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American Express takes stake in luxury vacation club Inspirato

@denschaal

Mar 06, 2013 8:10 am

Skift Take

Inspirato’s rebranding and partnership with American Express puts it on the map. The companies still have to prove; however, that there is a large enough market for Inspirato’s luxury services.

— Dennis Schaal

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Inspirato

Inspirato has rebranded and given an equity stake to American Express. Inspirato


The U.S. economy may be plodding along, but the Dow Jones Industry Average hit a record high yesterday, and American Express has taken an equity stake in luxury vacation club Inspirato.

In fact, two-year-old and venture-backed Inspirato has rebranded to become Inspirato with American Express.

The economic recovery must be well under way.

Inspirato, which has an initiation fee of $17,500 to join and annual dues of $3,000, leases villas and other upscale properties in nearly 60 destinations on five continents for members who value its planning services and accommodations, and don’t mind dropping $10,000 or more for a one-week escape.

This isn’t the Groupon Getaways with Expedia crowd.

Ira Bahr, Inspirato’s chief marketing officer, says American Express has taken “a small equity stake” in the company, which had previously raised $65 million from KPCB, Institutional Venture Partners, First Round Capital, Access Venture Partners, DAG Ventures, Millennium Technology Value Partners, and CrunchFund.

American Express Enterprise Growth Group

Bahr declined to divulge further details about American Express’ investment, which grew out of the American Express Enterprise Growth Group, an initiative to find and fund digital growth opportunities outside American Express’ traditional card services.

“This partnership is an opportunity for us to introduce consumers to an innovative concept in luxury travel, offer American Express Cardmembers special benefits, and share in the future success of Inspirato,” says Eric Feldstein, executive vice president, Enterprise Growth, American Express.

Bahr says American Express became acquainted with Inspirato through one of its investors, and high-level talks about a partnership had been under way for about a year.

Building trust in an unknown brand

A key hurdle in expanding beyond its 3,000-member base is gaining trust when the Inspirato brand and some of the properties it leases are little-known, Bahr says.

“With American Express tied to the Inspirato trademark, we think the audience for our message and our services is enormous,” Bahr says.

American Express cardmembers can get $2,500 off the $17,500 Inspirato inititation fee, $400 off the $3,000 annual dues, and $2,500 in travel credits as a limited-time promotion and incentive to join, Bahr says.

Under the partnership, American Express will promote Inspirato to cardmembers through direct-mail, email and online promotions.

Bahr says American Express’ “keen understanding” of its cardmembers will make for effective promotions of Inspirato’s services.

While there are differences in focus, Inspirato with American Express competes with Portico Club by Exclusive Resorts, which is backed by Exclusive Resorts and Steve Case.

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