Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company Launches New Destination Club

Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company Launches New Destination Club

Vacation News » Vacation & Leisure Real Estate Edition | By Scott Kauffman | April 28, 2009 8:00 AM ET

(ORLANDO, FL) -- Twenty five years after setting a new timeshare standard by becoming the first branded hospitality company to enter the vacation ownership market, Marriott International Inc., is now about to redefine the vacation/destination club industry.

According to company sources, the Real Estate Channel has learned the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company LLC is scheduled to announce today the unveiling of a new Ritz-Carlton Destination Club - making Marriott the first branded hospitality company to enter this nascent and somewhat checkered form of vacation ownership.

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company announcement comes at a time when a number of vacation clubs have gone out of business as a result of the collapsing worldwide economies and real estate markets.

But the Ritz-Carlton, after 80 years of perfecting the upscale hotel experience at 70 hotels around the world, believes it has created a new Marriott mousetrap that will not only succeed, but address the growing and changing vacation tastes of its high-end clientele.

The newly launched Ritz-Carlton Destination Club is really just an evolution of the Ritz-Carlton Club that, for all intents and purposes, defined the high-end fractional ownership industry when it was started 10 years ago. Basically, the new Ritz-Carlton Destination Club gives people more vacation options in owning and enjoying various upscale Ritz-Carlton Club developments around the world.

So the new equity-based private membership program now offers two choices: Home Club Membership, which is identical to the former Ritz-Carlton Club fractional ownership program that provided titled ownership to a property members can use throughout the year, or a new deeded Portfolio Membership, which affords members the opportunity to experience a variety of premier destinations and accommodations.

"The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club provides the discerning few with a new level of privilege and freedom when they travel," said Peter J. Watzka, executive vice president and chief operating officer for The Ritz-Carlton Development Company, Inc. (an affiliate of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company). "Over the last decade of establishing a second-home alternative for our current Ritz-Carlton Club members, we developed intimate and rewarding, one-to-one relationships. With this commitment to deliver luxury vacation experiences, we evolved the brand to the new Ritz-Carlton Destination Club by blending the attributes of luxurious vacation homes with a heightened, flexibility while also maintaining the exclusivity our members have come to expect." 

For example, members with a Home Club preference enjoy up to 35 days of pre-reserved access at their specific club annually, and can also use a portion of their time at other locations on a reciprocal-use basis in accordance with reservation procedures.

Home Club prices range from the low $100,000s to the low $800,000s per deeded interest.

Conversely, Portfolio Memberships offer a beneficial interest in a trust where members can customize their vacations through a points-based currency.

This annual allotment of currency is used to reserve accommodations based on travel dates and size of residence, allowing the ultimate flexibility for the member who prefers a different experience each time they travel.

For example, one member may want a four-bedroom residence at the Ritz-Carlton's Abaco Club in the Bahamas for a family celebration, and use a one-bedroom residence in San Francisco later in the year for a romantic getaway. When choosing from the collection of residences, each is assigned a varying nightly point value.

An initial Portfolio Membership, which is priced from $120,000, comes with 5,000 club points, but additional interests can be purchased in 2,500 club point increments. The new Hotel Exchange Program also enables members who purchase a Portfolio Membership to utilize a portion of their club points at participating Ritz-Carlton hotels and resorts worldwide.

The private Ritz-Carlton Destination Club is comprised of 10 current and future locations, including Aspen Highlands, Colo., Jupiter, Fla., Kapalua Bay, Maui, and Kauai Lagoons, Kauai, North Lake Tahoe, Calif., and St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, to name a few.

The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club and Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company are part of publicly traded Marriott International (NYSE: MAR), a leading lodging company with more than 3,100 resort properties in the United States and 65 other countries and territories.

Marriott Vacation Club International, which started with 7,000 timeshare owners at the end of its first year in business in 1984, now boasts nearly 400,000 owners at more than 50 Marriott Vacation Club resorts throughout the U.S., Caribbean, Europe and Asia.

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