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|The continuing evolution |
by Scott Riddle
|In my positions of timeshare developer, project director and sales manager, and with over 30 years as a timeshare owner, I have personally seen and experienced many aspects of timesharing. My direct involvement with thousands of timeshare owners has given me additional insight into the amazing story of the growth and development of this vacation ownership alternative.|
Timeshare has always been, and I believe always will be, in the process of evolving. The first timeshares were sold as fixed weeks, with the owner purchasing a deed for the same week every year. Next came the concept of the floating week, with options, which allowed the owner the use of any one week in a given year, based on availability. Along the way, the idea of using one week every second or even every third year was added to the mix. As timeshare continued to evolve, the idea of points was created to allow the owner additional options. RCI entered this arena and broadened the usage of points and split-week usage. The idea of adding flexibility to the concept of timeshare has most recently been extended with the introduction of the Marriott Destinations program.
A strong, national secondary market for the resale of a timeshare has never developed. Like every other deeded property, every timeshare will eventually pass through a change of ownership. In the early days, some developers participated in assisting owners with selling their timeshare on a local or regional basis. Regional resale companies followed, with a few developing some national presence. As the timeshare industry grew and aged, the numbers of owners seeking to sell their timeshares continued to expand. As with any market, when the number of sellers overshadows the numbers of potential buyers, the value of the item for sale – the timeshare – continued to decline.
For the timeshare resale market, a tipping point was reached when companies were developed to charge a timeshare owner a fee to take his or her timeshare deed. It appears some timeshare deeds have evolved from being an asset with a resale value to a liability.
This industry, which contributed more than $90 billion to the U.S. economy only a few years ago, will continue. So, the question seems to become, “Where do we go from here?”
With the development of new resorts slowing, and the first wave of timeshare owners aging, it seems to me the time is rapidly approaching for timeshare to evolve again. Some purpose-built timeshare resorts are now more than 25 years old, while others, which were conversions of existing properties, are even older. Some have aged gracefully, but some have not. Styles that were once eye-catching now appear dated and undesirable to younger potential buyers. To the next wave of owners, amenity design and maintenance are as important now as they were when the resort was first built.
In addition, some timeshare resorts are experiencing management issues as their volunteer HOA officers and directors depart. These people, usually elected by the owners, have often served for years as a largely unpaid infrastructural asset. As they leave, all of their experience and knowledge will not be easily replaced.
On the plus side, many potential younger buyers are still very interested in the concept of vacation ownership. Many have experienced and enjoyed the timeshare concept with their parents, relatives or friends. Rather than a cramped hotel or motel room, they desire the additional space, the inclusion of a full or partial kitchen, and all of the other assets timeshare accommodations possess. People of all ages still want to vacation, and there are many studies which show time away from work is beneficial to those who get away.
As I see it, for a large and growing number of timeshare owners, the use of a timeshare unit for less than seven consecutive nights is becoming the new normal. Vacations are often being shortened to three or four nights at the desired location. During what has been called the “Great Recession,” many aspects of our lives have been altered, including the amount of time and money that is available for vacationing.
In the process of evolving, timesharing must adjust to the needs of the coming set of circumstances and desires of the next generation of owners. New companies are being formed that will be able to provide solutions to today’s issues and opportunities. Such companies must be able to address the following points:
- Additional and flexible exchange opportunities with hi-tech education on how to use them.
- Spilt-week and bonus time opportunities to members and the “Friend of a friend” programs.
- Easy entrance and a realistic exit for new members. Free DVD marketing and incentives at check-in.
- Advanced exposure of special events at the resort through social media and e-mails.
- Convenient online payments on the annual maintenance fees.
- Enhanced communication and participation between the HOAs and their members.
- Soft collection and reinstatement of delinquent owners.
I am also aware of recent activities regarding the development of a national organization, the Timeshare Board Members Association (TBMA). This non-profit organization seeks to help current timeshare HOA boards of directors to collectively address the mounting pressures on resort budgets and the membership base.
I firmly believe timesharing will continue to be an important part of our society and future. However, I also believe timesharing must continue to evolve to fill the needs and wishes of the people involved.
Please feel free to contact me by phone or email for additional information and details.