Travel Clubs…Fear Them or Embrace Them?

Travel clubs are a big topic of conversation in the timeshare industry these days.  ARDA World’s recent conference devoted a session to them entitled "Travel Clubs—A Product That’s Time Has Come". So what’s the scoop… are travel clubs something to fear or something quite the opposite? The view today is that travel clubs can actually be a compliment to the timeshare industry in more ways than one. 

Travel Clubs Defined

Today’s travel clubs differ from earlier travel clubs in that they offer a broader business model with much more flexibility. Early travel clubs offered a way for travelers to have access to second home ownership choices in exchange for a one-time membership and annual dues. Now, instead of promoting ownership, today’s clubs promote membership. Members are given two ways to use their normal vacation budget; they can choose to use it on their dream vacation or to save money by going with a closer, domestic vacation. Monthly benefits usually include access to last minute, highly discounted resort stays and choices of travel to thousands of destinations all over the world. Through travel club memberships, travelers can also access a wide range of travel products and services from luxury condominium rentals to vacation cruises, and discounts on entertainment, amusement parks, car rentals and tours.

How do Travel Clubs and Timeshares Compare?

The good thing about both travel clubs and timeshares is that they offer travelers a way to save money on a vacation, and they both provide services that take much of the hassle out of planning a yearly vacation (where to travel, where to stay, what sites to see, and more).  Here’s a short comparison:

Travel Clubs 

  • Do not require a long-term commitment 
  • Members don’t own the property
  • Single annual membership
  • More vacation flexibility with more destinations and varying price points
  • Variety of fulfillment formats (internet-only platform, full-service team, combination of both)
  • Require a long-term commitment
  • Members own a share of the property or have a right-to-use option. Owners can rent out their stay period or sell the timeshare. Members can have input into operations of the timeshare through participation in the timeshare board.
  • One-time purchase price and annual maintenance fees 
  • Vacation limited to one location or exchanges to other locations when available
  • Variety of fulfillment formats (internet, full-service) 

Timeshares and Travel Clubs Working Together

The time has come for timeshare and travel clubs to work together, according to the recent ARDA session on travel clubs. Travel clubs can be a great sales and marketing tool for timeshares. They can help to make the timeshare sale, by providing potential buyers a way to learn more about timeshares, and exposing them to the world of travel membership.  New timeshare owners may appreciate a timeshare offering of a travel club product to help them with other areas of travel. It could be just the incentive needed to close the sale and keep customers happy.
Travel clubs also work with timeshare developers and sales teams to provide their services as an exit package or product add-on. As we’ve talked about in previous blog entries, the new generation of timeshare buyers are looking for value. They want more choices in locations and amenities, and to see the direct benefits they will get from a product. A combination of both timeshare and travel club could provide just the travel value this savvy new generation is looking for.
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