Timeshare Industry Leaders Part of International Tourism Partnership

The International Tourism Partnership, founded in 1992 and part of the International Business Leaders Forum, is a unique organization that brings together industry leaders to demonstrate in a practical way that environmental and social responsibility make good business sense.

Many global leaders in the timeshare industry recognize their social responsibility and have taken steps forward in collaborating on finding practical solutions to the challenges of sustainable development. Founding member Marriott International is joined by other timeshare and vacation club businesses including Hyatt, Hilton Worldwide, Diamond International, Wyndham, and Starwood Hotels and Resorts - all who share the same commitment to collaborating on finding those solutions.

According to Stephen J. Cloobeck, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Diamond Resorts International®, “Our decision to join the International Tourism Partnership demonstrates our acknowledgement of the important position Diamond shares in the hospitality industry and how vital our environmental leadership is in our global operations as we embrace all aspects of sustainability, preservation and social responsibility. We greatly value the opportunity to have the support of the International Tourism Partnership to establish a mutually beneficial relationship toward our sustainability goals.”

The International Tourism Partnership brings together leading corporate partners in the hospitality and tourism industry to demonstrate that environmental and social responsibility makes good business sense.

Its aim is to encourage the hospitality industry to improve its impact on both environment and society by showcasing examples of leadership, working in partnership with other sectors, companies and agendas, and providing practical products, projects and solutions that focus on both short term outcomes and long term goals.

Stephen Farrant, Director of ITP commented, “The issue of moving toward greater sustainability remains a huge challenge but also a great opportunity for the sector. The more enlightened businesses are taking meaningful action on improving their environmental and social impacts, and the International Tourism Partnership has a vital role to play in championing and enabling this.”

The members of ITP represent some of the largest travel and tourism companies in the world, comprising over 11,100 hotel properties and 1.8 million rooms, all of whom agree that only through collective, industry-wide action at local, destination and country levels can real progress be made toward a more sustainable hotel, travel and tourism industry.

Diamond Resorts CEO Leads Efforts to Promote U.S. Travel

Diamond Resorts International® is proud that its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Stephen J. Cloobeck, serves on the Corporation for Travel Promotion Board of Directors. The global hospitality and vacation ownership company veteran is helping to lead the efforts of the non-profit Corporation for Travel Promotion (CTP) to promote travel to the U.S.

In September, 2010, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke appointed 11 travel and tourism industry leaders to serve on the CTP Board of Directors. The CTP is a new non-profit corporation that will promote travel to the United States and communicate and improve the entry process so that visitors want to return.

"The mission of the CTP is to help enhance the competitiveness of an already robust industry, which supports more than 8 million American jobs and is a critical source of export strength," explained Locke. "Many other nations operate ministries of tourism that actively market their countries as tourist destinations around the world. CTP will help get America into the game and encourage people across the globe to travel to the U.S."

“Diamond Resorts International, with more than 160 branded and affiliated resorts in 26 countries, is extremely versed in bringing customers to market, and I am both honored and excited to be named to the CTP and to help bolster our government efforts to promote America as a travel destination,” said Cloobeck.

Cloobeck brings nearly three decades of resort development, building and construction, finance, sales and marketing, hospitality service and resort operations expertise to the CTP, and joins other travel and tourism industry leaders named to the CTP board of directors.

The Travel Promotion Act of 2009 created the CTP to develop and execute a plan to (a) provide useful information to those interested in traveling to the United States; (b) identify and address perceptions regarding U.S. entry policies; (c) maximize the economic and diplomatic benefits of travel to the United States through the use of various promotional tools; and (d) ensure that international travel benefits all states and the District of Columbia.

Diamond Resorts International, with global headquarters in Las Vegas, Nev., is one of the largest vacation ownership companies in the world with destinations throughout the continental United States and Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa. Annually, nearly 1.4 million owners, members and guests enjoy the simplicity, choice and comfort Diamond Resorts International.

RCI Adds 5-Star Timeshare Resort: Vijayshree Heritage Village

RCI, the global leader in vacation exchange and one of the Wyndham Worldwide family of brands has announced its affiliation with Vijayshree Heritage Village near the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hampi, the former capital of the famed Vijayanagara empire, a South Indian empire that dated from 1336 to 1646.

Located just 6 kilometers from Hampi, the Vijayshree Heritage Village is a classified five-star timeshare resort in India, spread across 17 acres of gorgeous hill-fenced expanse, offering ethnic luxuries with 43 cottages nestled amid 60,000 planted trees.

Hampi is a tourist’s delight, rich in history, architecture and religion. A complete city, stretching out over several kilometers, the Hampi monuments are in different states of repair, varying from complete ruins to active temples. The natural setting is magnificent, a quiet rural area dominated by a river and strangely shaped boulders.

“RCI is delighted to welcome Vijayshree Heritage Village into the RCI network. This is our very first affiliation in the uniquely historic city of Hampi,” said Radhika Shastry, managing director, RCI India. “Vijayshree Heritage Village resonates well with the serene and incredible world heritage site and we look forward to RCI members enjoying their stay here.

Vijayshree Heritage Village comes with all modern amenities including a fine dining restaurant, a health club with a 6,000 square-foot swimming pool, a spa with sauna/steam, beauty salon and a wellness centre offering Balinese, Swedish, Oriental, Thai and Ayurvedic massages.

Located on the popular Goa-Bangalore tourist circuit, the resort has been planned around the philosophy of the five elements comprising earth, fire, wind, water and sky. Although the resort serves only vegetarian food, there are plenty of options around the area for those seeking other fare.

The resort is a themed village which offers international 21st century hospitality set within an 11th and 12th century setting. It is reminiscent of the grandeur of palaces and gateways of the broken city, telling tales of man’s infinite talent and the power of creativity. The acres of sprawling lawns also house an amphitheatre where performances by professional artists from Rajasthan and Karnataka are held every day.

(Photo credit - vijayshreeheritagevillage.com)

Timeshare Owners Needs Addressed on New ARDA Website

The American Resort Development Association (ARDA) has launched a new website devoted to the needs of timeshare owners. The ARDA Resort Owners Coalition (ARDA-ROC) has been a big influence among 'homeowner associations', representing and lobbying for the needs of many committees across North America.

Its new site - ARDAROC.org - will cater to existing timeshare owners "who already own the product, and understand it, but look at some of the issues facing owners today," according to ARDA's CEO and president, Howard Nusbaum.

ARDAROC.org is geared up to inform and motivate timeshare owners to take action on issues that affect them. Among the key features at ARDAROC.org is an interactive map for owners to select their home state and learn about the latest news and issues that ARDA feels should be useful to them.

Stories making headlines include news of a major change proposed by a house bill in the state of Utah under the Timeshare and Camp Resort Act which could allow delinquent owners to avoid obligations to their homeowners association without penalty under certain conditions - a situation that ARDA will fervently lobby against to protect HOAs.

The latest addition to ARDA's web repository is funded by a cross section of the timeshare industry including major developers, management companies, and other industry service providers.

ARDAROC.org is ARDA's third website. The Association's home base, ARDA.org, caters to industry needs, while the consumer-facing VacationBetter.org is a flag waver for the affirming benefits of timeshare for prospective owners.

ARDA is a Washington D.C.-based trade association representing the vacation ownership and resort development industries (timeshares). ARDA has almost 1,000 corporate members ranging from privately held firms to publicly traded corporations with extensive experience in shared ownership interests in leisure real estate.

The membership also includes timeshare owner associations (HOAs), resort management companies, industry vendors, suppliers, and consultants; as well as owners through the ARDA Resort Owners Coalition (ARDA-ROC).

Diamond Resorts Announces Promotion

Diamond Resorts International, a global leader in the hospitality and vacation ownership industries, has announced that Sarah Hulme has been promoted to Senior Vice President of Global Club Operations.

Sarah Hulme will continue to oversee worldwide club operations and management as well as all service contact centers, including the United States and European customer service departments. Additionally, Ms. Hulme will manage the continued development of THE Club® member offerings involving member benefits and the resort affiliate program, which has grown the resort portfolio to nearly 200 resorts providing a choice on every continent since 2008.

Her expertise of THE Club at Diamond Resorts International will continue to position Diamond as a worldwide hospitality and vacation ownership leader.

“We are pleased with this promotion as her extensive repertoire and reputable experience will provide continued and significant growth for the company as she remains an integral part in the success of Diamond,” said Stephen J. Cloobeck, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Diamond Resorts International.

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."

Annually, nearly 1.4 million owners, members and guests enjoy the simplicity, choice and comfort Diamond Resorts International offers through our branded hospitality experience.

Diamond Resorts Corporation and its subsidiaries develop, own, operate and manage vacation ownership resorts and, through resort and partner affiliation agreements, provide owners and members with access to 69 managed resorts and 108 affiliated resorts through THE Club® at Diamond Resorts International.

American Resort Development Association Prepares for Annual Convention

Leading vacation ownership companies and service providers have signed on as Signature Sponsors of the 2011 American Resort Development Association (ARDA) Convention and Exposition at the Orlando World Center Marriott in Orlando, Florida. The annual convention, from March 27 – March 31, will feature an impressive line-up of speakers and entertainers, including keynote speaker Terry Jones, founder and former CEO of Travelocity and chairman of Kayak.com.

The Signature Sponsors for this year’s exciting ARDA event are American Express, Diamond Resorts International, Equiant, Holiday Inn Club Vacations, Hilton Grand Vacations, Holiday Systems International (HSI), International Cruise and Excursions, Inc. (ICE), Interval International, RCI, ResortCom International L.L.C, Starwood Vacation Ownership, Inc., and Wyndham Vacation Ownership.

The convention offers companies prime exposure to top vacation ownership industry professionals who gather to network, learn the latest industry trends, and visit hundreds of industry suppliers on the exhibit floor. Thanks to the generosity of the Signature Sponsors, the ARDA convention has become the number one resource for networking with industry leaders, timely educational programming, and exposure for sponsors, exhibitors, and attendees.

“The support of our 2011 Signature Sponsors enables us to continue to bring cutting-edge programs and high-quality events, and we are grateful for their generosity,” said Howard C. Nusbaum, ARDA president and CEO.

RCI is once again sponsoring the RCI/AIF Open Golf Tournament at The Legends at Orange Lake®, named one of the “Best Places to Play” by Golf Digest. Interval International is hosting its annual “Party with a Cause” at the House of Blues, with ticket proceeds benefiting industry research and education.

Equiant Financial Services is providing the “smart car for two” for the AIF Auto Driveaway contest. Hilton Grand Vacations is sponsoring “Breakfast of Champions” featuring decorated Army Commander Lt. Col. Greg Gadson, who will share his key factors in overcoming life-altering setbacks.

The ARDA Awards Gala, sponsored by Holiday Systems International (HSI), will include a cocktail reception, elegant dinner, presentation of the annual ARDA Awards, and entertainment by MOSAIC.

The American Resort Development Association is a Washington D.C.-based professional association representing the vacation ownership and resort development industries. Established in 1969, ARDA today has almost 1,000 members ranging from privately held firms to publicly traded companies and international corporations with expertise in shared ownership interests in leisure real estate. The membership also includes timeshare owner associations (HOAs), resort management companies, and owners through the ARDA Resort Owners Coalition (ARDA-ROC).

RCI Now Offering Ixchel Residences Timeshares

RCI, the global leader in vacation exchange and one of the Wyndham Worldwide family of brands announced it has expanded its network in Mexico through its affiliation with Ixchel Residences, a well-appointed development at north Isla Mujeres, a popular beach destination just outside Cancun.

Developed by Group I Maroma, Ixchel Residences is located less than 13 miles from Cancun International Airport and features 14 exclusive luxury villas and 117 deluxe rooms. The property offers several on-site amenities including a gym, heated pool, an area with lounge chairs on the beach and high-speed wireless Internet.

Isla Mujeres (Women Island) was so named by Spanish explorers because of the large numbers of clay goddess images found there. At that time the island was sacred to the Mayan goddess of childbirth, Ix Chel.

Isla Mujeres is a fun 20-minute ferry ride from either Puerto Juarez or Puerto Cancun. Considered by many to be "the most idyllic spot in the Caribbean," the island is a world away from busy Cancun, with a peaceful, laid-back lifestyle.

“This affiliation with RCI represents an important opportunity for us,” said Gabriel Tommasi, legal representative, Ixchel Residences Resort. “We are excited to be able to expand our business areas, provide new opportunities for our customers, and bring the beauty of Isla Mujeres to new audiences.”

“For RCI, this exciting affiliation with Ixchel Residences represents another opportunity for us to offer great exchange options to our 3.8 million members worldwide,” said Ricardo Montaudon, president, RCI Latin America. “Located in a region that consistently boasts great vacations, this development reaffirms RCI’s commitment to offering great vacation in highly desirable destinations.”

RCI is part of Wyndham Exchange & Rentals, the worldwide leader in vacation exchange and the world’s largest serviced vacation rentals business, providing access to nearly 97,000 vacation properties in approximately 100 countries. The vacation exchange business includes RCI, the worldwide leader in vacation exchange and provider of travel services to businesses and consumers.

Wyndham Worldwide Corporation is one of the world’s largest hospitality companies with leading brands in lodging franchising, vacation ownership, vacation rentals and vacation exchange.

(Photo credit - ixchelresidences.com)

Promotions at Shell Vacations Ownership Company

Shell Vacations, one of the nation’s leading independent vacation ownership development companies, has recently announced the promotion of three senior executives within its club, finance and sales divisions.

Susan C. Kelley (see photo), who has served as President of Shell Vacations Hospitality since 2008 and directed the fiscal and facilities operations of all company resorts, has been named President of the points-based Shell Vacations Club (SVC). In her expanded role, she is also responsible for overseeing Member Servicing & Travel Operations, Inventory & Yield Management, Partner Programs, and SVC Performance Analysis. Kelley has been with the Northbrook, Illinois-based company since 1994.

“Very few hospitality executives could shoulder the tremendous responsibility of managing 1,100 hospitality professionals while at the same time directing every facet of our vacation club with such a high level of dedication and performance,“ commented Tracy L. Sherles, President and Chief Operating Officer of Shell Vacations. “Sue Kelley is superbly qualified for both top leadership positions.”

In the finance arena, William J. Weber has been promoted to Chief Financial Officer, where he has assumed responsibility for all aspects of accounting, finance and taxes for the company, its subsidiaries and affiliates. A Certified Public Accountant and member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Weber previously served as Shell Vacations Senior VP, Finance & Portfolio.

“After 14 years in various accounting positions of leadership within our company, Bill is thoroughly knowledgeable about every facet of our company and uniquely qualified to take the helm as CFO," said Sheldon Ginsburg, Chairman and CEO of Shell Vacations.

Jack Chevrier, a sales and marketing veteran with more than 25 years of experience in the vacation ownership industry, has been named Executive VP of Sales & Marketing for Shell Vacations, responsible for all company sales and marketing operations and strategies. He was previously Senior VP of Sales & Marketing.

“Jack Chevrier is one of the most pragmatic and analytical sales and marketing executives in the industry," said Sherles. "He is astute at managing resources effectively to achieve the company’s targeted goals. Having Jack in our top marketing and sales position has maximized the productivity of our operations and enabled us to take advantage of new opportunities. His extensive industry experience has blended perfectly with our corporate vision for the future.”

Headquartered in Northbrook, IL, Shell Vacations LLC is one of the most respected independent vacation ownership developers in the United States, operating or affiliated with 25 resorts in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The company specializes in the sales and hospitality management of vacation ownership resorts as well as servicing over 125,000 owner and member families of its vacation ownership products.

(Photo credit - shellvacationclub.com)

Marriott to Spin Off Timeshare Operations as an Independent Company

Marriott International, Inc. has announced a plan to split the company’s businesses into two separate, publicly traded companies. Marriott International expects to spin off its timeshare operations and development business as a new independent company through a special tax-free dividend to Marriott International shareholders in late 2011.

Under the plan, the new company will focus on the timeshare business as the exclusive developer and operator of timeshare, fractional and related products under the Marriott brand and the exclusive developer of fractional and related products under the Ritz-Carlton brand. After the split, Marriott International will concentrate on the lodging management and franchise business. Marriott will also receive franchise fees from the timeshare company’s use of the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton brands.

Marriott International chairman and chief executive officer, J.W. Marriott, Jr., said, “Marriott took a bold step when we introduced our Marriott brand to the timeshare industry in 1984. In this transaction, we take another innovative step forward as we combine the power of the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton brands with the flexibility and focus of a new independent timeshare company.

Marriott Vacation Club owners and guests and The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club members should see no change in the branding or quality of their properties, services, usage options, use of Marriott Rewards points, or access to Marriott International’s hotels," continued Marriott.

"The companies will continue to work together to provide outstanding vacation experiences, similar to the relationship between Marriott International and the franchisees of its hotel properties. After the split, both companies will remain dedicated to the highest standards of quality and value and the brand promise for which Marriott and Ritz-Carlton are well known and widely respected. Day-to-day operations at both companies should not be affected by this transaction."

As two separate public companies, both Marriott International and the new company will have separate boards of directors. J.W. Marriott, Jr. will remain chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Marriott International. Stephen P. Weisz, president of Marriott’s timeshare business since 1997 and a 39-year Marriott veteran, will become chief executive officer of the new company.

“Our new company will be independent and the largest pure-play timeshare firm in the world," said Weisz. "We believe our outstanding brands, unparalleled operating skill, prime resort locations and world-class sales expertise will continue to provide us with a significant competitive advantage.

“With the launch of the Marriott Vacation Club Destinations timeshare program, our points-based product, in 2010, we are confident in our ability to fulfill the dreams and meet the growing expectations of our customers."

Wyndham Vacation Ownership Partners with Emerald Grande

Wyndham Vacation Ownership (WVO), the world’s largest vacation ownership company and a member of the Wyndham Worldwide family of companies, announced it has executed a sales and marketing agreement with Emerald Grande, LLC, its fourth fee-for-service sales model agreement overall and second to be signed in 2011. The resort will be marketed as Wyndham Vacation Resorts Emerald Grande™ at Destin. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Through this agreement, unsold vacation ownership interests will become part of CLUB WYNDHAM® Access, the company’s flexible club-based product. WVO will become the exclusive sales and marketing agent for the sale of CLUB WYNDHAM Access vacation ownership interests at Emerald Grande at HarborWalk™ Village, with sales anticipated to begin in the fourth quarter of 2011.

“Destin has always been an extremely popular destination for our owners, especially during the summer months, and we are extremely proud to welcome Emerald Grande into our portfolio of premier resorts,” said Franz Hanning, president and chief executive officer, Wyndham Vacation Ownership.

The property is also expected to operate within CLUB WYNDHAM. Plus, the company’s points-based exchange program that allows owners the flexibility to vacation at more than 70 resorts and enjoy other vacation options and access to special travel opportunities such as cruises and guided trips.

“We are pleased to be able to add the Wyndham Vacation Resorts product to our existing high quality mixed use vacation property and look forward to welcoming Wyndham owners and guests to our Emerald Grande Resort family,” said Ed McMullen, Jr., Executive Vice President, Real Estate Sales, Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village.

Overlooking the Gulf Coast’s emerald green waters and white sugar sand beaches of Florida's panhandle, Wyndham Vacation Resorts Emerald Grande at Destin is located along Destin Harbor, the gateway to the Gulf of Mexico. Resort amenities include a family-oriented water playground, full-service European spa and fitness center, indoor and outdoor heated pools, a full-service marina, world-class fishing excursions and aqua adventures, as well as numerous boutique shops, restaurants, and entertainment options situated along HarborWalk Village, one of the most photographed waterfronts in Destin.

With this latest project, WVO will continue to capitalize upon the momentum that began in March 2010 when it announced its first exclusive sales and marketing fee-for-service agreement at Wyndham Vacation Resorts Towers on the Grove at North Myrtle Beach, SC. In August 2010, the company announced the addition of Wyndham Vacation Resorts Reunion at Orlando, and most recently on Jan. 6, 2011, the company announced its entry into Vermont with the signing of a fee-for-service sales agreement for Wyndham Vacation Resorts Smugglers’ Notch Vermont near Burlington.

Interval Sponsors Timeshare Resort Development Organization (RDO) Conference

Interval International, a prominent worldwide provider of vacation services and an operating business of Interval Leisure Group, is again proud to be a Platinum sponsor of the Resort Development Organization (RDO) Conference. The event will be held September, 2011, in Marbella, Spain.

“Last year’s RDO Conference was a tremendous success and it is our pleasure to support this year’s event,” said Darren Ettridge, Interval’s vice president of resort sales and service for Europe, Middle East, and Africa and its representative on the RDO Board. “We look forward to playing our usual full part in the organization of the conference and also in taking an active role during the event.”

“We’re extremely pleased that Interval is a Platinum Sponsor of RDO2,” said Paul Gardner Bougaard, chief executive of RDO. “The company is one of the first to step forward to support the Conference. In addition to its key sponsorship role, Interval is offering the same level of logistical assistance in the planning and production of the event as last year, which was a contributing factor to its great success. For that, I would like to express my personal thanks and that of the RDO.”

The Conference is expected to attract more than 200 delegates from across Europe and beyond, including resort developers, representatives from trust companies, and legal experts. It will be a primary venue for discussing key industry topics that affect the European market. Interval will have a full resort sales and service team at the event.

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.

The Resort Development Organization was established to improve representation for reputable companies in the timeshare sector and promote fair trading, quality within, and growth of the timeshare industry. RDO was created following the decision by the European Timeshare Federation in February 1998 to integrate all national timeshare trade associations into one pan-European direct membership organization.

RDO is a direct membership organization with over 90 members from all sectors of the industry across Europe.

Royal Holiday’s Better Business Bureau Rating Raised to “A”

Royal Holiday Club’s rating for reliability and service has been raised to an “A by the Better Business Bureau of Southeast Florida and the Caribbean (BBB), ranking the company between the 94th and 97th percentiles according to the BBB’s system.

This is the third rating increase in 12 months for Royal Holiday, and reaffirms the company’s ongoing efforts to achieve 100 percent customer satisfaction. This rating represents BBB’s high degree of confidence in Royal Holiday’s operations, including rapid resolution of customer concerns filed with the BBB.

This rating upgrade, which is based on an in-depth review of 17 different aspects of the Company’s operations, including the nature, volume and timely resolution of complaints, reflects the company’s ongoing efforts to meet its goal of 100% customer satisfaction across its operations.

“Our members rely on Royal Holiday to provide an unforgettable vacation experience, and this top rating from the BBB reflects the significant work we’ve done to exceed these expectations,” said Enrique Aguirre, Royal Holiday’s Chief Quality Officer.

“We are pleased that our staff’s dedication to quickly and thoroughly resolve customer concerns has been recognized with consistent BBB rating upgrades over the past year. Going forward, everyone at Royal Holiday is committed to maintaining this ‘A’ rating as we provide our customers with the highest levels of service.”

Already a BBB Accredited Business, Royal Holiday continues to build upon the substantial measures it launched in May 2009 to enhance its customer service, which included expanding its Quality Assurance department and establishing new measures to track and respond to feedback from its members.

This commitment is apparent at the Park Royal Acapulco, which recently received the Gold Crown distinction for 2011 from RCI, the world’s largest vacation timeshare exchange network. Based on RCI member polls, this award is granted when a resort maintains above average standards of service and satisfaction.

The Royal Holiday network includes more than 140 land destinations. Royal Holiday also continues to introduce new amenities to its exciting array of vacation offerings, with 10 new properties added in 2010.

Marriott International Recognized as LatinaStyle Company of the Year

LatinaStyle officially recognized Marriott International as the 2010 "Company of the Year" at its annual awards and diversity leadership conference held Friday, February 4th, 2011.

Bill Marriott was the keynote speaker during the luncheon. "Our company’s early success has an interesting connection to Latinas," he shared. "My mother, Alice S. Marriott, majored in Spanish while in college. Maybe it was my mother’s love of the Spanish language and heritage that influenced us. But my family has always loved Latin America.

"Just over a year ago, I traveled to Colombia for the first time to attend the grand opening of our first hotel in Bogota. While I was there, I had the opportunity to meet President Uribe, who has done wonders for the reputation and business environment in Colombia, making it a prime travel destination in South America. He attended our grand opening and welcomed us officially to his country. It was a wonderful trip to a great country."

In July, 2011, Marriott was also recognized for its commitment to diversity and inclusion initiatives for the sixth consecutive year by Black Enterprise Magazine, which named Marriott International as one of the “40 Best Companies for Diversity.”

"Our business is all about people,” Jimmie Paschall, global diversity officer and senior vice president, external affairs for Marriott International, Inc., said at that time. “As our company grows globally, it is imperative that we expand our diversity and inclusion strategy to encompass cultural competencies, building upon our success in the United States.”

Further recognition in 2010 for the company's diversity and inclusion achievements included being ranked seventh on DiversityInc's “Top 50 Companies for Diversity” list, and among the “Top 50 Companies for Executive Women” by the National Association for Female Executives.

In 2003, Marriott’s Board of Directors established the Committee for Excellence, chaired today by board member Debra L. Lee, chairman and CEO of BET Networks, to monitor the progress of the company’s diversity initiatives.

Marriott International, Inc., is a leading lodging company with more than 3,500 lodging properties in 70 countries and territories, and develops and operates vacation ownership resorts under the Marriott Vacation Club, The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club, and Grand Residences by Marriott brands. It is ranked as the lodging industry’s most admired company and one of the best companies to work for by Fortune Magazine.

(Photo credit - news.marriott.com)

Pictured: Accepting the award from Robert Bard, LatinaStyle’s president and CEO are Bill Marriott, chairman and CEO, and Brenda Durham, vice president and assistant general counsel for Marriott.

SL Resort Holdings Acquires Silverleaf Resorts

Silverleaf Resorts, Inc., a leader in the development, marketing and operation of timeshare resorts, has announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by SL Resort Holdings Inc., an affiliate of Cerberus Capital Management, L.P.

The transaction has been approved by Silverleaf’s Board of Directors, and the Board will be recommending that Silverleaf’s shareholders approve the transaction. Under the agreement, Silverleaf shareholders will receive, at the closing, $2.50 in cash for each share of Silverleaf common stock they own, representing a premium of approximately 75% based on the closing trading price of $1.43 of Silverleaf common stock on February 3, 2011. Cerberus has agreed to provide equity financing for the full amount of the merger consideration.

Thomas Morris, Executive Vice President, Capital Markets and Strategic Planning of Silverleaf, said, “Our Board of Directors and our management team believe that following a review of strategic alternatives this merger transaction is the best approach to maximize shareholder value and is in the best interests of Silverleaf’s shareholders, timeshare owners, and employees. We look forward to working with Cerberus to effect a smooth transition.”

“Cerberus is pleased to be investing in a company with an outstanding management team and proven track-record of success in the vacation ownership industry,” said Timothy F. Price, a Cerberus Managing Director and spokesman. “The family of resorts under the Silverleaf banner has a long history of providing members with convenient, high-quality vacation experiences at affordable prices. We look forward to supporting the Company’s management team and dedicated employees as they work to ensure that the Company’s members continue to enjoy great vacations for years to come.”

Silverleaf has engaged Gleacher & Company Securities, Inc. as its financial advisor in connection with the proposed merger.

The Silverleaf Board of Directors has received an opinion from Gleacher & Company Securities, Inc., that the consideration to be paid to Silverleaf shareholders in the transaction is fair from a financial point of view.

Completion of the transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including approval by the Company’s shareholders. Silverleaf intends to hold a special meeting of its shareholders for the purpose of approving the merger as promptly as possible. Upon completion of the transaction, Silverleaf will become a private company, wholly-owned by Cerberus, and its common stock will no longer be traded on NASDAQ.

Robert E. Mead, the Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer of Silverleaf, has entered into a Voting Agreement with Cerberus pursuant to which he has agreed to vote shares beneficially owned by him representing 24.5% of the outstanding shares of Silverleaf in favor of the transaction.

Interval International Supports Scholarship Program

The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) has presented Interval International and participating member resorts with an award recognizing their generous support of its scholarship program. Their contributions to the CHTA Education Foundation (CHTAEF) have steadily increased over the past few years, totaling $175,000.

Neil Kolton, Interval’s director of resort sales and service for the region, accepted the honor at the recent Caribbean Marketplace in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

“The support from Interval and its affiliated resorts has been instrumental in our ability to provide students and hospitality executives with the means to establish and further their careers,” noted Tom Pas, chairman of CHTAEF. “These ongoing contributions have made it possible for a significant number of Caribbean nationals to take advantage of educational opportunities that would not have otherwise been available to them. We owe Interval and its affiliates a debt of gratitude.”

“While this acknowledgment is greatly appreciated, the true reward is seeing scholarship recipients become successful professionals who in turn contribute to the tourism industry in the region,” said Kolton, who also credited the company’s member resorts for their generous support of CHTAEF.

The CHTAEF was established in 1987 as a non-profit organization to provide scholarships and special assistance to Caribbean hospitality industry personnel and students pursuing hospitality and tourism careers. The foundation has awarded more than US$1 million dollars in scholarships and grants

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 has a timeshare 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. Interval is an operating segment of Interval Leisure Group, Inc., a leading global provider of membership and leisure services to the vacation industry.

(Photo credit - persepectivemagazine.com)

Marriott’s Shadow Ridge adds Dylan’s Candy Bar

Just in time for Valentine's Day! Marriott’s Shadow Ridge in Palm Desert is bringing a sweet experience to its owners and guests with the opening of its very own Dylan’s Candy Bar, "the world’s sweetest candy emporium," modeled after the innovative New York flagship store.

“The Marriott Vacation Club experience is about creating memorable moments for our owners and guests,” said Daniel Slaughter, general manager of Marriott’s Shadow Ridge. “We’re excited to offer the first Dylan’s Candy Bar at a Marriott resort and see this as the perfect complement to our amenities at Marriott’s Shadow Ridge.”

The shop’s bright turquoise walls with a candy-coated ceiling, custom candy-themed light fixtures and shelves full of tantalizing treats is guaranteed to indulge the inner child in everyone. Guests can enjoy a delicious adventure discovering their favorite candy and chocolates, including scrumptious gummy bears and jelly beans, a vast variety of nostalgic treats and various flavors of Dylan’s Candy Bar’s exclusive line of chocolate bars. Other eye catchers include the famous Whirly Pop Tree with its branches of lickable lollipops and candy-inspired apparel and accessories that look good enough to eat.

The iconic Dylan’s Candy Bar was founded by Dylan Lauren, daughter of the legendary fashion designer Ralph Lauren. Dylan’s dream of combining a love of candy and a passion for art became a reality when the first Dylan's Candy Bar, located in New York City, opened in 2001. Since then, Dylan has expanded her stores to include locations in East Hampton and Roosevelt Field, N.Y.; Orlando, Fla.; Houston, Texas and prestigious wholesale venues around the globe.

“As a great explorer (of candy, that is) I love traveling and discovering new treats from around the world,” said Dylan Lauren, CEO & Founder of Dylan’s Candy Bar. “By partnering with Marriott’s Shadow Ridge, we have combined the delight of luxury vacationing with the deliciousness of candy to create a mouthwatering duo that will ensure the sweetest of escapes.”

Renown for merging the worlds of art, fashion and pop culture with candy, Dylan's Candy Bar is not your average "candy store." Besides over 7,000 different kinds of candy from around the world, it features candy-inspired fashion and a café serving delicious baked treats and gourmet ice cream, as well as a party room and candy-cocktail bar.

Located in the heart of Palm Desert, Marriott’s Shadow Ridge currently has timeshare rentals available for your Valentine getaway. And when you visit the candy store you can pick up something sweet for your sweetheart with Dylan’s Candy Bar Valentine’s Day special edition chocolate bars including a premium Belgian milk chocolate “Bleeding Heart Bar” filled with sweet red caramel, sure to get your Valentine's heart beating.

(Candy Store Photo Credit - news.marriott.com)

ARDA Update on Timeshare Industry Legislation

The American Resort Development Association (ARDA) is a Washington D.C.- based trade association representing the vacation ownership and resort development industries (timeshares). Besides corporate members, ARDA's membership also includes timeshare owner associations (HOAs), as well as timeshare owners themselves through the ARDA Resort Owners Coalition (ARDA-ROC).

ARDA promotes the growth and development of the timeshare industry through a variety of capacities, including Advocacy. ARDA monitors regulatory issues that affect timeshare by engaging in lobbying efforts focused on the establishment of a legislative environment that enhances consumer confidence and protection.

Recent legislative updates which ARDA is monitoring are:
  • Hawaii. At the urging of Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie, several bills have been introduced in the Legislature to increase the TAT on timeshare owners from 7.25% to 9.25% as well as increase the amount subject to tax from 50% of the daily maintenance fee to 150% of the daily maintenance fee. The House Tourism Committee heard testimony from the timeshare industry on the Governor's bills, HB 809 and HB 1163, earlier this week, however, and delayed any action.

  • Nevada. Due to a $50 fee imposed on foreclosures in 2009 and an additional $150 fee added in Nevada's 2010 special legislative session to address budget issues, deed of trust foreclosures now cost an additional $200. ARDA-Nevada wants to reduce foreclosure costs by permitting internet advertising of foreclosure sales.

  • South Carolina. In early December, 2010, the Tax Realignment Commission (TRAC) sent its final report to the legislature, and in doing so made the following recommendations with respect to the timeshare industry: i) the removal of the sales tax exemption the industry currently enjoys for the sale, resale, and exchange of timeshare interests, ii) the imposition of a transient accommodations tax on maintenance fees paid on all timeshare interests in South Carolina, and iii) the removal of the personal property tax exemption for fixtures, furnishings and equipment located in a timeshare unit.

  • Wisconsin. As in several other states recently, ARDA-ROC and ARDA-Wisconsin will support the passage of legislation to enact non-judicial foreclosure for timeshare mortgages and owners’ association assessment liens in 2011.

  • Texas. Unlike many other states, Texas has no real estate transfer fees and prices of real estate sales are not typically disclosed publicly. This year, legislators will introduce bills requiring real estate purchasers (including timeshare buyers) to disclose the sales price in order to record the sale.

Dan Lubner Joins ARDA Suppliers Council

Dan Lubner, President of the Hospitality Design Division of Robb & Stucky Interiors, has recently been named to a three-year term to the prestigious Suppliers Council of the American Resort Development Association (ARDA).

Suppliers Council members are called upon to provide insight into current industry issues and to help develop and guide association programs. Membership indicates a high level of commitment to the vacation ownership industry and provides direct contact with the ARDA Chairman and association president.

Comprised of leading industry firms, the Council was formed in 2005 to provide education and networking for ARDA’s supplier members and to serve as subject matter experts for the association in terms of product and service procurement trends impacting the resort industry.

“We welcome Dan with his vast expertise in furnishing and renovating hotels and resorts around the globe. His extensive knowledge in this highly specialized field is providing tremendous benefits to our entire Council,” said Joy Powers RRP, Director of Business Development of Concord Servicing Corp. and Chairman of the Suppliers Council.

Robb & Stucky Interiors is a nationally respected interior design and premier furnishings retailer with 15 showrooms in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and Nevada as well as Robb & Stucky patio stores. The company’s Hospitality Design Division has completed domestic and international commercial design assignments for hotels, condominiums, timeshare and fractional resorts located from Denver to Dubai.

Robb & Stucky Interiors was recognized for design excellence in August, 2010, by The Southeast Building during the Aurora Award Gala held in Orlando, Florida. Robb & Stucky won five awards, including two Grand Auroras.

ARDA is a Washington D.C.-based professional association representing the vacation ownership and resort development industries. Established in 1969, ARDA today has nearly 1,000 corporate members ranging from privately held firms to publicly traded companies and international corporations with expertise in shared ownership interests in leisure real estate. The membership also includes timeshare owner associations (HOAs), resort management companies, and owners through the ARDA Resort Owners Coalition (ARDA-ROC).

RCI Timeshare Exchange Expands Network in Brazil

RCI, the global leader in vacation exchange and one of the Wyndham Worldwide family of brands, announced it has expanded its network in Brazil through its affiliation with Thermas de Olympia Resort in Olympia, one of the most important tourism centers of the State of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Developed by LM Empreendimentos e Participações S/A , the resort is situated on 65 acres. Thermas de Olympia features 488 units including 40 duplex suites, 16 two-bedroom suites and 432 family suites that offer a separate living room. Each unit is equipped with a digital phone system, digital safe and panoramic balcony.

Located in the Guarani Aquifer, Thermas de Olympia is in a desirable area in the northwest region, near Sao Jose do Rio Preto and offers many recreational facilities on the complex. One of the most impressive attractions is the Thermal Water Park of Orange groves which includes waterfalls, slides, water cannons,, swimming pools, paddleboats, surfing and many more water activities. The resort also hosts a convenience store and mini zoo on site.

“We are pleased to join the RCI network,” said Guilherme Lopes Morais, president of LM Empreendimentos e Participações S/A. “Our partnership with RCI will help increase the visibility for Thermas de Olympia to illustrate the many reasons why our resort is a great place that offers fun for the whole family.”

“Affiliating with Thermas Olympia Resort strengthens our presence in the Brazilian market and is the perfect place for us to extend our vacation exchange system,” said Alejandro Moreno, director, Business Development, RCI Brazil. “We are confident that this affiliation will be a successful one.”

With approximately 30 years of experience in the market, LM Empreendimentos e Participações S/A provides customers with quality products and differentiated investments, especially in areas of potential tourism and hospitality. As an engineering services provider, the company makes available key services with a commitment to high quality. LM Empreendimentos e Participações S/A has in its portfolio the construction of over 4,000 apartments, plus restaurants, bars, venues for concerts, shops and boutiques

RCI is part of Wyndham Exchange & Rentals, the worldwide leader in vacation exchange and the world’s largest full-service vacation rentals business, providing access to more than 85,000 vacation properties in approximately 100 countries. Wyndham Worldwide Corporation is one of the world’s largest hospitality companies with leading brands in lodging franchising, vacation ownership, vacation rentals and vacation exchange. For additional information visit our media center.

(Photo credit - serben.com.br)

Marriott Included in Fortune Magazine’s “Best Companies” List

Marriott International has been recognized for the 14th consecutive year by Fortune Magazine as one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For.” Marriott is a Fortune “All Star,” being one of only 13 companies on the list every year since it launched in 1998. Marriott is the second highest ranked company with 100,000 or more associates and was ranked 71st overall.

“Marriott opens doors to a world of opportunities, wherever your journey takes you,” said David Rodriguez, executive vice president of Global Human Resources. “Our company’s enduring “spirit to serve” culture provides associates a family environment of teamwork, trust, and cooperation where we value the contributions of our diverse global workforce.”

Marriott prides itself on fostering growth and development for associates as they find their own career journey, and offers a wide range of unique programs and benefits.

Marriott has long been recognized as a great place to work by several prominent publications including Working Mother, DiversityInc and LATINA Style magazines.

To pick the "100 Best Companies to Work For," Fortune partnered with the Great Place to Work Institute to conduct the most extensive employee survey in corporate America. Three hundred eleven companies participated in this year's survey. Two-thirds of a company's score is based on the results of the Institute's Trust Index survey, which is sent to a random sample of associates from each company. The survey asks questions related to their attitudes about management's credibility, job satisfaction, and camaraderie.

The other third of the scoring is based on the company's responses to the Institute's Culture Audit, which includes detailed questions about pay and benefit programs and a series of open-ended questions about hiring practices, internal communications, training, recognition programs and diversity efforts. Any company that is at least seven years old with more than 1,000 U.S. associates is eligible.