Friday, April 14, 2006


Luxury Residence Clubs & Timeshare Ownership Take Hold On Strip

What some call the "ownership society" appears to be one characterized by home ownership, often several homes at once -- and that is what timeshare developers like Marriott Vacation Club International are banking upon. The number of multiple-home-owning families in the U.S. has doubled since 1994, and properties such as Marriott's Grand Chateau are positioned to capitalize on that trend.

Located a stone's throw from the Strip (75 E. Harmon Ave.), the Grand Chateau is still in quasi-embryonic condition. That hasn't held back demand. Since the first wing of an eventual X-form tower opened last October, some 9,000 timeshare owners have signed on for 200 available units.

When the Grand Chateau reaches 895-unit capacity (projected in 2016), Marriott will be able to accommodate approximately 46,000 timeshare owners every 51.5 weeks. Currently, the first tower is running at 90 percent occupany midweek and 98 percent on weekends. Construction on the second tower begins in March.

Timeshare properties like Grand Chateau are part of a growing trend, the so-called "luxury-residence club," whereby the affluent can divide their year between multiple residences in various chi-chi locales. Marriott's grasp extends from Bailly-Romainvilliers, near Euro-Disney, in France, to Oahu.

One competitor, Exclusive Resorts, boasts exotic getaway holdings in Costa Rica and Fiji ... and even aboard ocean liners, for those who take the phrase "a moveable feast" literally.


Marriott has been in the vacation-timeshare game since 1984, when it opened Marriott's Monarch, on Hilton Head Island, S.C. Business was evidently so good that five other Marriott Vacation Club resorts have since sprung up on Hilton Head alone. In the last decade, Marriott Vacation Clubs has seen year upon year of 20 percent growth. Half of that business comes from extant Vacation Club timeshare owners adding additional properties or referring friends. Some Vacation Club members own at least four timeshares apiece.

Vegas proved a tough nut to crack, however. According to Edward Kinney, Marriott's vice president for corporate affairs and brand awareness, it took the company 10 years to find the right location. The eventual site, just around the corner from the Aladdin Resort & Casino, "was a home run for us," leading the company's portfolio for sales by a considerable margin, Kinney said. It's also one of the first high-rise vacation clubs, a decision mandated by the Grand Chateau's 3.2-acre footprint.

Stays at the Grand Chateau can be "floated" throughout the year, depending on demand. (Translation: Unless you're already a member with multiple timeshares to your name, don't expect to get dibs on New Year's Eve.) During a slow period, $16,000 buys you a week in a one-bedroom condo, while $75,000 nabs you a three-bedroom. That fee also purchases bellman service and valet parking for one of the tower's 900 garage spaces.

Although the units tend to be long and narrow, and tightly packed with furniture, they do not lack for amenities. Sony supplies alarm clocks, DVD players and multiple TV sets -- including 42-inch, wall-mounted plasma displays -- for each condo. Granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances are becoming standard, and Marriott is in the process of upgrading the bedding over the next year and a half. "We have essentially taken over every textile factory there is," said Kinney of the 800,000 sheet-set order.

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