Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Canadian Timeshare: A Worldwide Travel Vehicle

"The timeshare industry initially had some reputation problems that started in Florida where [condominium] conversions were the name of the game," said Gloria A Collinson, President of the Toronto-based Canadian Resort Development Association (CRDA). "In Canada, we overcame this by commencing the building of purpose-built just for timeshare and legislation was introduced so fly-by-nights were no longer acceptable. When the Association was formed 25 years ago, one of its purposes was to offset the bad reputation."

Timeshare derives its name from the fact that a vacation owner purchases a share -- usually as weeks -- of the time annually available to use a resort's fully-furnished accommodation unit. The yearly cost of maintenance and management is shared among owners. At a good resort, a very exchangeable week in high-season may cost $20,000.

CRDA represents an industry that spans timeshare, vacation ownership, multi-destination clubs, exchange networks, points programs and, most recently, fractional ownership. This Association has a reciprocal relationship with the American Resort Development Association. Unlike its sister organization, CRDA takes calls from consumers and it may turn down applications from developers that do not meet its standards or that will not willingly abide by its rules.

"One of the things CRDA did was develop a Code of Standards and Ethics which members had to abide to," said Collinson, emphasizing the minimum 5-day right of recision that consumers receive from CRDA members. "Now British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario have legislation. Everyone must comply with what CRDA members have had to comply with for a time."

Ontario's recently-introduced Consumer Protection Act allows timeshare purchasers to, "without any reason, cancel a time share agreement at any time from the date of entering into the agreement until 10 days after receiving the written copy of the agreement."

The additional right of a consumer to "cancel a time share agreement within one year after the date of entering into the agreement if the consumer does not receive a copy of the agreement that meets the requirements under section 27" seems most applicable to purchases made on a credit card, according to CRDA. Since credit card purchases are far from common and are the most easily-eliminated, the impact of this regulation is under investigation.

"The industry at large provides a package that is a very beneficial lifestyle enhancement for those who buy it," said Collinson, referring to the increasingly-popular timeshare and vacation ownership segment of travel. "Our job is to let the public know the benefits [of timeshare] and how to examine what they are being asked to buy. We have an informational website which describes products and services provided by members, gives information about each member and tells [consumers] what they should be looking for."

Although reputable resorts and developers offer value and quality to dissuade consumers from rescinding their contracts, make no mistake about the intention of timeshare salespeople. Since the marketing and sales costs for a timeshare project account for as much as 60 to 65 per cent of costs, salespeople are trained to make the value clear and to request a decision -- yes or no -- during the 90 minutes of attention they ask for from consumers. Gifts and free stays may seem to be the lure, but timeshare professionals believe these people want the lifestyle, they just don't think it's within their grasp.

"The reason [timeshare developers] offer these incentives is that few people wake up in the morning and say 'I'll go buy a timeshare today,' said Collinson, who offers the growth of this industry as proof of the true value behind these and other vacation ownership offerings. "There are more [vacation owners] today than 5 years ago and many more than 10 years ago. There's tremendous growth potential in Canada as 60 per cent of the population has never been to a presentation."

Each vacation ownership program is different and should be examined on its specific merits. CRDA warns consumers to be wary of timeshares that do not own anything. Reputable timeshares own or have the property under their complete control during the period of the consumer contract. Since the two main exchange companies have similar stringent rules, be cautious of timeshares without affiliation to Interval International, or RCI.

Don't buy a timeshare expecting to get a cheap holiday. What you will get for your money is better accommodation -- fully-furnished two bedroom condominiums, instead of a hotel room -- with a wide range of amenities and, through exchange networks, access to almost 100 countries you may only have dreamed of visiting.

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