Interval International Sponsors Caribbean Marketplace

Interval International, a leading global provider of vacation services, was a sponsor of the recent Caribbean Marketplace – the region’s preeminent business-to-business marketing event for the hotel and tourism industry. The gathering in Montego Bay, Jamaica, was organized by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) and hosted by the Government of Jamaica, the Jamaica Hotel and Tourism Association, and the Jamaica Tourist Board.

“We recognize the importance of Caribbean Marketplace as a venue that brings together regional tourism officials and hoteliers with tour operators and wholesalers interested in purchasing Caribbean vacations,” said Neil Kolton, Interval’s director of resort sales and service for the Caribbean and Florida. “By supporting this conference, which promotes tourism to the region, we can effectively help the Caribbean hospitality industry develop and expand.”

“CHTA acknowledges and greatly appreciates Interval, a long-standing partner, for its ongoing commitment to our organization,” said Alec Sanguinetti, director general and chief executive officer of CHTA. “Interval’s continued dedication to our programs has been vital to our industry, and in particular, to the success of Caribbean Marketplace.”

The Caribbean has proven itself to be a very popular destination for prospective timeshare purchasers. According to the Shared Ownership 2010: A Market Perspective, the Caribbean is the preferred international destination among U.S. leisure travelers interested in traveling outside the continental United States.

As a Strategic Partner of CHTA and a Board Member of the CHTA Education Foundation and the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Scholarship Foundation, Interval has been a long time supporter of the tourism industry in the Caribbean. The company is committed to understanding the unique needs of the region and providing products and programs tailored to this market.

Interval International operates membership programs for vacationers and provides value-added services to its developer clients worldwide. Based in Miami, Florida, the company has been a pioneer and innovator in serving the vacation ownership market for 35 years.

Today, Interval has an exchange network of more than 2,500 resorts in over 75 nations. Through offices in 14 countries, Interval offers high-quality products and benefits to resort clients and approximately 2 million families who are enrolled in various membership programs.

(Photo shown is Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino)

Diamond Resorts Hires 3 Timeshare Industry Veterans

Diamond Resorts International, a global leader in the hospitality and vacation ownership industries, today announced that three timeshare industry veterans are assuming leadership roles for Sales and Marketing Operations in North America.

Derek Kanoa will maintain a key leadership role as Vice President of Sales and Marketing over his area of expertise, the Western Business Unit. Diamond would like to thank Mr. Kanoa for the integral role he has played and will continue to fulfill for Sales and Marketing Operations as he is a critical player to the success of the Western Business Unit.

Rhett Bolling, bringing more than 17 years of Sales and Marketing experience, will be leading the Eastern Business Unit. Mr. Bolling’s vacation ownership career began in 1993 with Bluegreen Corporation in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The majority of his career was with Sunterra, where for 10 years Mr. Bolling was responsible for various regions including Florida, mid-West and mid-Atlantic.

With over 20 years of Sales and Marketing experience, Eric Assam will serve as Vice President of Sales and Marketing Operations, North America. Mr. Assam’s background and experience with Wyndham Vacation Ownership as the Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing provides him with an extensive knowledge of strategic sales, marketing and business development in the vacation ownership industry.

Mr. Assam will develop the three year strategic Sales and Marketing Plan, Compensation Plans, National Program Management, the Exit Sampler Program, and Sales and Marketing Reward and Recognition Program.

According to Stephen J. Cloobeck, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Diamond Resorts International, “We are looking forward to welcoming Rhett Bolling and Eric Assam to our dynamic sales and marketing team. Both individuals offer an extensive knowledge of their respective fields and regions and will bring vast vacation ownership sales and marketing experience and expertise to the Diamond community.”

Diamond Resorts International, with global headquarters in Las Vegas, Nev., is one of the largest hospitality companies in the world with more than 177 branded and affiliated resorts in 26 countries. With destinations throughout the continental United States and Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa. Offering simplicity, choice and comfort to more than 385,000 owners and members through the branded hospitality service of more than 5,500 team members worldwide, Diamond Resorts International is dedicated to providing its guests with effortless and relaxing vacation experiences every time, for a lifetime.

New Benefits for DAE Gold Advantage Members

Dial An Exchange (DAE), one of the world’s largest independent timeshare exchange organizations has recently launched a new expansion of benefits for DAE’s Gold Advantage members. Gold Advantage is the premium membership offered by Dial An Exchange, a free membership is also available.

Gold Advantage memberships can be purchased for $89 for a full year, with a renewal price of $59. Current Gold Advantage benefits include advance booking capability of newly available inventory, priority requests, discounts on the purchase of all DAE exchanges and bonus weeks, and a slew of lifestyle benefits that encompass travel, hotel, golf, recreation and even grocery discounts.

The additional features added to the Gold Advantage membership include a 365/24/7 concierge program that members can access both on vacation and at home. Concierge benefits include roadside assistance, currency exchange, medical assistance, and more. Another additional benefit is discounts on vacation, tour, and cruise packages, and an elite member buying service that gives Gold Advantage members discounts on thousands of brand name products from hundreds of manufacturers and distributors.

“Dial An Exchange will always offer a free membership option,” says Fermin Cruz, Vice President of Dial An Exchange, “but we feel our Gold Advantage is a fantastic value for our members. The discounts alone can pay for the membership, and our Gold Advantage members have always enjoyed getting priority requests and advanced inventory notification.”

DAE launched the Gold Advantage program in response to requests from its members, now totaling over 300,000 worldwide. It was launched one year ago and has been received most enthusiastically by its member base and is also being offered to new timeshare purchasers at resort locations Internationally.

Dial An Exchange is the largest privately owned timeshare exchange company with worldwide destination availability. Membership is free and exchange fees are not charged until an exchange is confirmed. Since the company’s formation in 1997, DAE has grown from a single office in Australia to offices in Europe, the United States, New Zealand, South Africa and Asia.

New Festiva Complaints Resolution Center

Festiva Complaints Resolution Center, a new online presence by Festiva Resorts, offers members and guests at Festiva’s timeshare resorts a unique opportunity to interface with Festiva’s customer care team to resolve problems, submit complaints, and read frequently asked questions and resolved complaints from other guests.

The timeshare industry’s online reputation has been inundated in recent years with various “consumer scam” and complaint sites, claiming to help consumers solve their problems. In reality, these scam sites are set up to produce ill-gotten advertising revenue for their owners and offer little value to the consumer trying to open a dialogue that ends in their complaint being resolved or to obtain more information about their issue.

“We’re trying to make a proactive effort to meet online complaints 'head-on.' We are able to resolve an overwhelming majority of the issues that our guests bring to our attention, and we constantly strive to improve our methodology and service as it applies to consumer complaints,” says Sara B. Little, Festiva’s Director of Corporate Communications.

Guests are able to read special announcements from Festiva; for instance, a recent letter to members regarding special assessment has been posted on the site, along with updated comments from members, in order to dispel confusion about the program. Along with various resolved Festiva complaints, member-specific information specially suited to resolving common issues can be found throughout the site.

Festiva Hospitality Group and Festiva Adventure Club operate a chain of resorts located in destinations across the United States and Caribbean. Offering a full range of resort locales from luxurious beaches to historic neighborhoods, Festiva’s timeshare resorts provide the utmost in comfort, service, and luxury, while maintaining a family-oriented environment.

Visit Festiva’s Complaints Resolution Center at:

Diamond Resorts Acquires Bankrupt Tempus Resort’s Assets

Tempus Acquisition LLC announced that it has signed an agreement to acquire a large portion of Tempus Resorts International, Ltd.’s assets. Tempus Acquisition operates under Resorts International (Diamond Resorts International) which is one of the top leaders in the hotel and tourism industry worldwide.

Before proceeding with the acquisition, certain conditions are required, including the consent of the U.S. bankruptcy court. Tempus Resorts and some of its affiliated companies have already filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida for the acquisition to start immediately.

Stephen J. Cloobeck, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Diamond Resorts International said, “Dependent upon the outcomes of the court, we are pleased to be in a position to offer strategic guidance for Tempus assets and quality customer service for the 40,000 owners who look forward to utilizing their vacation holiday product.”

Diamond Resorts is known as one of the most successful vacation ownership companies in the world. Its global headquarters is located in Las Vegas, Nevada and it has more than 177 branded resorts in over 26 countries, including the continental United States and Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa.

"We offer luxury and comfort to more than 385,000 owners and members through the excellent service of more than 5,500 competent team members worldwide," said Cloobeck. "Diamond Resorts’ The Club is an exchange program that offers members the chance to enjoy the luxury of a number of stunning destinations that is so much more that the traditional vacation. Members not only get the chance to see amazing destinations like Hawaii or the Caribbean, they are also able to avail of product discounts and participate in airline mileage participation programs."

Tempus Resorts International is a global enterprise that is made up of ten individual companies operating in various industries such as resort and golf development, hospitality operations, and marketing, finance and technology. Its flagship resort in Orlando, Mystic Dunes Resort & Golf Club, was first established in 1998 and since then, it has been providing vacation services to over 650,000 guests.

New Restrictions for Disney Vacation Club Resales

In a press release Disney Vacation Club has announced that it will impose new restrictions on buyers who purchase their time shares from existing owners, rather than directly from Disney.

Disney Vacation Club, which sells time shares as "points" that can be redeemed for stays in various accommodations, said it will no longer allow owners who acquire their points via resales to redeem them for nights in conventional hotel rooms at the company's five theme-park resorts worldwide, voyages aboard its cruise ships or vacations through its guided-tour operation.

Instead, such owners will be allowed to use their points only for stays in one of Disney's 11 time-share resorts, seven of which are at Walt Disney World, or in third-party hotels available through time-share exchange operator RCI.

Customers who buy directly from Disney will still be able to redeem their points at Disney hotels, aboard Disney Cruise Line, or through Adventures by Disney. The ability to use points for different Disney vacations is a perk frequently cited by Disney Vacation Club sales agents.

DVC spokeswoman Diane Hancock said customers who bought their time shares directly from Disney have requested such a change. "Our members just felt that that they should get more benefits when they purchase through Disney Vacation Club than those who purchase on the secondary market," said Hancock. She added that the change aligns Disney with other time-share operators who impose similar restrictions on resales.

Jason Garcia, Orlando Sentinel journalist, in a related article explained that Disney sells its time shares via long-term leases that typically expire after 50 years. As a result, the contracts' values decline over time and can make buying via resale appealing, particularly in a still-difficult economic environment.

Garcia quotes Kim Holtman, site administrator of, an online forum for Disney time-share owners as saying "The glut of contracts on the market has led to Disney resale prices dropping fairly consistently," Holtman said. "The change shows that DVC is concerned about the resale market. I think this is probably their first salvo in poking at the resale market."

Disney's time-share contracts include provisions giving Disney the right of first refusal when an owner wants to sell, giving Disney some ability to prevent ultra-low resale prices from undermining new sales.

But buying back such contracts eats into the company's cash flow, continued Garcia's article, and can leave Disney trying to unload older inventory, with different expiring lease dates, even as it strives to peddle new properties. Holtman said Disney has increasingly opted during the past two years not to repurchase such contracts, writes Garcia.

Interval International adds Rimondi Grand Hotel & Spa Resort

Interval International, a leading global provider of vacation services and an operating segment of Interval Leisure Group, has added Rimondi Grand Hotel & Spa Resort on Crete, one of Greece’s most popular holiday islands. Set on a hillside overlooking the Mediterranean Sea on the island’s north coast, the mixed-used community includes a proposed 137 fractional residences, with spectacular sea and mountain views.

“Year after year, Greece is named among Europe’s best-loved holiday destinations by media and travel companies,” said Darren Ettridge, Interval’s vice president of resort sales and service for Europe, Middle East, and Africa. ”Rimondi Grand Hotel & Spa Resort offers that rare combination of peace, pampering, and easy proximity to shopping and entertainment. The setting feels secluded, yet the picturesque 16th-century Venetian harbor town of Rethymno is only minutes away.”

The resort is comprised of one- and two-bedroom suites and two- and three-bedroom villas. All have spacious layouts that include a large furnished balcony or terrace. Interior décor combines traditional stone features with sleek modern conveniences such as high-definition plasma TV with cable/satellite service. A special feature of the villas is their separate lounge with kitchenette and private pool.

Named after the historic fountain in the heart of Rethymno that still supplies freshwater via three stone lions, Rimondi Grand Hotel & Spa Resort is nestled in a traditional olive grove. The grounds are dotted with villas, apartments and hotel suites, none more than two stories high.

“Many places in the world are beautiful, but Greek people always welcome guests like long-lost friends,” noted Mr. Panayiotis Yiannatos, head of Rimondi Resorts. “Rimondi Grand Hotel & Spa Resort was designed with traditional values and wellness in mind, so we look forward to warmly welcoming Interval International members with a peaceful, luxury home base from which to explore the cultural and historical treasures of Crete.”

Crete is renowned as the birthplace of Zeus, the king of gods in Greek mythology, and blessed with a mild climate and postcard-perfect scenery including more than 650 miles of dramatic coastline. The Greek Islands ranked second in a Daily Telegraph newspaper poll of “Top 6 Best European Destinations” and fourth on Lonely Planet’s list of “Must Visit” destinations for 2010.

Interval International operates membership programs for vacationers and provides value-added services to its developer clients worldwide. Based in Miami, Florida, the company has been a pioneer and innovator in serving the vacation ownership market for 35 years.

(Photo credit -

Changes for Marriott Board of Directors

Marriott International, Inc. has announced several moves on its board of directors.

William J. Shaw, Marriott’s vice chairman of the company, has resigned from the board effective upon adjournment of the board’s meeting February 11, in conjunction with his retirement from the company, which is effective March 31.

Arne M. Sorenson (see photo), Marriott’s president and chief operating officer, will join the board upon Mr. Shaw’s resignation. In addition, W. Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusettes, has resigned from the board effective January 12. Governor Romney served as a director from 1993 to 2002 and rejoined the board in January 2009. Following his resignation, the board voted to reduce its membership from 11 to 10 directors.

J.W. Marriott, Jr., chairman of the board and chief executive officer, said, “I have deep gratitude and tremendous admiration for both Mitt Romney and Bill Shaw. Both have served our company at the highest level through their board membership and their contributions have been invaluable. The company’s management and the entire board wish them all the best in their future endeavors.

“At the same time, I am delighted that Arne Sorenson will join our board. As demonstrated for the past 14 years including the last year and a half as president and chief operating officer of the company, Arne brings keen intelligence and judgment as well as deep financial and operations expertise to this new role and I look forward to his counsel and insights as our company continues its global growth.”

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New GM at Marriott’s SurfWatch Timeshare Resort

Marriott Vacation Club has appointed Donald “Case” Spencer to general manager of Marriott’s SurfWatch on Hilton Head Island, S.C this week.

Marriott’s SurfWatch is a 185-villa resort located on the popular shores of South Carolina’s East Coast. The property is a beachfront masterpiece, offering the same quality service and amenities that have been Marriott's hallmark for over 75 years. The resort offers many scenic footbridges throughout the grounds, leading to the beach and their ocean-front pool. There are two- and three-bedroom villas equipped with kitchens as well as spacious living and dining areas.

“We are thrilled to welcome Case to Marriott’s SurfWatch. His unbridled enthusiasm, depth of knowledge and ability to lead and relate our associates, Owners and guests will undoubtedly be a tremendous asset to the resort,” said Cliff Delorey, regional vice president of customer experience for Marriott Vacation Club’s East region.

Spencer began his career as front desk clerk at the Nashville Airport Marriott in 1998 moving on to various hotel management positions through the years. Spencer joined Marriott Vacation Club in 2007 and was appointed to general manager of both Marriott’s Harbour Pointe and Marriott’s Sunset Point in Shelter Cove on Hilton Head Island.

A recognized and respected leader in the Marriott Corporation, Spencer was honored as a “World Class Leader” by Marriott Vacation Club in 2008 and was selected as the brand’s “General Manager of the Year” in 2009.

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European Timeshare Owners see Changes in Regulations

A press release has announced a tightening of regulations for the timeshare industry in the European Union - significant information for anyone who owns, or plans to buy, a timeshare in Europe.

The new Directive will set the conditions for fair trading in timeshares and should go a long way in instilling consumer confidence by implementing measures to protect buyers and help put an end to “pressure selling," stated the press release.

Commenting on the legislation that goes into effect February 23, 2011, Britain’s Consumer Minister Edward Davey said, “These products are often sold across borders, so it’s only right that we have protections in place for consumers that also cross borders. Knowing these regulations are in place will boost consumer confidence and boost business for legitimate traders.”

This directive is seen as a major milestone for the industry in Europe. While the vast majority of timeshare owners say they are happy with their purchases, it is the holiday clubs and unregulated rogue resale companies that taint an otherwise solid and thriving global industry, explained Davey.

The Resort Development Organization (RDO), the trade body dedicated to excellence and fair trading in the European vacation ownership industry, welcomes the new regulations. Because of these tighter conditions the RDO believes much of the activity of the holiday clubs will cease as they will be unable or unwilling to operate in a regulated environment.

So how will the consumer benefit? Some of the most significant changes will affect:
  • Pre-contractual information (or disclosure)

  • The cooling-off period and right of withdrawal

  • Timeshare protection is expanded to include cruise ships, canal boats, etc

  • Short term holiday products

  • Resales
The RDO stated that the new directive will help create a level playing field for businesses by simplifying the UK legislative regime with a single set of regulations to replace the old Timeshare Act. “Holiday clubs” that have not been covered by law will now be subjected to the same regulations, a move which should help put an end to rogue “holiday clubs” and unscrupulous resale companies, and pave the way for a stronger, more unified European timeshare industry.

For more information about the new EU directive, visit

Airline Travel Industry Forecast

The UN International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has released its annual report forecasting the economic status of global passenger and freight air traffic. As the world begins to climb out of the global recession, the modest airline industry growth that began in 2010 is predicted to become quite healthy in 2011, the ICAO report stated.

"A substantial growth in traffic reflects positive economic prospects worldwide - based on a forecast of a four per cent increase in the world’s real gross domestic product," the ICAO report said.

The healthiest growth in 2010 was seen by the airlines of the Middle East with 21 per cent, followed by those of the Asia/Pacific region with 12.9 per cent, Latin America with 11.4 per cent, and Africa with 10 per cent. Traffic in the mature markets of North America and Europe grew by 6.2 per cent and 6.7 per cent, respectively.

In spite of the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland in the spring of 2010, that partially closed European airspace, disrupting passenger travel and freight traffic, the ICAO report stated that the European airline industry continues to perform well.

And while winter conditions over the 2010 holiday season also hit the industry hard, the ICAO report credits its positive outlook to the "ability of low-cost carriers to expand their point-to-point markets, due, in part, to the geographical enlargement of the European Union, thus demand for travel remained strong and resilient".

The number of passengers carried in 2010 worldwide was up 6.3% on 2009, at about 2.5 billion passengers. International passenger traffic grew by 8.8%, led by a strong rebound in business and leisure long-haul travel, particularly in Brazil, Russia, India and China.

ICAO was set up in 1944 as a specialized agency of the United Nations, to promote safe and orderly development of international civil aviation worldwide. It sets standards and regulations for aviation safety, security, efficiency and regularity, and for aviation environmental protection. The Organization serves as the forum for cooperation in all fields of civil aviation among its 190 Contracting States.

Marriott Vice Chairman Retires

Marriott International, Inc. has announced that William J. Shaw, a 37-year veteran and vice chairman of the company since 2009, plans to retire effective March 31, 2011.

Throughout his career, Mr. Shaw has distinguished himself as a highly respected leader, both at Marriott as well as in the broader hospitality industry. His hands-on management, particularly in the financial sphere, has been a distinct competitive advantage as the company transitioned and grew from involvement in multiple businesses to a global lodging leader with more than 3,500 hotels and timeshare resorts in 70 countries.

J.W. Marriott, Jr., the company’s chairman and chief executive officer, said, “Since Bill Shaw joined us 37 years ago in 1974 he has been a tremendous influence in building our company to where we are today. I can’t think of a better partner than Bill as we evolved from a conglomerate with at least 12 totally different businesses in 1974 to focus on hotels and timeshare resorts.

“Over the years, Bill has been a trusted, steadfast counselor and advisor to me as we’ve managed through both good times and bad and expanded our company into a global brand. I personally will miss his genuine passion for our business and his devotion to the success and well-being of Marriott’s global team of associates. His contributions over nearly four decades have been invaluable.”

Prior to being named vice chairman of the company, Shaw was president and chief operating officer. During his 12-year tenure in this role, he became a leading voice for diversity and inclusion, including successfully driving a significant increase in diversity among Marriott’s suppliers and hotel owners.

He also was instrumental in helping to foster leadership development for women. In 2003, Shaw was a founding member of the Committee for Excellence, a joint committee of senior management and the board of directors established to foster diversity at the company.

Active in community affairs, Shaw has served on the board of trustees at the University of Notre Dame, his alma mater, and the Suburban Hospital Foundation, as well as the NCAA Leadership Advisory Board, and the Board of Directors of the United Negro College Fund.

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Diamond Resorts Welcomes New Sales and Marketing SVP

Diamond Resorts International®, a global leader in the hospitality and vacation ownership industries, has announced that Michael A. Flaskey has joined the company as Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing, North America, effective January 10, 2011.

Mr. Flaskey has more than 15 years of vacation ownership sales and marketing leadership experience, having held the position of Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing East for Starwood Vacation Ownership, Inc, and Wyndham Vacation Ownership.

While at Starwood Vacation Ownership, Inc., Flaskey was instrumental in rebuilding Orlando sales and marketing from $70 million to $135 million annually and successfully rebuilt Myrtle Beach from $15 million in annual sales to more than $30 million.

Prior to his position at Starwood Vacation Ownership Inc., Flaskey was the Senior Vice President, Operations for Wyndham Vacation Ownership where he held total responsibility for a combined $400 million in annual revenues.

Flaskey successfully negotiated strategic alliances with the Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds and Texas Rangers, including exclusive vacation ownership marketing rights to the major league baseball stadiums. He additionally negotiated a strategic alliance with the Trump Hotel and Casino organizations, including exclusive marketing rights for three hotels and casinos.

“We are looking forward to welcoming Michael Flaskey and his vast vacation ownership sales and marketing experience to the Diamond community," stated Stephen J. Cloobeck, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Diamond Resorts International. "Michael’s sales expertise and proven success in the marketing industry coupled with Diamond’s existing global footprint and business model will continue to position Diamond as an industry leader in the vacation ownership market.”

Diamond Resorts International, with global headquarters in Las Vegas, NV, is one of the largest hospitality companies in the world with more than 177 branded and affiliated resorts and over 24,000 guest beds in 26 countries with destinations throughout the continental United States and Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa.

Offering simplicity, choice and comfort to more than 385,000 owners and members through the branded hospitality service of more than 5,500 team members worldwide, Diamond Resorts International "is dedicated to providing its guests with effortless and relaxing vacation experiences every time, for a lifetime."

2011 Travel Forecasts

The 2011 travel forecasts are in and the pundits have made their lists and their predictions. Learning about what prices are going up or down, and which destinations are viewed as the most popular, may help you decide where to spend your timeshare vacation this year.

Travel guru Arthur Frommer says that overall, Americans are prepared to spend more on travel in 2011, which is a good thing because American Express reports that domestic economy airfares will increase 2-6%.

Rental Cars
Travel North America reports that rental car prices will go down 1.5 - 2%, so, once you get to your destination, you can save money seeing the sights.

American Express says that it expects North American hotel rates will rise 1-6%, and rates for hotels elsewhere will increase 1-10% percent, depending on the location. For timeshare owners, this is most likely why you purchased a timeshare in the first place – getting a pre-paid vacation at rates you locked in. The good news is that those who do not own a timeshare can rent one from its owner using an online timeshare marketplace. Travelers will find that timeshare rental can be up to ½ off the cost of renting hotel rooms.

Popular Destinations’s survey of more than 3,000 U.S. travelers named these vacation activities as the most popular for 2011:
  • Visiting a historic site, 85%

  • Visiting a museum, 73%

  • Visiting a national park 46%

  • Attending a festival, 43%

  • Hiking, 42%

With all this information, where will you vacation this year? We welcome your comments below.

(Photo credit of Historic Sites -

Marriott CIO Retires

Marriott International, Inc. announced that Carl Wilson (photo top right), executive vice president and chief information officer at the company since 1997, will retire March 31. Bruce Hoffmeister, a 22-year Marriott veteran, will succeed him as Global Chief Information Officer on April 1.

Mr. Wilson was instrumental in managing the critical nexus between technology and business strategy as the company’s lodging portfolio grew to encompass 3,500 properties in 70 countries worldwide.

“Carl leaves an impressive legacy,” said William Shaw, Marriott International Vice Chairman. “He built Marriott’s information technology infrastructure as the company introduced and the industry’s first high-speed internet service to guest rooms.

"His leadership team consistently wins plaudits as one of the best IT functions. We will miss his wise counsel but are delighted that Bruce Hoffmeister will become our Global Chief Information Officer, accountable for all business technology resources.”

With more than two decades at Marriott, Bruce Hoffmeister (photo at left) brings a wide scope and diverse set of experiences to his new role. Currently Senior Vice President, IR Shared and Application Services, he has led the drive for sustainable efficiencies in the computing resources for Marriott’s worldwide operations. He also directs the company’s efforts to modernize key systems involved in sales and marketing, event and revenue management.

Hoffmeister began his Marriott career as a Senior Financial Analyst in the Development Finance department, and has held a wide range of finance and accounting positions across the company, as well as the role of Senior Vice President, Global Revenue Management, where he was responsible for developing and leading the company’s worldwide pricing, inventory management and selling strategies.

CEO Interview on Success of Wyndham Vacation Ownership

The University of Pennsylvania's online business journal, Knowledge@Wharton, interviewed Wyndham Worldwide Chairman and CEO Stephen Holmes, on the changing nature of leisure travel. Holmes discusses what changes he has witnessed in the industry and why timeshares have done surprisingly well during the economic downturn.

Below are excerpts from this interview which was posted January 6, 2011.

KW: Steve, could you briefly describe the scope of Wyndham Worldwide in terms of the timeshare brand?

SH: Wyndham Vacation Ownership is a traditional timeshare business, in which you build or develop timeshare units, market them, sell them to consumers and provide financing for the purchase. Then we manage the resorts as well.

KW: How has the recession impacted that part of your business?

SH: The timeshare business, which many people think would have been very impacted because consumers might be pulling back and spending less money to buy timeshares, performed exceedingly well.

KW: To what would you attribute the up-tick in timeshare purchases?

SH: There are a number of reasons why the performance was enhanced. One particular reason would be that because there was so much uncertainty in the marketplace and people were wondering "What's my future going to look like?" consumers may have been a little turned on to, "I wouldn't mind having my vacations assured. If I don't know where the rest of the world is going, I can at least know that I am going to be able to go on vacation

KW: Have you seen the needs of your average customer change over the time that you have been with Wyndham?

SH: Yes. One shift would be the sociology of who is traveling. You see more families traveling together -intergenerational travel has become much more popular. That trend that has been in place in Europe for some time is now coming to the U.S.

KW Have you had to implement internal strategies to beef up customer service over the course of the past few years in light of the economy?

SH: We have, but I think it was coincidental because we launched it before 2007, before things started really getting rough. We had launched something called Count on Me, which is our rallying cry for service -- to be responsive to your needs, be respectful, and deliver a great experience. Those are our three pillars of Count on Me.

Service is critically important. Like I said, the impression you get from the person at the front desk or the person who cleans the rooms walking down the hall. Do they greet you? Do they look you in the eye? Do they say good morning to you? That's very important. That leaves you with an impression of how much people care about you in the facility.

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Hilton Worldwide Names Vice President of Development for Mexico

Hilton Worldwide today announced the promotion of George J. Massa to vice president and managing director of development, Mexico. In this role, Massa will address development opportunities and foster relationships with current and potential partners in Mexico. Prior to his promotion, Massa served as senior director of development, Mexico, evaluating potential investment, franchise and management initiatives.

“George has an incredible amount of experience in the Latin American hospitality industry and we are delighted that he is taking on a larger role within our organization,” said Craig Mance, Hilton senior vice president, development, North America. "In his new role, George will help us do even more to address the needs of our owners and pursue opportunities in Mexico that will bring many benefits to our company,”

Massa has 36 years of professional services experience in the hospitality industry. He has served several multinational hotel corporations and hotel owners as well as investors, developers, leading lending institutions, government agencies and consulting firms. Prior to Hilton Worldwide, Massa served as president of International Hospitality Solutions, a hotel advisory and management company, and spearheaded the organization’s growth in Latin America.

Massa studied business administration at Catholic University and the University of Lima in Peru. A native of Peru, he is fully bilingual in English and Spanish.

Hilton Worldwide is the leading global hospitality company, spanning the lodging sector from luxurious full-service hotels and resorts to extended-stay suites and mid-priced hotels. For 91 years, Hilton Worldwide has been offering business and leisure travelers the finest in accommodations, service, amenities and value.

The company is dedicated to continuing its tradition of providing exceptional guest experiences across its global brands. Its brands are comprised of more than 3,600 hotels and 600,000 rooms in 82 countries and include Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, and Hilton Grand Vacations.

Marriott Vacation Club Expands to Mexico, Central America, & South America

Marriott Vacation Club, the premier timeshare brand of Marriott International, announced today the introduction of the points-based Marriott Vacation Club Destinations program to its Owners and customers in Mexico, Central America, and South America.

"Building on over 25 years of innovation, evolution and industry leadership, the Marriott Vacation Club Destinations program offers greater flexibility, further personalization and more experience opportunities for Owners," stated Amy Immerfall, Marriott Vacation Club public relations.

“We’re excited to expand this offering to our current and future Owners in Mexico, Central and South America. We’ve already seen an exceptional response over the past six months with our North American launch,” said Lee Cunningham, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Marriott Vacation Club, North America and the Caribbean.

Participating countries include Argentina, Barbados, Bermuda, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Curacao, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Trinidad/Tobago and Venezuela.

Marriott Vacation Club Destinations Owners will receive an annual allocation of Vacation Club Points to redeem for customized getaway experiences. They will also have the ability to bank, borrow, transfer and purchase additional Vacation Club Points each year.

In addition, the new program provides Owners the services of a personal Vacation Ownership Advisor to assist in travel arrangements within any one of the four Vacation Collections:
  1. Marriott Vacation Club Collection: Enjoy reservation access among more than 50 luxurious Marriott Vacation Club resorts, including ease of any day check-in, varied lengths of stay, wide array of accommodation sizes, and more choice of travel season at resorts in North America and the Caribbean.

  2. Marriott Collection: Choose from over 3,200 hotels and experience new destinations through trade for Marriott Rewards points.

  3. Explorer Collection: Journey to new lands or cruise the seas in luxury with exchange for memorable and exceptional travel packages.

  4. World Traveler Collection: Access a global system of over 2,500 resorts in more than 75 countries through Interval International.
While the Marriott Vacation Club Destinations program offers this enhanced opportunity to new customers in North America, the Caribbean, and now Mexico, Central and South America, current Owners will maintain the full rights and privileges of their ownership. At the same time, existing Owners will have the choice to enroll in this new program to further enhance their vacation experience.

Interval International and Marriott Vacation Club Celebrate 20 Years

It was just announced that Interval International and Marriott Vacation Club International will celebrate a 20-year relationship with a long-term renewal.

“We have worked collaboratively with Marriott for the past two decades on ground-breaking initiatives that have been instrumental in the growth of both businesses and of the vacation ownership industry,” said Craig M. Nash, chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Interval Leisure Group, parent company of Interval International. “It has been very rewarding to share a common vision based on quality and integrity in everything we do.”

“Interval has played an integral part in helping fulfill Marriott’s brand promise. For 20 years, we have created memorable vacations together and exceeded owners’ expectations,” said Stephen P. Weisz, president of Marriott Vacation Club International. “We look forward to continuing our partnership with the Interval team and introducing exciting innovations that will further enhance our owners’ experiences.”

Marriott Vacation Club’s Call Center Named Best Place to Work

It has been announced in a press release that Marriott Vacation Club’s Owner Services call center was recently named one of the ‘Best Places to Work’ by the Utah Department of Workforce Services’ "Work/Life Awards" for the third year in a row. Utah’s Work/Life Awards recognize excellence in the workplace and is known nationwide for its rigorous evaluation and application process.

“We are thrilled to be recognized as one of Utah’s ‘Best Places to Work’ for a third consecutive year,” said Lee Hall, general manager of Owner Services for Marriott Vacation Club. “We are committed to taking great care of our outstanding associates who in turn take care of our customers and continue to lead us to the highest levels of service and excellence.”

Marriott Vacation Club Owner Services is home to more than 475 associates and focuses on providing excellent customer service, worldwide reservations and Marriott Rewards assistance to over 400,000 Marriott Owners worldwide. Owner Services prides itself in offering flexible work schedules that allow associates to balance their work/home life; internal advancement and career growth opportunities; and direct manager to associate relationships.

Marriott’s “Spirit to Serve” philosophy is also an important part of the company culture and few have been more committed to serving the greater Salt Lake City community than Marriott Vacation Club Owner Services. Within the last year alone, the group has served at more than 10 local charities and non-profit organizations.

Interval International adds Aurum Vacation Club to Global Network

Global vacationing is becoming more and more a mainstream travel activity. Previously almost unapproachable, countries such as China, Thailand, and now Hungary, are opening their doors to world-wide tourism.

Interval International, a leading global provider of vacation services and an operating segment of Interval Leisure Group, Inc., has just announced that it has added Aurum Vacation Club in Hajdúszoboszló, Hungary, to its global network of resorts.

Located in one of the most popular spa areas in the region, the purpose-built resort. includes a mixture of studios and one- and two-bedroom units. The club offers guests a number of on-site amenities, including an indoor thermal water swimming pool, sauna, exercise room, restaurant and bar, health club, massage services, and medicinal spa.

“We’re confident this will be a popular destination for our members, with health tourism becoming increasingly attractive,” noted Darren Ettridge, Interval’s vice president of resort sales and service for Europe, Middle East and Africa. “In addition to its appeal as a wellness centre, the area offers a variety of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy.”

“We are very happy being affiliated with Interval International,” said Dr. Ernő Ináncy, the owner of the resort. “We chose the company because of its very balanced and quality resort portfolio worldwide, especially in Hungary, and their flexible exchange options.”

Hajdúszoboszló, known as "the sunniest city in Hungary," is located in the northeastern part of the Great Hungarian Plain where the landscape of the renowned puszta (the "glorious plain") is enhanced by the Tisza river, with patches of reed, thousands of wild birds, inviting groves, and thermal springs.

The town's thermal springs has created one of the most popular spa centers in Europe. Promoters tout this "medicine chest of nature" as the remedy for numerous illnesses.
The pools, filled with water of various temperatures, are combined with balneotherapy and physiotherapy, to offer relief of many physical ailments. The microclimate of the medicinal baths, with the iodine content and salty humidity of the air, appears to speed recuperation.

At Aurum Vacation Club you'll enjoy a host of wellness and spa treatments. Relax in the indoor thermal swimming pool or sauna, enjoy massages and medical spa, or venture off-site discovering the many restaurants and shops, the Hajdúszoboszló National Park, and open-air medicinal baths. Or, be as active as you like with horseback riding, tennis, fishing, and the water park.

This area also has many sightseeing opportunities such as the Hungarian plains, the Hortobágy National Park,and the Hungarospa Hajdúszoboszló Medicinal Baths, one of the leading spa complexes in Hungary.

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Missouri Secretary of State Cracks Down on Investment Fraud

Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan has announced that James McClellan, Jr., of Chesterfield, Mo., has been permanently barred from working in the securities industry after he sold more than $4 million worth of unregistered timeshare investments to Missouri residents.

Carnahan also announced sanctions against McClellan’s former employer, Huntleigh Securities Corporation, censuring the firm and requiring it to pay $100,000 for failing to supervise the agent, who sold securities “off the books.”

According to two consent orders, McClellan sold unregistered securities to 18 Missouri investors in the St. Louis area, six of whom were over 80 years old. McClellan got the group to invest more than $4.4 million in a Wisconsin timeshare resort in which McClellan is a managing member. He did not disclose to the investors that the resort was experiencing financial difficultly or that the investments were not being offered through his employer.

“It is unacceptable for financial professionals to misuse their clients’ trust. My office made sure that this broker won’t be able to work in the industry in Missouri again and that his employer knows how to better supervise its employees,” Carnahan said. “Before choosing to how to invest your hard-earned savings, always remember to call our Investor Protection Hotline to make sure the investment is properly registered.”

McClellan is barred from registering as a securities agent in Missouri. Huntleigh will be censured, and is required to pay at least $100,000 to the Missouri Investor Education and Protection Fund and more than $20,000 for the Securities Division’s costs.

Further, Huntleigh is required to hire an independent compliance consultant to review its supervisory policies and procedures and to adopt and implement the consultant’s recommendations.

Huntleigh’s failure to supervise McClellan and other deficient compliance procedures were discovered during a November 2009 for-cause, on-site audit of the firm led by the Securities Division’s Audit Unit. The Division’s investigation into the activities of former Huntleigh agents and principals is on-going.

For more information regarding Missouri investments and fraud protection, or for information regarding a company or representative, call the toll free Investor Protection Hotline at 1-800-721-7996, or visit the Missouri Secretary of State's online Investor Protection Center at