As a recent article published by Wall Street Journal proclaims, “some of the world’s most luxurious resorts are borrowing a pitch from the Costco aisle: They are offering bite-size samples to shoppers” through the use of tents, cabanas and cabins that provide consumers with a glimpse into their would-be futures. The approach is rooted in the belief that experiences are a powerful sales tool, as visits are meticulously planned, typically ranging from one to four nights, and provide a range of experiences, “with staff on hand to serve meals” or travel advisors “to arrange a day of skeet-shooting, mountain biking or shark-watching.”
Developers of the Four Seasons Caye Chapel Resort and Residences in Belize constructed four high-end beach tents where they are courting potential buyers with mini-getaways and immersive experiences. Sara Cady, a prospective buyer, put down a refundable $10,000 deposit last June and has since visited the future-resort a handful of times with her husband.
“I love going down there and staying in the tents—they have every luxury: air-conditioning, a teak-floor shower with all these beautiful lotions, an espresso maker,” Cady tells WSJ. “We did everything from temple-ruin tours to scuba diving, to fishing, to sunset cruises, to jet skiing.” Cady says she and her husband were only responsible for covering their own travel costs to reach Belize, but that the developers paid for nearly everything else, which included “transport to the island, cocktails and meals, massages, snorkeling, paddleboarding and boat excursions.”
Mountainside at Northstar, a forthcoming resort community in Truckee, California, is taking a similar approach, offering qualified buyers a complimentary weekend stay in one of their cabins so long as they commit to a community tour and pay a small cleaning fee.
Not every luxury resort builder is rolling out the free red carpet, however, particularly when they already have a full suite of amenities to provide guests. WSJ points to Whitetail Club, a private club and community in McCall, Idaho, which “charges $295 in high season for a night in one of its five Discovery Cottages: 750-square-foot homes with pitched roofs, white oak floors and fieldstone fireplaces that are reserved for owners and prospective buyers.” Each cottage boasts the same finishes and exterior of the homes, currently under construction across the street, which are priced from the mid-$700,000s to $950,000.
The power of an experience is clearly an allure to buyers, whether they’re tasting food in the sample aisles of Costco or putting their toes in the sandy beaches of Belize.