While Airbnb launched its new Trips platform last month aimed at enabling customers to develop unique experiences, a new Asia-based members-only travel destination club, Afini, looks set to take the concept of tailored, one-of-a-kind experiences even further.
Launched on November 30, the new travel destination club concept is derived from existing models in the Americas, and combines a property-leasing platform with a subscription-based model. Members of Afini pay a one-time joining fee along with an annual renewal fee in return for discounted nightly rates and no limit on the number of days travelled. Members can then register another individual on their membership who can also make use of the service independent of the original member.
The aim, according to the company’s CEO John Blanco, is to offer a highly personalised service particularly aimed at affluent customers who like to travel in small groups.
“What we’re doing is taking all the consistency of product and service delivery you go to a luxury hotel for, but in beautiful private spaces that are only yours and highly personalised and tailored to you. Everything is serviced and managed by the club,” he says.
According to Blanco, traditional accommodation platforms can only go so far when it comes to offering a truly personalised, high-end and consistent service. He says: “When you become a member, you have a dedicated lifestyle consultant in Singapore who gets to know you in and out. They know you like Hibiki Japanese whisky, yoga every morning at 9am, are allergic to nuts, etc – and they build a very robust profile on you, tailoring an itinerary for you and your family wherever you go.”
Each location also has a destination manager who is resident in the destination in order to provide guests with authentic local experiences. In order to facilitate these relationships, Afini has also developed its own back-office tech platform that enables members to communicate with the destination managers and lifestyle consultants using their preferred communication platform, such as WhatsApp or WeChat, rather than through email or a dedicated club app.
“That’s another thing hotels have done thinking they’re getting into the tech scene, but it’s so cumbersome having to download a new app to communicate with them, so their adoption is very low,” said Blanco. “What we’re doing is simply leveraging other tech solutions into our own back end.”
Blanco adds that the club is aimed at affluent travellers who may have tried distribution platforms, which he says “can be hit or miss” when it comes to the quality of the stay from owner to owner.
While the club is currently aimed primarily at individual leisure travellers, Afini is looking into potentially launching a corporate membership next year. Meanwhile, a loyalty programme that allows members to rack up credits and redeem stays is being planned for a Q2 2017 launch.
Currently, the company has properties across the globe, with a focus on Asia-Pacific. Destinations include: Bali, Barcelona, Hong Kong, Lombok, London, Los Angeles, the Maldives, New York, Niseko, Phuket, Sri Lanka and Sydney.
The club launched in four membership markets – Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta – with plans to expand into Bangkok, Tokyo and Seoul in the near future and China, India and Australia also under consideration.
“What we found is that people in Asia travel 22 to 30 nights a year, with one trip typically being long haul to Europe or the US. The balance is regional – the greater Asia-Pacific area – so it fits very well with that demographic having most of our concentration of properties in Asia but also having those long-haul options.”