Mike on America

Exclusive Resorts: The New Dynamic In Pleasure Vacations

It’s lunch time. The food has been prepared by the Executive Chef (that’s what you call him by the way, ‘Chef’). The horizonless pool is gurgling. The sun is shining and now it’s time for the boat ride around the lagoon. This is a business trip gang. A business trip for Exclusive Resorts.

Exclusive Resorts is a division of Steve Case’s Washington DC, based Revolution. Case is of course, one of the co-founders of AOL. The CEO of Exclusive Resorts, is Donn Davis, he too a former AOL executive. What was a small company based in Denver is now a large and getting bigger company in the ‘high end’ vacation business. No, it’s not a time share. No, it’s not fractional ownership.

It’s a new dynamic: the ‘country club’ model of vacation homes. Forty destinations around the world with 3,000 members to date. A billion dollars in high end real estate world wide--that’s Exclusive Resorts and that’s what Donn Davis spends his time selling and overseeing.

It's 7 am at the Dulles Airport. We take off in a NetJets airplane for a day of location scouting and observation. It’s what Davis does. Fly from location to location acquiring land, making deals, and making sure the latest piece of his company's growing vacation empire is online, and up to snuff. Our first stop is Sea Island, Georgia. Here Exclusive Resorts has gone into business with the world renown Cloisters Hotel.A renovated property with a legendary name. Exclusive is building, because that’s what it does, build from scratch, a limited number of multi-million dollar residences in close proximity to the Cloisters. When you buy into the concept, on average for $300,000 imitation fee, and roughly $25,000 a year in dues, what you get is not only a ‘to die for’ vacation residence but full access to its ‘partner’ property.

You live and vacation for a week in the 2,500 square foot, 3 million dollar home at Sea Island with its private chef and concierge service, and you get full access to the Cloisters: no charge, with room service, and beach access. The whole nine yards. What Davis does is the deals, the designing, the branding.

From Sea Island we’re off to Grand Cayman.The Ritz on Seven Mile Beach, on a manufactured spit of land. Exclusive Resorts has its enclave of high end residences. Again-all and anything you want, including a personal pool AND access to all the Ritz has to offer.

Who goes? The rich people. There are more of them than ever before, and the biggest ‘issue’ for Davis is simply convincing them that the business model, 80 per cent of the initiation fee is refundable, is sound.

He’s in the process of ‘creating’ a new vacation segment, a new approach to leisure time for the well to do. We leave Grand Cayman at 3 pm and we land back in D.C. at 9:30 pm. It’s been a day. The homemade cookies on Grand Cayman were great. Off to Rock City in Chattanooga! Come along won’t you?

Questions?  Comments?  mikeonamerica@nbcuni.com