From private-jet clubs to theme park memberships, subscription services are increasingly the way to go when it comes to vacations and other leisure trips.
For example, Internet sites Tripadvisor and Scott’s Cheap Flights — both free to users in their basic versions — this year have each rolled out premium membership plans that offer those willing to pay an annual fee extra perks and access to special pricing.
Now, Travel + Leisure Co., which owns about 20 resort, travel club and lifestyle travel brands, is staking its claim to the space with its new online Travel + Leisure Club, tied to editorial content published in its signature Travel + Leisure magazine.
While all readers will now be able to book trips to destinations featured in the publication via the new, free Travel + Leisure GO platform, club members will get premium perks like exclusive itineraries and preferred pricing and benefits, according to Travel +Leisure Group President Noah Brodsky.
“When we acquired the Travel + Leisure brand back in January, one of the things we heard many times from editors, subscribers and advertisers was that with all this incredible content, it’s crazy there’s no ‘book now’ button — so that’s what we’ve done,” he said, referring to the acquisition of the brand by the former Wyndham Destinations, now Travel + Leisure Co., from Meredith Corp. in a $100 million deal.
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“And we’ve launched a subscription travel club, which gets you access to some incredible Travel + Leisure content, exclusive itineraries and editor-inspired trips, along with really good preferred pricing and benefits,” Brodsky added.
Subscription services are a trend across all industries, thanks to the content and value the model offers consumers, he said.
“That’s what we’re betting on here: That Travel + Leisure is a brand that can be the strongest player in the travel subscription space,” Brodsky said.
Membership costs $9.95 per month at a special introductory rate, after a free 30-day trial period. That fee will eventually rise to $19.95 but at press time there was no timeframe for a price hike, according to a spokesperson.
Subscribers get an average 25% off retail rates at hotels and resorts, and members-only pricing on car rentals, activities and more, according to the company. Inventory consists of more than 600,000 properties, over 345,000 activity options, and products and services from all major car rental companies and dozens of major air carriers.
Members also get a subscription to Travel + Leisure magazine and concierge services for help with everything from home renovations inspired by the publication’s photo spreads to securing show tickets and restaurant reservations. The dining network includes more than 1,500 restaurants in 30 countries and 120 cities, where members can get perks like complimentary glasses of wine or extra courses.
Travel + Leisure GO, meanwhile, is “an open online retail travel site that connects inspirational travel stories, destination guides and curated itineraries with planning and booking tools, whether for everyday adventures or a once-in-a-lifetime getaway,” according to the company.
In recognition of Travel + Leisure magazine’s 2021 World’s Best Awards, club members and visitors to Travel + Leisure GO can book curated itineraries featuring top destinations, hotels and activities from this year’s winners. The customizable travel experiences start at $1,650 for a four-day stay with accommodations, activities and ground transportation for two travelers.
Awards and agents tie-ins
For example, an immersive getaway in Charleston, South Carolina — voted the No. 1 city in the U.S. this year — includes accommodations at the boutique Vendue Hotel, a sail in the harbor and a tour of the city’s alleys and hidden passageways. A stay at the Viceroy Chicago, named top city hotel in the continental U.S., comes with an “exclusive VIP” tour of the Art Institute of Chicago and a “private early access experience” at the Field Museum of Natural History.
Farther afield, Travel + Leisure also is offering itineraries at top Mexican resort the Viceroy Riviera Maya in Playa del Carmen, and in Florence, Italy, named one of the world’s top 10 cities. As the pandemic, hopefully, subsides, more overseas itineraries will be added, said Brodsky.
“In the coming months, we’re going to be adding more global destinations, but we have added more within the U.S. because we know consumers feel more comfortable traveling within the country,” he said.
“These new curated itineraries are a tangible way to live the ‘World’s Best’ experience, while connecting us with the world and feeding our fundamental human desire to make authentic and exceptional travel experiences accessible to everyone,” said Jacqui Gifford, editor in chief of Travel + Leisure, in a statement.
“One of the things Travel + Leisure has done so well for 50 years is write such an incredibly inspiring breadth of content, and even going on a family trip can be inspirational,” he said. “With any type of trip and anywhere you’re willing to go, there’s something amazing to do, and we’ve got all of them listed all in one place — and club members are going to get really incredible savings and extra concierge services.”
For now, both the club and GO are available online — at clubtravelandleisure.com and go.travelandleisure.com, respectively — but mobile apps are in the works, said Brodsky. Club members can also book itineraries by phone with the concierge service.
Also planned is a tie-in to Travel + Leisure’s advisory board of “A-List” travel agents, said Brodsky, even as the company moves into the travel-planning and -booking space itself. (The publication is noted for compiling an annual list of travel advisors specializing in various destinations and activities worldwide.)
“I think it points to the fact that people take all different kinds of trips,” he said, noting that vacation planning runs the gamut from simple D.I.Y. web searches for the best pricing all the way through putting together an expensive trip of a lifetime, “where you want, need or can afford spectacular advice from one of the best travel advisors in the world.”
“And that’s where the A-List comes in,” Brodsky added, noting club concierges will offer referrals to specialist agents. “We absolutely see that as a continuum that the Travel + Leisure brand will support.”
What won’t be getting preferential placement is Travel + Leisure Co.’s own portfolio of legacy Wyndham Destinations vacation properties. “Travel + Leisure Group is acting entirely independently from those and working with the Travel + Leisure editorial content,” said Brodsky.
While his team does plan itinerary bookings in line with the magazine’s editorial calendar, “we get no influence whatsoever on picking the places they’re writing about or picking any of the hotels, or cruises or experiences,” Brodsky noted. “There’s no crossover whatsoever within the site.
“We already are the top player in the parts of the leisure travel industry we were already in,” he added. “This is really about extending our mission of putting the world on vacation, with different customers in a different segment within leisure travel.”