Although the brand is likely over-estimating the number of users who will come calling with their credit cards and enough cool cachet, it deserves credit for launching a travel product that it expects people to happily pay for.
There are plenty of travel services out there ready to share hotel discounts or give up all their expertise for free, but the people behind members-only startup Valet.com believe that it also has a compelling lifestyle to sell customers.
Launched last week by professional trend spotter Josh Spear, who had been dabbling with inspiration travel at FlyingStandby since 2008, Valet promises “Exclusive rates and benefits at luxury and boutique hotels in more than 45 cities around the world, plus perks on services, insider tips and more.” Valet’s few public pages promote its curators, a list of the cities where it has relationships with properties, and a description of features such as city guides to New York City and Tokyo, and that’s about it. To join, prospective members are asked for their name, credit card details, social media credentials, and a small amount of information about where and why they travel.
The members-only model in travel isn’t new, of course. Tablet Hotels has a popular free service that lets users book preferred properties but it also offers a Tablet Plus program at $195 that gives early access to flash sales, room upgrades, and dedicated customer service. Although it’s less hip than either Tablet or Valet, Andrew Harper‘s membership program starts at $195, too, and goes up to a $350 for varying levels of access to Harper expertise.
“We don’t take commissions and turn those around as savings to our members (if you get in),” says Spear in an email with Skift. “That means our rates are below the two sites you mentioned 100% of the time.”
Valet is closed to lurkers “due to sensitivity of curators’ picks and hotel partnerships,” Spears says, so it’s not possible to compare properties with the types users could find through a site like Tablet or consortiums like Small Luxury Hotels or curators like Mr. & Mrs. Smith. And you can’t quite see how the expert advice might stack up against other paid products like Fortnighter or Jetsetter’s Personal Travel Planning.
Cool Hunting readers (site founder Josh Rubin is also a curator at Valet) can use membership code CHVALET to jump to the front of the line, but they’ll still need to clear their social media credentials via LinkedIn and Twitter — and their credit card.