For many, the idea of doing a home exchange is enticing: The thrill of a new destination, calling an inspired new space home away from home, living like a local for a little while. But what happens if you have a sprawling estate on the ocean to offer yet can’t find a property swap that comes close to the size and luxury of your own?
Enter: HomeExchange Collection, a division of Paris-based HomeExchange, a 30-year-old home-swapping company with over 100,000 residences across 133 countries and teams in Zagreb, Croatia, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. The new division launched last year and focuses solely on luxury property trades.
“Some of our members were over flooded with requests from people who wanted to exchange homes, yet their houses just weren’t as nice,” the company’s co-founder Emmanuel Arnaud says. “That’s why we decided to launch HomeExchange Collection, to better cater to the needs of clients with super-luxurious homes. It’s a space where they can meet other like-minded travellers who want to exchange their little piece of paradise they’ve built all around the world,” Arnaud says.
HomeExchange Collection is an uber-exclusive community of home (and yacht and farm and castle) owners. And the criteria for membership is stringent. Homes are required to be valued at US$1.5 million or more, though US$2 million to US$10 million is typical.
“Location is a big part of it as well as amenities,” Arnaud says. “For example, if your house doesn’t have a pool in a prime sunny location, it’s going to be harder to make the cut.”
The houses themselves are anything but ordinary. Many come with five-star amenities such as boats, tennis courts, gyms, notable artworks, pools, daily housekeeping, and private chefs. Some of the most luxurious offerings include a 6,700-square-foot mansion in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with a full-time gardener, chef, maid, and part-time massage therapist; a penthouse in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighbourhood with a 750-square-foot terrace; a coffee farm in Sao Paulo, Brazil; and a hillside villa in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, with a60-foot solar-heated lap pool and hot tub on the terrace.
Exchanges needn’t be reciprocal or immediate, either. If a member lends their home without reciprocity, they get GuestPoints to bank for a stay somewhere else at another time.
Members of the HomeExchange Collection can lend their homes to each other for a weekend, week, or month—and all include the benefit of their host’s insider intel. Other perks include a 100% flexible cancellation policy for guests, up to US$2 million in property damage protection, and access to the member service team 24/7.
If your home is selected, an annual membership to HomeExchange Collection costs US$1,000, which gives members the opportunity for unlimited exchanges during the calendar year.
With over 4,000 luxury homes in over 70 countries across the globe, from France and Italy to Thailand, Australia, and the U.A.E., even the most affluent are reconsidering the way they vacation. “Covid has invited everyone to rethink being in shared, public spaces, and instead having a whole place to themselves,” Arnaud says.
It’s a shift happening, in part, Arnaud says, because of growing environmental awareness.
“People are rethinking their relationship to consumption,” he says. “The idea that you have this very, very nice home sitting idle while you’re paying to be at a hotel sounds a bit absurd. Why not use these homes which would otherwise be empty?”
WHAT’S THE GOOD?
As a certified B Corp, HomeExchange Collection meets high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability—and it’s the definition of responsible tourism. By nature, the concept of home exchanging is a more sustainable way to travel. By using pre-existing accommodations and encouraging people to live like locals, the local ecosystem remains undisturbed.
“We think our approach makes better use of the existing infrastructure, the existing homes, rather than building new homes and hotels,” Arnaud says.
The company takes its commitment to the environment one step further by calculating its carbon footprint every year, trying to reduce it, and contributing to global carbon neutrality by investing in social and environmental projects.
Meanwhile, members, through HomeExchange’s Solidarity group, can open their homes to relief workers or affected members in instances such as pandemics, fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, or war.
“It started with Covid when we realized we had a lot of homes available and a lot of people who wanted to help. We launched the Solidarity program to help frontline workers in hospitals to be able to have a place where they could stay without having to commute back and forth,” Arnaud says. The program was then expanded to house Ukrainian refugees.
Aside from continuing to grow membership and properties worldwide, Arnaud’s mission is for everyone to have the opportunity to go on vacation. The company has already partnered with an organisation in France, Le Secours Catholique, which helps low-income families travel.
“We want to be able to help people go on a vacation, no matter who they are, and we are looking for the right kind of partners and the right kind of ways to put that into place on a wider scale,” Arnaud says.
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’
Booming demand for wellness tourism shows no slowing, with travel related to health and well-being projected to have reached $1 trillion last year and to hit $1.3 trillion by 2025, according to the Global Wellness Institute, a nonprofit based in Miami.
Curated wellness travel programs are especially sought-after, specifically holistic treatments focused on longevity. Affluent travellers not only are making time to hit the gym while gallivanting across the globe, they’re also seeking destinations that specifically cater to their wellness goals, including treatments aimed at living longer.
“I believe Covid did put a spotlight on self-care and well-being,” says Penny Kriel, corporate director of spa and wellness at Salamander Collection, a group of luxury properties in places like Washington, D.C., and Charleston, South Carolina. But Kriel says today’s spas are more holistic, encouraging folks to understand the wellness concept and incorporate it into their lifestyle more frequently.
“With the evolution of treatment products and technology, spas have been able to enhance their offerings and appeal to more travellers,” Kriel says.
While some growth is connected to the variety of treatments available, results and the digital world are also contributing to the wellness boom.
“The efficacy and benefits of these treatments continue to drive bookings and interest, especially with the support of social media, influencers, and celebrity endorsements,” Kriel says.
While genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices such as regular exercise, a diet free of processed foods, sufficient sleep, and human connection play essential roles in living well and longer, experts believe in holistic therapies to help manage stress, boost immunity, and ultimately influence length and quality of life.
Anti Ageing and Beyond
“For years, people have been coming to spas, booking treatments, and gaining advice on how to turn the clock back with anti ageing and corrective skin treatments,” Kriel says. However, today’s treatments are far more innovative.
On Marinella Beach in Porto Rotondo, on the Italian island of Sardinia, guests at the five-star Abi d’Oru Hotel & Spa can experience the resort’s one-of-a-kind “longevity treatment,” a unique antiaging facial using one of the island’s native grapes: Cannonau. The world’s first declared “Blue Zone”—one of five designated areas where people live longer than average, some into their 100s—Sardinia produces this robust red wine varietal, the most widely planted on the island.
Known as Garnacha in Spain and Grenache in France, Cannonau supposedly contains two to three times more antioxidants than other red-wine grapes. By incorporating Cannonau, Abi Spa says its unique 50-minute longevity session increases collagen production for firmer, younger-looking skin.
Maintaining a youthful appearance is just one facet of longevity treatments, which range from stress-reduction sessions like massage to nutritional support and sleep programs, Kriel says. Some retreats also offer medical services such as IV infusions and joint injections.
Keeping with the trend, Kriel is expanding Salamander Collection’s existing spa services, such as detox wraps and lymphatic drainage, to include dedicated “Wellness Rooms,” new vegan and vegetarian menu items, and well-being workshops. “Sleep, nutrition, and mindfulness will be a big focus for integration in 2024,” she says.
Skyler Stillings, an exercise physiologist at Sensei Lanai, a Four Seasons Resort—an adults-only wellness centre in Lanai, Hawaii—says guests were drawn to the social aspect when the spa opened in November 2021.
“We saw a huge need for human connection,” she recalls. But over the past few years, what’s paramount has shifted. “Longevity is trending much more right now.”
Billionaire co-founder of tech company Oracle Larry Ellison and physician and scientist Dr. David Angus co-founded Sensei. After the death of a mutual close friend, the duo teamed up to create longevity-based wellness retreats to nurture preventative care and a healthy lifestyle. In addition to the Lanai location, the brand established Sensei Porcupine Creek in Greater Palm Springs, California, in November 2022.
Sensei has a data-driven approach. The team performs a series of assessments to obtain a clearer picture of a guest’s health, making wellness recommendations based on the findings. While Sensei analyses that data to curate a personalised plan, Stillings says it’s up to the guests which path they choose.
Sensei’s core three-day retreat is a “Guided Wellness Experience.” For spa treatments, each guest checks into their own “Spa Hale,” a private 1,000-square-foot bungalow furnished with an infrared sauna, a steam shower, a soaking tub, and plunge pools. The latest therapies include Sarga Bodywalking—a barefoot myofascial release massage, and “Four Hands in Harmony,” a massage with two therapists working in tandem. Sensei Guides provide take-home plans so guests can continue their wellness journeys after the spa.
Sanctuaries for Longevity
Headquartered in Switzerland with hotels and on-site spas across the globe, Aman Resorts features an integrative approach, combining traditional remedies with modern medicine’s advanced technologies. Tucked behind the doors of the storied Crown Building in Midtown Manhattan, Banya Spa House at Aman New York—the brand’s flagship spa in the Western Hemisphere—is a 25,000-square-foot, three-floor urban oasis.
Yuki Kiyono, global head of health and wellness development at Aman, says the centre provides access to holistic and cutting-edge treatments benefiting physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being. Aman’s customisable “Immersion Programs” consist of a three- or five-day immersion. “The programs encompass treatments and experiences that touch every significant aspect to create a path for longevity, from meditation and mindfulness to nutrition and movement,” Kiyono explains.
The spa’s “Tei-An Wellness Solution” features 90- to 150-minute sessions using massage, cryotherapy, and Vitamin IV infusions. Acupuncture is also on offer.
“With its rich history of Chinese Medicine, modern research, and the introduction of sophisticated electro-acupuncture medicine, acupuncture has been proven to assist with problems and increase performance,” Kiyono says.
Resetting the Mind and Body
Beyond longevity, “healthspan”—the number of years a person can live in good health free of chronic disease—is the cornerstone of Mountain Trek Health Reset Retreat’s program in British Columbia, Canada.
Kirk Shave, president and program director, and his team employ a holistic approach, using lifestyles in long-living Blue Zones as a point of reference.
“We improve our daily lifestyle habits, so we live vitally as long as we’re meant to live,” Shave says of the retreat. He built the program from an anthropological stance, referencing humans as farmers, hunters, and gatherers based on their eating and sleeping patterns. Food includes vegetable-centric meals sans alcohol, sugar, bread, or dairy.
Guests wake at dawn each day and have access to sunrise yoga, several hours of “flow” or slow hiking, spa treatments, forest bathing, calming crystal singing-bowl and sound therapy sessions, and classes on stress reduction—one of Mountain Trek’s primary goals. The program motivates people to spend much of their time in nature because it’s been proven to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone that can lead to inflammation and disease when elevated for extended periods.
While most guests aren’t aware of how immersive Mountain Trek’s program is when they arrive, they leave the resort revitalized after the structured, one-week program. Set in the Kootenays overlooking its eponymous river, the resort and adventure promise what Shave calls a “visceral experience of transformation.”
“They’re interested in coming to be in nature,” Shave says of the guests. “They hit a wall in their life and slipped backwards, so they know they need a reset.”
This article first appeared in the Winter 2024 issue of Mansion Global Experience Luxury.
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’