Owners at Ritz-Carlton Club Aspen Highlands Sue

With all the glorious snow about, many owners are thinking about their next ski vacation, but owners at Ritz-Carlton Club Aspen Highlands have lawsuits on their minds. 

A lawsuit filed December 31, 2015 alleges that because of Ritz-Carlton's 2012 affiliation with Marriott Vacations Worldwide, Club Aspen Highland's fractional units, which are deeded and have condo association fees, are now more like timeshare units. The suit also claims the club's fractional units that originally sold for $200,000 to $400,000, are now worth as little as 20 percent of the purchase price.

Could be a Class-Action Lawsuit

Currently the sole plaintiffs in the lawsuit are club members, Jennifer Kaplan and Alexander Busansky, but their attorneys say a class-action suit with a potential of $160 million could be the end result. 

California Attorney Michael J. Reiser said, "Losses are about $200,000 per fractional unit and there’s 800 of them." Reiser, along with two California law firms, joined Aspen attorney Matthew Ferguson in filing the suit on December 31 in Aspen’s Pitkin County District Court.

According to the plaintiffs the Ritz-Carlton Club Aspen Highlands, the centerpiece of the  2001 Highlands Village Redevelopment, was sold to them based upon claims by Ritz-Carlton that the fractional units were superior to Marriott Vacation Club's other timeshare offerings. They were told Club Aspen Highlands would be exclusive and operated for the use, benefit and enjoyment of club members. Buyers were told the highly expensive purchase prices for the fractional units as compared to Marriott timeshares, were warranted because the units were like a second home. 

Fractional Units Devalued

Another point of contention—club owners claim they didn't have a say on the affiliation with Marriott Vacation Club. They learned in April 2014 that they could exchange a week of their fractional interests for points with the Marriott exchange program. Because members of Marriott Vacation Club could also purchase Marriott points to stay at the Aspen Highlands, owners claim it diminished the value of their fractional units. Ritz-Carlton members also pointed out that they pay homeowner dues and Marriott point holders don't.

"Ritz-Carlton members paid for a better product," said Attorney Ferguson. "If you make a reservation for the Four Seasons and they put you in a Holiday Inn, that's what’s happening here."

The complaint also claims that the defendants imposed the Marriott Club affiliation on class members to get rid of a poor financial investment with the Ritz-Carlton Club, and to use the affiliation to increase the attractiveness, value and price of the Marriott timeshares. 

Not the First Club to Take Issue

Club Aspen Highlands is not the only club to have issues with the Marriott connection. Apparently members of the Bachelor Gulch and Jupiter Club ended their relationship with the Ritz-Carlton in 2013 and 2014 respectively, because of the affiliation with Marriott.

What’s Next?

Attorneys Ferguson and Reiser will try to get a judge's approval for a class-action certification suit exclusive to the Aspen Highlands members. Unjust enrichment, conspiracy and breach of fiduciary duty are among the suit's claims. The two say hundreds of owners of the Ritz-Carlton Club at Aspen Highlands are eligible to join. Should be interesting!

Disney’s 25th Anniversary offers Vacation Club Members Many Perks

Epcot will soon host a member-exclusive hideaway!
It's party time for members of Disney Vacation Club (DVC)! The leader in vacation ownership celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Vacation Club members can expect a wide variety of perks, from special events at Disney theme parks and resorts to new exclusive enhancements to their membership services. The new offerings complement Disney’s already extensive member offerings called "Membership Magic."

"Membership Magic gives families even more to love about Disney Vacation Club," said Ken Potrock, senior vice president and general manager, of Disney Vacation Club. "The exclusive experiences and other enhancements for members and their guests are a way to thank members for being a valued part of the Disney Vacation Club."

Celebration Kicks Off in February

The anniversary celebrations kick off in February with the "Disney Vacation Club 25 and Beyond Bash" at the Magic Kingdom. Members and guests can enter the park early, have access to select attractions in Fantasyland, Tomorrow Land and the Haunted Mansion, and then groove to a DJ dance party. Members can look forward to several other special events throughout the year-long celebration.

Many Exciting Member Offerings

In the spring, Disney Vacation Club will open a DVC Member Lounge in Epcot's Imagination Pavilion. The exclusive lounge offers members a comfortable place to relax from all the park’s activities, and enjoy complimentary beverages, charging stations for portable devices and access to computers and printers.  

Throughout the year, members can expect offerings of complimentary theme park and water park events, discounts on multi-day theme park tickets at Walt Disney World, and quarterly giveaways as part of the fun.  Members will receive a new personalized DVC Membership Card for access to all the new benefits and recognition programs featuring special anniversary buttons, photo opportunities, unique merchandise and more.

New Enhancements Simplify the Vacation Process

As part of the membership appreciation celebration, Disney Vacation Club will also launch new member services - a reimagined website accessible on any device, that provides members with personalized vacation advice, and a new "Last-Minute Magic" webpage that helps members explore last-minute vacation opportunities at select DVC Resorts. All services are designed to make the vacation process simpler and easier for members.

Flexible Points-Based System

From its start in 1991, Disney Vacation Club diverted from the traditional fixed-week timeshare model and offered a flexible, points-based vacation system. DVC has more than 200,000 member families from all 50 states and approximately 100 countries. Members are offered a choice of a variety of vacation destinations, including a stay at any of the 13 Disney Vacation Club Resorts, or at thousands of other resorts around the world. Membership points, when purchased directly from Disney, can be used for trips on Disney Cruise Line or guided vacations with Adventures by Disney.

For more information visit www.disneyvacationclub.com

ARDA-WIN Advantage Takes on Equity in the Workplace

Equity in the workplace is still a big issue in some businesses. Recent news has concentrated on equity for working women. ARDA-WIN Advantage will address this issue at its Orlando regional meeting January 22-23 at the University of Central Florida Rosen College of Hospitality Management.  

Knowledgeable Key Note Speaker

Key note speaker, Ann Marie Sabath, president of At Ease, Inc., is set to ignite the controversial topic with her presentation, "Five Strategies for Breaking the Glass Ceiling." Sabath, with nearly 30 years of experience in business and government training, will share her insight as she presents strategies for advancing your career to the next level.  Following her presentation, Sabath will lead an intense one-hour power networking workshop.

ARDA-WIN Helps Build Success

ARDA-WIN is all about empowering women and others in the vacation industry. The group aims to advocate, educate and connect its members by fostering personal and professional growth through its focus on networking, philanthropy, mentoring and diversity/inclusion. 

Members Benefit in Many Ways

The opportunity to attend educational events like the Orlando regional meeting are not the only membership benefits. An important benefit is the chance to win the ARDA World Scholarship. This scholarship enables a WIN member to attend and enjoy all aspects of ARDA World. It includes registration fee, accommodations and tickets to special events. 

Numerous networking and training opportunities offer members real-world industry knowledge and access to the latest industry developments and trends. Members also have many philanthropic opportunities.

Register Now

ARDA-WIN members can register now online at www.arda.org/win/winregional.  You won’t want to miss all the other exciting events and networking opportunities including, Opening Networking reception, Interactive workshop – Equity in the workplace, Networking Luncheon, the WIN Boutique and a closing dinner with old and new peers. Interested in joining ARDA-WIN Advantage? Go to www.arda.org/win

The Best Time to Travel is Now

Take advantage of the "dead weeks" to enjoy a winter
week in paradise at a lower cost with fewer crowds!
Now that the busiest travel season is over and the kids are back in school, it's perfect timing for retirees, and others who appreciate less hectic travel and quieter resorts, to take advantage of low travel periods and great bargains.

Traditionally the weeks following Thanksgiving and New Year's, known as the "dead weeks" in the travel industry, experience a great drop in bookings. Airlines offer many fare sales with ticket prices considerably lower than previous months. Check out routes with the most competition and flights to warm weather destinations for the best prices. Resorts (particularly all-inclusive) are also less expensive, as are rental cars.  Packages with flights, accommodations and rental car often save you the most money.

Where to Travel

Someplace Warm

Travelers ready to travel now should look for deals in the warmer destinations such as the Caribbean, desert areas, Florida and even California. Many resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico are all-inclusive and offer major discounts just after the Christmas-New Year's period. Desert areas in and around Palm Springs have warm, sunny weather this time of year and often reduce rates at least until the end of January. Timeshares are abundant in these areas so check with your favorite exchange company or of course RedWeek.com for the perfect deal.

Someplace Cold

Ski vacations can also be a good choice during the dead weeks - enjoy good prices and ski without the crowds. Ski bunnies and other cold weather enthusiasts should check with airlines for ski destination specials. Special packages often include airfare, accommodations, and even lift tickets. Ski areas in Canada such as Banff, Lake Louise and Whistler are good choices this time of year. Colorado, Utah and Lake Tahoe are also possibilities. Timeshares are abundant in these areas and usually located close to the slopes and fun ski towns. 

Best Time to Book

Now that you know about "dead week" travel you can plan ahead, scope out the places you would like to go, check out available timeshares, have vacation days approved by your employer. If you do travel during the holidays, extend your trip by scheduling less expensive vacation travel at the end of your holiday - like a guaranteed recovery time after the main event. Don’t wait too long to book your winter getaway. Flights and other travel costs begin to rise again in mid-February and keep on climbing into the spring and summer.