We are launching a new series of interviews with executives from various destination clubs. Our first interview is with Rob Vaka, Chief Giving Officer of G2G Collection. While G2G Collection was founded in 2013, Rob was previously with Equity Estates.
Tell us about the highlights in 2013 for G2G?
2013 was Getaway 2 Give, or G2G, Collection’s first year. By the close of the year the club had become the only Luxury Destination Club on the planet to be authentically operating as a social enterprise; that is, like Tom’s Shoes, to deliver on a “One for One” business model where each membership purchase generates a like value donation to a charity in need. The club has attracted remarkable people to its membership including NY Stock Exchange CEO Duncan Niederauer and his wife Alison, a board member at Autism Speaks, actor Ty Pennington, NFL Stars Larry Fitzgerald and Hines Ward (also Dancing With The Stars Champion), and a host of philanthropists, business leaders, and families. The club offers nearly as many destinations as other larger alternatives and in some cases dramatically more unique options such as a private island off the coast of Belize. As the dust settled on 2013, the G2G Collection had established three (3) distinct attributes that differ from other alternatives:
1) No annual dues and substantial savings on a per night basis
2) We “Start With Why” and have a strong purpose that’s much bigger and more important than simply making money
3) A Real Solution for City Access: the G2G City Plan offers unlimited access to true private residences in top cities like NYC, LA, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami and more as opposed to hotel rooms or suites. We’ve only just begun with this exciting program and there are many more great options to come.
What are the key plans for the club this year?
G2G will stick to its purpose in 2014; that is, bringing more happiness and meaning to the lives of our members through our getaways and at the same time transforming the world through the power of giving. This means that we, along with current and new members, will generate and give more than 7 figures in donations to a variety of causes that are helping children with Down’s Syndrome to become more confident and live life as any other child, pairing a wounded veteran with PTSD with a rescue dog, maniacally seeking a cure for Juvenile Diabetes, or treating a family to one last “wow” vacation experience where a young mom or dad have just a short time left to live before cancer claims them. At the same time, G2G members will be experiencing more of the same hallmark moments in places like Los Cabos, Punta Cana, Costa Rica, Telluride, Deer Valley, NYC, Chicago, and West Hollywood, CA. New additions abound this year in Miami, Punta Mita, MX, the FL 30A/Emerald Coast, Hawaii, Aspen, Vail, Paris and Atlanta. Look for G2G to unveil a host of new partnerships and member benefits with the majority being with companies that have a similar focus on a meaningful “why” and “purpose” as opposed to “stuff.”
What types of members are joining the club this year?
People who are financially successful who like to travel and stay in luxury accommodations but are often too busy to plan "breaks in the action" to enjoy the people and experiences they love most. They are people who "speak with their wallets" by buying from companies that are supporting the causes that they themselves believe in. My observation is that many who are joining “believe what we believe.” That is, they’ve turned a bit against conspicuous consumption and believe in the significance of experiences more than “things.” They see time as a most precious asset. They value relationships and personal growth. They have felt the lasting happiness and joy that making a meaningful contribution brings. Not just financial contribution but rather being part of something bigger, of something that is “doing well by doing good.” G2G Collection brings that to the lives of those who have and are joining us.
Which are your most popular destinations amongst members?
We’ve been in this business for the past eight (8) years and there have been consistent outcomes and blossoming trends. For example, our members love NYC but want to experience city living with a full kitchen, never seen before views, and bring along their children or another couple. You cannot get that with a hotel room or suite. G2G delivers that full experience in a private residence setting. They enjoy the relative ease of getting to Los Cabos and appreciate the refined luxury and setting we’ve created there while at the same time allowing for considerable savings. They seek Deer Valley- which has long been a favorite of skiers and those seeking respite from hot summers. A targeted “drive-to” destination slate has begun to garner the attention of members. In the Southeast, Palmetto Bluff, SC is a remarkable getaway and under 4 hours by car from Atlanta and most cities in the Carolina’s. Our new addition coming in the sustainable living community of Serenbe, just outside of Atlanta, is sure to become a drive-to favorite.
What is the main reason your members cite for joining?
We are all looking for more meaning in our lives. To be able to experience places you already love and find new adventure in destinations you’ve dreamed about all while saving money, having all the details vetted and planned, and helping your favorite charity at the same time is what dozens of members have told me is the “no brainer” reason they joined.
Are you noticing any new trends amongst members and their travel?
Back on the “meaning” theme. Our members want “experiential giving” opportunities on their trips. Be it a 3 hour commitment to make sandwiches and serve the homeless during a stay in our dramatic 2 bedroom penthouse in Chicago or a day of service while enjoying family and friends at a Peninsula Papagayo villa in Costa Rica, these are moments that people remember. Our members also appreciate no annual fees or dues. People simply want value- they don’t want “cheap” because we all know that you get what you pay for. That said, if someone were to take two trips in a year totaling 10-14 nights and they had to pay $4000 a year in annual fees just to be part of our club, their real cost is another $400 or so per night ($4000/10 nights). So you thought you were paying $800 a night for that 3 bedroom in Cabo but the reality is you paid $1200. That’s a value killer for people. We listened and eliminated the annual fee and so there is not only exclusive access, the security of knowing you and your family are going to be staying in a G2G vetted and outfitted residence served by trained concierge staff, and a strong giving back element, but also a measurable financial benefit as well. This is unique to the industry.
Of all the things that members can ask their travel planners to arrange, what are the most popular, can you give us some examples of the unusual ones?
The most consistent requests include having breakfast items, snack foods, and beverages acquired and in the residence upon arrival. We’ve already got a standard included set up goodies consisting of 2 frozen pizzas in every residence that are ready for the late day/night arrival whose children (or mom/dad) are starving, coffee/tea, condiments and the like. Of course airport transfers and rental cars are typical as are restaurant suggestions and reservations. We’ve vetted and selected private chefs and these are popular in places like Costa Rica, Cabo, and Anguilla, where we recommend keeping the swim suits on and enjoying the views through dinner. Ski rentals and outdoor activity planning are predominant in the mountain locations. Arranging childcare for families with younger children is always key. Boat excursions and charters in beach and sea destinations are a biggie. Stepping it up, we’ve recently brought in one of the top sushi chefs in Chicago for Valentine’s Day to create a meaningful experience for a couple right in our penthouse there as they looked out over most of the windy city. The Atlanta based couple told us it was the best meal experience they’d ever been part of. In NYC our Destination Manager created a Halloween week slate for a member that included VIP access into Heidi Klum’s private bash. And for this year’s Super Bowl, those staying in NYC were treated to a member party that placed them toe to toe with NFL stars Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts, Will Witherspoon, Malcolm Jenkins, Israel Idonije, Stevie Brown, Visanthe Shiancoe, and Alge Crumpler.
How does G2G Collection choose the charities that are supported?
We collaborate with IRS approved 501 (c)3’s who are either a cause related charity (disease/illness, poverty, water, children, education, etc) or a lower school (we have not yet chosen to collaborate with colleges nor universities) to “activate” their donors, boards, and constituents. G2G Collection serves as an alternative, new fundraising tool much like a cookie, candy, or apparel sale but with a much greater financial benefit to the cause. The charity partner then has access to a virtually unlimited pool of $7500 donations as board members and others join G2G and spread the word. Then, when each travels with G2G, we give 5% of the nightly rate back to the charity. If 5 board members and 5 donors join G2G in a particular year, $75000 goes to the cause. If each spends an average of $10,000 on vacations, G2G sends $5000 more that year to the charity. We help “fund a cause” on a perpetual basis and our members help their favorite causes, “one vacation at a time”. Our members nominate their favorite charities and a significant number of charities self nominate through our website. We can’t help all causes but our selection team does its part to help a variety of foundations and charities in all corners of the US.