Resort ‘vacation rental’ market growing |

Resort ‘vacation rental’ market growing

Special to the Daily

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – When most of us travel, we stay in hotels. But there’s a growing group of people who prefer to stay in homes when they get away.

The “vacation rental” market is growing and appears to have the potential to become a big thing in the travel business. Vail-based Rocky Mountain Vacation Rentals – which provides access to condos and single-family homes, as well as more traditional lodging – has opened two new offices this ski season. And Inspirato, a relatively new company based in Denver, has combined the vacation rentals with a travel club.

There are plenty of differences between the two companies, but the main one is that Inspirato controls specific units in several cities and resorts around the world for club members to use. Members pay a one-time fee of $15,000, as well as annual dues of $2,500. Members can then rent luxury homes at relatively low nightly rates.

For instance, Inspirato has leased a 10,000-square-foot home in Arrowhead. Members can use that home for between $600 and $1,700 per night, depending on the season. But company founder Brent Handler said the home would have a peak-season rate of $5,000 per night or more if it was on the open market.

Handler said Inspirato is different from “fractional ownership” clubs in that the company doesn’t own the homes in its inventory. Instead, it leases those units and then furnishes and outfits them. Renting homes is a money-saver for both the company and its clients. For instance, a fractional club for Vail condos unveiled in 2008 – but never completed due to the global financial collapse that year – had a buy-in price of $1.9 million per member.

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Inspirato clients can also travel as much as they want – homes are booked on a first-come, first-served basis. Company spokeswoman Katherine Strauss said one retired couple has taken eight trips in just six months.

While Inspirato is aimed at a high-end clientele – the top 10 percent of the travel market, Handler said – vacation rentals make sense for a number of people.

Douglas Quinby is the senior director of research at PhoCusWright, a Connecticut-based travel-consulting group. He said groups, medium- to large-sized families and those expecting to stay in a spot a week or more often find it more cost-effective and convenient to rent vacation homes instead of hotel rooms.

Tommy Hoffman, founder of Rocky Mountain Vacation Rentals, agreed.

“We can put people in a house for the same price as a hotel,” Hoffman said. “And in the market we’re in, you can have room for a lot of people to do different things.”

For instance, Hoffman said, Mom and Dad can watch a movie in the living room, while the kids have their own bedrooms for playing video games or chatting with friends. That’s a tough trick in a normal hotel room, he said.

Quinby said groups and families staying for several days in one place often want their own kitchens, laundry rooms and other comforts of home.

Vacation rentals also can put people to work in resort markets.

Rocky Mountain Vacation Rentals has offices in Vail, Aspen, Steamboat Springs and other markets, and Handler said Inspirato is now hiring full-time concierges for its Vail Valley properties. That number will be about one person for every three units.

Beyond that, Handler said, his company also has to contract work out to the people and companies who keep vacation homes in tip-top shape.

“Our business is growing,” Handler said. “We have a lot of clear sailing ahead.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or

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