|By Julie Dunn, The Denver Post
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Aug. 25, 2005--Yellowstone Club, a private ski and golf community in Big Sky, Mont., is launching the world's most expensive luxury vacation-home club, with membership fees of up to $10 million.
In return, members won't just have access to multimillion-dollar private homes and concierge services, but to entire private resorts, yachts and jets at their disposal, said Hank Kashiwa, former Olympic skier and vice president of marketing for Yellowstone Club.
The destination-club market is booming, but the cost to join one of Colorado's many destination clubs isn't nearly as steep. Membership fees range from $95,000 to $400,000, with annual dues ranging from $7,200 to $30,000, depending on how many days per year the customer uses the properties.
There are at least 22 active destination clubs in the U.S., with another eight in the works, according to resort industry consulting firm Ragatz Associates. Membership sales jumped from $130 million in 2003 to $450 million last year. And they're expected to double again this year.
"It continues to be a maturing category," said Len Allsup, founder of Boulder-based Quintess, a club that has 76 members and owns 14 homes worth an average of $4 million. "What Yellowstone has announced is more validation of the category at the very, very high-end."
But instead of going after the extremely upscale crowd, some Colorado destination clubs are expanding their target market to include wealthy travelers with limited vacation time.
Denver-based Exclusive Resorts, the industry's largest club with more than 1,500 members, introduced an affiliate membership in March. The less-expensive option offers access to 200-plus residences for 15 days per year for less than half the cost of a full membership, which includes at least 45 days.
"A lot of people who wanted to join the club didn't have the time available to spend 45 days or 60 days a year on vacation," said Exclusive Resorts spokeswoman Rachel Neumann.
Exclusive Resorts, which is majority owned by American Online founder Steve Case, said it doesn't plan to try to compete with Yellowstone Club.
"We have no plans to introduce something at or near the $10 million price point," Neumann said.
Scott Anderson, chief executive of Greenwood Village-based Dream Catcher, said his target consumer has a net worth of more than $3 million and an average income of more than $250,000.
"There are about 2.5 million of those households in the United States," he said. "But as you start ratcheting up to somebody who can write a check for $10 million, that quickly gets to be a pretty small group."
Fort Collins-based Private Escapes Destination Clubs, which prided itself on being the first destination club with an entry fee under six figures, is planning to go more upscale. In November, it is preparing to launch a higher-end product with membership fees of at least $300,000.
"The demand is there," said co-founder Richard Keith. "We want to give people a plethora of options and let them decide."
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