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VIP treatment, at a price

Element co-founder Edgar Estrada, left, Chad St. Cyr, Michael Albanese, Noel Peterson and co-founder Joubin Bral work out of Los Angeles. (Ed Crisostomo/Orange County Register/MCT)

Element co-founder Edgar Estrada, left, Chad St. Cyr, Michael Albanese, Noel Peterson and co-founder Joubin Bral work out of Los Angeles. (Ed Crisostomo/Orange County Register/MCT)

An annual membership to Element luxury concierge services will set you back $36,000.

But for that sum, a member – or his or her executive assistant – can get 24/7 support for any and all (legal) requests.

On Element’s fulfilled list: Organizing a custom 10-day version of “The Amazing Race” across nine European countries; finding a rare Faberge golden egg; and producing a Sweet 16 party with rapper duo LMFAO.


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For the 1 percent, that fee might even seem like a bargain.

In fact, some pay for memberships with more than one concierge service, to increase chances that a request will be completed, said Element co-founder Joubin Bral.

Members are kept anonymous, but the industry is clearly expanding in Los Angeles, given Element’s steady growth and a recent push into the area by Quintessentially, a globally recognized concierge service.

“Someone who’s extremely wealthy just wants it to get done, and one place may have better access than the other for certain things.”

Bral, a former premium ticket broker, started the company in November 2009 with Edgar Estrada, who took care of elite passengers for American Airlines, and Michael Albanese, a former concierge at high-end hotels in New York City.

Through their relationships with premier hoteliers and restaurateurs and other luxury-minded businesses around the globe, the eight-person team fields and fulfills requests for its nearly 100 members – on average, 10 to 20 requests an hour.

In the end, the value proposition is just human empathy and old-fashioned customer service, Albanese said. Element has hired an accounting manager, travel coordinator, director of client management and director of business development. Most of Element’s team is under 35 and paid on salary or as independent contractors.

“Say a client is getting off a safari in Africa and wants fish and chips in England. A traditional travel agency will just book and send a confirmation, but I’ll be up making sure their suite is ready for a 6 a.m. arrival.” Starting at an extra $5,000 a day, Element team members also will travel with the client to ensure a seamless experience.


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“Luxury concierge is an interesting company category that makes a lot of sense,” said Eric Johnson, founder of marketing agency Ignited and co-president of media, marketing, and advertising collaborative ThinkLA.

At their core, concierge services guarantee VIP treatment anywhere in the world – particularly in an unfamiliar city where the client has no contacts.

“These services are ultra-exclusive, ultra-unique, and come at an ultra-cost,” Johnson said. “There have always been people who want to have the best, and if these companies can deliver experiences that (the wealthy) can’t get on their own, the fee structure seems quite reasonable.”

A recent survey of Travel Leaders Group agents reported nearly 30 percent of luxury clients listed either “unique activities” and “exclusivity” of experiences as the most important component when spending money on travel.

Los Angeles, of course, doesn’t lack for wealth. In 2012, Capgemini ranked the city second-highest in millionaires – meaning people who have at least $1 million to invest – with more than 255,000 calling the city home.

That’s one reason why U.K.-based Quintessentially, a 1,500-person luxury lifestyle group known globally for its “lifestyle management” services, has made L.A. the foothold for its West Coast expansion. The company offers several tiers of membership, from virtual assistant-like “dedicated” memberships ($5,500), to “global elite” memberships (up to $60,000 per year) that offer an entire on-call team.

The company also works with brand partners to take care of clients from major corporations such as HSBC, Jaguar and Ferrari.