Member Care is at the heart of everything Inspirato does. On every Inspirato vacation, at every local event, and any time in between, members can expect personal touches and thoughtful service every time they experience the club. But sometimes, “care” runs even deeper than that, as members Shawn and Joelle Hodges learned when their Inspirato vacation faced a threat beyond anybody’s control.
In September 2017, Shawn and Joelle, along with eight of their friends and family members, were getting packed and ready to head to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, for a six-night vacation in an Inspirato Residence. At the same time, a tropical storm was starting to brew in the eastern Caribbean — and was strengthening by the day.
Knowing that the storm could impact the Hodges’ vacation, their Member Care team at Inspirato headquarters and their on-site concierge, Lourdes in Punta Cana, offered some guidance prior to the Hodges’ arrival. The storm was still in early stages, its path and power still unknown.
“It was too early to make a call, so the team kind of left it up to us,” Shawn said. “They did a great job of risk analysis and telling us what our options are: we could cancel and reschedule for another time, or go ahead and move forward. Based on the information we had, we thought we could go ahead with the trip.”
The Hodges and their guests arrived in Punta Cana as planned on Friday, September 15, and enjoyed a weekend of activities and relaxation. But while the group was enjoying their time in paradise, the budding storm continued to intensify, becoming Tropical Storm Maria on Saturday, September 16. Though Maria was still hundreds of miles from the Hodges, its sheer size and strength was beginning to post a threat to the Dominican Republic.
“Everything was going just unbelievably well, and then on Monday, I get a text from my Member Care team, advising about the storm,” Shawn said. “It had gotten more serious, and we needed to start seriously considering our options.”’
The group researched options for leaving early, just in case Maria made its way toward the Dominican Republic (at this point it was a Category 5 hurricane, the strongest storm classification possible, and had made landfall on the island nation of Dominica). The on-site team had already begun preparing the residence — boarding up windows and moving patio furniture inside — but they also made sure the Hodges’ and their guests were prepared, too.
The team had a really calming presence about them and were making sure everyone was okay.Shawn HodgesInspirato Member
“This is where Inspirato really just did an awesome job,” Shawn said. “They went to the grocery store and got extra food and candles, with the assumption that we wouldn’t have power. Our chef prepared extra meals thinking we might be out of food for two or three days… and they got us certain additional libations to help calm our nerves,” Shawn added with a laugh.
By Tuesday, with Maria moving ever closer to Punta Cana, the Hodges’ Member Care team started sending hourly updates on the storm’s progress and began searching for flights off the island; they even booked one on behalf of the Hodges only to have it cancelled by the airline at the last minute.
“The support our concierge and the team provided was all fantastic,” Shawn said. “They were ready to hire a shuttle service to take us to another part of the island which was not directly in the storm’s path, where there was another airport. They were even looking for a private charter flight that could come down to pick us up. The fact that they were giving us real-time updates on everything really put our minds at ease.”
With no immediate way to get off the island, the Hodges’ on-site concierge team rescheduled their activities and reservations, in case they would be in Punta Cana for an extended period of time. “On top of everything they were doing, they wanted to be sure we were still having a good time. It was all seamless,” Shawn said.
Hurricane Maria continued on its path toward the Dominican Republic, bringing heavy rain and powerful wind that knocked down trees throughout the community. Even so, the team’s commitment to the Hodges endured. “During the middle of the hurricane, we had the housekeeping service at three in the morning squeegeeing the water out of the courtyard so it didn’t get in the house,” Shawn said. “They were still checking in on us and doing turndown service while all of our windows were boarded up.”
The Hodges’ residence briefly lost power, but rather than a headache, that night became one of the group’s favorite memories. “The 10 of us were sitting around the kitchen without power playing board games by candlelight. We truly enjoyed it,” Shawn said. “For me personally, it was the best part of the trip.”
Inspirato went above and beyond for me as a member as well as the friends who came along with us.Shawn HodgesInspirato Member
By late Wednesday afternoon, conditions were still preventing flights from leaving the island. The Hodges’ original plan had been to leave early, but all told, they ended up staying in Punta Cana an additional night to wait out the weather. “Inspirato was awesome about it. They said, safety first, don’t worry about paying for another night, just stay there,” Shawn said. “We were able to stay one more night. Inspirato was just so classy about it.”
On Friday, September 22, the Hodges and their guests departed Punta Cana and made it home. Looking back, Shawn says the support that Inspirato was able to provide turned what could have been an epic nightmare into one of their most memorable vacations. In fact, Shawn and Joelle are planning to return to the Caribbean — to Grand Cayman — with Inspirato next year (with a ski trip sometime before then).
“I’ve never experienced something like this before. It ended up being a cool bucket list thing now that we know the outcome, but going into it we had a little trepidation,” Shawn said. “ When we were taken care of as well as we were taken of, being supported by Inspirato, it really put our mind at ease.”
That peace of mind was one of the main reasons the Hodges were attracted to Inspirato in the first place.
“We are extremely busy and like to take vacations,” Shawn said. “I think having the experience of a true vacation is much more memorable than planning it. Inspirato comes to the table having already vetted the homes and the quality, and you know you’re going to get great service. We’ve been on five Inspirato trips and every one of them has exceeded expectations, when we book travel we know that we can do it around wherever Inspirato is located.”
We are happy to report that no Inspirato Members, on-site teammates, or their families were harmed during any of 2017’s hurricanes, but some of the club’s most beloved destinations suffered major damage. To contribute to relief efforts, visit the Red Cross, and to learn more about traveling with certainty and personalized care with Inspirato, click here.