Exclusive Resorts Executive Vice President of Member Experience Jay Wong talks about the power of inclusivity.
When Exclusive Resorts’ Executive Vice President of Member Experience Jay Wong first heard of the Club, he was happily employed with Four Seasons. But as he learned more about the company culture, he made the move to join the team. As an openly gay Asian American on the executive team, Jay has helped further elevate an evolving culture of diversity. Here, he explains how his background has influenced his career.
When I learned the Club was searching for a senior leader, I was intrigued. I was at Four Seasons at the time, but arriving at the Denver office to meet with the team in person brought to life the people-first culture and the Club’s commitment to creating exceptional vacations that bring people together. I quickly learned that relationships are really what define the Exclusive Resorts experience. From the connections our Ambassadors have cultivated with Members for nearly two decades to how the dedicated on-site teams craft vacations with barely a hint of direction. Here, travel isn't just about luxe amenities and “five-star” service — it's personal. And that was inspiring. The chance to truly make an impact and help our Members live richer, fuller lives, was ultimately why I chose to join the team.
Unsurprisingly, with today’s travelers looking for certainty in an increasingly unpredictable world, the Club's privatized membership model is more appealing than ever. We recently experienced one of our strongest years for new membership sales in over a decade while delivering more than 16,000 vacations, despite the pandemic and its associated challenges. I attribute much of this success to the relationships our team has with each Member.
Exclusive Resorts has a dynamic, supportive, people-first culture. I make it a point to interview every individual that joins my team, from Concierge to Department Head, because I want to ensure they will carry our culture forward. In every new hire orientation, I explain that I have three mantras:
1. We are collaborators. We celebrate the “we” philosophy, because to our Members, we are simply Exclusive Resorts.
2. We get it done. When I first joined the Exclusive Resorts team, there was more talk and not as much action. Today, we pride ourselves on delivering on everything we commit to.
3. We show up for each other. This one is extremely important. Yes, we show up for Members, but we also show up for our employees and partners. I show my team every day that we stand up for them as much as we do for our service experience. It’s a two-way street.
DIFFERENT BY DESIGN
Being Asian American and gay are parts of my life that I’m fiercely proud of and fiercely defend. But that hasn’t always been the case. Traditionally, East Asian families have strict expectations on the roles that men and women are expected to play. I also went to Catholic school for the first nine years of my education, which presented its own set of dichotomies and contradictions. I consider myself one of the lucky ones because I grew up in San Francisco and had parents that accepted and celebrated who I was. Even within this fortunate circumstance, understanding and appreciating my whole identity is something I continue to work through.
It is for this reason that I choose to be an advocate for diversity and inclusion in the workplace. I’m an ardent believer that diversity — while it can make us uncomfortable — forces us to think more deeply and, in the words of my university professor Adam Grant, “prepare more carefully.” As a result, our organizations and society are better for it. Having a work culture that celebrates inclusion — including diversity at upper levels of an organization — can impact change. I saw this firsthand during our Club’s recent rebrand. As our Club community has continued to diversify — by race and sexual orientation — so has our branding. Today, we seek to more authentically and effectively connect with future Members and employees by reflecting a range of backgrounds and experiences in our public and internal-facing materials.
Of course, it’s not enough to just market inclusiveness or diversity — we must also commit to addressing them head-on in our Club. Following the events that motivated the Black Lives Matter movement, we formed a Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee and now have a talented individual, Zoey Alsbrooks, on our Human Resources team, helping spearhead initiatives along this front. From Black History Month to Autism Awareness, we have incorporated the celebration of diversity and inclusion in many aspects of our organization. Just last week, we celebrated Memorial Day by hearing about the life experience of Tom Dieffenbach, an honored veteran who now leads our Capital Assets and Property Management efforts. Internally, we have committed to key performance metrics on ensuring we hire talent with an eye on diversity.
FAVORITE CLUB DESTINATIONS
Travel is transformational in nature – exploring cultures different from our own creates bridges of communication and understanding. Exclusive Resorts has given me a chance to travel in a way I could only dream about when I was young. And not just for myself, but for my family and friends. To be able to say to family members and friends — you arrive, and we’ll take care of rest — is amazing, and a major way the Club has impacted my own life. The ability to leave the logistics and details to our Concierge team, whether for a set of meetings in the heart of New York City to a getaway in the Tuscan countryside, gave me a newfound appreciation to focus on what matters most: spending quality time with the ones I love.
Our teams in every destination always welcome me with open arms — whether I’m traveling with my family, my fiancé, or other LGBTQ+ friends. I can’t think of one Club destination I wouldn’t feel safe or comfortable going to. I sometimes pinch myself: This is my job, life, and passion! A few of my favorite memories include:
Kohala Coast, Hawaii. Hawaii will always hold a place in my heart. I proposed to my partner, Shawn, here in March 2021. Our Concierge, Nick, orchestrated everything from start to finish. To top it off, we surprised Shawn by flying in his sister Maggie, my sister Charissa, and our close friends Kenny and Chris to join in on the celebration. It was a total surprise for Shawn, making the entire experience more extraordinary.
Miraval Tucson. I brought Shawn and three of my closest friends from university on a wellness retreat to Miraval. Whether it was the equine experience or the floating meditation, each moment brought rejuvenation and a new way for my friends and me to connect.
Esperanza, Mexico. In June 2020, we spent a week in Los Cabos, Mexico. Despite the anxiety of traveling during Covid, knowing that we had our own private kitchen and pool gave us the space we needed to feel safe and relaxed.
Deer Valley, Utah. Last year, Shawn and I hosted our parents in Deer Valley. This was a milestone in our lives as it was the first time they had ever met each other.
Tuscany, Italy. I recently shared a visit to Tuscany/Florence with my family and friends, staying in our homes in the Tuscan countryside. From family pizza/pasta making to bespoke, personalized wine tours, this experience took the idea of a family vacation beyond anything we’ve ever experienced together.