When you’ve been CEO of a major commercial airline (Frontier Airlines), an Uber for private flights (Surf Air) and a vacation membership club (Exclusive Resorts), you probably have some ideas about gaps in the leisure travel marketplace.
In this case, Manifest Escapes is the vision of Jeff Potter, its founder and CEO, who believes avoiding the hassles of connecting through airline hubs, and combining the demand for curated travel experiences with affordable private jet flights is the next frontier.
While new ultra-long-range airliners offer nonstop flights halfway around the world, Potter, a Denver resident, thinks some of the best vacations are nearby, although not necessarily in places that are easy to reach.
Manifest will be using a membership club model limited to 300 members per city. Potter has started taking deposits ($500 refundable) for a hometown launch against the annual $2,500 fee. Members will be able to browse a set schedule of weekly trips, typically three to four days each, posted for the upcoming six months.
Potter believes one reason Americans don’t use all their earned vacation days (700 million are wasted annually) is they don’t want to be away from the office for a full week multiple times a year. At the same time, flying commercially means a river rafting trip to the Grand Canyon, glamping in Yellowstone National Park or a trek along the Kentucky Bourbon Travel, each requiring a full day of airline travel on both ends, makes those type of getaways too much of a hassle. Marrying these experiences with affordable private jet travel will solve that problem. Target pricing is $1,200 to $1,500 per person, per night, including the private flights, so for a couple, the cost would be under $10,000.
Potter has recruited an in-house team to work with suppliers who will provide the experiences. So far he’s identified over 200 possibilities that make sense for members of the initial Western U.S. based clubs he plans to create.
By avoiding peak travel dates, he hopes to negotiate attractive pricing from vendors. As he grows the number of clubs – he believes he can have more than 20 by 2022 – there are efficiencies in terms of chartering private jets, he says.
For example, a private jet dropping off members from Denver at Yellowstone to begin their trip would pick up patrons of the Seattle club who had just finished. He says a confidential bidding system for private jet operators will attract better pricing than is offered to the general public. In terms of quality, he says he will limit bids to operators who are either Platinum or Gold rated by Argus.
Potter believes the idea of limiting the number of memberships being sold in each market creates both scarcity and urgency to join. The number of spots available for each journey will be based on the type of aircraft chartered for that trip, so typically ranging from four to 10 people. Popular trips will be run multiple times throughout the year. While each member can bring up to three people on the trip, Potter believes that members will also enjoy meeting and traveling with other like-minded members who live in the same community.
Currently, Potter says he has raised nearly $1.5 million to help launch the first four clubs, which will all be based in the Western U.S. He says Manifest will have revenue streams from membership dues, margin from travel suppliers and margin from private aviation providers.
In addition to individuals signing up, Potter foresees corporate memberships for companies that want to provide access as a way to encourage employees to use more of their vacation time. He cites studies that workers who take vacations are happier and more productive. Membership in Manifest could also be a perk for wealth management companies to include in lifestyle offerings for their HNW and UHNW clients.
“While I’ve have had the good fortune to travel to all corners of the world, I still believe there is much to be discovered within a matter of hours of where we live. The idea of close to home experiences combined with the increasing trend of experiential travel and the opportunity to utilize the private aviation industry is how Manifest was born,” Potter says.
Manifest Escapes Wants To Become A Private Jet Vacation Travel Club – Forbes