This article was written by Tamsin Smith and originally published in Jing Daily
For China’s ultra-rich, luxury concierge clubs offer access to experiences that money alone can’t buy.
From renting an entire island in Dubai for a secret getaway, to offering members the opportunity to meet the Pope, luxury lifestyle clubs are becoming increasingly popular with the nation’s wealthy adventure seekers.
Last year saw luxury concierge service Quintessentially close the Sydney Harbour Bridge to allow one member to propose to his fiancée.
Recently, a Chinese member spent 10 days in Lapland with a professional driver for a Lamborghini trip on ice.
The private club is on hand 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to assist its members with any- and all- lifestyle requests. According to the company’s website, “all you have to do is ask”.
Quintessentially was founded in London in 2000 and entered China’s market in 2008.
The club began by accepting only 50 members per city, but now serves more than 250,000 members worldwide.
According to a joint report by PwC and Swiss investment bank UBS, China now has more billionaires than the United States.
In October 2017, the study claimed the number of Chinese billionaires had increased by 25 per cent compared with the previous year, to 637.
By comparison, there are 537 and 342 billionaires in the US and Europe, respectively.
This rise of China’s superaffluent consumer has also seen a rise in the maturity of their spending habits.
Back in 2016, Vincent Lai, the managing director of Quintessentially for Greater China, believed the Chinese clientele to be less mature than their Western counterparts.
He told the South China Morning Post at the time: “Chinese clients are impatient and their whims are random and vague.”
However, as China’s ultra-rich gain a more established sense of their own wealth, Chinese tastes and luxury requests are evolving.
Imagine this … The #BMW of your dreams, delivered to you, for 3 days, with our compliments. Sounds pretty good right? Available in the Southern California, Southern Florida or Tri State areas, get in touch with your Lifestyle Manager to experience the #ultimatetestdrive...
A post shared by Quintessentially (@quintessentially) on Apr 26, 2018 at 3:48am PDT
Annastasia Seebohm, CEO of Quintessentially, spoke to Jing Daily at this month’s Women in Luxury conference in New York.
“I think the biggest way that requests from our Chinese members have changed over the past 10 years or so is that they’ve become meaningful,” she said.
“It’s now about a meaningful experience, a meaningful conversation – it’s educational.
“So even if it’s about culinary, what’s the educational experience around it?
“If it’s about luxury products and goods, what’s the educational experience around the craftsmanship?”
The cost of membership at Quintessentially ranges up to US$50,000 per person per year.
The average Elite member – who can enjoy concierge services worldwide out of the company’s 60 global offices – is worth an average of US$50 million.
“One of our big advantages is our geographical scope,” Seebohm said.
“Being in the industry for so many years has also allowed us to develop these really strong relationships with international brands so our clients are well looked after.”
Luxury concierge clubs thrive on their relationships with global luxury brands.
At Quintessentially, Louis Vuitton consistently comes out on top as the brand of choice for Chinese members.
The club has arranged exclusive Louis Vuitton experiences for a number of its Chinese clients. Seebohm said: “We cultivate partnerships with brands we know are interesting to our members. “There’s a benefit to them, they know that we’re looking after interesting types of people, and we know that they will look after our most valuable clients as well.”
Despite Chinese desire for luxury brands staying strong, Seebohm said it had seen some of its biggest growth among Chinese members in the categories of education and health & wellness. Compared with five years ago, education requests from Chinese members have soared by 44.7 per cent.
“We also have property specialists, and that’s a very popular service with our Chinese members,” she said.
“They often come hand in hand. Clients will say, ‘I want to educate my children overseas, I also want to purchase a property, I also want to keep a good balance of wellness and health’.”
Have you ever wanted to experience one of the oldest endurance motor races on earth? Le Mans, the iconic 24 hour race, has been held annually since 1923, and Aston Martin can take you straight to the heart of the action. Flying in from your château in the Loire Valley by helicopter to the racetrack, chauffeur driven Aston Martin buggies will whisk you around VIP Hospitality, the Garage, and the Pit Suite while you spend time among some of the most influential figures in the automotive world... #amartofliving
A post shared by Quintessentially (@quintessentially) on May 3, 2018 at 4:38am PDT
These specific requests lead to some of Quintessentially’s highest engagement rates by Chinese members, who are looking to luxury concierge clubs to help them with significant life choices.
“I think that’s because it’s just such a high level of service when you’re helping people with these big life moments,” Seebohm said.
“With education for example, you’re really delving into some quite personal decisions.”
John Paul, another leading player in China’s growing luxury concierge industry, last year helped one Shanghai client to rent an island in Dubai for a week-long getaway with friends.
“The Chinese market is growing fast and the clients are more and more receptive to premium concierge and unique services,” Fong Sit, John Paul’s managing director for China, told Jing Daily.
“As China’s high-net-worth individuals travel and learn more about other cultures, they are now looking for the same high level of services within China.”
The net worth of John Paul’s members ranges from US$30 million to US$260 million.
In 2009, the company was the first in the industry to launch a mobile app, which has proved a hit with its tech-savvy, mobile-first Chinese members.
“Chinese clients expect all replies to requests to happen within 24 to 48 hours, I think that’s the biggest difference compare to our European customers,” Sit said.
John Paul’s patented technology allows its network of partners to be available 24/7 online, on the phone, via email, and notably, through WeChat, the Chinese messaging app.
As an early adopter of technology in the concierge business, John Paul has quickly expanded across the Chinese market.
Last year, it organised a luxury wedding in the South Pole for one of its Chinese members.
The company has noticed a significant change in the attitudes of its Chinese members over the past five years, and is now receiving more and more requests for travel both in and outside China.
“Chinese customers are becoming more rational in terms of luxury purchasing” Sit said.
“They now want experiences over luxury goods, and are curious and willing to learn from other countries and cultures.
“For example, a Chinese customer travelling overseas two or three years ago may have asked us to make reservations for every lunch and dinner at exclusively Chinese and Asian restaurants.
“Today, this same customer will ask us to book a wide selection of Michelin-star restaurants, with maybe just one Chinese dinner during their entire trip.”
In May, John Paul announced its partnership with Taikang Insurance Group in Beijing.
The company operates through three main businesses: insurance, asset management and health and elderly care, with more than 1,080 billion yuan (US$172 billion) of assets under management.
John Paul will now be handing the group’s loyalty programme and concierge services.
“The partnership with Taikang is a very important milestone for John Paul in the Chinese market,” Sit said.
“It means that a 100-per-cent-Chinese, top-500 company recognises our quality of service.”
John Paul also alluded to future partnerships with large Chinese companies, suggesting some “very good news” would be announced in the coming weeks.
“Our services in China are growing faster than anywhere else – we’re expecting big things,” the company said.