David Siegel Named “Best Industry Leader” at GNEX 2014

Just a couple of years ago, David Siegel, CEO of Westgate Resorts, was being met with ridicule due to his documentary expose, "The Queen of Versailles." This year, he was named "Best Industry Leader" at February’s Global Networking Expo (GNEX) 2014. 
Perspective Magazine, the industry’s leading global independent trade publication, bestows over 30 awards at their annual GNEX conference. With judging by a panel of industry experts and peers, Mr. Siegel had to meet the tough criteria of the award’s panel and beat serious competition in order to win. The criteria states that the winner must, "be an exceptional motivator who demonstrates true commitment to excellence and the advancement of the industry. The winner must also be a determined leader who shows loyalty to employees and lifts their company to success beyond the challenges of the current marketplace."

The Queen of Versailles

Some mocked Mr. Siegel about Lauren Greenfield’s 2012 documentary, "The Queen of Versailles." The queen is Mr. Siegel’s wife Jackie, a one-time Florida beauty queen and the star of the documentary. Versailles is the name given to Siegel’s 90,000 sq. ft. palatial home, whose construction of, and Siegel’s subsequent financial challenges in building it after the 2008 economic crisis, was followed in the documentary. 
Overall, the documentary received a number of positive reviews from critics including a Rotten Tomatoes score of 95% out of 100 reviews being positive, and an average score of 8/10. A voter consensus statement read, "The Queen of Versailles is a timely, engaging and richly drawn portrait of the American Dream improbably composed of equal parts compassion and schadenfreude." Jackie Siegel, as the main star of the film, received overall positive reviews for her candor and no-holds-barred narration. The documentary also received awards for best directing at the Sundance Film Festival, and a nomination for best documentary of 2012 by the International Documentary Association.


Mr. Siegel filed a civil action before the Sundance premiere against the documentary’s director Greenfield. Siegel wasn’t happy with the way the film had been described in promotional materials. He also claimed that Greenfield had not obtained a proper release from the subjects of the film, mainly David Siegel and Westgate Resorts. In January 2013, the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida, stayed the suit pending arbitration. Judge Anne C. Conway stated that Siegel’s testimony was, "inconsistent and incredible and therefore lacking weight," even going on to say that his position was "quite bizarre in light of his subsequent conduct."

Early Start

Mr. Siegel began his career earlier than most. Last year, Siegel was a featured speaker at GNEX 2013, spoke about his first job of delivering papers out of a red wagon when only four years old. At age 10 he raised pigeons for the military, and later his entrée into retail operations was selling TV’s in a less than desirable neighborhood.  Siegel also talked about risk taking and opening his first resort at the West Gate of Disneyland that quickly became a success. Now the company has over 10,000 guest rooms at 28 full-service resorts in premiere travel destinations throughout the U.S.

Empire Builder

Mr. Siegel is adept at bouncing back from adversity, and no one can deny his success in the resort industry. Always outspoken, and somewhat of a renegade, his entrepreneurial spirit has served him well throughout his career. In the past 30 years, he has built CFI Westgate Resorts into the largest privately owned company in Central Florida. Timeshare, real estate, construction, hotel and apartment management, travel services, telecommunications, retail, transportation and more are all part of his massive business empire. 

Exchanging - The First Component to Timeshare Flexibility

Before there were points, split weeks, and rental programs, there was exchanging. Exchanging was the first component to make timeshare more flexible. Timeshare owners could now exchange their own unit with another owner of an equivalent unit at an affiliated resort within the system.  Through the process, more travel options and exciting locations became available to timeshare owners.  Resort Condominiums International, Inc. (RCI) celebrating 40 years of holiday exchange this year, was once the only game in town.  Now, many more exchange companies offer timeshare owners the flexibility and choice of exchanging vacations.

Exchange Companies


RCI does deserve to be wished a happy birthday for getting it all started in 1974 with their RCI Resort Recognition program for holiday exchange. They followed it up, with other noteworthy innovations such as RCI Points (the first points-based exchange program), the Registry Collection (the world’s first luxury exchange program), and RCI TV (the first shared holiday ownership online video network). The company also lays claim to the first mobile version of an exchange website and to introducing trading power transparency.

Interval International

Interval International could be considered the Avis of the timeshare industry. Just like the car rental company, Interval International is smaller but strong. In operation since 1976, the company features a choice of hundreds of resorts in more than 75 countries. Promoting the power of exchange, Interval International has many tools to help owners "make the exchange they want, when they want it." Those tools include their Exchange Tracker, an interactive travel-planning tool that displays exchange and getaway activity throughout Interval’s network. Exchange Tracker has an interactive world map feature that allows exchangers to click on the pin for their chosen location to find resort details, photos and recent exchange activity.


DAE (Dial an Exchange) bills itself as "the world’s largest privately-owned global timeshare provider servicing the entire vacation ownership market, from timeshare weeks, to points club owners and fractional ownership." DAE also advertises itself as one of the most easy to use exchange companies, with the lowest transaction fees and no complicated rules to wade through. Whether exchangers start by banking first or finding a vacation first, DAE’s website is straightforward, and quick. Without having to bank a week, exchangers can extend a vacation with low cost rentals and Bonus Weeks.

Trading Places International

Another exchange company with many years (35+) of experience is Trading Places International (TCI). The company’s philosophy is to focus on the 20% of high-demand vacation destinations that 80% of owners desire. According to TCI, as well as offering traditional fees for domestic and international resorts, it offers its members a unique option to exchange back to the exchanger’s home resort at a reduced exchange fee. TCI has a full-service travel agency onsite at its corporate office.

Internal Exchange

Many timeshare companies offer timeshare flexibility with their own internal exchange programs. Membership at one resort gives owners the freedom to trade for time at other resorts in the resort family. Now that many resort families have locations all over the world, ownership at one resort opens the way to many additional vacation choices. One company with an internal exchange program is Grand Pacific Resort’s Grand Pacific Exchange (GPX). According to Grand Pacific, "GPX was started a decade ago as a resource for its owners to experience other Grand Pacific Resorts directly without using the larger exchange companies." All Grand Pacific owners may use GPX as their primary or secondary exchange program. Hilton Grand Vacations, Wyndham, Marriott are just a few of the other resort families with internal exchange programs.
Internal or external…whatever the preference, exchanging enhances and broadens timeshare ownership by opening up a world of travel experiences, and making the timeshare experience much more desirable.

How Timeshare Marketing Has Changed

The marketing of timeshares has changed greatly over the years. No longer do timeshare buyers have to expect the dreaded hard sale in the timeshare marketing pitch. Overall, the sales approach is softening. More people “get” the timeshare concept and are now out to compare the options and offerings of various timeshare companies. Like a car sale, marketers don’t have to describe the car to a potential buyer, they just need to tell them about the best features of the product.

More Bang for the Buck

Today’s timeshare marketers need to convince new buyers that their product offers more value for the money. Second home buyers understand that it is better to be part owner in a home that is only used 1-2 weeks per year. They also like the idea that timeshares come free of maintenance responsibilities, have all the comforts of home, and are located in some darn good locations! And they “get” that timeshare ownership makes their lives easier by eliminating the time and often stress of planning a vacation. Now, what they want to see is the extra value a company is offering over the competition. Buyers in today’s economy of rising costs and eroded discretionary income want every dollar to count. What’s a timeshare company to do?

Fly-Buys, Mini-Vacs

As the saying goes, "Seeing is believing" and timeshare sales and marketing teams know that the best way to sell their product is by letting prospects experience it. Some timeshare companies offer a vacation at their property at a low price, but with a "hook" (contingency) that you attend a 90 minute presentation on the property that includes a sales pitch that may be high pressure. Other properties may offer a vacation for a price below the rack rate with "no-hook" (no contingency), in hopes that just experiencing the property’s wonderful location and amenities will persuade you to buy.
Positive reviews posted by vacationers can have a big effect on potential buyers and can overcome reluctance to try a timeshare. Here’s one of many positive reviews for Villa Del Palmar Beach Resort & Spa in Loreto, Mexico posted by Les on Travel Advisor: 

"The Villa Del Palmar had a timeshare offer that I reluctantly took since the price was fantastic. Wow! What an incredible resort! The staff made you feel like you were the most important person there and with the all-inclusive you just don’t have to pay attention to what you are ordering or drinking. The food was great and the margaritas just kept coming. One of the best vacations we have taken in quite a while. There are hiking trails that lead to secluded coves and make us feel like we’re on our own private beach. I highly recommend this property! All the rooms are ocean view. I don’t think there is a bad one in the place."

Off Property Contact

Although Off Property Contact (OPC) is still popular in some areas -- particularly at ski resorts, and in the Caribbean, Mexico and Spain—it is developing more sophistication with real concierge type services being offered. The tactic uses salespeople to operate off property (such as at a kiosk in a tourist area), who offer vacationers already in the area an incentive to tour the resort. Who wouldn’t enjoy free lift tickets, zip-line tour or bay cruise! 

Marketing Aids

Analytic Data

The digital age has hit the timeshare industry big-time. Timeshare marketers no longer need to rely on their gut instincts to determine why some timeshare and vacation ownership marketing works and some doesn’t. Now they have "analytics" (real time data that aides sales and marketing centers in being as profitable as possible) just as many Fortune 500 companies are using. According to a Wall Street Journal report, "Timeshare Software TrackResults Software has permanently changed the way timeshare developers process their sales data. Through the state-of-the-art real-time analytics software that TrackResults has developed, sales and marketing centers are able to better hone in on exactly what is effective when it comes to landing sales."

Internet Marketing

For resales and for timeshare rentals, the internet has become a more than viable way to market. Online timeshare resale can either be by a licensed broker or by “For Sale by Owner.” A broker can help you through the sales process and may have access to more potential clients. “For Sale by Owner” helps to save money by eliminating the broker fee and giving the owner 100% of the proceeds.
Companies that rent timeshares like RedWeek make it easy for an owner to rent out their timeshare. Owners are able to create their own postings and interact privately with travelers, while vacationers can peruse the websites’ offerings in the comfort of their home, compare prices, read consumer reviews and evaluate which resorts best fulfill their vacation needs.

How Important are Activities at a Resort?

The popular viewpoint seems to indicate that location is the most important consideration when choosing a resort. Location includes influences such as climate/weather preferences and environment preferences like beach vs. mountains, or isolated retreat vs. vibrant city. The resort location influences the second most important consideration, activities. In a report by Wiley Global Research on The Importance of Guest Activities, "A good activities program adds a standard of quality and perceived value that translates into repeat business. It’s very significant to a successful resort operation."

Activities Can Make a Resort Stand Out

A special activities program can give the resort a uniqueness that makes it stand out from other competitors. Activities should be creative and relative to the resort’s location and natural environment. If the beach and ocean is the environment, then there should be a variety of activities related to that environment: water sports such as snorkeling or surfing for more active vacationers.  A relaxing sailboat ride or spa activity for the vacationer who wants to kick-back.  Activities should incorporate the culture and uniqueness of the area surrounding the resort. If there are ruins, museums, special attractions the area is known for, then those could be included in special day trips provided by the resort.  Children’s activities should be age appropriate, safe and supervised.
Additionally, the Wiley report found that to be successful, "activities should be enjoyable, freely chosen by guests, and benefit the guest emotionally, socially, physically, cognitively, and spiritually."

Timeshares Make Choosing Activities Easy

Timeshare owners seem to like activities… just think of the resorts in Mexico, known for their expansive pools, and nonstop music and entertainment. It isn’t just the larger resorts providing the entertainment. The more intimate, "legacy" resorts like the Massanutten Resort in the Shenandoah Valley area, prides itself on its wide variety of activities for "owner engagement." For 30 years, the resort has been, "constantly changing and improving classes to ensure their guests have the absolute best experience possible." Throughout the year they offer hundreds of different activities and events, some seasonal and many year-round.
Other resorts such as the Rarotongan Beach & Spa in the Cook Islands believe that recharging batteries is what guests want, "Today it’s all about balance. Striking just the right balance between much needed relaxation that your body craves, sprinkled with just enough fascinating diversions to leave your body, mind and soul feeling re-energized and re-vitalized."
With websites like Expedia dedicating large sections of their offerings to activities, it’s clear that there is a demand for activities.  What’s special about owning a timeshare is that the time (and often stress) of figuring out what activities are offered, and which activities vacationers want to do, is eliminated. Most timeshares provide an on-going selection of activities, and often have a concierge or activities coordinator on staff to advice owners and help them decide on the perfect activities to enhance their vacation experience.