An Inside Industry Look at 2023
With the start of a new year comes fresh perspectives and new ideas for the travel industry. Marked by constant and rapid change, the past few years have seen major shifts in travel patterns and global challenges that the timeshare industry has adapted to meet. Whether it has been challenges with air travel, contactless check-in procedures, or just the need to provide an extra level of customer service to the millions of timeshare owners in the United States, the timeshare industry continued to set itself apart and met those demands – time and time again.
“The industry is no stranger to meeting challenges head-on. Whether it is a global recession, weather-related events or even a global pandemic, timeshare owners continue to want to travel and enjoy family vacations, and the industry continues to meet or exceed their expectations,” said Jason Gamel, President and CEO of the American Resort Development Association (ARDA). “Now, with having some time to take a deep breath and plan for the future instead of reacting to a crisis, I am excited to see what innovations are in store for 2023.”
2022 emerged as a strong year for the timeshare industry. As ARDA looks ahead toward 2023, there are more trends and developments that it foresees for the timeshare industry in the new year. And since ARDA serves as the voice of the timeshare industry, who better to ask about an insider’s look at 2023 than some of its member companies – Hilton Grand Vacations (HGV), Holiday Inn Club Vacations, Marriott Vacations Worldwide, Travel + Leisure Co. and Westgate Resorts.
Priorities for the New Year
One thing is clear for the new year – timeshare will continue to be a leader and set itself apart in the travel industry. From technology and expanding the vacation experience and enhancing benefits to growing, innovating and providing unique guest experiences, ARDA’s member companies are striving for excellence in 2023, all with owners in mind.
“As a company, we remain committed to the same operational excellence our owners have come to expect from Marriott Vacations Worldwide,” said John Geller, CEO of Marriott Vacations Worldwide. “In the coming year, we will continue to enhance the customer experience across all touchpoints by leveraging digital and technology solutions across our portfolio of powerful brands.”
This focus on providing an excellent owner experience and innovating to meet the demands of today’s travelers is why owner satisfaction continues to be high. The “U.S. Shared Vacation Ownership Owners Report: 2022 Edition,” published and sponsored by the ARDA International Foundation (AIF), found that 90% of timeshare owners are happy with their overall ownership experience. Additionally, 84% of owners would purchase a timeshare product again, and 82% of owners would recommend timeshare in general.
“We continue to make significant capital investments in our resorts, develop new and exciting amenities and focus on the technology projects that we believe can set us apart,” said Jared Saft, Chief Business Officer of Westgate Resorts. “Each new year is a great yard marker to see how well we were able to align our efforts against the goals we set and ensure we are in the best possible position to continue our growth into the following year.”
Timeshare in 2023
A new benefit emerged for timeshare owners as travel increased post-pandemic and as rates for hotels and other rental accommodations also went up – a hedge against high prices of accommodations in the times of rising demand. Now, as we head toward 2023, our member companies are certain that the timeshare industry will continue to outperform expectations in the new year.
According to Saft of Westgate Resorts, “timeshare by its very nature is a product built for times of uncertainty and high levels of inflation. The concept of pre-paid vacations and ‘locking in your price’ is exactly what appeals to families looking to experience quality vacations year after year without concern for market pricing and other macroeconomic fluctuations.”
The same sentiment is echoed by ARDA Chairman of the Board of Directors Michael D. Brown, President and CEO of Travel + Leisure Co., who believes that while the broader macro environment has created headwinds for some industries, the vacation ownership industry has strengthened considerably. Brown stated, “our customers are seeing tremendous value in vacation ownership, viewing it as a hedge against inflation since they don’t have to battle rising hotel room rates.”
This is in addition to the numerous benefits owners already experience, including the “work from anywhere” trend, which grew during and following the pandemic, as resorts are set up and designed amazingly well, including multi-bedroom villas, to accommodate this. This also means that owners are spending more time in resorts and their desire to vacation is showing consistent strength.
The timeshare industry has evolved significantly in the last few decades to become an attractive vacation option for younger customers, and the results speak for themselves. The recent “U.S. Shared Vacation Ownership Owners Report: 2022 Edition” also highlighted exactly who timeshare owners are, and the findings reinforced what we at ARDA have known for quite some time – the industry has evolved, and we are now seeing version 2.0.
In fact, in 2022, Gen Z and Millennials account for more than half of all timeshare owners (57%) and more than half of new sale purchasers (53%). This continues a trend seen over the last 16 years, since AIF first began conducting owner studies, of a steady decrease in the age of owners.
HGV has observed the same trend happening over the years, and Mark Wang, president and CEO of Hilton Grand Vacations, stated, “Gen Z and Millennials are instrumental to the future of the overall industry. We’ve found that these younger travelers, many of whom are now starting to build families of their own, are looking to travel more and they’re looking for vacations that provide truly amazing experiences in new and exciting destinations.”
Because of this, timeshare has not only evolved but expanded to create experiential travel opportunities that owners can’t find anywhere else. For example, HGV has created an experiential events platform, HGV Ultimate Access, and developed new properties in places, like New York City, that have been a big draw for these younger generations.
For Holiday Inn Club Vacations, they introduced VIP Experiences, a program that provides curated, behind-the-scenes and immersive experiences exclusively to its Club members.
Not only has the industry focused on creating experiential travel opportunities for its owners, but it has finetuned the owner experience – from booking, to their stay, and concluding their stay and heading home – for younger generations. John Staten, President and CEO of Holiday Inn Club Vacations, shared that they’ve worked on providing self-service, stating “we launched marketing self-service capabilities on our consumer website...This allows guests to purchase and book marketing packages completely online – a format that Gen Z and Millennials are not only comfortable with but expect when interacting with brands.”
Timeshare will continue to have a strong voice
For decades, ARDA and ARDA’s Resort Owners’ Coalition (ARDA-ROC) have provided a formidable advocacy arm that promotes and defends the vacation ownership industry and timeshare owners alike, at the local, state and federal levels.
The value of the legislative advocacy that ARDA provides to its member organizations has not gone unnoticed either, with many of its members saying that the integral benefits it provides to them will be an asset in the new year.
“The most important role ARDA plays for our company and the industry overall is to advocate for the legislative interests of its members and, through ARDA-ROC, its consumers,” said Geller. “With today’s political environment and economic climate, we appreciate ARDA's focus on trying to continue to grow the political footing of the organization to ensure regulation maintains the proper balance of consumer protection and economic development, and to protect timeshare owners against unreasonable and disproportionate property tax burdens.”
Staten agreed, adding that the #LoveMyTimeshare campaign, a vibrant movement fueled by personal experiences – thousands of stories, photos, and videos celebrating the positive impact timeshare vacations have on real families – has also helped in sharing all the positive memories and moments that timeshare creates: “In 2023, ARDA will continue to be a crucial partner to our brand by advocating for the industry with various audiences, including consumers, investors and even government entities. We’re excited to see the #LoveMyTimeshare campaign continue highlighting the positive sentiment millions of owners across the globe experience with their ownership.”
“ARDA will continue to play a critical role in being the driving force to promote and protect our industry and it’s owners,” said Brown. “We are collectively in a strong position and have a product offering that consumers want. The general population still views timeshare the way it used to be – single location, fixed week, fixed unit. The industry evolution is remarkable and now offers one of the most flexible, value-driven travel products in the market. We need to be persistent in sharing that story.”
Consensus for 2023
2023 will not be a year that timeshare – or the timeshare industry – rests on its laurels. Timeshare has proven itself to be an innovative product that can evolve to meet the needs and demands of today’s travelers, something that the industry deftly maneuvered and excelled at this past year.
“The future continues to look bright for the industry,” said Gamel. “Looking at the investments that companies are making in technology, product innovation and in their workforces, 2023 will be a showcase of products and services that will ultimately benefit the consumer as well the companies themselves.”