low as a few hundred dollars.
  • Homes range in size from 1,708 sq. ft. in the core of Aspen to 14,000 sq. ft. in Anguilla, and have an estimated market value ranging from $2.5M to over $10M.

Sample Deal:
Casa Bella, a 4 bedroom, 4.5 bath, 3300 square foot villa located in the Auberge Private Residences at Esperanza, Cabo San Lucas.
Market rate for consumers who book a similar home: $1850 per night
iDeal rate for May 30 – June 3rd: $450 per night
The base savings: 76%, AND iDeal includes complimentary concierge-level service

Next Great Place launches, enters into the travel sale site melee

We’ll admit, we’re getting a little sick of seeing flash sale travel sites enter the market – there’s another one every day, each with a slightly different concept. It seems like we have to do an awful lot of checking each time we want to book a vacation – can we get $100 off on one site, a free upgrade there, and oh, referral bonuses here?

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 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 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.

Daily Pampering: Exclusive Resorts offers $10,000 gift card to new members

Want to spend the holidays at your private home in Vail? Feel like escaping the cold weather for your four-bedroom home in Esperanza? Always dreamed of rivaling P. Diddy’s famous yacht parties? This won’t be a problem with a membership to the exclusive luxury destination club with Exclusive Resorts.

With membership starting at $160,000, you can enjoy 400 luxury residences around the world, personalized service from your travel concierge and five-star luxury amenities.

The “destination club” allows you to pick your residences – many with access to luxury resorts, like the four-bedroom residences with private pools in Esperanza (recently rated the number one resort spot in Mexico by Travel + Leisure).

Here’s how it works:

  • Sign up to become a member with a minimum membership fee $160,000 (75% refundable).
  • Choose from various properties around the world including a 4-bedroom residence with private pools in an exclusive enclave in Peninsula Papagayo; 3-bedroom residences at the base of the gondola at The Arrabelle in Vail; or one of 28 residences in the heart of it all, New York City.
  • Select your membership plan, which ranges from 10 to 60 days of vacation per year.
  • Pack and go.

The best part? Think round-the-clock concierge service, VIP access to top golf courses, and orchestra seats for hard-to-get Broadway shows. But there’s more…

To help celebrate the holiday season, Exclusive Resorts is helping to pamper your stocking with a little promotion for those who are considering this life of luxury:

If you buy a membership by Dec. 15, 2010, Exclusive Resorts will give you a $10,000 gift card good toward customized excursions, private chefs, privileged tee times, luxury spa services, and other incredible experiences you can dream up. You can share your $10,000 gift card with the ones you love, or you can save it for yourself. After all, it’s your luxury experience.

Want more? Get your daily dose of pampering right here.

Daily Pampering: Join Steve Case’s Exclusive Resorts club

Steve Case, Co-Founder and former CEO and Chairman of AOL, is not someone we usually associate with luxury travel. I still hear that “You’ve got mail” soundbyte in my head when I see his name.

Nevertheless, one of the many hats Case currently wears is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Exclusive Resorts, a membership-only collection of extravagant destinations which claims to combine “the best things about staying in vacation homes with the best things about staying in luxury resorts — while eliminating the disadvantages of both.”

How do they accomplish that? Basically, they’ve amassed a book of rental vacation homes with resort access nearby, thus providing elite guests with the kind of space and privacy they crave, the convenience of resort amenities, and none of the hassle of buying a second home. Guests can check the availability of properties around the globe 24-hours per day and jet off to a vacant villa last minute — ideal for the busier affluent set.

The cream of the crop of the Exclusive Resorts properties are their Once in a Lifetime packages for families, couples and adventure-seekers. These include destinations with outstanding features like Machu Picchu in Peru (destination screenshot above).

Membership fees start at $160,000, with an annual fee starting just below $1,000 per day. Ten to sixty-day plans are available. Click here to learn more, and say hi to Steve for me if you see him.

Want more? Get your daily dose of pampering right here.