Destination Club Exclusive Resorts assembles an annual collection of very special trips for their members. The scope of the trips in 2020 and 2021 has been impacted by the coronavirus, so members are looking forward to the 2022 calendar. SherpaReport spoke to Gina Bach, Vice President of the Experience Collection at Exclusive Resorts, to find out what’s on offer.
“Our members are really excited to get back to traveling” said Gina Bach, noting that many of them have been waiting for two years to do some of the trips on offer. Exclusive Resorts provides a two week window in March for members to book the trips, which the club has found is a good amount of time to review the trips with friends and family before making a decision. “All the trips were filled right away after 2 weeks,” she added.
2020 and 2021
The trips last year were interrupted by the COVID outbreak. For instance, Exclusive members were about a third of the way through the first “Around the World by Private Jet” tour when they were called home from the Taj Mahal because of the pandemic. “They were devastated to come home” said Gina, but she added “We are doing another one in 2022 and nearly everyone is going back, and we’ve added some cool extras.”
Exclusive has organized some domestic member events such as golf tournaments at Pebble Beach and Sea Island Georgia and spa outings to Miraval. “Golf is nice since its outside,” said Gina “and it fits well with a lot of our members interests.” The club trip to the Kentucky Derby is happening this year and usually 24 members and guests attend, but this year only 12 will be going to ensure safer social distancing. The full contingent of larger more adventurous trips are returning next year.
The 2022 Collection
Exclusive Resorts has curated eight Once-in-a-Lifetime Journeys for 2022. There’s a wide variety of trips, some brand-new ones, some repeats, and some borrowing from prior trips but with new itineraries, features and destinations.
Gina told us “we always do an African safari.” So, she advises members “to wait until the kids are ready,” knowing there will be a safari each year. The locations vary from year to year, and have included Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana and South Africa, so if you love safaris, there is always something new to explore.
For some trips there are several dates each year and for others, there is just one typically larger tour. For instance, the 2022 trips to India and Nepal have 6 dates, as do the trips down to Australia and New Zealand. “When we charter a ship we just do one trip, since it tends to be a big number of members,” notes Gina. The 12 day Antarctica trip will be aboard the brand-new National Geographic Resolution ship which Exclusive has sole use of for 125 of their members.
The full list of trips in the 2022 program is:
- Seabourn Alaska Cruise, 8 nights: the Seabourn Odyssey is chartered exclusively for members. Explore Alaska's glaciers and remote islands by kayak, zodiac or catamaran.
- Uruguay, Mendoza and Buenos Aires, 8 nights: includes three unique but complementary stops, including local wine tastings, horseback rides along the coast and private tango lessons in the birthplace of tango.
- Ski Japan, 8 nights: visit three different ski resorts in the Hokkaido region, known for its fluffy powder conditions. Exclusive Resorts has bought out the Iwani ski resort for a day, meaning members will have exclusive use of the lifts and cats.
- Around the World by Private Jet, 21 nights: alongside a team of National Geographic experts, embark on a globe-trotting expedition featuring numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites.
- India and Nepal, 11 nights: the trip begins in Nepal with a flight around Mount Everest followed by brunch with a mountaineer who has summitted the world’s highest peak. Then on to India, where members will feel like royalty, and enjoy a sunrise visit and guided tour of the Taj Mahal.
- Australia and New Zealand, 11 nights: combing the best of both countries with stops in iconic cities like Sydney and Queenstown. “The perfect combination of thrills and indulgence,” says Bach.
- Antarctica, 11 nights: ring in the new year watching migrating whales and calving icebergs. National Geographic’s team of experts including undersea specialists, local naturalists and National Geographic photographers who provide members a truly immersive experience.
- Kenya, 9 nights: visiting two very different game parks - Tsavo West National Park and Maasai Mara National Reserve. Members will safari in their own dedicated vehicles in search of the "Big Five".
Deciding Where To Go
With such a wide variety of trips we were curious to know how Gina selects the locations and itineraries each year. She has lots of input and ideas, from a selection of sources, including:
- The annual member survey in which the club members can share ideas and express their preferences. The combined Australia and New Zealand trip was top last year said Gina. The club has done separate trips to each country in the past, but 2022 will be the 1st time they do both combined. Gina noted that several members had commented that if they are flying all that way, they would like to visit both countries.
- One destination per continent is a broad rule that Gina likes to apply each year. So, the trips provide a lot of geographic diversity.
- Working with partners, such as National Geographic, who provide a lot of insights, recommendations and advice.
- Simply talking with members while on the trips and at other events provides a valuable source of inputs. For instance, several members had asked about India, which the club last visited about 8 years ago, and is back on the agenda for 2022.
Gina has been organizing the trips since 2008 and notes the club structure means she “knows exactly who she is developing the trips for.”
“One of our secret ingredients, we vet out all elements of each trip. So, someone from Exclusive Resorts has been to each of the locations,” says Gina, “this also helps us gain ideas of unique things to do when members are there.” She adds “we maybe do 2 stops on the radar and one off the radar, to add to the interest.”