In 1974, industry pioneers Jon and Christel DeHaan broke new ground when they developed a vacation-rental network that allowed property owners to exchange stays at each other’s resorts.
The DeHaan’s company, RCI/ARN, has since become one of the industry’s leading private channels. Today, there are more than 4,200 RCI/ARN-affiliated resorts spread across 110 countries. The network has more than 750,000 accommodations available at any given time, and perhaps most impressively, RCI/ARN’s community has ballooned to 3.8 million subscribing members worldwide.
Even though their names might not be as recognizable as mainstream industry juggernauts like Airbnb and Expedia, private-channel communities like RCI/ARN are thriving—not to mention, many of them have been around a whole lot longer than today’s leading online travel sites. In fact, they were around well before “online travel sites” were even a thing!
Interval International, for instance, is celebrating its 45th anniversary in 2021. Like RCI/ARN, the Interval network boasts thousands of resorts across 80 countries. Another private channel, Diamond Resorts, offers its network a similarly robust selection of vacation opportunities in addition to exclusively curated entertainment experiences. Other private-channel vacation communities include Wyndham Extra Holidays, Hilton Grand Vacation, AARP, and USAA, just to name a few.
Despite decades of growth and success, and despite their pre-dating even the Internet, private vacation networks—or “Private Channels”—remain something of a mystery to large sections of the vacation-rental industry. Many property managers, for example, don’t fully recognize that Private Channels can be a major boon to their business. Read on to learn more about Private Channels, and feel free to contact us if you have any further questions.
Private Channels are large membership-driven companies that offer travel services to their base members. Unlike traditional channels (such as Airbnb, Booking.com, and Vrbo), Private Channels are not open to the public and are usually only accessible via log-in.
When a traveler becomes a member of a Private Channel, they not only gain access to that channel’s network of vacation properties around the world, but also to its core programs. Many Private Channels, such as RCI/ARN, offer flexible points-based programs that allow members to collect, trade, and even borrow points to secure the trips they want. Different membership tiers also open up access to loads of other perks, upgrades, and benefits.
Beyond those base programs, Private Channels generally try to simplify the travel experience for their subscribing members by bundling airfare, transportation, and other conveniences into easy-to-purchase packages.
Private Channel travelers are, by industry standards, extremely qualified. They not only pay for their travel memberships, but they’re motivated to use them: they invest in multiple trips every year, making them a loyal and active group of potential guests to property managers the world over. A few more qualities that apply to Private Channel travelers include:
Well, that’s the catch. There are millions of Private Channel travelers, but since they do their shopping and booking on private networks, it is super difficult for property managers to reach them or place any sort of marketing collateral in front of them.
The most reliable access point—and often, the only access point—to these travelers is through a distribution platform like VacayHome Connect. By using a distribution platform, property managers gain a direct route to millions of travelers they literally can’t reach anywhere else. As a bonus, property managers who connect to private-channel travelers this way never have to worry about their listings competing against each other.