Doug Turner used to be in the exotic car business. Now he's in the exotic travel business, as a luxury travel concierge with a network of rich clients who rent private islands in the Caribbean and yachts in the Mediterranean and book a wide range of adventure vacation options as detailed on his website, Millionairesconcierge.com. Agents who bring business to him can reap lucrative rewards, such as 10% commission on a $20,000 villa rental in St. Tropez.
"The rich will always be rich and will always spend," said Turner, who launched his travel website 12 years ago and is based in Fort Lauderdale.
Turner, who has appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," the Travel Channel and the Fine Living Channel, pays agents 5% on mansion or villa rentals and 10% on everything else.
"I work with agents worldwide," said Turner.
The products and vacations offered on Millionairesconcierge.com reflect the kinds of vacations most people only dream about.
A private island in the Florida Keys is marketed for those who want complete seclusion and relaxation while enjoying views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.
The island's sole residence is a three-story, contemporary house; large enough, no doubt, for clients and the service and wait staff. A one-week stay, with helicopter transportation included, costs $35,000.
A 40-foot yacht chartered out of Monaco for a week sailing the Med runs $25,000, Turner said. Need something bigger? Turner markets yachts that accommodate 110 guests in 55 staterooms, plus a crew of 90 "offering the highest level of service imaginable."
Turner's site also details a variety of adventure trips and city packages. One adventure tour in Southern California, for example, features a ride in a 1920s biplane over the San Diego coastline out to Coronado Island.
A New York package can be designed with "best in the house seats" to a ballet or opera, with limousine transfers and dinner in a "famous restaurant." Prices for tours and city trips vary depending on the customized options Turner offers.
The economic downturn of late has not affected Turner's bookings. "My business grows every month," he said.
Some leading luxury travel retailers agreed that affluent clients are still taking their big-ticket vacations despite the stock market's roller coaster ride in recent months.
Nancy Stein of Aldine Travel in St. Louis said most of her wealthy clients "don't seem as affected by the current situation and are still traveling."
"I've talked to agents whose business is up this year," said Stein, a Virtuoso agent. "I think in different areas of the country you would get some different answers, though."
Nancy Strong, CEO of Strong Travel in Dallas, said luxury market travelers are "maintaining their travel as usual; however, they are looking for value."
"Some upscale clients are very influenced by current media trends," said Strong, whose agency also is a member of Virtuoso.
"When they are traveling for a purpose, such as an anniversary or birthday, or other special occasion that requires lots of advance planning, they are quite willing to spend."
Customer service is key, noted Turner, who indicated that he functions as a personal concierge to his upscale clients.
"I deal with customers only. I have employees who do other things," he said.
In addition to destinations and adventure trips, Turner's site offers tickets to major sporting and entertainment events, VIP access into top nightclubs and movie premieres, racing car adventures, private jet rentals and visits to the sets of TV shows.