Ever since Facebook made MySpace look like Friendster, fans of social networking have been looking for the Hot New Thing in Web 2.0 sites. Club 5 Thousand might just be it, and could be a good way for travel agents to connect with some of the hippest and savviest travelers online.
“My experience with numerous online social communities I belong to, including aSmallWorld.com, made me realize that there is a niche for highly exclusive networks that remain small and qualitative while at the same time offering more to its members than simple networking,” says Max Ryerson, CEO of Club 5 Thousand. “In the case of Club 5 Thousand, this particular plus is a members’ rewards program in which every club member is included in a quarterly draw with the opportunity of winning high-value luxury goods and services. Through this program, the Club gives back to its members the majority of the membership dues. With a limited number of members, this rewards program becomes a very fun, plausible and attractive incentive for members.”
That “limited number” gives the network its name: only 5,000 members can belong to the club at any one time. Membership costs 1,000 euros per year, ensuring that only people with a truly disposable income will be able to exchange tips and ideas. This exclusivity “instills a sense of privacy and security of one's identity,” says Ryerson. “This is very important to some of our members who are extremely wealthy individuals.” In order to select its members, the site has an anonymous committee that reviews all applications. “They remain anonymous in order to retain an unbiased approach to selecting members and assuring quality,” Ryerson explains.
The website went live on April 16, and already has 120 members. “As the word spreads, and in combination with our marketing campaign, we anticipate a snowball effect and believe we will reach the 5,000th member by early 2009, possibly sooner,” Ryerson says. “Those who do become members before the club is filled still benefit from all the club’s features: an online private networking area, video conferencing chat, travel tips and monthly interactive world events calendar under our concierge area, offline benefits through our partnerships and more features on a regular basis.” Once the club has reached capacity, all members will be entered into four random drawings per year for such rewards as a Bentley convertible, a five-carat diamond solitaire ring, an original Renoir painting or a private jet pass. Best of all, because of duplicate prizes, the odds of winning range from one in 1,000 to 2,500.
Club 5 Thousand could be a profitable stomping ground for travel agents seeking new clients, and new ways to market their specialties. “Our members are generally affluent individuals who travel regularly, some constantly,” Ryerson says. “Like for most high-end services or products, our members are an ideal demographic target, especially for the travel industry. These are people who are always on the lookout for the latest travel solution, destination, city tip, hotel, restaurant or bar. Club 5 Thousand members have the means to test and desire to be the first to discover new places. Travel discounts, upgrades, complimentary gifts, personal touches or cost-effective solutions are always welcome as they search to efficiently plan their trips and make these more comfortable and/or productive.”
On the website, Ryerson continues, members will be able to “exchange tips and tricks for finding the best deals, hottest destinations, recommending agents, hotels, restaurants and more. This is done in three ways: one is through the Club’s Forum, which is divided into different discussion groups, including travel. The second is through our concierge area that has a dedicated travel tips area where members can find useful information when planning their next holiday or business travel—here, they can also suggest tips and make recommendations through a feedback form integrated on the page. And the third is through the club’s search engine.”
To pitch their services to these potential new clients, however, agents would need to apply for membership along with everyone else. “Assuming their application for membership is accepted,” Ryerson says, “travel agents could create an elaborate profile, link to people, blog/chat/discuss their services—this personal interaction will go a long way towards effectively reaching members.” But, he cautions, like other members “they will need to show that they can offer something more, something special to the Club in order to persuade the selection committee.”