A Look Back at Timeshare 2015

The SVO-Interval merger was one of 2015's top
timeshare stories!
It's that time of year when we look back on all that has happened in timeshare. Thankfully, most of the news has been positive with good growth in the industry. Timeshare continues to evolve to meet the demands of technology and travel trends. We've worked hard to keep and gain owner/member loyalty through employee engagement, and we've done studies to guide us in all areas from sales to service. Here are five 2015 events meaningful to our industry: 

1. Mergers, Acquisitions, Spin Offs

Many of the top timeshare companies have been involved in consolidating this year, but Starwood surprised us with both a spin off and a merger. Starwood announced in June that they would spin off Starwood Vacation Ownership (SVO) and its 22 timeshare resorts into a stand-alone public company. The big spin off was official on October 28 when SVO was acquired by Interval Leisure Group. Five transferring properties were part of the transaction including Westins in Los Cabos, Cancun and Puerto Vallarta and Sheratons in Kauai and Steamboat Springs. 

Starwood continued to surprise us when in November, after rumors of a merger with Hyatt and possible bids from Chinese companies, they announced they were merging with Marriott. The $12.2 billion Marriott Starwood merger creates the world’s largest hotel company. 

2. Exciting New Technology for the Hospitality Industry

New technologies are being tested and many are already in operation in the hospitality industry. Innovators using "Living Labs", high-tech rooms that act as incubators for tech entrepreneurs to study future hospitality technology, are already changing the way we experience travel. Check-in made easy with your phone app or Apple watch, facial recognition software instead of a key card, wireless charging, ultra-high definition TVs, and more are just some of the ways technology is changing our lives.  The innovations may be driven by the tech-savvy millennials, but everyone benefits as customers of all ages look for ways to save time, increase comfort and experience new and exciting ways to vacation.

3. Developing Customer Loyalty

Making and keeping owners and members was top on everyone's list in 2015. According to a Gallop Study there is a strong correlation between highly engaged employees and customer loyalty. "Employees who are passionate about their job, often go above and beyond their responsibilities for the greater good of the company" said Karen Case, Vice President of Human Resources at Wyndham Vacation Ownership, a speaker at this year's ARDA Southeast Regional Meeting. Case also specified that employee engagement starts with leaders that are engaged. Engaged leadership = engaged employees = engaged owners and members.

4. Study Shows Vacation Ownership Leads

Studies done by industry leaders abound, but this year's first-of-its kind study on behalf of the National Timeshare Owners Association (NTOA) is unique. NOTA enlisted Intuition Brand Marketing to track, analyze and segment 500,000 online social conversations about timeshare, vacation ownership, and travel clubs. The use of SPSS predictive analytics software for statistical analysis of the relevant findings of the study, helped NTOA to make the following predictions for the future growth of the industry:

Key factors driving industry growth in global vacation ownership

  • Rising number of high net worth individuals and employed population
  • Demand for leisure and recreation
  • Increasing internet penetration
  • Improving global economic conditions
  • Increasing international tourism in the US

Noteworthy trends/developments in the industry

  • Enhanced buyer’s protection
  • Shifting profitability from hotel stays to timeshare buying
  • Growing popularity of eco-friendly timeshare resorts
  • Fast-paced recovery of respective industry in developed markets after recession

5. Travel Trends

American spending and buying is undergoing a profound change according to recent studies of consumerism in the U.S. Where a person travels is no longer a reflection of status, but a reflection of the person's values.  Travelers look for ways to connect with people and cultures, and often hope to make a contribution to society while traveling.
  • Multigenerational travel: Multigenerational travel is booming. Americans look at family travel as a way to strengthen the connection with those they care for, as well as an opportunity to celebrate and remember life’s special events. Timeshare is perfectly set-up for multigenerational travel as resorts typically have accommodations, facilities and activities set up to encourage the family connection.
  • Authentic travel: Authentic or experiential travel are terms currently used to describe an emerging trend in travel. Travelers want to get in touch with the local experience. They want a unique and authentic interaction with the people and culture that often includes volunteer or philanthropic visits.

Sharing Time is the Best Gift of All

The word "share" in timeshare is your key to making others happy this season. Sharing time is the best gift you can give anyone. This season, think about using your timeshare week, time or points to give others a holiday gift to remember.

Give the Gift of Timeshare to Family

Want to do something special for a special family member or friend? How about giving them that extra week or those stockpiled points you are unable to use? Maybe you would like to trade up to a larger timeshare unit, or for a unit in a different, more exciting location for a special holiday celebration. Sharing the benefits of travel with those you care about the most is one of the greatest gifts of timeshare.

Give the Gift of Timeshare to Charities

Consider donating a week to the charity of your choice. There are many organizations set up for this very purpose. One of the non-profit organizations that offers a way to donate your timeshare week to a worthy cause is Send Me on Vacation. The charity's mission is to provide a needed vacation to women with cancer who have undergone the ravages of treatment, and need a place to heal and rejuvenate their mind, body and spirit. Your donation of a timeshare week will give these women the respite they so dearly need. You can feel good knowing someone has benefited from your timeshare donation, and also receive a charitable tax credit.

The Right Way to Donate

Nonprofit groups such as the American Cancer Society, American Kidney Fund, UNICEF and St. Jude’s accept donations of real estate and other property. Some charities have planned giving departments that you can work with directly. Others prefer that you work with a third-party business that is specifically set up to assist you in donating your timeshare to the charity. One such business is Donate for a Cause. On their website they claim to help owners avoid the unnecessary cost of listing services, broker fees and scams. They also state that they take timeshares and all associated liability on behalf of charities, buffering them from any problems. 

With any donation you need to do your research. The nonprofit watchdog organization CharityWatch.org offers tips on how to donate with confidence:
  1. Check sites like Charity Watch.org, Charity/Navigator.org, GuideStar.org and the Better Business Bureau (bbb.org/charity) to see financial statements and get charity ratings.
  2. Look for charities that direct at least 65 percent of their funds to program expenses.

Give the Gift of Timeshare to an Employee

Looking for a way to acknowledge a special employee - one that has gone above and beyond the expectations of their employment? Award them with the gift of timeshare. It’s not just the gift of timeshare you'll be giving, but you’ll also be contributing to the health and future productivity of those special employees. As we all know by now, all the research shows that vacationing is good for health, happiness and overall well-being. And we might add, giving the gift is also good for the giver's overall well-being and happiness.

Holiday Timeshare Vacations Offer Something for Everyone

Breckenridge's Grand Lodge on Peak 7!
Whether it's a warm weather getaway, a ski vacation or an urban holiday experience, timeshare vacations offer something for everyone. Even if you wait until the last minute, you may still find rentals available during peak seasons in desirable locations. Companies like RedWeek and ResorTime, Interval International and RCI have hundreds of resorts in multiple countries available to fill all your vacation needs. 

Oftentimes, a simple click will help you find the vacation you're looking for. Many companies, such as those mentioned above, have the latest technology available on their websites to make it easy to make the exchange you want, when you want it. The sites feature beautiful, color visuals of resorts and locations that are frequently updated. Just scroll through to find the perfect resort, with the perfect amenities in the perfect location.

Timeshare owners often also have access to an internal exchange within a timeshare group. Membership at one resort gives owners the freedom to trade for time at other resorts in the resort family.

Popular Destinations

Breckenridge - Not Just for Skiing!

Skiers have plenty of options, particularly in Breckenridge, Colorado. Known as one of the premiere ski destinations, its slopes and surrounding scenery provide unsurpassed beauty. Though most think first of Breckenridge for skiing and winter sports, it also offers sunny year-round weather for other activities such as hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and fishing. Book one of the Breckenridge Grand Vacations Resorts for the ultimate Breckenridge experience.

Caribbean - So Many Islands, So Many Good Deals

Owners can find many good resort deals—mostly all-inclusive, in the Caribbean. Gorgeous beaches, great weather and many outdoor activities are available in the Caribbean islands. You may have a hard time deciding on just one of the hundreds of islands in the Caribbean. Popular resort areas include Aruba, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Barbados, Saint Lucia and Belize. Your private beach cabana and a tropical drink await you at Occidental Vacation Clubs in Aruba and the Dominican Republic.

Manhattan - Keeping it Urban
Owning a timeshare doesn’t mean you have to stick with beaches and ski resorts. Sometimes you may want to get some culture - theater, museums, galleries, famous restaurants and shopping (it's part of culture isn't it?). Marriott, Hilton and Westin all have timeshares available in New York City. Many are located in Midtown and close to all the action. We just saw a great price for the holidays at West 57th by Hilton Club offering your own private retreat in the heart of Manhattan.

Enjoy your holidays!

Around the World with Timeshare

The newly renovated Ramada Resort Golden Beach
Just as the timeshare industry in the U.S has experienced steady growth in the past few years, so has the timeshare industry around the world. Many U.S timeshares have locations in other countries, and exchange companies and vacation clubs offer opportunities to trade for vacation time in destinations around the world. Values-driven travel, adventure and experiential travel encourage travelers to look for ways to connect with all people and cultures.  Fasten your seat belts and join us for a tour of some news from the world of timeshare.

First Stop India

India's timeshare industry, much like what's happening in the U.S., has been urged to concentrate on meeting customers' needs. The All India Resort Association (AIRDA) India's equivalent to ARDA, is encouraging its members to put greater attention on the needs of its customers and their interests.  Says AIRDA's Executive Committee chairman and principal advisor, B.S. Rathor, "Understanding a customer’s wish list helps us to match their needs with the kind of timeshare experience we have to offer.  By studying emerging trends, changing influences and newer outcomes in the vacation landscape, we can help our member resorts market timesharing offerings in a meaningful and relevant way." Sound familiar?

Ramada Responds to Australian growth

One of Queensland’s most popular vacation ownership resorts, WorldMark Golden Beach Resort has been renovated and rebranded as Ramada Resort Golden Beach. Strategically located along Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, the 130-room resort recently experienced a $1.5 million renovation. It will now operate as a mixed-use property serving WorldMark South Pacific Club by Wyndham vacation owners, as well as regular hotel guests.

Southern Sun Resorts Keep Up with Technology

Southern Sun Resorts, a division of Tsogo Sun, just completed a successful installation of cloud-based enterprise software at its six upscale resorts located in South Africa's top destinations. The three-year installation by Merlin Software for Vacation Ownership uses one single platform to provide functionality throughout the resort and hotel operation from front desk check-in and property management, to annual levy collection and accounting.

Stiff penalties for Bangkok Timeshare Executives 

Unfortunately, timeshare problems are also found globally. It's 20 years of prison for Bangkok's Blissher Holiday executives, Angsunee Pattananithi, Saengthong Sae Kim, and Unnop Kunsawate. They were convicted of convincing people to invest in their time sharing business, with the promise of free accommodations at leading hotels and resorts for four days each year throughout a 20-year period. Investors were also promised free fitness facilities, medical services and reduced prices for food—all to be arranged by Blissher Holiday. A total of 24,189 people went for the scam, which generated 826.27 million baht for the culprits. If it sounds too good to be true, it generally is.

Diamond Resorts International, Inc. goes for $85 million deal with Intrawest

Club Intrawest - Palm Desert
Diamond Resorts International, Inc. (DRII) reported last week that they have a definitive agreement to purchase Intrawest Resort Group (IRCG) from Intrawest Resort Holdings, Inc. The $85 million purchase is contingent upon specific closing date adjustments and completion is expected by the first quarter of 2016.

Acquisition Adds Nine North American Resorts

DRII has a network of more than 350 vacation destinations in 34 countries. The nine IRCG resorts included in the acquisition are in North America. In a press release DRII President and CEO David Palmer commented, "Both acquisitions provide us with significant value creation opportunities through synergies, sales innovation and cost savings. We are confident that acquisitions such as these will enhance our financial profile and create long-term shareholder value."

Intrawest Enthusiastic About Agreement

Tom Marano, Chief Executive Officer of Intrawest Resorts, expressed his enthusiasm for the agreement, "With the additional cash from this transaction, we are well positioned to continue driving organic growth at our mountain resorts and adventure businesses, while also pursuing strategic acquisitions and evaluating opportunities to unlock the value of our real estate holdings over time." IRCG, a mountain resort and adventure company, develops, sells interests in, and manages Club Intrawest, a points-based timeshare vacation club.

What Does it Mean for Owners?

CEO Tom Marano said this about the agreement, "We are committed to working closely with Diamond Resorts to execute a seamless transaction and look forward to a long-term relationship that we believe will benefit club owners and our resorts alike." The transaction includes the management contracts with Club Intrawest, the current balance of notes receivable, approximately four acres of undeveloped land, and the current balance of points available for sale.

According to a recent article in Barron's, Diamond Resorts has made seven acquisitions since 2010. In addition to the Gold Key deal in August, Diamond also announced a partnership with Och-Ziff to develop a 144 unit resort in Kona, Hawaii. Diamond will buy the units, manage the property and handle the sale of VOI’s. The project, expected to finish in 2017, could generate $400 million in VOI sales. Diamond’s Gold Key acquisition in August added six resorts in Virginia and North Carolina with 30,000 owners.

Often when a transaction like this one occurs, rumors fly and owners often feel some trepidation. The whole industry is consolidating and on the positive side, that gives consumers more options for exchanging and often a higher trade value. However, timeshare used to be very entrepreneurial, with folks providing unique and individual service. With conglomerations formed by consolidation, that often goes away. There are advantages and economies of scale, but along with it the individuality of resorts evaporates. Intrawest used to be keen on each resort being singular - will this change now?

Be Thankful for Your Timeshare

At the start of the Thanksgiving holiday today, we came across an ad for a timeshare in Kauai still available for the Thanksgiving holiday. That's part of the beauty of owning a timeshare - if you are
willing to be flexible in your choice of destinations and willing to try a new place at the last minute, you may still be able to snag a few days for a Thanksgiving getaway. It doesn't get much better than a Thanksgiving vacation on a beautiful Hawaiian beach, or sitting before a crackling fire in a premier ski destination, while making lasting memories with the people most important to you.
Thanksgiving is a time a gratitude and an opportunity to be with family and friends. Timeshare owners have a distinct advantage in this area.  Whether we book a week in advance, or experience a last minute surprise destination, timeshare offers the opportunity to take regular time off with loved ones, as well as:
  • A multitude of resort options all over the world
  • The ability to bring family members together in comfortable accommodations
  • Accommodations with space to spread out and be together, but also to have privacy when needed
  • A kitchen to cook your Thanksgiving feast or a choice of resort restaurants to make things easier
  • Activities to appeal to all ages and glorious surroundings to just kick back in and relax
  • Substantial savings over regular hotel accommodations
As we think about all that timeshare has to give us, let’s not forget the many recent studies showing the lasting benefits to our overall well-being. Regular use of your timeshare positively impacts your:
  • Health and wellness (recharge and refresh)
  • Job performance – (reduce burnout, increase creativity) 
  • Relationships and lifestyle (time with family without distractions)
So, during this Thanksgiving holiday, let's think about all that owning a timeshare brings to us and give thanks that we and our families can experience its many benefits. Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s a Big Deal - $12.2 Billion Marriott Starwood Merger Creates World’s Largest Hotel Company

In our November 2nd blog, we mentioned a couple different scenarios after the announcement of Starwood's spin-off of its Vacation Ownership division to Interval International Group. Chinese companies were interested in Starwood, which would have been the largest-ever Chinese takeover of a U.S. company, and it was rumored that Hyatt Hotels was in merger talks with Starwood. Now we find out that it is Marriott who has sealed the deal.

It's a Big Deal!

Monday’s announcement of the merger of Marriott and Starwood creates the largest hotel company - 1.1 million rooms in more than 5,500 hotels across more than 100 countries. The overall value of the deal is $12.2 billion. That's $11.9 billion in Marriott stock and $340 million in cash. Starwood investors can expect to receive $2.00 in cash for each share of stock, and 0.92 shares of Marriott priced at $72.08 per share. Friday closing stock prices showed Marriott at $72.74 and Starwood at $75.00.

Combination of Distribution and Strengths Creates Value

Current Marriott CEO, Arne Sorenson will remain president and CEO of the combined company. He commented in a quote from the Business Insider, "this is an opportunity to create value by combining the distribution and strengths of Marriott and Starwood, enhancing our competitiveness in a quickly evolving marketplace. This greater scale should offer a wider choice of brands to consumers, improve economics to owners and franchisees, increase unit growth and enhance long-term value to shareholders."

Starwood Timeshare Business Not Part of the Deal

Interval Leisure Group will maintain ownership of Starwood's Vacation Ownership division, which it acquired in the recent spin-off.  According to Marriott management, shareholders will separately receive consideration from the spin-off of the timeshare business, which has an estimated value of $1.3 billion or about $7.80 per Starwood share. The timeshare transaction is expected to close before the Marriott-Starwood merger closes.

When the spin-off of Starwood's timeshare division was first announced, a letter to owners offered assurances that things would stay the same and perhaps even offer more choices of unique vacation experiences. The letter further stated that Starwood would continue to be the exclusive provider of vacation ownership for Westin and Sheraton brands, and would provide all the features and benefits of current ownership. Access to Starwood Preferred Guest® (SPG) program, current guidelines and fees, exchange rules reservation rights and all exchange options would remain the same. Hopefully, all involved stand by their promises.

To Get the Most from a Timeshare - Be Flexible

If you are willing to be flexible, chances are you can get the most out of your timeshare. At this point in timeshare history, timeshare travel is about as flexible as it can get. Think exchanges, rentals, points, weeks - all of these things contribute to helping you get the vacations you want in the places you want.

Be smart and ask for what you want 
Savvy timeshare owners are up on all the ins and outs of getting the travel experiences they want. Successful exchangers and renters communicate their needs. They call their exchange company with the dates they desire and ask what is available for that time frame. Or they ask "when can we get into XYZ resort?" and plan around availability. They find out the good times to go to a particular location or resort, and then keep track of those dates to book in advance. The key is to be flexible. If you insist on a ski week between Christmas and New Years in Vail, that might be tough. Those coveted weeks are more expensive anyway. Being flexible saves you money and opens up new resorts and locations for you to experience. That's why we have timeshares, isn't it?

Plenty of companies to help you out
There are several companies ready to help you to get what you want such as, Dial-an-Exchange (DAE), RCI, Trading Places and Interval International. There are even internal exchanges within a timeshare group where membership at one resort gives owners the freedom to trade for time at other resorts in the resort family. 

Dial-an-Exchange (DAE)
DAE promotes 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 as one of the most easy to use exchange companies, with the lowest transaction fees and no complicated rules. Whether exchangers start by banking first or finding a vacation first, DAE's website is straightforward and quick. 

RCI really started the whole exchange thing in 1974 with their RCI Resort Recognition program for holiday exchange. They followed it up with other innovations such as RCI Points (first points-based exchange program), the Registry Collection (world's first luxury exchange program), and RCI TV (first shared holiday ownership online video network). RCI also came up with the first mobile version of an exchange website and was the first to introduce trading power transparency.

Interval International (II)
In business since 1976, II features a choice of hundreds of resorts in more than 75 countries. II has many tools to help owners "make the exchange they want, when they want it". These tools include their Exchange Tracker, an interactive travel-planning tool that displays exchange and getaway activity throughout II's network. Exchange Tracker has an interactive world map that allows exchangers to click on the pin for their chosen location to find resort details, photos and recent exchange activity. What fun!

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

If you are willing to be flexible, exchanging can enhance and broaden your timeshare ownership. It can open up a world of travel experiences you might not have thought were available to you, and can make your timeshare experience even more desirable.

Spin-off Puts Starwood at the Top of the Industry

Last Tuesday, October 28, Starwood Vacation Ownership announced that the big spin-off had gone through. Starwood Vacation Ownership will be acquired by Interval Leisure Group (ILG) who also owns exchange subsidiary, Interval International. The transaction was not a total surprise. Starwood Hotels & Resorts, the parent company of the Westin, Sheraton and W Hotel brands, had announced in February 2015, that they would be looking to spin off its vacation-ownership business into a separate company. In a just released letter to owners, the company stated that the spin-off would, "put Starwood at the forefront of the industry, and would offer owners even more choices for unique and memorable vacation experiences."

Starwood offered assurances in a letter to owners that they will continue to be the exclusive provider of vacation ownership for Westin and Sheraton brands, and will still provide all the features and benefits of current ownership. Access to Starwood Preferred Guest® (SPG) program, current guidelines and fees, exchange rules reservation rights and all exchange options will all remain the same.

The letter also stated that five transferring Starwood properties are part of the transaction: The Westin Resort & Spa, Los Cabos; The Westin Cancun Resort & Spa; The Westin Resort & Spa, Puerto Vallarta; Sheraton Kauai Resort; and Sheraton Steamboat Resort. These resorts are anticipated to provide additional inventory for owners over time.

Starwood says ILG is committed to invest in new Westin and Sheraton properties. In 2016, the Westin St. John Resort is scheduled to convert 96 poolside hotel rooms into vacation ownership villas. The Westin Nanea Ocean Villas on Ka’anapali Beach in Maui, is currently under construction and due to open in 2017.

On the same day that Starwood made its spin off announcement, the Wall Street Journal ran an article that stated, "at least three big Chinese companies are competing to win Beijing's approval to bid for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. According to people with knowledge of the discussions, it could be the largest-ever Chinese takeover of a U.S. company." The article said that the Chinese government might discourage bidding for Starwood if the price is considered too high. The interest in Starwood is the latest sign of China's global ambitions in the hospitality sector. The report sent Starwood stock soaring.

In related events, around the time the spin off was first announced in February 2015, Starwood Chief Executive Frits van Paasschen, left under pressure. Paasschen failed to move quickly enough to increase the number of hotels in the Starwood system through franchise or management agreements, according to Starwood Chairman Bruce Duncan. In April 2015, Starwood hired investment bank Lazard to help the company explore strategic alternatives such as a sale or merger. Its decision to explore strategic alternatives to create value, sparked speculation of the potential for broader merger activity in the hotel industry. 

The latest news on Thursday, October 29, showed shares of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide continuing to soar following a report by CNBC that Starwood is in merger talks with Hyatt Hotels and a deal could be a week away. Hyatt management would take control of the combined company if the deal goes through. We can't wait to see what happens next! Whatever the future brings for the company, it looks like big changes are in the works.

Looking Out for Owners' Best Interests

It's good to know that as a timeshare owner you are not alone. There are industry organizations that have owners' best interests at heart. Groups like the Florida Timeshare Owners Group (FTOG), The National Timeshare Owners Association (NTOA), American Resort Development Association’s special owner’s group ARDA-ROC and Timeshare Board Members Association (TBMA), make disseminating information to owners their priority. They work to keep owners aware of industry-related news and activities nationwide, changes in the industry and legal issues that may impact owners, as well as information on industry research and ongoing studies to improve the industry.

State Groups

Most states have their own timeshare owner group. These groups are particularly important because each state has different laws affecting timeshare that may change from time to time and owners need to be aware of any changes. Their meetings often include legal updates and other valuable industry information. 

As an example, the Florida Timeshare Owners Group's upcoming November meeting features the head legal counsel of a Florida law firm whose specialty is representing owners who experience disputes or differences with their timeshare resort, the management company or the resort developer.  The FTOG meeting also has scheduled guest speakers representing various exchange companies who will update owners on the latest benefit options. Plus, Greg Crist, CEO of NTOA, will give an update on timeshare industry-related activities nationwide and the evolving future of timeshare.

National Timeshare Owners Association (NTOA)

Another organization that owners can count on for valuable information is NTOA. Through partnerships with technology experts, they gather information and conduct studies of issues affecting the industry. A recent study resulted in data that provided insights on the latest consumer attitudes toward timeshare.  

Another groundbreaking study is in the works. NTOA's Secondary Market Solutions committee is working with the University of Central Florida to analyze and prepare data for the association’s first executive study on timeshare resale issues. These studies are made accessible to owners and others in the industry. 

Timeshare Board Members Association (TBMA) 

TBMA is a non-profit association dedicated to helping provide technical, organizational and moral support to directors of owner controlled timeshare boards. The group offers educational panels and meetings such as one recently held in Denver, which focused on the future of legacy resorts and how to help them compete successfully in a competitive timeshare market. The TBMA website offers a wide variety of information delivered through downloads, podcasts, reports on industry trends and more.  

American Resort Development Association (ARDA)

In case you need reminding, the industry's trade association ARDA offers a wealth of information on its website, from the latest in regulatory and legislative issues to questions about buying and selling and how to avoid scams. ARDA represents and advocates for the industry on regulatory issues, provides educational and networking opportunities at annual conventions, and ARDA-ROC reaches out to members with the latest industry news, market intelligence, trends and events. When was the last time you visited the ARDA site? 

Do You Have Owner Engagement?

The hospitality industry chatter these days is all about maintaining owner, member and guest engagement. An engaged owner/member/guest is a loyal owner/member/guest. How do you know if your owners are engaged with your resort? According to much of the current research, there are a few behavior traits that are representative of highly engaged owners. Some of these traits will be obvious to you when you read them, but you may not have thought about them enough, nor acted upon them as much as you should to maintain engagement. 

Your Owners are Engaged When:

  • They loyally keep coming back to you. They are the owners who visit your resort time after time, who book weeks in advance, and who are always current in their fees.
  • Engaged owners tell their friends and family members, colleagues and new acquaintances about the resort. They use their social media networks to display pictures of their vacation and to broadcast to all about the great time they had at the resort. They bring their friends and family members with them on vacation, and those friends and family often decide to become owners too. Engaged owners may be your best salespeople!
  • Engaged owners give you needed feedback. When you send out newsletters, e-blasts and posts to social media, your engaged owners and guests respond to your questions and requests. They appreciate you telling them about all the good things you are doing for them. In short, they are invested in your brand and are vital contributors to the promotion of your brand. They also may have good suggestions on what you can do to improve and to maintain their loyalty. 

Treat Them Well

Don't ever let the lure of making more new sales ever cause you to forget about your current owners. Be constantly on the look-out for ways to engage with owners. 


Communication is key in any relationship. In the timeshare industry it should start at the moment of sale and continue consistently throughout the owner/resort relationship. Use all forms of communication that are available, and match the communication to the type of message you are sending, the person who is receiving the information, and the particular occasion.  

Use social media tweets, Facebook, Snapchat for sending quick resort updates and pictures of special events. Owners need to know about all the good things you are doing for them. E-mail a newsletter with notices of improvements, added activities or special owner events. Don't forget phone calls and personal written notes offering congratulations, expressing sorrow for a loss, or just thanking them for being such a good member of your timeshare community. This type of communication may be just what an owner needs. 

Know Your Owners

Communication can only be effective if you know your owner. Make sure that you and your employees consistently engage with your owners. Taking the time to really know your owners, to know their family, their likes and dislikes, and staying aware of events happening in their lives, enables engagement and fortifies connections that can last for a lifetime. 

Prominent Member of the Timeshare Community Dies Doing What He Loved

Rob Millisor, co-founder of Breckenridge Grand Vacations (BGV), died October 8 doing what he loved to do most. He was on a philanthropic visit to the earthquake-impacted area of Nepal. Millisor, 51, was one of the industry's most successful, philanthropic and community involved members.  

In a notice we received from BGV, the company said, "The BGV family is extremely saddened to share that Owner and Developer Rob Millisor, passed away yesterday during a philanthropic visit to the earthquake-impacted area of Nepal. He was hiking on a beautiful day when he felt ill, lied down to rest and then passed. No additional details are known at this time. Rob was in Nepal doing what he loved—helping others. The entire BGV family is heartbroken over his loss."

Millisor is a well-known figure in the Breckenridge Resort Community.  In 1984, Rob and his brother Mike began BGV and developed its award winning properties, Gold Point Resort, Grand Timber Lodge, and Grand Lodge on Peak 7 and Grand Colorado on Peak 8. BGV is recognized as one of the most successful, independent developers in the industry. 

Throughout his company's success, Rob has always been known for his community and philanthropic involvement. He served as chairman of the Breckenridge Resort Chamber Board and as a Breckenridge Town Council member.  At the time of his passing, he was on the executive committee of the Summit Foundation, an umbrella organization that distributes donations to local non-profit organizations. In 2015 BGV gave a $1 million endowment to the Summit Foundation. 

Just this September, BGV was awarded with the 2015 Philanthropy Award for Outstanding Large Business from the 25th National Philanthropy Day (NPC) Colorado, a project of the Colorado Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. The award is given to Colorado companies with 100+ employees that exhibit a dedication to building a philanthropic culture in their organization through charitable support, and by urging employees to seize opportunities that produce positive effects in the community.

Rob exemplified what it means to be a successful timeshare resort developer. He always remembered what was most important to his success, as he stated recently, "My partners and I have always believed in giving back to the community that we’ve called home. As our success grew, we felt even more committed to supporting Breckenridge."

And as in the words of John Buhler, Breckenridge Ski Resort COO and VP, "We are shocked and saddened by the sudden death of our friend and colleague, Rob Millisor. Rob's philanthropic impact alone has been unequaled locally, both through generous charitable giving and local service. Millisor demonstrated a commitment to this community both in words and actions."

How Important is a Timeshare Management Company?

Sometimes it takes more than a Home Owners Association to manage a timeshare resort. Problems may arise that are not within the expertise and capabilities of the HOA. Board members may have other jobs and responsibilities that preclude their timeshare duties, there may not be enough owners willing or able to take on all the responsibilities of managing a resort.  It may be time for the services of a professional timeshare management company. A timeshare management company can help identify cost savings and revenue-generation opportunities to keep your resort functioning at a high level. 

Advocacy and Compliance 

A timeshare management company can also advocate for owners and help to ensure compliance and protection of the owners' investment. Unexpected contractual disputes can occur such as one recently mentioned in a Conde Nast Traveler article. A couple with a timeshare in Aruba received an unexpected special assessment invoice, in addition to their yearly maintenance fee. Nowhere in their timeshare contract could they find where it said they were obligated to pay. The resort told them that the assessment was industry norm and threatened to take their timeshare away if they didn’t pay. A timeshare management company has the expertise to do the research and help resolve issues like this.

Other Services Provided

A professional timeshare company provides comprehensive services necessary for the successful operation of a resort. They can provide full or partial operational resort services. Here are some of the services timeshare management companies provide:
  • Technical and Legal Assistance
  • Resort Operations
  • Financial Services
  • Transient Rental management and marketing
  • Employee and Owner Services
  • Communications
  • Property Maintenance

What To Consider

There are several considerations to think about when looking for the right timeshare management company. One of the oldest and largest timeshare management companies, Grand Pacific Resorts, shares some universal considerations to ask about when considering a management company:
  • A long-term plan for your resort- The management company should have at least a five-year revenue and reserve fund plan for your resort as significant change takes place over time.
  • A successful rental program- Income from rentals is important for the health of the association. Make sure the company has a successful track record with other resorts and know how they plan to market unused nights.
  • Low employee turnover- Loyal employees provide the best service, reinforce the resort’s value and drive additional rentals and resales. 
  • High owner engagement – The company should regularly communicate with owners.  Attempts to contact and reengage with delinquent owners should be made. Both good and bad feedback should be actively solicited.

In addition, find out if the company does a professional reserve study with timeshare-experienced consultants? Does it offer a robust activities program? Does it take ownership of the resort while welcoming board involvement? And does it offer a complimentary consultation before you sign on the bottom-line. 
Running a timeshare resort is not easy. It requires management that is experienced, knowledgeable in all areas of resort operations, and has your best interests in mind. Do the research and take your time in finding the best management company for your resort.

Can You Place a Value on Vacation?

The answer is yes! The proof is in the research. Over the past decade, there's been much research done on the effects of vacations on health, work performance, relationships and lifestyle. The on-going Framingham Heart Study found that there is a 30 percent greater heart attack risk for men who didn't take vacations, compared to those who did. Women who took vacations only once every six years were almost eight times more likely to develop heart disease or have a heart attack, compared to women who vacationed at least twice a year. And it's not just health risks at stake.

Harvard Business Review says your brain needs to take a break from work once and awhile. Taking periodic breaks helps you to gain fresh perspective and energy, and an engaged brain does better on the job!

Bad Things Happen When You Don't Take a Vacation
  • More stress is added to your life
  • Work performance suffers
  • Your relationships suffer
  • Your brain suffers from decreased mental stamina
  • Your overall health suffers
According to the latest news from ARDA (www.arda.org), 169 million Americans did not take their earned vacation days last year, AND 429 vacation days went unused in 2014!  You know you need to take vacations because 60 percent of you feel you deserve a vacation, yet 59% of you feel you are vacation-deprived. Take a vacation. If you don’t you run the risk of total burnout!

Good Things Happen When You Do Take a Vacation
  • Your brain becomes healthier and you feel happier
  • Strengthens family bonds and personal and professional relationships
  • Restores energy and improves your performance, making you more productive at work
  • Reduces the risk of heart attack and other stress-related illnesses
Owning a Timeshare Increases Your Chances of Vacationing

If you've owned a timeshare for any length of time, you already know that the timeshare industry promotes taking regular time off, especially with family and friends. Vacation ownership offers the perfect opportunity to de-stress in the resort of your choice, with plenty of space to spread out and privacy to unwind. In addition, there's a choice of 1,000 different timeshare locations around the world, and a substantial savings over regular hotel vacations. Timeshare owners save $18,160 over 18 years of vacationing with timeshare, compared to an average hotel vacation over the same time period. That alone is enough to reduce a lot of your stress!

Howard Nusbaum, ARDA President and CEO, states, “timeshare owners tend to think of vacationing as a necessity not a luxury, as a recipe for happiness. How do you place a value on that?"  Pretty easily when you include all the other benefits of vacationing too!

Do We Need All Those Conferences?

It seems like every week - sometimes even daily - there is some form of industry conference to attend. With the rise of digital networking, many believed that the need for face to face interaction would diminish. After all, it's much easier to watch a webinar in the comfort of your office, then to deal with the hassle of airport lines and rental cars. And there's all that time and extra work to prepare to leave and to catch up on when you return. But conferences are not diminishing, in fact, the opposite is true - they are big business in all industries and the timeshare industry is no exception.

Statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor indicate that conventions and other such events are expected to expand by 44 percent from 2010 to 2020. That’s well beyond the average projected growth of other industries. The timeshare industry is following the convention trend. We've got GNEX, SOIC, Regional ARDAs, Fall ARDAs, Annual ARDA, the Canadian Resort Conference, and the list goes on. 

Are They Worth It?

The Good

  • Networking
Conferences offer networking opportunities. Connections are made that can be good for your business. Even if it isn’t right away, that cocktail you had with a business owner may result in a beneficial future relationship. 
  • You might learn something
Conferences can be a valuable learning tool. People new to the industry can gain valuable knowledge from the seminars and workshops.Veterans can update their skills and keep on top of trends.
  • Exciting and Stimulating
Conferences can be exciting, especially if you are a speaker and you get a lot of attention as you expound your views for all to hear. As a participant, there's usually something to take away from the conference that stimulates.
  • Regional conferences 
Regionals can be especially helpful for those working at resorts who can't get away to attend the bigger conferences.

The Bad
  • Too much of the same thing
With so many conferences, information is often repeated. The same speakers tend to be at all conferences.
  • All about the location
Conference planners are determined to find the most fascinating location for the conference. Sure it's fun, and our industry is all about great locations, but how much actual work is getting done?
  • Lost productivity
Who’s minding your business while you are away? That time away from the business can mean a loss of productivity. First, there’s all the prep work you need to do to get away for the week—you might have to train someone else to do your job or to take over responsibilities, and when you get back, more time is needed to catch up on all that you missed. 
  • Too much hype
There really is a conference industry for those companies that don't want to plan their own. The conference industry is so big that it has its own conference and industry awards. Ever notice how many vendors set up shop at the conferences and post their company names all about? They are sponsoring conferences to sell their products and fortify their connections to members of their distribution chains. Sometimes it seems like this interaction is overshadowing the true purpose of conferences.

We'd like to hear about what you think. Is our industry having too many conferences? Could we spend the time more productively? Comment below with your views!

Change or Be Challenged

Those were the words of emcee Jim Madrid, owner of Advance Corporate Technology, as he offered the closing remarks at the 2015 Canadian Resort Conference (CRC). The CRC, one of the major events of the timeshare industry, ran September 9-10 at the Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel in British Columbia. 

Words of Wisdom 

"As industry leaders, we cannot be content with simply staying the course and following the trends. We need to step up our game by setting the course," stated Canadian Resort Development (CRDA) President, Jon Zwickel. 

In his guest column for the National Timeshare Owners Association (NTOA), Zwickel offered more words of wisdom garnered from the conference. Zwickel says the diverse base of industry stake holders (HOA’s, resellers, exchange companies, rental companies, management companies, developers and suppliers) are not always aligned in their interests. An atmosphere of cooperation needs to be developed and a pooling of all collective resources.  

Workshops and Speakers

In lively discussions during the conference participants considered issues facing the industry—topics included:
  • Engaging the Customer, Delivering the Experience
  • Preserving the Legacy
  • Traditional and Alternative Financial Solutions
  • Sharing is Cool—Are We?
  • An Industry without Borders
  • Resorts Without Borders
Conference speakers featured industry experts such as Greg Crist, CEO of the National Timeshare Association, Robert Kobek of Customer Count, Darla Zanini of ARDA International Foundation, Nigel Lobo, VP of Resort Operations, Grand Pacific Resorts, and many more.


As a result of the conference, Zwickel lists several programs to consider—some a continuation of programs already being implemented in the industry.
  • Defining standards for our resorts and then committing to maintenance programs that support those standards.
  • Renewing our resorts with capital expenditures that are responsive to our markets.
  • Exploring and creating ways to provide unique, authentic, fun vacation experiences that appeal to the diversity of the market.
  • Refreshing sales methods to compel the next generation of vacation owners.
  • Establishing exchange opportunities that promote owner engagement.
  • Respecting the environment along with the local community.

For more information contact www.crda.com.