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?