In My View With John Hughes

The timeshare industry has changed considerably over the 25 years in which I have been directly involved.

My first experience of timeshare was as an in-house solicitor of the bank which was heavily involved in lending on commercial property in the U.K. but had also ventured into timeshare developments within Europe, mainly Spain and Portugal.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s timeshare developers were still building apartments for timeshare and the bank lent not only for the building of apartments but also commercial areas and leisure facilities.

Part of the security taken by the bank (quite apart from mortgages for commercial areas) was a charge over the unsold timeshare weeks.

It soon became clear that the initial sales of a new timeshare would be encouraging as timeshare salesmen were disposing of the key weeks during the school holidays.

Once the flow of income from sales started to dry up, the payments to the bank also started to dry up and the bank was then left with security over the unpopular weeks.  It soon became apparent that there was also an inherent weakness in the security arrangement.

The disposal of weeks outside the peak holiday periods is a continuing issue and has taxed the mind of not only many developers but also the committees of member-controlled clubs.

Various incentives have been offered over the years including reduced management fees and use of additional weeks at no or little cost.

Some clubs have considered simply closing the clubs down in the winter months but because of the employment protection legislation in Spain and Portugal this can create problems, as full time staff cannot easily be laid off.

Timeshare Maintenance Fees: Value For Money Or Expensive Holidays?

The team at Wordwide Travel Hypermarket took a look at the value of timeshare maintenance fees and how they compare with booking holiday accommodation online. This is what they found:

While timeshares, holiday ownership products or vacation club memberships should never be thought of as a financial investment, the money-saving principle is pretty straightforward.

After the initial outlay to purchase into a resort or club, your holiday accommodation costs should decrease with the annual savings accumulating to good savings over time.

How much a product can save you depends on the quality of accommodation, the time of year and of course, the annual maintenance fee you’ll pay as an owner.

What do maintenance fees cover?

In the main, staff wages make up the lion’s share of the costs of running a resort.

From a team of receptionists, cleaners, gardeners, and security to the back office staff and management responsible for the smooth running of a resort, staff salaries often make up 40 per cent of a resort’s expenditure.

Then there’s the bills which include electricity, water, heating, air conditioning, TV, broadband, laundry, taxes and insurance.

That’s all before any general upkeep and refurbishment of accommodation.

But are they good value for money?

To gauge the value of any particular product, it’s worth comparing the annual fee with the cost of holidaying in similar accommodation at the same time of year.

The Outlook For The Industry By Paul Gardner Bougaard

In a recent issue of Sharetime magazine we asked leading timeshare professionals from Australia and South Africa for their views on the industry in their region.

Here Paul Gardner Bougaard from Europe’s Resort Development Organisation (RDO) shares his thoughts on the European industry in 2014.

RDO members have, like other industries these last five years, been battered by the world-wide recession that has led to the catastrophic drop in property prices in Spain, record unemployment across the E.U., the Euro crisis and the near bankruptcy of some E.U. member states.

Hopefully all this is behind us now. 2013 was a definite improvement on previous years in terms of new sales and the timeshare industry, represented by RDO, looks forward to an even better year in 2014.

The fact that members have survived relatively unscathed through the worst recession since the 1920s is due to a combination of factors – even tighter budgeting with regard to on-going resort maintenance costs, a move towards new, shorter-term products to meet consumer demands, and the development by RDO of new policies to enhance consumer confidence that will ultimately lead to a “buy only where you see this sign” policy.

Most importantly, 2013 saw the advent of the requirement that RDO members develop exit strategies for owners who can no longer use their timeshare – whether through death of a partner, illness and so on.

This has become an increasingly important issue as the generation who bought in the 1970’s and 80’s finds they can no longer travel as they used to and the media has started to publicise the problem. We also saw the entrance into the market of two new ‘exit clubs’.

The issue of club ownership and the rule against perpetuity as it operates for clubs based on the law of England and Wales will become an increasingly important issue in 2014, not only for RDO but also for TATOC and the smaller owner-run resorts, which operate independently.

Why I Love My Timeshare By Jacky Rawlinson

“We bought the timeshare just as we were leaving university while all our friends were starting to buy houses and nice cars, but holidays were always more important to us.”

“We love everything about our timeshare and the RCI exchange system… Because of work commitments we sometimes book quite late which limits our options, but the good thing is you find yourself saying ‘we know the accommodation will be good, let’s take a chance and go on an adventure’.”

Timeshare is something of a family affair for Peter and Jacky Rawlinson, who purchased their week at Hilton Grand Vacations, at Craigendarroch in Scotland, from her parents.

The couple, RCI weeks members, now holiday at the resort with their own children, as well as sharing it with their extended family.

“My parents bought at Craigendarroch when I was very young because they loved it so much,” said Jacky, who recalls seeing royal guests due to its location next to the Queen’s summer residence of Balmoral.

“I remember they closed the swimming pool once so that Princess Diana could go for a swim with Princes William and Harry, who were both very young at the time,” she said.

”On another occasion, I swam in the pool at the same time as Zara Phillips, another member of the Royal Family.”

As well as taking holidays at their home resort, Jacky says her family regularly uses the RCI exchange system to travel further afield, particularly to the U.S.A. Her parents loved it so much they ended up buying a home in Florida.

Resort Focus: Club Casablanca

Sharetime spoke with Charlie Millar, chairman of Club Casablanca, and asked for his thoughts on why the resort continues to enjoy success.

Club Casablanca opened 28 years ago and comprises 11 connected apartment blocks, each with its own lift, which creates an inner amphitheater with well-tended gardens.

Resort facilities including the pool, bar and bowling green are contained within this spacious amphitheater. For a small fee, secure parking is available in the basement beneath the resort.

Other facilities include a restaurant/bar with regular live entertainment, games room, laundry, 24-hour multi-lingual reception, Wi-Fi connection throughout, gym (subject to payment of a small fee) and satellite television.

 Tell us a little about the history of Club Casablanca?

The resort opened in 1986 and, from its concept, was set up to run as a dual operation – timeshare and tour operator. The timeshare side has 161 apartments and the hotel has 126 apartments.

The resort, as a whole, has been managed by the same company together with the club’s committee for the last 28 years. This relationship has proven to be beneficial to both sides, contributing in no small way to the resort’s success.

Although originally conceived as a ‘British-member’ resort, the club’s membership base now comprises 40 per cent British, 25 per cent German, 25 per cent French, 10 per cent Italians and Scandinavians.

Timeshare Vs Package Holidays – The Results Are In

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The team at Worldwide Timeshare Hypermarket (WWTH) has turned to TripAdvisor to see how traditional package deals compare to timeshare.

The first few months of the year are a popular time for booking holidays. With plenty of cold weather in store having some sunshine to look forward to makes the weather all the more bearable.

But with holiday advertisements in every newspaper, magazine and TV advertising break, and disposable income at its tightest for years, the WWHT team wanted to see how timeshare holidays stack up against run-of-the-mill style package holidays.

Phil Watson, managing director at WWHT, explained: “Before people splash out on that much-needed week away to sunnier climes, and if high standards of accommodation are an important factor in their decision making, we wanted to take a serious look into the holiday options open to people  – including timeshare.”

So, how does the standard of accommodation measure-up? To answer this WWTH turned to TripAdvisor with a list of the company’s top 50 best-selling timeshare resorts of 2013. The results were impressive to say the least.

Of their top 50 best-selling timeshare resorts from around the world, no less than 40 have been awarded TripAdvisor’s ‘Certificate of Excellence’, an award TripAdvisor say “is given only to establishments that consistently achieve outstanding traveller reviews…and represent the upper echelon of business listed on the website, with only the top ten per cent receiving the prestigious award.”

Breaking the results down a little further, the island of Madeira is a small island in a popular destination for timeshare holidays and has five resorts in the Top 50, all of which hold TripAdvisor’s ‘Certificate of Excellence’ with the exception of one which holds the ‘Travellers Choice Winner’ award.

Timeshare Worldwide – What Does The Future Hold?

Sharetime asked two leading timeshare professionals for their assessment of the industry in their marketplace.

Australian industry shines – and the best is yet to come says Francis Taylor from Dial An Exchange

The timeshare industry in Australia is extremely healthy and out-performing comparable tourism accommodation products. The industry provides a platform for future growth that is exciting by any measurable standard.

These are principal conclusions of a recent Australian Timeshare and Holiday Ownership Council (ATHOC) study:

Key findings include:

  • Over 70 per cent of Australian timeshare owners had a holiday at a timeshare resort in their own country in 2012 – some 17 per cent more than in 2009;
  • In comparison, domestic overnight and international visits to Australia increased by approximately half that of the timeshare industry (nine per cent) between 2008- 09 and 2011-12;
  • There were approximately 966,400 nights available at timeshare units in Australia, of which 873,890 nights were occupied, an occupancy rate of 90.4 per cent. Room occupancy at timeshare resorts was considerably higher than the 70.9 per cent rate across all hotels and resorts;
  • A total of $211.6 million was spent by guests/owners using timeshare in Australia in 2012, with an average expenditure of $1,954 per travel party per trip. This represented an increase in total guest/owner expenditure of 11 per cent compared to 2009;
  • In comparison, total tourist expenditure in Australia increased by just one per cent, from $94.4 billion to $95.4 billion; and

Timeshare owner satisfaction is high, with approximately three-quarters of owners surveyed indicating they were either very satisfied or satisfied with their timeshare purchase.

Given an ageing population of traditional timeshare owners, ATHOC says this as an indication that older owners can see enough value in their asset to pass its use over to their children and grandchildren.

Another factor in growing owner satisfaction, says ATHOC, could be the change from the traditional fixed-week, single-resort ownership model, to a flexible-use points system. This has made holiday ownership more attractive to a younger, more mobile generation.

Significant also is that owner satisfaction across key indicators was higher in 2012 than in 2004- 05. In summary:

Resort Focus: Sutton Hall

Brian Knibb, Sutton Hall committee member responsible for sales and marketing, explains how this mature and completely independent resort continues to survive.

Sutton Hall is an 18th century manor house converted into eight suites complemented by six cottages built in the extensive grounds. There are 435 families owning fixed-week products.

The estate extends to 23 acres with formal gardens, meadowland and woodland. There are two tennis courts and an indoor swimming pool.

The resort is five kilometers from the North Yorkshire Moors National Park – while the village pub, which is just a hundred meters from the resort, has full restaurant facilities and two bars.

What is the history of Sutton Hall?

The hall was a private residence until the early 1980s when a group of local businessmen acquired the property and initiated the conversion to timeshare. Cottages were added at several stages in the next few years.

By the early 1990s the owners’ club had been vested with full managerial control and that remains today. The estate is held in trust for eventual return to the freeholder in 2062.
The development was started by a group of local businessmen rather than by a conventional timeshare developer and is a principal reason why transfer to the owners club was achieved at an early stage and the transition successful.

All the original developers were owners of weeks and sat on the members committee, some until 1990.

Why I Love My Timeshare By Ivan And Elizabeth Gould

Ivan and Elizabeth Gould from Yeovil, in Somerset, share their experiences of timeshare exchange – with some surprising results.

Exchange has played a big part in the Goulds getting the most out of their timeshare, helping them to visit 33 countries in 30 years of RCI weeks membership.

In October this year, Ivan and Elizabeth exchanged their week for a sunshine break at a James Villa property in Cyprus – a unique benefit of RCI membership.

Said Ivan: This was our fourth time in Cyprus, but our first stay at a James Villa. Highlights of our stay were its peaceful setting amid a plantation of citrus and banana trees and the location – about 15 kilometres from Paphos and two kilometres from the beach.

“The villa was much larger than we needed for just the two of us, but it was nice to have all that space. It had first-class facilities, great quality furniture and décor, with its own swimming pool. It was very clean, well-maintained and represented great value.

“We really enjoyed our time there and appreciated the quality of the accommodation – we’d definitely stay in a James Villa again.”

James Villa Holidays are currently available to RCI members as cash holidays at exclusive discounted prices.

To view the more than 4,000 resorts around the world available to RCI members visit RCI’s online Resort directory at www.RCI.com

In My View With Greg Crist

The timeshare community appears to be dealing with a real and growing problem in North America and the U.K. A new group of hybrid travel clubs has been springing up and wreaking havoc on the lives of timeshare owners who join these so-called ‘clubs”.

First, to be clear, there are legitimate travel clubs that exist and serve the segment quite well. They charge nominal fees and don’t require timeshare owners to transfer or surrender their ownership, nor pay thousands of dollars in processing and handling charges for member initiation.

These hybrid clubs appear to be merely cloaking illegal and often failing transfer entities who are being regulated out of business for their ‘viking ship’ practices.

With new legislation in the United States, many of these former transfer companies have evolved into ‘mega-renters’, who use the travel club concept to mask their real purpose.

Issues recently reported to the National Timeshare Owners Association include: failure to transfer timeshare, failure to provide travel offerings as advertised and, most importantly, failure to adhere to ethical business practices which harm consumers and developers alike.

So, while the response from the industry may appear on the surface to be slow, ARDA’s CEO Howard Nusbaum, says a travel club committee is in place that is observing the movement of this sub-industry.

The association is making regulatory suggestions on how best to stop fraudulent organisations from fleecing timeshare owners without creating unintended side effects that would impact legitimate operators and sellers of travel.

TATOC and NTOA have also independently issued warnings to owners about predatory and deceptive tactics used to induce owners to join these types of travel clubs.

In My View With Geoffrey Price And Stephen Griffin

Managing the shift:  Increasing on-site income with new happy families!

Managing timeshare resorts hand in hand with an active sales and marketing company is something of a rarity today.  The scarcity of sales companies is very much evident: those still in business struggle to make any major in-roads on the dwindling maintenance fees resorts are receiving.

Having listened attentively to committee chairmen at past TATOC conferences, it is clear that the longevity of their clubs is in doubt, partly due to members who find their purchase, made decades ago, less and less relevant to their current requirements.

This, combined with the total lack of ‘new blood’ coming through the marketing and sales ‘front door’, leaves committees pulling out their hair when compiling their yearly budgets.

Of course, today’s timeshare environment has not happened over night. The trend has been there for the past ten or so years.

First came the rather draconian European legislation, followed by shifting holiday trends influenced by technology, ageing databases, and then finally the economic downturn/meltdown with government austerity programmes translating to higher direct and indirect taxes.

Timeshare management has always had one massive advantage over hotels in that clubs had a loyal database that were invoiced once a year and every year, making resorts far less susceptible to the erratic trends of the travel and leisure industry.

Administration and accounts were also fairly straightforward as a result. While defaulting members are nothing new, past vibrant sales and marketing programmes more than compensated for the number of defaulting members.

With the marketing and sales option, on the whole, being a thing of the past, resorts have had to look for alternate means to generate income.  The most obvious solution has been rentals. This however, as we all know, has been easier said than done!

Here at last, comes some good news.

Aunty Betty Talks About Timeshare Owner Committees

Aunty Betty considers the role of the timeshare owners committee.

“I knew it, I just knew it. As soon as my back was turned what did he go and do? I´m at my wits end, how could he? I can tell you how it will end – mayhem.”

Well, dear reader, that was my neighbour Beryl at full blast the other day, having a tantrum on my doorstep. She has always been a little, shall we say, sensitive.

I tempted her inside with a cup of tea and a mince pie and got ready to hear all Beryl’s gossip, wondering what had happened to cause the outburst. Well you would, wouldn’t you?

After a few false starts she eventually blurted out, wringing her hands and her lace hankie at the same time: ”He’s only gone and joined the committee and put his name up for chairman.” Then she grabbed two mince pies and started to eat both at a rate of knots.

Well, I was a little disappointed. There I was, poised to be sympathetic, waiting for the details of a juicy scandal and all I got was he had joined the committee.

Golf club? Tennis club? Bowls club?, I ventured.

“No, our timeshare resort’s committee,” Beryl managed to spit out as she explained her concerns.

Beryl was worried about the amount of time it would take up, the constant calls from fellow owners and important resort management decisions that had to be made.

It was clear she really didn’t understand exactly what was involved and to be truthful not many owners do. All we want is our holiday. We may scan the AGM papers, and even take a look at the accounts – but how many of us are really interested?

Well, we all should be!

A Review Of Stouts Hill By Stephen Burton

I have been looking forward to writing my review about Stouts Hill because it is my favourite timeshare resort of the many I’ve visited in my home country, the United Kingdom.

My review of Stouts Hill is totally impartial. I am not an owner there because, by the time I first stayed in the mid 1980’s, I already owned ten timeshare weeks so I had no need to buy further – even at such a superb resort as Stouts Hill.

In my view there are three important items to look for in a timeshare resort (and, yes, I have heard about location, location and location).

However, I would say that the essentials are location, quality of the units and amenities/activities. I have visited many resorts where we have two of these and as Meatloaf would say ‘two out of three ain’t bad’.

However, in the case of Stouts Hill it has everything – and I mean everything.

Let’s start with the apartments:  nine of them, a mix of one- and two-bedroom units and a studio. They are in a Gothic country house mansion that was constructed in the 1740’s. A further five two-bedroom units are located in a separate block constructed in the early 1990’s.

The units are all decorated and equipped to a high standard so I guess it’s a matter of personal taste to be located in the Gothic mansion or the newer outbuilding.

In the mansion there is a superb library, drawing room and a dining room. I would like to especially mention the dining room because most Wednesday evenings there is an opportunity to have a meal and meet other guests.

A four-course menu is available with several choices for £21 (correct when going to press).

Due to my extended stays in the U.S.A., I have many American friends who enjoy watching Downton Abbey on TV.

Staying at Stouts Hill is in my view rather like staying at Downton, such is the scale of the country house and the extensive grounds.

The amenities are by far the best of any timeshare resort that I have stayed in and they include twenty-seven acres of private grounds in which to stroll.

How To Choose A Timeshare Management Company

Sharetime asked Brad Revell and Vicky Dubois Sandy of management company Resort Solutions (RSL) for their top tips in identifying a management company for your resort.

As resorts have matured and developers have stepped aside, many committees have chosen to appoint professional management rather than manage the entire resort operation on their own.

These committees have understood the benefits a third-party management company can bring to their resort – expertise, cost savings, access to new distribution channels and products, financial planning and maintenance fee collection being just some of the advantages.

However, selecting the right management company can be a lengthy and confusing process which resort committees undergo every few years to ensure they are getting the best service available.

“Our mission is to provide the best possible holiday experience for owners and guests while increasing resort profitability, boosting performance and improving efficiency,” explains Brad Revell. “Your chosen management company should operate in the same way.

”The focus needs to be on the owner while providing a wide range of good value services that a committee can rely on, day after day.”

So, how can committees be sure they are selecting the best management company for them? Here are RSL’s top tips:

In My View With Leslie McCann

Leslie McCann is marketing director for Club La Costa World Resorts & Hotels (CLC World), one of Europe’s leading developers. Sharetime magazine asked how Leslie views today’s industry and how it will change in the coming years.

“Over its existence, traditional timeshare has delivered terrific lifestyle choices and continues to be loved by huge numbers of families worldwide.

Its value lies in members enjoying great holidays each year and that’s still the case, yet there are clear signs that consumer needs and desires are shifting.

After all, timeshare’s been known in Europe since the 1970s. Like fashions we’ve changed but as an industry we never lose respect for the original model: the fulfilment of holiday dreams and quality resorts.

Merlin Software For HOA Resorts

Merlin Software is a leading provider of timeshare resort software. Over the past fifteen years they have developed solutions for some of the world’s major hospitality brands.

Now Merlin is bringing its simple, easy-to-use software to mature, HOA-run resorts – and it’s license-fee free for qualifying resorts*

Merlin provides the latest resort management software. It is quick and easy to install and because it runs over the internet, resorts do not need an IT department to manage it or any expensive communication links, servers or other hardware. With a simple login and password, the resort team can access the same data wherever they are located in the world – and it is always up to date.

Merlin Software for Home Owner Associations (HOA) and committee-run resorts is an out-of-the-box solution for mature resorts and includes everything required to manage a resort today:

  • Full property management system
  • Owner, exchange and rental reservations
  • Accounting package with industry-specific features
  • Ownership management
  • Integration with your website
  • Marketing communications
  • Management fee billing and reporting

To see if your resort qualifies for Merlin Software for HOA Resorts free of charge visit the Merlin website today: Do I Qualify?

*Qualifying mature resorts will receive Merlin Software for Home Owner Associations free of any licensing charges, saving up to $20,000 per year. Please note that software setup, training and any on-going support is not included in this offer but full details on these costs are available to qualifying resorts.

Special Offer: To celebrate the launch of Merlin Software for HOA Resorts, Merlin is offering all timeshare resorts the opportunity to have a FREE assessment of their current and future technology requirements.

To find out more, contact Merlin Software on: info@quickmerlin.com

Worldwide Timeshare Hypermarket

Worldwide Timeshare Hypermarket

Established in 1996 and based in the UK, Worldwide Timeshare Hypermarket is Europe’s largest timeshare resale company. Offering a comprehensive service to both buyers and sellers the company have thousands of weeks, points and clubs registered on their books along with many potential buyers waiting for specific units or week numbers to become available.

Operating in line with the Timeshare Act of 1992 and all UK and European regulations regarding timeshare they are also members of the Resort Developers Organisation (RDO), the industry’s governing body. Worldwide Timeshare Hypermarket are the only TATOC accredited resale company and continue to work with the industry  to better protect and safeguard consumers interests.

Buying through Worldwide Timeshare Hypermarket comes with full protection as all monies are deposited in an escrow account administered by Resort Fiduciary Services. As such, no funds are released until the title has been transferred into the purchaser’s name ensuring both parties of the agreement are fully protected.

Visit: www.timeshare-hypermarket.com for more information.

Worldwide Timeshare Hypermarket:

Open Monday – Friday 10.00am – 7.00pm

  • Buyers Call – 01202 544 870
  • Sellers Call – 01202 544 871
  • Outside the UK – 0044 871 781 6781

RCI

RCI

Access thousands of resorts worldwide when you exchange your timeshare week with RCI, the world’s leading exchange company. Book in confidence knowing that we have been organising timeshare exchanges for over 38 years.

In 1974, RCI pioneered the concept of exchange holidays. Since then, millions of timeshare owners have discovered that an RCI subscribing membership really enhances the quality of holiday ownership.

Today, RCI has 3.7 million members worldwide, who enjoy dream holidays at RCI’s 4000 Affiliated Resorts. These timeshare owners and Affiliated Resorts are a unique community of travel enthusiasts with the common bond of a lifetime commitment to quality holidays through timeshare. RCI Members benefit from the knowledge, experience and resources of RCI’s Guides, who provide assistance in the planning of exchange holidays.

RCI is the world’s expert in exchange holidays. An exchange holiday allows RCI Members to discover new places and enjoy the freedom of travelling all over the world. RCI is considered within the timeshare industry as the global leader in exchange holidays.

RCI EXCHANGE – HOW IT WORKS

Deposit your week with RCI and you can exchange it for a holiday in another destination or at a different time of year. RCI’s exchange programme offers real flexibility, choice and value.

Transparency – see the value of your deposited week
Every holiday week deposited with RCI is assigned a Deposit Trading Power. Spend your Deposit Trading Power to suit your holiday needs.

Flexibility – increase your holiday choices
You can combine deposits to increase your holiday choices or trade down and book multiple holidays with just one deposit. If booking a holiday with a lower trading power than your deposit, you will receive Deposit Credits towards your next holiday.

Choice – unlock the potential of your timeshare
RCI has the largest network of exchange resorts. Choose from self-catering apartments in Spain to luxurious villas in the Caribbean, or cosy cabins in Finland to canal boats in the UK.

There is something for everyone.

JOIN TODAY

For more information, or to join, call 0845 60 86 345 or log onto  www.rci.com/jointoday

Dial An Exchange

Dial An Exchange (DAE) is a global timeshare exchange company founded in Australia in 1997. Today, the company is approaching 400,000 members worldwide serviced from ten offices across the globe.

As the world’s largest privately owned exchange provider, DAE has the enviable ability to listen, and react quickly to the needs of customers.

DAE offers true worldwide vacation availability, plus discounted rental and bonus weeks in prime locations. With no complicated rules or trading powers – just simple ‘week-for-week’ exchange – simplicity and transparency are at the heart of the company’s success.

DAE offers a free membership option; 24/7 availability and booking online; and no upfront fees, with their low exchange fees payable only upon booking confirmation.

In both 2011 and 2012, DAE was voted by its industry peers as providing the industry’s best customer service in the prestigious Perspective Magazine Awards, leaving little doubt that DAE excels where it most counts – in caring for their members.