Travel News: UNWTO Offers Japan Support as Nuclear Crisis Deepens

The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Regional Commission for Asia and the Pacific has expressed its full support and solidarity with the people of Japan in the aftermath of the recent earthquake and tsunami. Holding their annual meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka (March 24-25, 2011), UNWTO members from Asia and the Pacific also discussed individual country concerns regarding their tourism sectors in light of persistent global economic challenges.

The 23rd Joint Meeting of the UNWTO Commission for South Asia and the UNWTO Commission for East Asia and the Pacific adopted a special resolution on Japan, expressing “support to, and solidarity with, the government of Japan and the Japanese people as a whole." The resolution stressed support to “Japan’s tourism industry in its endeavors to offer travel assistance to both foreign and local tourists to ensure their safety.”

The announcement came as Japan confirmed it would decommission four stricken reactors at the quake-hit Fukushima nuclear plant. Operator Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) made the announcement three weeks after failing to bring reactors 1 - 4 under control.

In his report to the Joint Commission, UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai said that while the recent catastrophe in Japan would have a short-term impact on Japanese tourism, “The dynamism and resilience of the tourism sector in Asia will contribute to foster continued growth throughout the region.”

International tourism in Asia and the Pacific grew by more than 13% in 2010, making it the first region to recover from the financial and economic crisis. Against this backdrop, UNWTO expects international tourist arrivals to Asia to grow between 7-9% in 2011.

An expanding economy is the primary driver of the tourism boom in both the business and the leisure segments in Asia, and the potential for tourism demand is still strong. “Destinations in the region are making significant efforts to tap this potential, putting targeted marketing strategies in place, such as the theme-year initiatives planned for 2011 in Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Nepal, Vietnam, and others,” said Rifai.

UNWTOis a specialized agency of the United ‎Nations and the leading international organization in the field of tourism. It serves as a ‎global forum for tourism policy issues and a practical source of tourism know-how.‎ UNWTO plays a central and decisive role in promoting the development of responsible, ‎sustainable and universally accessible tourism, paying particular attention to the ‎interests of developing countries.

UNWTO's membership includes 154 countries, 7 territories, and over 400 Affiliate ‎Members representing the private sector, educational institutions, tourism associations ‎and local tourism authorities.‎

Wyndham Recognized as Most Ethical Company

Wyndham Worldwide (NYSE: WYN), one of the world’s largest hospitality companies, has been recognized by the Ethisphere Institute as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies for 2011. Out of a record number of nominations for the award, Wyndham Worldwide earned its place on the list for the second consecutive year, recognizing principled business practices, corporate social responsibility, and raising the bar for ethical standards within the industry.

Wyndham Worldwide continues to achieve success not only for what we do, but how we do it, and this recognition speaks to the strong values that guide our company every day,” says Stephen P. Holmes, chairman and CEO, Wyndham Worldwide.

This is the fifth year Ethisphere, a think-tank dedicated to the creation, advancement and sharing of best practices in business ethics, corporate social responsibility, anti-corruption and sustainability, has published the WME rankings, which appear in Ethisphere Magazine’s Q1 issue.

“We are honored to receive this continued distinction, earned through the dedicated efforts of associates at every level of our company, who embody our culture of responsible and ethical practices in all that we do,” says Scott McLester, executive vice president and general counsel, Wyndham Worldwide.

Ethisphere reviewed thousands of companies and evaluated a record number of applications utilizing its propriety methodology through in-depth research and multi-step analysis, naming 110 companies that surpassed their industry peers to this year’s World’s Most Ethical Companies list. The 2011 list features companies in 38 industries including 43 companies headquartered outside the United States.

A sampling of other winners includes Marriott International, American Express, eBay, Ford Motor Company, Adidas, Starbucks, PepsiCo, and Xerox Corporation.

“As companies strive to maintain a competitive advantage, good ethics translate into better business, and better business means better bottom lines. Wyndham Worldwide recognizes the important role that principled practices play in brand reputation, which ultimately is the most valuable asset for a corporation,” said Alex Brigham, Executive Director of the Ethisphere Institute.

“Each year, the competition gets more intense for the World’s Most Ethical Companies and this year was no exception with a record number of organizations vying for this distinguished honor. Ethisphere congratulates Wyndham Worldwide on being one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies for 2011.”

Bluegreen Timeshare is Finalist in ARDA Awards

Bluegreen Corporation, "A leading provider of Colorful Places to Live and Play®", today announced that it has been selected as a finalist for the 2011 American Resort Development Association (ARDA) Awards.

This annual competition honors organizations and businesses in the timeshare and resort industry that have achieved the highest level of excellence in a variety of different categories. The ARDA Awards Program recognizes nominees based on outstanding sales and staff accomplishments, product design and advertising.

Bluegreen has been selected as a finalist in sixteen categories each of which fall under a larger category including Resort Design, Management and Administration, and Advertising, Promotion and Communications. A panel of independent volunteer judges selected finalists. Each category entered by Bluegreen included competition from other organizations and business in the timeshare and resort industry.

“To have been selected as finalists in sixteen categories is a significant honor for Bluegreen Corporation and its associates who work hard every day to stay on the forefront of the timeshare and resort industry,” says Ellen Devine, Executive Assistant to Bluegreen’s President and CEO, John Maloney.

Bluegreen’s 2011 ARDA Awards finalist nominations represent many departments within the company. Specific categories included Interior Design, Resort Amenities, Resort Architecture, Green Sustainable Programs, Video Production, Special Events, Company Magazine and Website, Food & Beverage Programs, Administrative Staff Members and more.

Since 1996, Bluegreen has managed, marketed and sold a flexible vacation ownership plan with more than 222,600 owners, over 54 owned or managed resorts, and access to more than 4,000 resorts worldwide.

Bluegreen Corporation resorts include La Cabana Beach & Racquet Club in Aruba, Daytona SeaBreeze, Daytona Beach, and the Pono Kai Resort on Kauai's Coconut Coast. Take a timeshare rental vacation and see for yourself why Bluegreen Corporation is at the top of the industry.

Marriott Voted one of World’s Most Ethical Companies

For the fourth time, Marriott International, Inc., has been recognized by the Ethisphere Institute as one of the 2011 World’s Most Ethical Companies. Ethisphere said Marriott was selected for engaging in business practices and initiatives that are instrumental to the company’s success, benefit the community, and raise the bar for ethical standards within the industry.

Ethical business practices are deeply embedded in the Marriott tradition and Spirit to Serve culture. These ethical standards start with Marriott’s top leadership, who reinforce the company's tradition of integrity, honesty, trust, and fairness. The company shares its philosophy with associates and all stakeholders through a variety of information channels, including Marriott's Business Conduct Guide.

"This significant recognition is a testament to Marriott’s commitment to doing business with integrity," said Ed Ryan, executive vice president and general counsel for Marriott International. “Upholding high ethical standards is important to our competitive advantage and to maintaining strong relationships with our shareholders, owners and guests and attracting and retaining the best associates in the business.”

“As companies strive to maintain a competitive advantage, good ethics translate into better business, and better business means better bottom lines. Marriott recognizes the important role that principled practices play in brand reputation, which ultimately is the most valuable asset for a corporation,” said Alex Brigham, Executive Director of the Ethisphere Institute.

“Each year, the competition gets more intense for the World’s Most Ethical Companies and this year was no exception with a record number of organizations vying for this distinguished honor. Ethisphere congratulates Marriott on being one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies for 2011.”

A methodology committee of leading attorneys, professors, government officials and organization leaders, assisted Ethisphere in creating the scoring methodology for the World’s Most Ethical Companies awards.

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.

Wyndham Supports Earth Hour March 26

Wyndham Worldwide, one of the world’s largest hospitality companies and industry leader in sustainability practices, is proudly supporting the Earth Hour global initiative, promoting ways the hospitality industry can reduce energy consumption today.

Organized by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Earth Hour has grown into a global movement with millions of supporters in over 128 countries since its start in Australia in 2007. During Earth Hour, individuals, businesses, and governments around the world turn out their lights to demonstrate their commitment to environmentally sustainable action. Earth Hour 2011 will take place Saturday, March 26 at 8:30 p.m. local times.

“As an industry leader committed to sustainable practices, Wyndham Worldwide continues to integrate energy conservation into our daily operations around the world,” says Stephen P. Holmes, chairman and CEO of Wyndham Worldwide. “While turning off all our lights can be a challenge for a busy hotel or resort with hundreds of guests, we believe the hospitality industry can and should be a leader in developing innovative solutions to reduce our impact on the environment.”

Wyndham Worldwide has invested in exploring and adopting innovative sustainable practices through its Wyndham Green program, which focuses on sustainability across the global company.

“Through Wyndham Green, we aim to develop best practices that make sense for both the environment and the bottom line,” says Faith Taylor, vice president of sustainability for Wyndham Worldwide. “For example, energy efficient lighting is now a best practice at Wyndham Worldwide. Our brands and business units are increasingly selecting more energy efficient options, and as a result we have seen a continued reduction in our energy costs.”

Wyndham Worldwide also continues to balance energy conservation without sacrificing the guest experience, such as integrating into their property designs the use of compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) and light emitting diodes (LED) bulbs, which require a fraction of the energy needed for traditional lighting.

“CFL and LED lights have continued to develop in quality, versatility, and color rendition, making them an increasingly attractive option to reduce energy use while enhancing the aesthetic environment for our guests,” says George Scammell, vice president of design, Wyndham Worldwide.

Wyndham Worldwide is recognizing Earth Hour across its diverse family of companies and properties around the globe. With over 160 resort properties, Wyndham Vacation Ownership plans to turn off all non-essential lighting and invite their guests to participate in various activities planned at resort locations, including candlelight dinners.

6 Essentials for Airline Travel – Part 2

This is Part 2 of our 2-Part series as journalist Jason Notte of The Street looks at "packing an entertainment and travel survival kit full of six items that security can't take and fees can't touch." His article, "6 Essentials for Airline Travel Survival," is reprinted in part by permission.
  1. A water bottle
    Wait, won't security take my water bottle away because of the liquid limit? Absolutely, if you have water in it.

    Water's generally one of the better purchases you can make in an airport, but a savvy passenger knows that nearly every airport on the planet has water fountains or, at least, bathroom taps once you've stepped through security. The savings only increase when you bring that same bottle on the plane, where even non-alcoholic beverages now cost $2 to $3 on carriers such as Allegiant and Spirit.

    "There have been too many incidents with people on the tarmac with rationed food and water," says Anne Banas, editor of SmarterTravel, of the wisdom of bringing along filled water bottles.

  2. Granola, protein, Candy or any other Bar-shaped Food
    If airlines' once-free meals are now $2 to $11 and free pretzels just aren't coming, you may as well load up as efficiently as you can. The individually wrapped bar is a clean, compact and cost-effective way to tide yourself over during long trips or when it looks like you're not going anywhere for a while.

    "Even protein bars could count as a meal when you're really stuck in a bad situation, and you'll have no problems getting them through security," Banas says.

  3. A Pillow-and-Blanket pack
    U.S. Airways feels its blanket and pillow set is worth $7 of a passenger's pocket change, while Allegiant charges a cool $15.

    At least they're offering. Delta, Southwest Airlines, Air Tran and Alaska Airlines, ditched those amenities altogether, and you're unlikely to get anything if you're stuck in a terminal rather than on a plane.

    Companies such as Travelpro, Lewis N. Clark (see photo) and Conair make $15 to $23 blanket-and-pillow sets that fold into small travel-sized totes. Despite the initial purchase price, you'll certainly save money in the long-run.

    "A thin portable blanket and pillow set could go a long way," Banas says. "You don't want the ones in the cabin because sometimes you have to pay for them and, even when you get them for free, you don't know if they've been laundered."

  4. Moisture
    Passengers are signing up to spend hours in a giant dehumidifier once they buy their tickets.

    Because some folks just don't dry out as well as others, Banas recommends bringing a small bag filled with solid lip balm (such as Chapstick), moisturizer and other products that can live outside of the carry-on. The small bag creates easy access, while the products within make sure you're not kissing loved ones or hailing cabs through chapped lips.
Read "6 Essentials for Airline Travel Survival" by Jason Notte, in its entirety.

6 Essentials for Airline Travel – Part 1

Photo credit –

6 Essentials for Airline Travel – Part 1

Many of you fly to your timeshare vacations, and can perhaps use some ideas on how best to make airline travel as comfortable as possible. Use these tips that journalist Jason Notte, of The Street suggested for business travelers. If they work for people who feel like they live in airplanes, they might work as well for you, too.

In "6 Essentials for Airline Travel Survival," reprinted in part here by permission, Notte suggests "packing an entertainment and travel survival kit full of six items that security can't take and fees can't touch." Following is Part 1 of our 2-Part series.

{On top of rising ticket prices and extra fees} nearly 900 more flights a month are being canceled by carriers who don't want to risk fines of $27,500 per passenger for violating the three-hour rule (on the tarmac). For people with nowhere to go but an airplane that's not going anywhere, it could be a long wait in an unfriendly, expensive airport terminal.

Airlines are charging more for fewer amenities – all the more reason for passengers to bring their own.
  1. An e-reader
    With multifunctional smartphones, tablets, MP3 players and laptops at their disposal, why should an airline passenger take a seemingly one-dimensional e-reader (see photo) along for the ride? Three reasons: Size, price and battery power.

    At six to eight inches and five to 12 ounces, the average low-end e-reader is just slightly bulkier than a smartphone but much more svelte and portable than a tablet. The biggest travel-friendly features are batteries that measure their life in weeks instead of hours. The Nook can hold charge for more than 10 days, the Sony reader can hold out for two weeks and a Wi-Fi-only Kindle can keep the pages turning for three weeks to a month.

    Yes, the readers can hold 1,500 to 3,500 books, more than even the longest layover or delay requires, and pull up periodicals, and their built-in MP3 players, dictionaries and translators do a lot more for the literate flier than unburden him or her of a bagful of books.

  2. Noise-canceling Headphones
    Why buy a $10 pair of Maxell headphones or a $300 Bose or Beats Studio By Dr. Dre headset when a pair of earplugs will do the job?

    First off, they're not going to stick in your ears and irritate them. Secondly, they're awfully squishy and padded and a lot more comfortable than earbuds that can slip out of a big guy's ears pretty easily or sit uncomfortably in a smaller customer's canals.

    The best reason, however, is that you can sleep blissfully in a terminal - or listen to an airplane's radio channels while depriving them of 5 to 10 of your dollars.
Read "6 Essentials for Airline Travel Survival" by Jason Notte, in its entirety.

6 Essentials for Airline Travel – Part 2

(Photo credit -

Hawaii Travel News: No Harmful Radiation Expected

President Obama has reiterated to all Americans that no harmful levels of radiation are expected to reach Hawaii, the West Coast, or the Pacific Territories as a result of damage to nuclear plants in Japan.

"I know that many Americans are worried about the potential risks to the United States," stated President Obama, "so I want to be very clear: We do not expect harmful levels of radiation to reach the United States, whether it’s the West Coast, Hawaii, Alaska, or U.S. territories in the Pacific. Let me repeat that: We do not expect harmful levels of radiation to reach the West Coast, Hawaii, Alaska, or U.S. territories in the Pacific. That is the judgment of our Nuclear Regulatory Commission and many other experts."

In addition, experts, most notably U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Gregory Jaczko, have repeatedly declared that there is no evidence indicating that Hawaii is in any danger.

The NRC's official web site said, "In response to nuclear emergencies, the NRC works with other U.S. agencies to monitor radioactive releases and predict their path. All the available information indicates weather conditions have taken the small releases from the Fukushima reactors out to sea away from the population. Given the thousands of miles between the two countries, Hawaii, Alaska, the U.S. Territories and the U.S. West Coast are not expected to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity."

In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a statement saying that air monitoring readings taken in Hawaii show no elevated levels of radiation. State health officials previously said that based on all available information, they do not anticipate a risk of harmful radiation exposure to the islands "Daily monitoring reports show no change other than normal background levels of radiation," said EPA's spokesman in Hawaii, Dean Higuchi.

Hawaii's Governor Abercrombie echoed the President’s and the NRC’s assessment in a statement in which he said, "I want to reassure residents and visitors that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the highest authority on radiation in the nation, has indicated Japan’s nuclear emergency presents no danger to Hawaii."

"Our state and county monitoring systems have not detected any increase in radiation levels, and based on all available information, state and federal experts do not anticipate any risk of harmful radiation exposure to our islands. We are open for business. Hawaii continues to be the world’s paradise."

So, according to government officials and experts, if you are planning a Hawaiian timeshare vacation, there is no need to change your plans, and there are many budget-friendly timeshare rentals available in beautiful luxury resorts throughout the islands.

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New Zealand Travel News: #Blog4NZ

Before the shock of Japan's devastating earthquake, the world was in disbelief in February when New Zealand's second largest city, Christchurch, bore the brunt of an unusually shallow 6.3-magnitude tremor that left swaths of the downtown and eastern suburbs uninhabitable and caused numerous casualties.

While our thoughts go out to those people who have lost loved ones, homes and businesses, travel bloggers around the world are uniting to tell the world New Zealand is a great place to travel and there is no better time than now. Blog4NZ is a grassroots blogging and social media effort to support New Zealand travel in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake.

Dan Roberts, of Travel Generation, said “New Zealand is one of the world’s greatest travel destinations. It has been the place where so much innovation has come with regard to travel. It is also a country where tourism is the number one contributor to the GDP and where the Minister of Tourism is the Prime Minister – that is how important tourism is to New Zealand. The travel community wants everyone to know that if there is one place that should be on your travel list this year it is New Zealand.”

With travel plans to Japan and nearby countries thwarted, a number of vacationers have already changed their plans and taken timeshare rentals in New Zealand. For those of you who are looking for a great vacation to a beautiful country, take a look at the many timeshare exchanges that are also available throughout New Zealand. Here are a couple of examples:

Busby Manor is nestled near Paihia Beach. Located in the heart of the Bay of Islands (see photo at left), this area boasts more than 150 bush-clad sandy-beached islands, which with their unspoiled beauty, are a mariner's dream. The whole region is steeped in history, boating, and fishing. Visit the Kelly Tarlton Shipwreck Museum, or the famous Treaty House, where in 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. For the golfer, experience breathtaking views from each of the nearby course's 18 holes.

Located in central North Island, the Taupo Ika Nui resort is situated on the shores of Lake Taupo (see photo top right), New Zealand's largest lake. As a backdrop, the mountain ranges of Tongariro National Park, Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe, and Kaimanawa add beauty and skiing availability to the area Remember that as the U.S. moves into summer, the winter ski season in New Zealand is just getting started. The region also offers many other activities, including golf, tennis, fishing, boating, and hunting. For the more adventurous try whitewater rafting, windsurfing, and waterskiing.

(Photo credit of Lake Taupo - Photo credit Bay of Islands -

Timeshare Exchange News: RCI Adds Royal Decameron Baru Hotel

RCI, the global leader in vacation exchange, and one of the Wyndham Worldwide family of brands, announced it has expanded its network in Colombia through its affiliation with Royal Decameron Baru Hotel, a well-appointed resort near Cartagena at Baru Island.

Located approximately 90 minutes from Cartagena International Airport, Royal Decameron Baru Hotel boasts a spectacular ocean front environment surrounded by a lagoon, colorful coral reefs and spectacular white-sand beaches.The Royal Decameron Baru Hotel reflects a modern, tropical design and offers four restaurants, five bars and three swimming pools on-site.

“Affiliating this property with RCI represents a great opportunity for us,” said Gerardo Martinez, administrative manager, Multivac Decameron. “Having worked with RCI for the last 10 years we are excited to further expand our business areas and share the beauty of Decameron Baru Hotel with RCI members worldwide.”

“We are very pleased to affiliate another member of the Hotel Chain Decameron Colombia SA, to our network,” said Ricardo Montaudon, president, RCI Latin America. “We have enjoyed our affiliations with other properties throughout the region and are confident that Royal Decameron Baru will further strengthen and grow our relationship with this chain of quality resorts.”

“Royal Decameron Baru is an addition to the RCI network that truly makes us proud,” said Luis Mirabllo, vice president of business development, RCI South America. Affiliating with this resort reaffirms our commitment to offer exotic vacations to the 3.8 million RCI members around the world looking for great vacation destinations.”

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

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Travel News: Status of Disney Tokyo Resort after Japan Disaster

Thomas Smith, Social Media Director for Disney Parks, has issued the following statement regarding the disasters in Japan:

First and foremost, our hearts go out to all of the people in Japan who have been impacted by last week’s devastating earthquake in Japan. In response to this disaster, The Walt Disney Company is making a $2.5 million contribution to the Red Cross to help aid in the disaster relief. The company has also coordinated a charitable giving program for all Disney employees and will match donations, dollar for dollar, up to an additional $1 million.

In regards to our theme park operations, Tokyo Disney Resort will remain closed this week so that a comprehensive safety investigation can be performed. While there was only minimal damage to the resort, the safety of our guests and cast members is always our top priority so we want to be as thorough as possible in our inspections. The quake caused considerable damage to the local infrastructure and transportation systems in the area so we need to take that into account as well. Fortunately, all of the guests who were at the resort when the quake hit have been able to leave despite these transportation challenges.

A decision regarding operations at the Tokyo Disney Resort will be made on March 21 and we will continue to post updates on the Disney Parks Blog as the situation progresses. The thoughts and good wishes of the entire Disney company go to our colleagues in Japan, their friends and families and all of the Japanese people as they begin their recovery efforts in this difficult time.

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Which Timeshare Resorts are Going Green?

Timeshare resorts are going Green, so writes Freda Stemick, a business development executive for "Resort Trades." When you plan a timeshare rental vacation, you might want to check with the resort and see what they are doing to be eco-friendly and Green. Chances are they'll have a good answer for you.

Stemick writes that many resort developers are now beginning to understand that tourists want to Stay Green. "Though it is usually a financial burden initially to convert a resort to become 'Eco Friendly', the benefits far outweigh the costs," explains Stemick. "When a consumer is eco-conscious, they will usually pay a little more to stay in an eco-friendly resort."

Stemick lists numerous resorts that have already implemented Green initiatives. In 2010 Bluegreen Corporation announced its creation of Synergy. This is a document imaging and storage system that greatly reduces paper usage with the intent of benefiting the environment.

Around the same time last year, reports Stemick, Divi Resorts also announced its own plan of implementation of green initiatives. Divi is providing 'Natura' products in all of its rooms, suites and villas. The Natura products include personal care items such as soaps, lotions, hair shampoo and conditioners. All of the products are packaged in bio-degradable containers, which even includes the lids and caps.

The installation of solar panels is one of several initiatives the Orange Tree Golf Resort has undertaken to become more sustainable. Bruce Hamm, General Manager of the Orange Tree Golf Resort, says the benefits are two fold. “The solar water heating system has decreased our overall energy costs, and guests appreciate our efforts to be more environmentally conscious.”

Many timeshare resorts in Florida work toward being a Certified Green Lodge, a prestigious designation awarded by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The bottom line, says Stemick, is that by giving eco-conscious travelers a choice, the niche market picks up speed and the timeshare industry grows. "The eco-tourist base is increasing, as more and more people come to realize that reducing waste is not only politically correct, but a responsibility that we should all undertake as stewards of our Earth - even when we are on vacation."

Going Green is even becoming a global movement. World Green Tourism Abu Dhabi (WGT), the first global event dedicated to the investment and development of sustainable tourism, took place November 22-24, 2010, in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates. A keynote speaker at the 3-day event was Suraphon Svetasreni, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

Royal Resorts Rallies Support for Timeshare Holders of Simpson Bay Resort & Marina

On behalf of the 12,000 consumers who hold timeshares at Simpson Bay Resort & Marina & The Villas at Simpson Bay, management company Royal Resorts has used its prominent position in the industry to negotiate a rare benefit to protect vacationers who may not have access to their timeshare units due to the resort’s closure.

Interval International and RCI– the two largest timeshare exchange organizations in the world – have both agreed to permit trading of timeshare units for potentially affected vacationers even though the resort is currently closed.

While the timeshare industry is no stranger to financial and labor-related issues, the Simpson Bay Resort & Marina is the most popular timeshare property in St. Maarten, and one of the largest in the Caribbean. As such, it has attracted quite a bit of media attention.

As many statements have been made based on inaccurate, misleading or incomplete facts, many of those affected by the closure have been looking for reliable information from credible third-party sources. Howard Nusbaum, President and CEO of the American Resort Development Association (ARDA), recently issued a statement to add some perspective:

“ARDA encourages all stakeholders involved with the former Pelican Resort Club (now Simpson Bay Resort & Marina) to develop a workable solution to the current impasse that resulted in its closure on February 20, 2011,” said Nusbaum.

“The goal for all should be the reopening of the popular vacation resort so that owners may enjoy their paid for and promised use rights. Finding a compromise is essential in order to create a sustainable local employment opportunity for as many of St. Maarten’s workers as realistically possible,” he added.

“Additionally, through the exchange system, new visitors to St. Maarten can be introduced to the wonderful vacation experience offered by the destination, thus creating more tourism and tax dollars for the local economy. This way everyone involved benefits.

“After experiencing financial challenges for some time, it is crucial for the homeowners’ association, management, government officials, employees, and investors to work together for a sound, fiscally sustainable operating plan that will benefit everyone,” Nusbaum concluded.

The new resort owner will continue to work with government appointed negotiators to seek a resolution that will allow it to operate the resort in a financially viable manner.

Interval International Launches New Platinum Membership

Interval International, a prominent worldwide provider of vacation services and an operating business of Interval Leisure Group, has announced the launching of its most prestigious membership level, Interval Platinum (SM). The program is designed for discerning vacation owners who desire higher-end travel experiences and personal attention at every step of the planning process.

“Interval Platinum is the latest evolution of the premium benefit options that we give members. We were the first vacation exchange company to create an upgraded program, now Interval Gold®, and we continue to raise the bar by offering consumers and resort clients the broadest array of membership options in the industry,” said Jeanette Marbert, chief operating officer of Interval International.

The global program was developed with insights from a cross-section of people from the United States and the United Kingdom who are enrolled in either Interval standard or Interval Gold membership. Marbert added, “The consistent message was that they wanted a high-touch experience and a wider variety of travel benefits. We believe we have delivered on those requests, and more.”

David Gilbert, Interval’s executive vice president of resort sales and marketing, noted, “We can’t emphasize enough how attractive this new program will be, not just to members, but to resort clients. Because it appeals to affluent consumers with a strong travel propensity, Interval Platinum is an effective enhancement to any shared ownership sales effort.”

In addition to the benefits and services of Interval’s standard and Gold memberships, Platinum members will enjoy high-end travel-related products, expanded Getaway and exchange perks, and the ultimate in customer attention.

Among other things, the comprehensive collection includes:
  • Airport Lounge Membership – Complimentary membership in the standard Priority Pass TM program, with access at more than 600 airports

  • VIP Concierge (SM) – 24/7 personal assistance for purchasing concert tickets, making dinner reservations, and more

  • Hotel, Dining, and Leisure Discounts – Access to more than 75,000 premium discounts from Entertainment® at

  • ShortStay Exchange (SM) – To trade weeks or points for quick breaks (from two to six nights each)

  • Hertz #1 Club Gold® – Complimentary membership that provides expedited car rentals at more than 1,000 locations in 23 countries

  • Companion Airline Certificate – Companion ticket when members book airline tickets to participating cities
Members enrolled in Interval standard and Gold programs are able to upgrade to Interval Platinum at any time. Benefits may vary by region.

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 a timeshare exchange network of approximately 2,600 resorts in over 75 nations.

Arizona Timeshare Spotlight: Hyatt Pinion Pointe

Spring is the perfect time of year to visit beautiful Sedona, Arizona. The winter crowds are down, the summer heat hasn't let loose yet, and there are many budget-friendly timeshare rentals to be had.

The Hyatt Pinion Pointe resort, located in the heart of Sedona's Red Rock country, offers two-bedroom villas accommodating up to 8, and one-bedroom units accommodating up to 4. Both include spa tubs, a fireplace, and fully-equipped kitchens. Its studio units also can accommodate up to 4, and include a kitchenette.

The resort's amenities include a health club with mountain views, a sundeck, hot tubs, swimming pool, and a tennis court. For the youngsters there is Camp Runamuka, offering a variety of indoor and outdoor activities.

You'll find many fun activities nearby, including mountain biking, golf, horseback riding, and hot air ballooning. A "must-do" is the Pink Jeep Tour. For over 50 years, Pink Jeep Tours has been providing the most talked about off-road family adventures in the Southwest. ”Whether you're seeking rugged adventure, Native American history and culture, nature, geology, or panoramic vistas, Pink Jeep Tours has the right tour for you."

There are plenty of spectacular places around Sedona for you to explore on your own, as well. Red Rock Crossing has been made famous in the many movie westerns that have been filmed here. Oak Creek Canyon is where you can enjoy hiking, rock-climbing, trout fishing, and a natural water slide at Slide Rock State Park.

And be sure to take a quick trip to Jerome, an enchanting old mining town just 20 miles up in the hills from Sedona. Once known as the "wickedest town in the west," Jerome grew from a settlement of tents to a roaring mining community. The looks of this real-life western town haven't changed much in the past 100 years, and there are lots to do for the modern day visitor, including unique shops, fun saloons, and the town's own Jerome Winery.

Two reviews of the Hyatt Pinion Pointe resort:
“Sedona is so beautiful, everyone should visit it at least once in their lifetime. The Hyatt is in a prime location. This was one of the nicest condos I have stayed in.”
“This resort was very nice. The units were great and the property is very well maintained and beautiful. We enjoyed the free activities and entertainment. We had a wonderful time in Sedona. The Pink Jeep tour was lots of fun. We liked some of the talks that were offered about the area. The flute player was enjoyable. We thought it was everything you can expect from Hyatt.”

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Marriott Ranks 7th in Best Companies UK List

Marriott International, Inc., placed 7th in The London Sunday Times 25 Best Big Companies to Work For in the United Kingdom list. This is the fourth year in a row that Marriott International, Inc., has been named to this prestigious list, placing 12th last year.

The Sunday Times Best 100 Companies to Work For and its sister award the 25 Best Big Companies to Work For celebrate the best employers in all of Britain. This year almost 1000 companies entered the process, and the judges received questionnaire responses from a record number of more than 275,000 employees of these companies.

“We could not be more proud of this recognition to be named as one of The Sunday Times Best Big Companies to Work For,” said Amy McPherson, president and managing director of Marriott International in Europe. “The Marriott philosophy is if you take care of your associates, they will take care of the customer, and the customer will keep coming back. Our company’s enduring ‘spirit to serve’ culture provides associates an environment of teamwork, trust, and cooperation where we value the contributions of our diverse workforce.”

Marriott International employs almost 10,000 associates in the United Kingdom, Nearly 85% of associates were quoted as saying they felt that Marriott provides a great service to customers and additionally 78% said they are proud to work for the organization.

Associate development and training is critical to Marriott Hotels and each associate receives a personal development plan and required discipline-specific training programs each year. Marriott also believes that being a good corporate citizen and member of the community is key to associate engagement, and associates voluntarily participate in annual company sponsored activities.

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

In 1984, Marriott International became the first branded hospitality company to enter the timeshare industry, adding its signature quality, service and hospitality expertise. Marriott Vacation Club is a worldwide leader in vacation ownership.

Marriott Still Most Admired Company Says Fortune Magazine

For the 12th consecutive year Marriott International, Inc., has been ranked as the Most Admired Company in the Lodging Industry worldwide by Fortune Magazine. Marriott International, Inc., is also among the top 50 companies of 350 companies globally, as cited by Fortune, at number 37, and was the most admired company in its headquarters region that includes the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

“We are tremendously appreciative of being recognized again by business leaders as the most admired company in our industry," said Marriott International’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, J.W. Marriott, Jr. "I am also proud of how we ranked among the top 25 companies worldwide across several of Fortune’s key categories, including deployment of corporate assets, managing our people, and social responsibility. These are significant achievements and a true testament to how hard we work to open doors to a world of opportunity for our associates, customers, owners, investors, communities and other stakeholders in our company."

The Most Admired list is made up of companies ranked by 4,100 executives, directors, and securities analysts, based on nine key attributes of reputation, including: innovation; people management; use of corporate assets; social responsibility; quality of management; financial soundness; long-term investment, and quality of products/services and global competiveness.

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.

Marriott Vacation Club Appoints New GM for Hilton Head Resorts

Marriott Vacation Club, the premier timeshare brand of Marriott International, has appointed Mark Harney to general manager of Marriott's Harbour Point and Marriott's Sunset Pointe (see photo right) in Shelter Cove on Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Harney began his career with Marriott International in 1996 at the Residence Inn Orlando Lake Buena Vista and served in a variety of supervisor roles over the next four years at various Marriott Hotels & Resorts and Courtyard by Marriott hotels. In 2000, Harney became assistant general manager at the Courtyard Alexandria in Virginia and was soon after appointed to general manager of the SpringHill Suites Centreville Chantilly in Centreville, VA.

In his most recent role, Harney served as assistant general manager at the SpringHill Suites Orlando Lake Buena Vista in the Marriott Village and was responsible for the overall operations of the largest SpringHill Suites hotel within the brand.

"We are delighted to have Mark join our Marriott Vacation Club team," said Cliff Delorey, regional vice president of customer experience for Marriott Vacation Club's East region. "I am certain that his experience, along with his strong leadership skills, will be a tremendous asset to our associates and help create great vacation experiences for our Owners and guests at Marriott's Harbour Point and Marriott's Sunset Pointe."

Located in one of South Carolina's premier resort destinations, Marriott's Harbour Point (see photo at left) & Marriott's Sunset Pointe overlook the peaceful waterways of Broad Creek in Shelter Cove. Less than two miles from Hilton Head's beautiful beaches, the 111-villa resort welcomes Owners and nightly rental guests with one- and two-bedroom villas equipped with all the amenities of home.

A native of Hampton, Va. and a graduate of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, VA., Harney has recently relocated to South Carolina along with his wife Alison and two sons to assume his new role.

Marriott Vacation Club is a worldwide leader in vacation ownership. In 1984, Marriott became the first branded hospitality company to enter the timeshare industry, adding its signature quality, service and hospitality expertise.

Timeshare Scams on the Rise Again

The website Business News Express posted an article on March 3, 2011, written by Kris Hana, titled "Illegal Timeshare Sales on the Rise." In that article, Hana quotes Florida timeshare victim advocate attorney Susan Budowski, who warns consumers to be aware that with the resurgence of the timeshare industry, timeshare scams will rise with it.

Hana notes that Howard Nusbaum, President of the American Resort Development Association, stated “The travel and timeshare industry is seeing a resurgence of travel in 2011, terrific news for the timeshare industry.” And that has led Attorney Budowski to explain that this also brings more victims of deceptive sales practices by unscrupulous sales representatives.

Reports Hana, Budowski adds, “Unfortunately many timeshare owners are getting taken advantage of multiple times. I have seen those who have been misled or coerced into buying a timeshare and then later desperate to get out of their contract, attempt to sell their timeshare only to be taken advantage of by a resale company.”

This is evidenced, says Hana, by a recent SWAT team raid of a purported timeshare resale company by the Orlando Police Department. A spokesman for the Orlando Police Department said, “The company was taking two to four thousand dollars per customer without providing any services. The raid and arrests were a result of timeshare owners from Florida to Canada filing multiple complaints.”

Attorney Budowski advises timeshare owners that feel they have been a victim of a resale scam to contact their local authorities. She adds, “The majority of legitimate real estate transactions do not require an upfront fee to try to sell or rent a property; if a company does, that should raise a huge red flag.”

Budowski also warns of a surge in timeshare cancellation companies on the Internet and utilizing similar unscrupulous telemarketing firms to take advantage of timeshare owners’ misfortunes, reports Hana. “These companies make false claims of legal expertise and claim to guarantee refunds and/or cancellations of timeshares, and like the resale companies, require an upfront fee, many times exceeding what it would cost to hire an attorney.”

Travel News: Disney Magic of Healthy Living Arrives at Epcot

Disney Fans Insider, a page from the web site, released this information on March 1, 2011: From March 18 to 21, 2011, Walt Disney World Resort will host the first-ever Magic of Healthy Living: The Weekend - an inaugural experience taking place at Epcot's World Showcase to celebrate the spirit of living well.

The Weekend Event is a natural extension of the Disney "Magic of Healthy Living" initiative, which was launched to help kids and families discover fun and easy ways to focus on fitness, health, and nutrition.

Even First Lady Michelle Obama is on board. Mrs. Obama agreed to appear in a year-long series of public service announcements with Disney Channel's hottest stars after learning that the program's fundamental themes were aligned with the goals of her "Let's Move!" campaign to provide healthy choices for future generations.

After the "Magic of Healthy Living" contest was announced last fall, thousands of eight to 14 year olds across the country entered with hopes of hanging at the Park with their favorite Disney Channel idols during the Weekend Event. Thanks to their eloquently expressed ideas about healthy lifestyles at home, school, and in their communities, 50 winners will do just that.

Kids were asked to "reach for the sky" and write about new ways to add nutritious foods into their diets (particularly fruits, veggies, whole grains, and low-fat dairy), make 60 minutes of daily exercise easy, share information on healthy choices, and schedule rewarding family activities – like planting fruit and veggie gardens. Submissions were judged by a distinguished panel of health and wellness luminaries on how much fun the concepts were, originality, and their ability to motivate others.

Introducing healthy cuisines from around the world is an important part of the two-day itinerary, with cooking demonstrations by Walt Disney World chefs. Food-related activities include "Pass-the-Plate," a mealtime event that teaches kids and parents how to prepare healthy lunches rather than rely on fast food when time is tight.

Participants will enjoy an immersive schedule of games and entertainment inspired by various cultures – from tai chi (Japan) and belly dancing (Morocco) to the culturally diverse "Play Your Way" challenge. "Play Your Way" teams will test their skills at [sepak] takraw, a popular Thai sport that's similar to volleyball but played with a rattan ball, as well as games from South America, the Dominican Republic, and other countries.

You can experience healthy eating in an around the world style yourself by renting an Orlando timeshare or Disney timeshare, and heading to the fun international pavilions in Epcot's World Showcase.

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5 Tips for Travel Safety on your Spring Break Vacation

PhotobucketHeading out for your Spring Break vacation? It's a cinch that you've been spending more time in classrooms at school than you have being a world traveler. Therefore, there might be some dangerous aspects of travel to which you're not accustomed. No need to stay home, says Kathleen Crislip, writer about student travel on about .com, in her "Student Safety Overview" post. Just learn the rules about common sense safety, then go out and have fun on your timeshare rental Spring Break trip.

Kathleen Crislip says:
  • If you've grown up in a small town and this is your first big trip, you may not be prepared for the fact that not everyone you meet in a big city has your best interests at heart.

  • Not being able to speak the local language while traveling, for example to Mexico, could hinder you from getting help.

  • Street crime takes forms in other countries that you may not have seen at home, even if you live in a large city.

  • Scam artists and conmen may target you because of your youth, which they might equate with naiveté.
So what to do? Crislip offers these suggestions:
  1. Check U.S. government issued travel warnings and consider not choosing a destination that the State Department is advising Americans to avoid.

  2. Invest in a phrasebook and memorize some possibly helpful phrases before you leave home. For example, if you're going to Mexico you might want to learn: "Socorro!" (Help), and "Llama a la policia!" (Call the police).

  3. Use the same safety precautions you would at home: avoid walking alone on deserted streets after dark, keep your travel cash stashed, and stay alert.

  4. Pay attention in taxis and on trains - you're unlikely to get too far from your bags during air travel, but losing them during other transportation is easier than you might think.

  5. Watch the crowd - Many thieves prefer crowded areas. Stay alert in places like bus stations and during street celebrations, where you're likely to be jostled - thieves use these circumstances to grab for your purse or to pick your pocket.
When planning your Spring Break trip, consider a timeshare rental at a luxury resort - you'll find many that are budget friendly. And many of the resorts have their own on-site nightclubs and entertainment, as well as enough on-site amenities to keep you happily busy through your entire Spring Break vacation.

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Thumbs Up to Festiva Timeshare Complaints Resolution Web Site

In January we reported that Festiva Hospitality Group and Festiva Adventure Club had launched a new web site, Festiva Complaints Resolution Center, aimed at resolving online Festiva Resorts complaints and providing information to owners and guests trying to resolve their various Festiva complaints. Festiva has experienced an immediate positive reaction from its resort guests who have used the new service.

“Since the launch of the Festiva Resorts Complaints Resolution site we have seen an overall decrease of complaints submitted to third-party websites as our customers are finding that when they contact us directly, their issues are resolved much faster and more effectively than when they submit their complaints to a third-party site that offers no resolution,” says Sara Little, Festiva’s Director of Corporate Communications.

One of the most significant accomplishments of the new site is the facilitated direction of complaints to the proper departments within the company for quicker resolution and away from false “Festiva scam” websites which were set up in the past to masquerade as the company’s complaints department.

Little explains, “We realized several years ago that in order to keep up with the fast-paced and ever-changing world of the internet, and specifically social media, we need to actively participate in the online conversations that are already taking place within our industry. We have since taken several steps to utilize various forms of technology to improve customer service and communication with our owners and guests, and is the latest tool we are using to reach out to our web- savvy customers.”

Festiva Hospitality Group and Festiva Adventure Club’s family of resorts include a wide range of properties across the U.S. and Caribbean. Popular Festiva resorts with timeshare rentals include: Paradise Harbour Club and Marina on Paradise Island, Bahamas; Stormy Point Village in Branson, MO; and Church Street Inn in Charleston, SC, as well as many other Caribbean and U.S. destinations.

You can visit the Festiva Complaints Resolution Center at

Bluegreen Announces 64th Annual Spring Festival of Houses and Gardens

Bluegreen Corporation, a leading provider of "Colorful Places to Live and Play," has announced the 64th Annual Spring Festival of Houses and Gardens to be held near its Charleston, South Carolina resort, The Lodge Alley Inn, from March 17 through April 16, 2011.

The Charleston Festival of Houses and Gardens provides festival attendees with opportunities to tour the private homes and gardens that contribute to Charleston’s historic elegance. Tours vary each day, and feature 7 to 10 properties in one of eleven historic neighborhoods. Periods seen within the neighborhoods, homes and gardens include the antebellum and Victorian eras up to the early 20th century.

Often labeled “a city set in a garden,” Charleston hosts the festival during the city’s peak blooming season. Other than festival tours, the city hosts an antique show, oyster roast, period concerts, boat cruises and wine tastings.

Bluegreen’s Charleston resort, The Lodge Alley Inn, is located in the heart of the city on East Bay Street, and is a charming a collection of 18th century warehouses that have been restored to modern, comfortable vacation villas. Its downtown Charleston location makes it an ideal place to stay when vacationing in the city and attending the 64th Annual Spring Festival of Houses and Gardens.

"We here at Bluegreen welcome visitors who attend the festival each year. The Lodge Alley Inn boasts a prime location that makes walking to the festival convenient and enjoyable,” said Gregory L. Overmier, CMCA, General Manager of The Lodge Alley Inn.

Founded in 1966 and headquartered in Boca Raton, FL, Bluegreen Corporation is the leader in providing "Colorful Places to Live and Play" through its vacation ownership resort and residential real estate business segments. The company's 3,500 employees are passionate about delivering extraordinary experiences its owners and guests. Since 1996,

Rent a Charleston timeshare and experience the beauty and bounty of a South Carolina spring at the 64th Annual Spring Festival of Houses and Gardens.

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