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.