Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Ifa Hotels and Resorts Signs Up With RCI and Affiliates The Palm Vacation Club Timeshare Resort

RCI, the global leader in timeshare vacation property exchange, has entered the Dubai market by signing up Palm Vacation Club to join its worldwide network of 3,700 affiliated resorts.

The IFA Hotels & Resorts mixed-use project on The Palm, Jumeirah includes a 300 room, five-star hotel, 460 Palm Vacation Club suites connected to the Souq Palm, a waterfront Arabian shopping complex with 200 luxury freehold residences/townhouses above and 248 luxury residences of 2,3,4 and 5 bedrooms, with a private beach club.

'At The Palm we specialize in delivering 'firsts,'' said Wahid Attalla, Director of Operations, Nakheel, the developers of The Palm. 'Together with IFA we are proud to introduce to Dubai the first, five star managed timeshare resort which is also fully integrated into a luxury hotel. Given the enormous growth in tourism in Dubai and The Palm's position as a unique, tourist destination, we are sure that there will be an excellent response to this innovative development.'

IFA Hotels & Resorts will also market and sell a canal-side shopping centre connected to a luxury timeshare resort. To ensure it attracts the overall spectrum of tourism it has also launched the freehold and fractional sale of 448 luxury apartments with services provided by a five-star hotelier.

'RCI is the global leader in timeshare vacation property exchange and with RCI recently opening a sales and call centre in Dubai Internet City, we are in a strong position and are now in the build-up phase for the launch of the Palm Vacation Club,' said James Wilson, President & COO, IFA Hotels & Resorts.

'This affiliation means that our Timeshare Vacation Club owners will now have access to a membership exchange programme which already boasts 3 million member families and spans 3,700 affiliated resorts in more than 100 countries around the world.'

The affiliation of The Palm Vacation Club is part of IFA's strategy to provide world-class tourism facilities in prime locations. The Palm Vacation Club will link with other IFA resorts in Zimbali, South Africa and Zanzibar as well as with a planned resort in Lebanon and its existing hotel and Pine Cliffs Vacation Club in Portugal, the Sheraton Algarve and Pine Cliffs Resorts, which is owned by United Investments Portugal, one of the companies in the IFA consortium.

'The affiliation brings added value and flexibility to Palm Vacation Club owners by allowing them to trade timeshare accommodation through RCI's international holiday exchange system and will allow members of IFA's other resort in Portugal - the Pine Cliffs Vacation Club - to exchange their weeks for a holiday in Dubai,' said Wilson.

The affiliation represents RCI's first inventory on The Palm, Jumeirah, one of two man-made islands off the coast of Dubai.

'The IFA Hotels & Resorts project on the Palm is the first fully integrated timeshare resort on The Palm,' explained Yehia El-Nowaiem, Managing Director, RCI Middle East. 'It is differentiated from other offerings by its five-star status with a comprehensive range of hotel and resort facilities and by the fact that it will be operated by a leading hotel chain, with all the associated benefits and facilities, affording it a true resort status.'

IFA Hotels & Resorts is a lead investor on The Palm-Jumeirah. Apart from The Palm Vacation Club, its projects on the island cover a sizeable area of the 'trunk' and will offer just over 1,200 rooms on the beach, 450 apartments and 60 boutique shops. This includes the twin-tower Palm Residence, an exclusive, beachfront enclave of 246 super-luxury shoreline apartments and the five-star, 300 room, Palm Hotel & Resort.

'A prestigious international hospitality operator will provide a host of exclusive services which will extend to our vacation club members,' explained George Khoury, Vice President Design & Development, IFA Hotels & Resorts.

'These will include reception and concierge services, maid and childcare services, apartment servicing, housekeeping and maintenance, rental administration systems, condominium management and owners' association, clubhouse management, services and security.'

The company is the first to introduce the concept of five-star, luxury timeshare to Dubai, and it anticipates a strong response from investors.

'Timeshare is now a major part of the global tourist industry,' said Wilson. 'In recent years it has demonstrated strategic resilience, overcoming volatility in the hospitality marketplace.

'Timeshare guests demonstrate high discretionary spend since future vacation costs are paid in advance and they have a high repeat and return rate.'

According to the USA's Ragatz Associates, the international consulting and market research firm for the resort industry, global timeshare sales have enjoyed consistent double-digit growth for years, reaching US $9.4 billion in 2002.

A recent Ragatz Associates' study on timeshares, ownerships of timeshares increased at a rate averaging about 12% annually from 1990 to 2003 and in the challenging economic climate of 2002, grew in excess of 8%.

According to the report: 'Some 6.7 million households own the rights to about 10.7 million timeshare weeks. Satisfaction rates remain high, upwards of 80% in most major markets. High satisfaction rates, affordability, and low market penetration hold the promise for future industry growth.'

According to RCI the reason for the successful sales of timeshares and the growth in travel activity among timeshare owners, stems from the basic family appeal of the concept.

'Timeshare offers consumers a way to make a commitment to family time and to quality holiday accommodation that provides a compelling emotional benefit,' said El-Nowaiem. 'Then, having pre-paid for their holiday accommodation for life, timeshare owners will fall back on what they've already paid for in traveling to make their finances go further. This family concept will make five-star, luxury resort timeshare particularly appealing to Middle East clients.'

RCI also points to 2002 performance in the five-star timeshare sector to underline the segment's resilience.

'Marriott in reporting first quarter results for 2002, a period of greatly diminished travel following the events of September 11, the impending war in Afghanistan and the downturn in the global economy, experienced a decline of 12.7% in RevPAR whilst Marriott Vacation Club achieved an 11% growth rate for the same quarter in timeshare sales,' said El-Nowaiem. 'At Hilton, for the same quarter, RevPAR declined 15% while EBIT-DA from Hilton Grand Vacations Club/timeshare grew by 37%. At Starwood, RevPAR declined 15.3% while Starwood Vacation Ownership timeshare sales grew by 18% for the same quarter.'

IFA Hotels & Resorts anticipates appointing a five-star hospitality operator for its projects on The Palm, Jumeirah, including the Palm Vacation Club, by the end of this year.

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