James Henderson

James Henderson

CEO | Exclusive Resorts

Industry
Travel

Location
Tiburon, Calif.


James Henderson: The CEO of the Leading Destination Club on the Importance of Travel

James Henderson’s knowledge of the luxury travel industry matches his enthusiastic passion for it. He is a proven leader, previously serving as President of Commercial Operations at XOJET and VistaJet, and President and CEO of the Americas for the Ferretti Group. He has a strong background in general management, commercial operations and business transformation. Having lived in eight different countries, he has extensive international experience in the U.S., Latin America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific. 
Exclusive Resorts is the destination club founded in 2002 that allows its members access to more than 400 homes across 70 destinations. Since joining Exclusive Resorts in 2019, Henderson’s vision has been to further cement Exclusive Resorts’ position as the world’s best vacation club by way of portfolio growth, strategic partnerships, and an elevated member experience.

What are your biggest business concerns surrounding COVID-19? I’m most concerned about the financial and health effects it’s having on our people: members, employees, and in-destination staff. I’m concerned about their businesses, their families, their friends. While I’m hopeful most of us are insulated from tragedy, I know some will be deeply affected by this, and my heart breaks for them.

Many of our Exclusive Resorts residences and resort partners have had to temporarily close their doors. Borders are closed. All of this prevents our members from traveling, which is the lynchpin in our ecosystem.

We want to help members find ways to continue traveling with us this year and help them make up for lost travel in the coming years. Our team remains excited about travel. Talking about vacations and exploring new destinations provides a light in our day. It gives us hope and bring a smile to our faces.

What is your current business strategy for dealing with the situation? 

To ensure the long-term health and viability of the club for members and our employees, we have taken measures to contain costs and reduce expenditures across the organization. This includes eliminating nonessential business travel, reducing marketing spend, pausing contracts with outside vendors, and temporarily reducing resort operations costs due to the travel restrictions set forth in many club destinations.

The Exclusive Resorts Property in Real Del Mar.

While our primary concern is always for our members, our loyal and dedicated employees are the heart of Exclusive Resorts. We are fully committed to ensuring that the hundreds of club employees at our headquarters and across our resort destinations are well taken care of. In an effort to avoid layoffs, we have instead reduced our entire corporate team to a four-day work week to achieve overhead savings. For our field teams, rather than putting our employees on unpaid leave while our destinations are closed, we continue to employ every one of our concierges, albeit at a reduced salary level, but with full benefits. We have also made the difficult decision to temporarily furlough a small number of employees at our corporate office for a 60-day period. Given the unprecedented health crisis, it was imperative to us that all our employees—including those on furlough—continue to have full healthcare benefits and coverage.

At the same time, this is a unique opportunity to connect with our community of members. We are finding new ways to reach out to members and engage with them. We recently launched a program called Exclusive Connections, which is a series of webinars with content that specifically resonates and relates to our members. Topics include finding meaning and managing your mindset in times of uncertainty, health and wellness, and lifestyle topics including wine, cooking, and art.

We are also preparing for a resurgence in travel. Our members will be anxious to spend time with friends and family away from their homes—they will be ready to explore. We are using this time to prepare our residences, so they are ready when members start traveling again.

We are also preparing for a resurgence in travel. Our members will be anxious to spend time with friends and family away from their homes—they will be ready to explore. We are using this time to prepare our residences, so they are ready when members start traveling again. I also believe once we are through this crisis, people will travel differently. They will want to travel with private communities and smaller companies who can get to know them and their families personally. Belonging to a smaller network offers reassurance and peace-of-mind that they will be known, supported, and take care of them. This is something clubs like Exclusive Resorts can offer.

How do you think things will look in your industry a year from now? 

I think the desire for travel will emerge with a force. COVID-19 has brought family, friends and loved ones together in a deeper way. We expect this new bonding to continue. People will have an emotional need to travel and stay together. We are preparing for an influx of group travel at all our residences and villas. Exclusive Resorts Ambassadors are already planning new group bonding activities and adventures. People will be hungry for human connection and fun.

People will also want to go to destinations where they feel safe and stay with companies they trust. Build that trust now by looking after members/travelers/clients. It’s about all of us as humans, not about the bottom line. We are in this together—and we need to prove it with our actions.

The destination club’s property on Peninsula Papagayo in Costa Rica.

What have you learned from other difficult times in the past? 

I think we should remember we will get through this. We have to stay very focused on that and remain calm and resilient. It is important not to get too distracted by the media. I also believe we need to be particularly compassionate towards one another and pay it forward as much we can.

Making mistakes is inevitable, but these mistakes can be beneficial because they mean we are trying new ideas and approaches. I prefer to think of mistakes as growth opportunities, and as long as I have remained true to my values, acted with integrity, and had best intentions at heart, I don’t worry about failing every once in a while

Safe–and entertained–at Home: What business leaders are doing with their downtime

 

Morning routine?
I usually commute weekly to our office in Denver, out very early on Mondays and back on Fridays, but now I am working from my home in Tiburon, which is in Marin County in Northern California. Water is my sanctuary and I find being close to the bay to be incredibly grounding. I also get the occasional deer from the nature reserve that passes by my home office window. My day starts at 6am when I get up, walk the dog, get showered make an espresso and then I am at my desk in my home office by 6.30am. After getting through the overnight emails, I am usually in video-conferencing meetings from 7am that run through most of the day.

Currently binging?
I don’t really watch much TV.

Currently reading?
Recently, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on meaning and legacy; I am currently reading The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer. I also recently read How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen. I think these are great books to read at a time like this as they encourage you to reflect on what is really important and puts things in perspective.

What are you doing to spend quality time with those you’re sheltering with?
We have been doing a lot of cooking and taking daily walks with the dog in the evening along the water.

What are you doing to stay healthy mentally and physically?
Ironically, not traveling over the last few weeks has enabled me to recalibrate around my health and wellbeing. I challenged myself to ride either my Peloton bike or road bike at least four to five times a week, and I have been connecting with friends on Strava. Cooking at home has made me more mindful about food choices and enabled me to reset my diet. I am also making an effort to reach out and reconnect with friends who I have not talked to in a while to let them know I am thinking about them.

Where are you dreaming of visiting once things are back to normal?
I joined Exclusive Resorts in October last year and have only had a chance to visit eight of our destinations, so I can’t wait to get out and visit more locations in our portfolio. With over 400 homes across 70 destinations, there are so many choices and I have a lot of catching up to do.


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