That was the question posed to Adam Capes, president of Equity Estates, when he was recently interviewed by David Asman on Fox Business. Here's our take on the difference between a destination club and luxury timeshare.

The Homes

As Adam noted in the brief interview, the homes in his club are "generally $3m homes, on average," and are located "in some of the most sought after destinations around the world." Different destination clubs have homes that average from $1m to over $4m in value. These homes are beautifully furnished with high end appliances and furnishings and are located in the most prime locations, including some of the worlds most sought after and exclusive resorts.

The locations include Aspen, Jackson Hole, New York, London, Tuscany and the Turks & Caicos. The homes are typically spacious 3, 4 or 5+ bedroom standalone residences, with plenty of space to invite friends and family.

In comparison, timeshares are usually studio or 1 or 2 bedroom condominium residences, with a few offering 3 bedrooms. If you apply a hotel rating system, they tend to be in the three or four star range, with furnishings and fittings to match those levels. Although, across the large inventory of timeshare units, the standards can vary enormously. I've never seen numbers quoted for the average value of a timeshare residence - the industry just doesn't talk in that way - but from the timeshare units I've personally seen I'd estimate it to typically be in a range of $150,000 to $450,000. So broadly speaking it's a fraction of the value of a typical destination club home.

The Services

While the level of homes are very different, so too are the level of services that members can expect.

With a timeshare the services and assistance are very limited. You're basically on your own to make your own way to the resort and to figure out what to do when you get there. Some timeshares do offer a grocery stocking service, whereby you can send in your order ahead of arrival and your unit will be stocked with provisions for when you arrive. Some higher end timeshares or larger resorts may also have some level of concierge service to help with tickets, restaurants, tours etc.

For members of destination clubs the services are a key part of their membership. The club staff (variously called a travel assistant, escape planner, experience manager) will help with all the pre-trip travel planning and organization. Members liaise with their personal travel planner at the club to reserve homes, plan the trip and book all travel arrangements, organize any restaurant reservations, theater tickets, spa times, tee times and any special tours or events. Members receive a full travel plan and itinerary before they go, which can include as many organized activities as they want.

When destination club members arrive at the residence the local host or concierge will meet them and show them around the home. This local host is also available for any localized, on vacation assistance, advice and planning. Again this can vary from recommending a restaurant, to booking tickets to just general pointers on local customs. Basically they are there to help.

As an example, I travelled to London last February and stayed at the Quintess home for a few days. On the day we arrived, the local host had organized tickets for the London Eye, as we'd requested, and recommended a great place for breakfast beforehand. I discussed with him the other places to take the kids, assessing what was age appropriate and interesting. He also suggested some kid themed events that were only on while we were there, and that we'd never have known about on our own.

Usage and Vacations

Members of destination clubs join the club to use all the homes within their club. These homes may be spread throughout North America, the Caribbean, Europe and around the world. The whole structure of a destination club is designed to allow members to share the use of the clubs homes. Members can go at different times of year, they can stay for as little as one night or sometimes for multiple weeks, all depending on their personal travel plans. If a club owns multiple homes in one location they could reserve a couple of homes for a large get together.

In comparison when you buy a timeshare, you are usually buying one week in one location, often it will be one particular fixed week each year. Sure there are opportunities to trade and exchange that week, but it costs extra and you can't usually break it up into shorter periods than a week. A few timeshare systems are starting to issue points rather than a fixed week, in order to provide some flexibility.

As you can see there are large differences between timeshares and destination clubs. In both of them, members are sharing the use of vacation residences, rather than buying a residence outright, but after that the service, the homes and features vary enormously.

(the video interview on Fox is here)