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Transparency and Education Leads to Happy Timeshare Owners

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Transparency and Education Leads to Happy Timeshare Owners

By Howard Nusbaum
September 29, 2014 

 Couple in Greece  

Last week, the Resort Development Organization (RDO), ARDA’s European counterpart, hosted their annual convention, RDO5, in London. Representing the U.S. timeshare industry, ARDA’s immediate past chairman and current CEO of Holiday Inn Club Vacations, Don Harrill, ARDA Treasurer and partner at Baker Hostetler, Rob Webb, and AIF Executive Vice President, Darla Zanini, made the trip with me across the pond to discuss our many shared successes and challenges within the international timeshare industry.

The event featured fascinating speakers, including Michael Levie, Founding Partner of CitzenM Hotels, Dean Van Leeeuwen co-founder and Chief Exploration Officer of TomorrowToday, and YouTube sensation, Louise Pentland. But one particular speaker—BJ Cunningham, an entrepreneur and founder of several companies, including the notorious Death Cigarettes—shared a message that really stood out to me. So simple yet profound, in just an hour, BJ was able recount with real-life examples the power of truth and transparency in marketing and sales practices.

While hearing BJ’s dynamic presentation, I began to think about how transparency has brought potent change to the timeshare industry over the past couple of decades. Twenty years ago, consumers came for discount tickets to the attraction de jour only to end up in a timeshare presentation. These days, our consumers are educated, and we like that.  It doesn’t mean they won’t exchange their time for the promise of a gift, but they understand why they’re there and already have a level of interest in the product. Today’s consumers already know so much walking into a presentation that they aren’t being sold just any product—they’re buying what they want.

Timeshare has always offered consistent quality in lodging and coupled that consistency with the actual discipline to taking a vacation. It’s that needed annual getaway with friends and family that helps us put our lives in perspective and renews our spirits. We need to continue to educate new and potential owners, not just about the product, but about the benefits to our health, our work, and our home lives. Resources like VacationBetter.org, a consumer-focused website offering valuable information about buying and owning a timeshare, are there to help consumers make an educated decision matching their family and financial needs with the vacation product that is right for them.

VacationBetter.org is a website all about transparency—no sales tactics, no smoke, no mirrors—just a look at what a timeshare can offer.  ARDA, with the help of the timeshare community, has invested in this educational tool because, as we know, an educated prospect is the ticket to a happy owner.


Industry Continues to Expand

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Industry Continues to Expand 

By Phil Nix & Chris Folsom
September 25, 2014 

 Projection Graphic 

Deloitte’s research for the ARDA International Foundation (AIF) shows that the U.S. vacation ownership industry has grown at a relatively strong pace, as it continues to withstand the turbulence observed in the broader economy.  In a longer article from the September 2014 Developments, we presented selected results of AIF’s Financial Performance 2014:  A Survey of Timeshare & Vacation Ownership Companies, but a quick glance at the findings gives the timeshare industry reason to be optimistic.

  • Timeshare sales continued to signal significant expansion in the industry.
  • There were increased tour flows in 2013, with 2.27 million sales tours hosted over the year’s span.
  • Average volume per guest and transaction value per guest increased from the previous year.
  • FICO scores increased and default rates for these higher scores decreased.

The financial performance of the industry is valuable as companies change their business models and investment strategies.  And based on these findings, we saw another strong year of timeshare sales, with robust growth and expansion.

For a more detailed viewing of the report, visit www.arda.org/researchlibrary.com


You Don't Know What You Don't Know

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You Don't Know What You Don't Know

By Keith Stephenson, Director of State Affairs
September 15, 2014

 You Don't Know What You Don't Know 

For the majority of people, not knowing everything about the way their business or industry works is perfectly alright. The fact is, they don’t really need to know it all in order to still be effective at their job.

But when it comes to regulators, what they don’t know may have unintended consequences in the industries they regulate. With all the priorities on their plate, it’s clear to see how they may not have time to study certain nuances and business specifics. And that’s why it’s so important that we do our job of bringing the education to them.

Now more than ever, given the evolution and complexity of the product, it’s critical these representatives understand how new rules and regulations will impact the timeshare industry and its owners. To help facilitate a deeper understanding of timeshare among regulators, ARDA’s Regulatory Outreach Committee introduced a comprehensive state regulatory/agency education initiative this year. Over the past eight months, the committee has hit the road with a presentation to help strengthen relationships with and educate regulators about the ever-evolving timeshare industry—from product types to legal structures (and much more). To date, they have presented to regulators in 10 jurisdictions across the United States and the Caribbean, helping these representatives better understand the product they’re being asked to regulate.

Education is the key to our success, and there’s no doubt this critical effort is paying off in spades. It’s not just reinvigorating relationships with officials who regulate our industry—it’s also creating opportunities to influence future legislative and regulatory changes in the best interest of the industry and owners alike. In fact, the initiative has been so successful that the committee is now being proactively reached out to by regulators, agencies and associations, requesting that they present to them and their teams. By the end of the year, the team will present in three additional jurisdictions and at the Association of Real Estate Law Officials’ (ARELLO) annual convention. They have even been asked to conduct an educational panel for Real Estate Investigators, so they can better understand the product and more effectively tackle our shared concern of timeshare fraud.

But with changes in agency staff familiar with the timeshare industry, and term limits that create turnover in government, educating regulators is a never-ending process. One thing you can count on—education will always remain a top priority for us, and ARDA and its Regulatory Outreach Committee remain committed for the long haul. 


Top Timeshare Getaways

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Top Timeshare Getaways


In the August feature of Developments, Geri Bain’s article highlighted several timeshare resorts in some of the country’s most popular travel spots. This was not only a great read but it also showcased how vacation ownership provides access to some of the most coveted experiences in the country – particularly relevant because travelers today are increasingly choosing vacations based on the experience they want from their trip. 

As many timeshare resorts continue to enhance the vacation experience for owners by expanding their on-site programs, amenities and services, our industry is well-positioned to meet this demand.  From health and wellness-focused trips to adventure-based travel, timeshare resorts are packaging some of the best travel experiences in the hospitality business.  Here is a snapshot of the featured resorts and destinations:

  1. Golf:  Myrtle Beach 

With more than 100 golf courses, it’s no wonder Myrtle Beach was voted “Best Golf Destination” by USA Today readers. Most courses are public, and nearly half offer kids-play-free programs. Snapshot: Dunes Golf & Beach Club, Marriott’s Ocean Watch Villas and Wyndham Dye Villas.

  1. Urban/Epicurean: New York City 

More and more travelers are booking urban spots for vacations, and NYC is the cream of the crop—with a plethora of museums, restaurants, plays, shows, shopping, concerts, and sporting events. Not surprising that vacation ownership properties have high-occupancy rates. Snapshot:  Hilton Grand Vacations, New York Hilton Midtown, The Manhattan Club and Wyndham Midtown 45.

  1. Spa & Wellness:  Scottsdale 

Arizona has always had a lead on wellness-packaged vacations, with a high concentration of top-rated spas and resorts, but it’s also a top timeshare resort destination. Many properties offer access to off-site excursions such as hiking, golfing and biking trails. Snapshot:  Four Seasons Residence Club Scottsdale, Scottsdale Camelback Resort and Westin Kierland Resort & Spa.

  1. Exotic Beach:  Hawaii 

Hawaiians are proud of their heritage and culture, and travelers are enamored to learn of the islands’ history.  Many timeshare resorts share the rich Hawaiian history with guests through cultural on-site programs and other key vacation components.  Snapshot:  Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas and The Aulani.

  1. Family Fun: Orlando 

We often refer to Orlando as the “timeshare capital of the world,” but the family aspect of an Orlando vacation is why it is the nation’s most-visited destination (59 million visitors in 2013!).  A highly-competitive spot for lodging, timeshare resorts frequently use a “stay to play” concept that encourages family-fun activities on-site for all ages.  Snapshot: Holiday Inn Club Vacations, Summer Bay Orlando, Marriott Vacation Club’s Harbour Lake, The Fountains Resort, Bluegreen Vacations. 

We think all our timeshare resorts deserve a tip of the hat for providing better vacations to all travelers!


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