Thursday, August 31, 2006


Timeshare Industry Fastest Growing Segment In Australia’s Tourism Industry

The Australian Timeshare Ownership Council (ATHOC) has released key findings in their first study into the economic significance of the $700 million a year industry.

It was reported that the timeshare industry is the fastest growing segment in Australia’s tourism industry and is a crucial contributor to the continued survival of regional towns, from employment and training opportunities through to investment and development of Hotels and Resorts.

AEC Group Principal Carey Ramm commented: "It is the fastest growing segment of the tourism industry, both nationally and globally recording growth of 10 per cent per annum in each of the past five years, and employs thousands of workers, both directly and indirectly, across Australia’s regions. The growth potential of the industry cannot be underestimated, with a possible doubling-tripling in size over the next 10 years, going a long way towards meeting the need for accommodation in Australia".

The report also found that the timeshare industry provides training and dispute resolution services and that currently only 6 per cent of owners are dissatisfied with timeshare, with the overall satisfaction rate in Australia amongst the top rating in the world.

Players in the Australian industry are Accor Premiere Vacation Club (APVC), Trendwest South Pacific (RCI, Interval International, Classic Holidays, Holiday Concepts and I.C.E Asia Pacific.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Tips For Timeshare Shopping

Shopping for a timeshare

• Timeshares offer the right to stay at a property for a set period of time and can be exchanged for time at other resorts. Often, it is deeded real estate.

• Properties require a minimum income, often $50,000 or more annually, to take a tour. Both members of the couple must attend. Tours last 90 minutes to two hours.

• A salesperson will discuss how ownership works. Some resorts sell a points-based system for flexible use, while others sell fixed or floating weeks.

• A finance manager will go over pricing options, which can be $7,000 to $25,000 or more.

• Prices do not include property taxes, club dues or fees for maintenance, reservations, housecleaning or exchanges.

• If you buy in Arizona, you may cancel within seven days of signing a contract. Other states have cooling-off periods of three to 14 days.

• Do some homework before taking a tour. Many clubs offer basics about their time shares on their Web sites.

• Ask for recommendations and check with the Better Business Bureau and the state Department of Real Estate, which regulates timeshares.

• Timeshares generally do not appreciate in value.

• Look for signs of good management, such as desirable amenities, friendly service and good housekeeping. Ask if the property is a member of the American Resort Development Association, which follows a code of conduct.

• Several companies, including and the, specialize in timeshare rentals and resales.

• Renting may help you decide if a time share is the right choice. A recent online search found Arizona timeshares renting for $700 to $2,400 a week.

• Some timeshare resorts offer discounted accommodations for those who tour the property so they can try before they buy.

Monday, August 28, 2006


Timeshare Owners Looking For Answers

Two timeshare owners at the now condemned Tyne Beach Terrace want to know what recourse they have since the vacation home club has been closed for almost two years.

The beach-front property was damaged by the twin hurricanes in September 2004 and has yet to come back on-line.

In the months that followed, the tiles began coming up, the electrical installations shorted out and the inner walls became contaminated with mould and mildew.

Salt water also destroyed the electrical components, the concrete and sheet rock walls.

Danish owner Peter Munksnaes had begun repairs on the building in excess of $200,000, but had to stop the work on the 20-unit, four-storey building in December 2004 after a Grand Bahama Port Authority inspector order condemned it.

The timeshare owners say they have been following the plight of another set of owners at the Crowne Plaza Golf Resort and Casino at the Royal Oasis.

That resort property was also shut down in September 2004 and is still closed. Convinced they had no other refuge, the timeshare owners there took legal action against the resort owners.

A group of timeshare owners at Tyne Beach Terrace say they have enjoyed coming to Grand Bahama and are asking what recourse they now have concerning their timeshare unit.

William Mooney and John Curtis both purchased timeshare in 1999 and loved coming here with their wives.

"We bought two weeks in Tyne Beach, week 51 and 52, Christmas and New Years for a total of 80 weeks," said Mooney.

"We'd use them together with our wives when we come here. We love it. We've enjoyed every time we've ever come, it's been a great experience. We love the Bahamian people."

In fact, Mooney of Atlanta and Curtis of Virginia, say they were influential in bringing over a neighbouring family for one week, who decided to purchase a home here and become winter residents.

"We're a little bit upset because we spent our money and we have nothing to show for it and as much as we would like to come back, there's a duplication," said Mooney.

"I'm retired and you have limited dollars in retirement. So when you make a plan like that, you're really upset when it falls apart."

While the men understand and appreciate that the building was damaged as a result of natural disasters, they would still like to use what's left of their 70-plus weeks and be able to come back.

The men aren't looking to get their money back, they know Tyne Beach has nothing to offer now.

Curtis says their greatest concern is that after paying for their time, all of a sudden they saw a couple things happen – their annual fees went from $275 to over $700 with additional assessments which they were told were sanctioned by the Government.

Now, they want to know what Munksnaes plans to do with the property: rebuild or settle.

They say they are not sending any more money to the club despite requests to do so because there is nothing there. And, they are having a hard time hearing anything from the government.

"I don't know who exactly to go to. There are laws that are enforced by Nassau, but they're not protecting us. We don't hear anything. What are the laws, I'm eager to find out," says Mooney.

Tyne Beach spokesman Peter Adderley says the owner is waiting to hear from the insurance company to settle their claim which carries a value of $2 million. The offer from the insurance company to date is $400,000.

"We're taking the matter to court. We're being represented by two of the finest attorneys in the country and we're confident."

According to Adderley, the members have been able to utilize the RCI exchange programme and go elsewhere as a result of being members of the resort.

"Our office has remained open to be able to facilitate all of the exchanges to our members. Needless to say, this is a popular location and they have experienced a disadvantage of not being able to stay here, he said.

"Having waited two years now on a settlement from the insurance company, we're in the process of selling one or two units to utilize those funds to rebuild the resort."

Adderley says it was thought that after providing all of the necessary and historic details, from engineers and contractors, that there would have already been a settlement.

Meanwhile, he adds that every effort is being made to maintain the site.

Friday, August 25, 2006


Less Rigid Timeshare Rules Appeal To Boomers' Kids

Baby boomers love timeshares.

People born between 1946 and 1964 make up 50.5 percent of all owners and 51.1 percent of recent buyers, according to a study on timeshare ownership by the American Resort Development Association.

Now children of boomers are taking a liking to vacation ownership, too, because of the experiences of their parents.

"Children of timeshare owners almost always buy," said Neil Cumsky, chief executive officer of Princeton Resort Group, which is developing Cibola Vista Resort and Spa in Peoria.

Traveling with their parents, they enjoyed extra space and privacy without the cost of additional hotel rooms, he said.

But some young buyers have been skeptical of timeshares, said Clark Rowley, director of marketing and sales for the Scottsdale Camelback Resort. They don't like the concept of fixed weeks and worry about wasting their investment if they don't use their time. However, with the advent of flexible timeshare use, more are choosing to buy.

"The X-Generation is coming into play," Rowley said. "They are seeking more flexibility and that's why the market is changing" with timeshares that allow buyers to use points to spend as little as a day at a resort.

People younger than 40 make up 18.5 percent of recent buyers. Overall, they make up just 9.3 percent of all owners, according to the ARDA report.

Many of those buyers are single professional women ages 25 to 35, Cumsky said, who buy with the intent of traveling with their girlfriends.

Margi Maisto, 47, bought her first timeshare while single in her early 30s. After the initial purchase, she liked not having to worry about budgeting for lodging costs.

It also forced her to take time off because she purchased a specific week.

Now married with young children, Maisto bought this year her second timeshare at a property in Orlando. The key attraction was the timeshare's points-based system, which didn't lock her into a specific week. She can make several mini-visits or one long one until all her points are used up.

"There's a lot more flexibility in the new-style program," the Peoria resident said. "It accommodated our current schedules, and we're really busy."

She also loves having a kitchen, which reduces the family's restaurant budget, and a number she can call to arrange her accommodations at a nice resort.

Those 60 and older also buy in fewer numbers than boomers do. They make up 40.2 percent of all owners but only 30.4 percent of recent buyers.

"Boomers are still very much the big buyer," Rowley said, largely because of their disposable income. "Generation X is still building wealth, or are not as into luxuries."

Life experiences also play a role in boomers' decisions to buy timeshares.

"Boomers are buying the product because they are the first traveling generation," said Cumsky, who is in his 50s. "My parents' generation never traveled more than 200 miles. When we (boomers) were in our 20s and 30s, we were traveling all over the place."

That affinity for travel has helped the industry grow to more than $7.8 billion nationally in sales in 2004.

The largest timeshare market is Florida, followed by South Carolina and California. Arizona ranks No. 9 nationally with 47 resorts, according to ARDA data. Industry folks in Arizona say that number is now 52.

A new report on the economic impact of timeshares in Arizona is expected out early next year, Rowley said. The most recent state data from a 2002 ARDA report show an overall economic impact of $980 million in owners' direct and indirect purchases. Nationally, the industry has a $44.4 billion impact, according to ARDA.

New timeshare sales in Arizona in 2002 were worth $200 million. That's thought to have grown significantly as more resorts now operate time shares. Westin Kierland Resort and Spa and the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort have added timeshares since then. Cibola Vista opened last year, and other properties have converted casita units into timeshares.

By the numbers

53: Median age of head of household time-share owner.

$200 million: Amount spent on new timeshare units in Arizona in 2002, the most recent year in which figures are available.

6.7: Average number of nights parties spend in an Arizona timeshare.

$1,744: Average amount a timeshare user spends in Arizona.

$15,789: Average cost of a timeshare unit nationwide.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Timeshare Owners Learn Of New Deal

After an almost two-year freeze on their points, timeshare owners at the Crowne Plaza Golf Resort and Casino at the Royal Oasis are learning of a deal that could break the ice and lure them back to the distressed property.

Lehman Brothers, the financiers of the resort, signed a contract last Monday with World Investments Holdings (WIH) for the purchase of the resort which has been closed since 2004.

The closure wiped out 965 rooms in the towers and country club from the island's inventory, shut down the casino, both golf courses and 98 timeshare units and pushed some 1,300 employees into the unemployment pool.

The move came days after Hurricane Frances in September 2004. The owners claimed the property sustained extensive damages.

With an inoperable property in Grand Bahama, timeshare owners say they were unable to vacation anywhere else because their points had been frozen.

But Prime Minister Perry Christie told The Freeport News during his last visit here some weeks ago that the owners had made provisions in the sale to include the timeshare owners.

Back then, there were two players – WIH, Florida-based group, and Harcourt Developments, a property construction and management company based in Dublin, Ireland – bidding on the property.

In fact, the Prime Minister revealed that Lehman Brothers had taken all of the necessary steps to ensure that the purchasing group has timesharing expertise and were "timesharing internationally respected participants."

"I am hoping that when the purchasers are selected, that we are able to announce to the Bahamian people what in fact is intended and how they will go about assuring the timeshare owners that their future is on solid ground," he said.

Now that a deal has been signed, timeshare owners are optimistic, but still have more questions than answers.

Chuck and Darlene Barber of Virginia had paid for their timeshare in full, unlike several other owners who had financed.

"We paid cash up front. All our money is already in the door," he said yesterday, pointing out that they have lost all use of their timeshare for nearly two years.

Now what the sale means for the timeshare owners he says, depends on how they are figured into the resort equation in the way forward.

But timeshare owners at Royal Oasis had filed a class action suit against the former resort owner in a Florida Federal Court and say they have not heard from the resort since November 2004.

Fed up after their attempts to reach the resort by phone, e-mails and letters have gone unanswered, the suit names Sunrise Properties Limited, Driftwood Freeport Limited and Driftwood Hospitality Management, LLC. as the defendants.

They are suing for breach of contract, breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing, unjust enrichment and declaration of their ownership rights and interests in their timeshare units.

The Barbers are a part of the action and maintain the lawsuit and the sale of the resort are two independent items.

As for the suit, everything is full speed ahead.

"It's only fair. If we lost three years, are they going to give us three years back," another owner says. "They breached the contract. If any timeshare owner did, we would get a letter to say that we would get nothing.

"People have lost out on a lot of money. I'm glad that it has been sold, at least things are moving."

He questions when will they be able to use their points, what their status will be when the resort reopens, would they have to sign new contracts and whether it means that the points will be unfrozen now that the deal is signed.

What's even more frustrating, the owner points out, is that people are still paying maintenance fees on their timeshare for fear they will lose their points.

"I'm hoping that they finish that resort and they really get it up in the eight months they say because I'm dying to get back at that hotel because it could really be a good thing.

"If they do get it fixed up its really going to work out for everyone in the end," he said.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


The Virgin Islands Tourism Industry Poised For A Major Jump In Timeshares

The Virgin Islands tourism industry is poised for a major jump in the number of its accommodations that will be timeshares rather than hotel rooms - and industry leaders are waiting to see how the shift could change both visitors' habits and the revenues that tourism produces for the government.

The Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas in June finished converting 48 of its hotel rooms to two-bedroom luxury timeshare suites, adding the units to its 80 Ritz-Carlton Club "fractional ownership" units.

The Westin St. John Resort & Villas is changing more than 186 hotel rooms into 94 two- and three-bedroom vacation villas, adding them to the 93 villas the resort already had offered for timeshare ownership. Once the Bay Vista conversion project is finished, the resort will have just 100 regular hotel rooms left.

And the new Marriott's Frenchman's Cove, which is rising next to Marriott's Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort at the entrance to St. Thomas Harbor, will include 220 two- and three-bedroom units spread among seven buildings.

On top of those imminent developments are others:
The 48 hotel rooms that were converted to luxury timeshare units at The Ritz-Carlton Club in June include living rooms, dining areas and expansive kitchens.

The already-approved Preserve at Botany Bay calls for 31 timeshare units and 40 villas alongside its boutique hotel on St. Thomas' West End.

The Ritz-Carlton Club at Cabrita Point would offer 73 ownership units on the opposite end of the island if its plans are approved.

The numbers are adding up quickly and dramatically, V.I. Hotel and Tourism Association president Beverly Nicholson Doty said.
To an existing room count of about 4,500 on St. Thomas and St. John, Nicholson Doty estimated, around 600 timeshare units will come into service in mixed-use developments, which include traditional hotel rooms, during the next two years.

The number of overall rooms does not take into account timeshare stalwarts such as Magens Point Resort and Bluebeard's Castle because they are not hotel members of the association, she said. The tourism association's board will work on integrating timeshares into its membership and its marketing strategy within the next few months, Nicholson Doty said.

St. Croix's numbers are harder to calculate because its tourism product includes so many condominiums that are not timeshares, St. Croix Hotel and Tourism Association president Patrick Henry said. "I think there are a lot of part-time residents - people who come down more than a week at a time," he said.

Mixed-use developments like Divi Carina Bay Resort & Casino, which has set aside 20 timeshare units, also are few on St. Croix. Henry, who also works as general manager of Divi, said the resort calls those units "pre-paid accommodations" rather than timeshares. They are part of Resort Condominiums International, considered the world's largest timeshare exchange program, but have not been thoroughly marketed yet, he said.

Several proposed projects on St. Croix have pledged to be mixed-use developments. Plans for a development at Annaly Bay call for three hotels, plus European-style hilltop residential villages, estate homes and villas. Another proposal, by William and Punch, envisions a hotel, casino and both whole- and fractional-ownership condominiums.

Such plans attest to a demand for St. Croix that has grown during the last three years, Henry said. "As its occupancy rate increases, interest increases and demand increases."

Why everyone is doing It
The local shift toward mixed-use accommodations is in keeping with a Caribbeanwide trend.

A panel discussion called "The Explosion of Condos and Mixed-Use Developments in the Caribbean" attracted hundreds of regional industry players at the Caribbean Hotel Industry Conference in late June. Panelists said the mixed-use model launched on Turks and Caicos nine years ago has accelerated.

"Florida has few development opportunities and beachfront properties remaining, so the Caribbean has huge potential," panelist David Callaghan said at the conference. Callaghan is eastern region vice-president of Interval International, a vacation-ownership exchange company that has upward of 2,000 affiliated resorts in more than 75 countries.

"It is definitely the wave of the future," Nicholson Doty told The Daily News. "I suspect that any development in the region in the future will have split use as a part of the core offering."

Spokespeople for the leading companies increasing their timeshare offerings in the Virgin Islands say that brisk sales of the units here show that buyers are eager for more such development.

"Certainly it was demand," Ritz-Carlton Club spokeswoman Beth Ridenour said of the conversion of hotel rooms into luxury timeshare suites. "We were seeing a great deal of success with the Club and we saw an opportunity to expand that location." Nearly all shares in 80 previous club units had been sold by the spring of 2005, she said.

When Westin St. John Resort & Villa announced the shift in July, Graeme Davis, area managing director for property owner Starwood Hotels and Resorts, also said demand drove the resort's decision to change more hotel rooms to ownership units. An estimated 90 percent of shares in the resort's existing 93 villas have been snapped up.

Vacation ownership continues to play a larger role in the overall tourism market in St. John and throughout the Caribbean," Davis said. "We are basically doubling the size of our vacation ownership resort in St. John to meet the demand of consumers."

The appeal to developers of offering fractional ownership units is clear to tourism industry veterans like Paul Doumeng, general manager of Bolongo Bay Beach Resort on St. Thomas.

"It's liquid assets," Doumeng said. "They can pay to build rooms upfront instead of waiting - they're getting good returns on their investments now."

Doumeng's father, Dick Doumeng, started selling sixths of a unit at the family-owned resort in the 1970s. Buyers received a month's share per year along with some revenue sharing, essentially turning loyal repeat guests into limited partners. About 30 rooms once were in that early model of fractional ownership; the Doumeng family bought back most units over the years, and now a small percentage are held as timeshares.

Paul Doumeng said he has been studying the trend toward timeshares closely and believes that larger resort companies increasingly are moving toward the model also because it builds brand loyalty. Fractional owners can trade a week in the Virgin Islands for a week at another resort elsewhere - but their investment remains within the corporation.

In the Marriott's case, for instance, previous hotel guests make up a large market of those who become timeshare owners, Marriott Vacation Club International spokesman Ed Kinney said. "Historically, across all our properties that are adjacent to Marriott hotels, that has typically been the case with owners," he said. "They know they will get that outstanding Marriott level of service."

Mixed-use developments that include ownership and hotel components will be a lasting setup in the Caribbean tourism industry, Caribbean Society of Hotel Association Executives president Sue Springer believes.

On her island, Barbados, The Four Seasons will break ground within the month on such a project. Another 10 or so developments being built along the island's "platinum" western coast include condominiums or villas, she said.

"The multifaceted units are the way to go," Springer said. "People are looking at real estate because they get a quick return on their investment. Then they get a long-term investment with the operation of a hotel. We're seeing that kind of development particularly in Anguilla, Virgin Islands, St. Lucia, Grenada."

Economic impact

Where demand exists, the benefits to developers of building timeshares is clear, but the costs and benefits to the territory still are not.

With investors eager, Springer said, it will be up to each Caribbean island how much development to allow.

"It's only lasting for as long as the land is available," she said. "Eventually someone somewhere along the line has to make a decision on how much development you can take. If local people can't purchase land at an affordable price, you'll create a certain amount of social unrest."

Barbadians, Springer said, have been calling for a national land-use and tourism plan to be created. "Governments have to look closely at what is economically and socially acceptable for the society," she said.

The V.I. Bureau of Economic Research, which tracks tourism indicators such as visitor arrivals and hotel occupancy rates monthly, is casting a keen eye on the shift toward timeshares - and trying to figure out what it could mean economically, executive director Lauritz Mills said.

She said the bureau will include timeshares in its occupancy-rate calculations, and it plans to conduct a study on the financial impact of such developments to the territory - particularly on how deposits into the Tourism Revolving Fund are affected.

The primary contributor to the fund is an 8 percent occupancy tax that hotel guests pay. Deposits into the revolving fund totaled $16.6 million last fiscal year, the bureau calculated, and $14.5 million has been collected so far this fiscal year. The fund is required by law to be used exclusively for tourism promotion.

In April 2001, the V.I. Legislature amended a section of the V.I. Code to specify that timeshare owners would not be considered guests subject to occupancy tax but that one-time renters of timeshares would pay it.
A month later, another bill clarified that visitors staying in Virgin Islands accommodations because they had "swapped" their timeshare interest at a development outside the territory would not be exempted from the occupancy tax.

How an 8 percent tax would be calculated for those visitors is unclear, however, because they have paid a one-time purchase price to own a timeshare interest, so the cost of their lodging is not figured by the night.

The territory's Tourism Department also is wondering how much timeshare owners will contribute to the Tourism Revolving Fund, marketing director Steve Bornn said.

The timeshare phenomenon could lead to an increase in overnight visitors without necessarily increasing the revenues into the revolving fund if timeshare holders pay primarily property tax rather than occupancy tax, Bornn said. "How do we derive, from the tourism department's standpoint, a revenue from the fractionals and timeshares to promote the destination, and for product management as well?"

Bornn said he expects that issue to be a priority of the next gubernatorial administration if it is not taken up during the remaining several months of Gov. Charles Turnbull's term.

Owner characteristics

At the prices for which units are sold in the Virgin Islands, timeshare owners are nearly guaranteed to be highly affluent.

Marriott's Frenchman's Cove units are selling for between $14,300 and $67,500, a one-time price that allows fractional owners a stay of one week per year for life. On Marriott's other island timeshare properties, which in the region include Marriott's Aruba Ocean Club and Marriott's Aruba Surf Club, the average head-of-household income is $127,000 per year, spokesman Kinney said.

The Ritz-Carlton Club's luxury units range from $148,000 to $269,000 for a 21-day share. Club members' average total household income is at least $300,000 annually, spokeswoman Ridenour said.

For a week's interest in a vacation villa at The Westin St. John, Starwood Hotels and Resorts spokesman David Matheson said, prices start at $20,000 and soar to well more than $100,000 depending upon the size of unit and time of year. Matheson said he could not provide average income figures for owners.

Because timeshare owners pay a one-time purchase price, industry players hope they will be prepared to spend more on dining, shopping, excursions, attractions and transportation during each stay on-island.

"There's more of a discretionary income in their pockets," Bornn, the V.I. Tourism Department's marketing director, said. "They're paid for already, so they come here ready to shop."

Having a greater percentage of repeat guests has its own implications, however.

Bornn cautioned against "trying to analyze and read into" the increase in timeshare visitors and their demographics "more than it really warrants."

"It's difficult to look into the crystal ball," he said.

But Springer said Barbados already has experienced some differences between highly affluent villa and timeshare owners and other tourists.

"They're very independent. They will have car rentals and utilize restaurants, but they won't utilize what I call the 'general tours,'" she said. "The boat crews that take 100 people? They're going to rent a private catamaran instead. They will do private excursions, parties, entertaining."

Having more such visitors has opened up opportunities on Barbados for more personalized services, from private chefs to yoga instructors, Springer said.

Locally, Nicholson Doty, the V.I. Hotel and Tourism Association president, said she is looking carefully at how each segment of the tourism industry could be affected by timeshare developments - from the staffing they will need to the transportation and attractions their guests will want.

Her hunch, after talking to other industry leaders in the region, is that repeat guests will develop local favorites in stores and restaurants. Still, she said, they will want variety - and business operators can cater to that by serving up changes and variety in menus, activities and inventory.

"It's about addressing the need and offering things that are new and different to a visitor," she said.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Timeshares Are Shedding The Faint Odor Of Disrepute

You have probably seen the marketing pitches in the mail promising luxury hotel accommodations or new televisions just for listening to a time-share presentation.

The resort also has swan boats available for rent. Tempting, but no, I’d say, tossing the brochure in the trash. Trapped in a room with someone giving me the hard sell is not my idea of fun. Besides, time shares always seemed to be the used-car dealerships of vacations — slightly sleazy, with a real chance of being a scheme.

But increasingly, friends and family are mentioning that they are flying to Hawaii or South Africa or France to stay in their time shares. And they brag about how it costs them almost nothing and how they can trade their time share for a vacation site practically anywhere in the world.

Maybe it’s time for a second look.

Lisa Ann Schreier, who worked in timeshare sales and is founder of Timeshare Insights, says they can be a good vacation option if you go in knowing what to expect.

“Don’t believe everything good or bad that you hear,” Ms. Schreier, author of “Timeshare Vacations for Dummies,” (Wiley, 2005) said. “There’s no such thing as ‘free, perfect, always and never.’ Nothing is free, nothing is perfect and don’t believe assurances that you can always get the time share trade you want or maintenance fees never go up.”

The negative reputation timeshares have dates to the early days, about 30 years ago, when it was not unheard-of for customers to put down money based on wild promises of beautiful resorts soon to be built.

The complexes were never constructed, the developers disappeared and the money was never seen again.

That practice is much less common now, with a flurry of laws passed by most states in the mid-1980’s regulating the industry, but the whiff of disrepute also has to do with the free offers and often high-pressure sales tactics that are still used by some developers.

“If Circuit City offered two free tickets to ‘21’ for coming to look at a TV, you’d think something is wrong with the TV,” Ms. Schreier said. “But the time share industry refuses to change.”

Nonetheless, she said, it is a good idea to look beyond the sales pitches and see the reality.

The term time share encompasses many options, but generally, in this country, it is joint ownership or lease of a vacation property that you can use for part of the year, usually one or two weeks annually.

In some cases — primarily overseas — the time share is available on a lease for a predetermined number of years.

Timeshares now include hotel rooms, yachts and castles, but the resort condominiums with pools and tennis courts still dominate; Florida has almost 28 percent of the entire United States inventory.

Another term, “fractional ownership,” pops up when discussing timeshares. These are generally more upscale properties that people buy for longer periods of time, three weeks or a month. For example, Marriott International, which owns the Ritz-Carlton, offers fractional ownership programs at the Ritz-Carlton.

Ms. Schreier’s rule of thumb is if you vacation more than five nights a year, spend $70 or more a night and enjoy knowing pretty much what kind of quality you’re going to get, time shares might be a good option.

In the universe of all timeshares, a midrange two-bedroom timeshare in a good location in a good season can cost $12,000 to $20,000.

Prices can climb up to $117,000 for a penthouse in Maui during prime time, like Christmas or New Year’s, said Ed Kinney, a spokesman for Marriott Vacation Club International.

The upfront price does not include annual maintenance fees, which can run several hundred dollars a year and up.

Then there’s the issue of exchanging your place for another. There are almost 6,000 timeshare resorts worldwide, with the majority affiliated either with Resort Condominiums International or Interval International.

These companies make money by charging fees to exchange property — $100 to $200 a transaction, depending on the company and whether the trade is domestic or international.

The big players offer more choices, but some consumers prefer to go with smaller companies that they say offer better customer service, for example, Trading Places ( and Dial an Exchange (

The ability to exchange your place depends on what size it is, how upscale the resort, how desirable the location (think of Orlando, Fla., or Hawaii) and the supply of time shares in the area you’re looking to go.

“If you have a time share in Mississippi, you better like it, because you’ll have a hard time trading it,” Ms. Schreier said.

The system seems byzantine to an outsider, but apparently once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty simple to figure out how to get where you want to go when you want to go.

My friend Veronica bought a three-bedroom timeshare in Orlando three years ago, five years after attending a sales presentation.

“We didn’t purchase then, but it opened our eyes to what a timeshare was,” she said. They waited until they could afford $15,000 for the property, and so far have been more than happy.

They have already been to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic and this year they are off to California and Hawaii.

For Veronica, one of the best things about a timeshare is that it is already paid for (minus the travel expenses), which means her workaholic husband is much more likely to actually take vacations.

“That’s what they told us at the sales pitch,” she said. “You don’t want to waste your money, so this way you’ll go on vacation — and in our experience that’s true.”

Ray Jacobs, editor of TimeSharing Today, an independent magazine devoted to the industry, said surveys showed customer satisfaction with timeshares hovered around 85 percent.

The most common complaint is an inability to exchange at a convenient time.

“Many people are unrealistic about where and when they want to go, but a lot of people also don’t have much flexibility,” Mr. Jacobs said.

A class-action suit was filed in March against RCI, asserting the company rents out empty timeshares to the general public rather than making them available in the exchange pool. RCI said it would not comment on pending litigation.

Mr. Jacobs pointed out, however, that RCI, which dominates the market, made 2.6 million timeshare exchanges last year.

According to Kenneth May, chief executive and chairman of RCI, the time share industry has grown by 12 percent to 15 percent annually over the last 15 years. It’s now even expanding to China.

“The person most likely to buy a timeshare is someone who already owns one,” he said.

But don’t buy a time share with the idea that you’re investing in something that will appreciate over time.

“It’s an emotional investment,” Mr. May said. “The resale market is not one of the strengths of timeshares yet — it still has to be developed.”

Mr. Jacobs agreed that time shares were not the place to make a real estate killing, as properties depreciate immediately, but noted that the resales were becoming more popular; he estimated they were now 15 percent of the market. If an owner sells a timeshare bought new from a developer, he or she will probably get only half the purchase price, Mr. Jacobs said; people who buy from other individuals usually break even when they sell.

Some words of advice from those who’ve seen it all before:

Make sure the timeshare is “salable, rentable and willable,” Ms. Schreier said.

Find out if you have to use the time share on a fixed week every year, or if it floats, which allows owners to pick a week to vacation, usually within a particular season. Both fixed and floating have benefits — do you have to have a place every spring break, or are you more flexible?

Does the insurance cover the replacement cost if your timeshare is wrecked by, say, a hurricane?

Is there a cap on maintenance fees? Can they be raised arbitrarily?

So, with this newfound knowledge, would we buy a timeshare? I would no longer dismiss it out of hand, but for economic reasons alone, it’s not something that’s going to happen in the near future. For now, we’re going to rely on an even older method of vacation sharing — staying free with relatives.

Friday, August 18, 2006


Jim Lewis To Run Disney World Timeshare Dept

A longtime Disney executive who for years has kept a low profile was named president of Walt Disney World on Thursday, instantly becoming one of Central Florida's most powerful business leaders.

Meg Gilbert Crofton, director of human resources for all Disney parks and resorts, becomes the first woman to lead the Orlando attraction in its 35-year history.

Crofton, 52, succeeds Al Weiss, who last fall was chosen to lead Disney's worldwide stable of resorts and theme parks. She spent most of her 27 years with the company at Walt Disney World, holding key positions in personnel, operations and sales.

"I can think of no one more qualified, and I am very excited that she has this opportunity to lead Walt Disney World," said Weiss, who has worked with Crofton for more than 22 years and called her the "obvious choice."

Crofton said Thursday that she is "very much looking forward to becoming an active member of the Central Florida business and nonprofit communities."

And she alluded to her behind-the-scenes persona in her opening remarks at a news conference, calling her talk with the media Thursday "a first for me today."

As president of Walt Disney World, the region's largest employer, Crofton undoubtedly will gain greater recognition in a community where she's generally not well-known.

Many Central Florida business and civic leaders were at a loss to comment on her promotion. Several, including Universal Orlando President Bob Gault and Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty, said they didn't know her.

And though she has represented 99,000 worldwide employees -- including nearly 58,000 at Disney World -- as the global leader of human resources, few rank-and-file employees know her either.

"I have heard the name, but I honestly couldn't tell you where [which department] she came from," said Donna-Lynn Dalton, a Disney union leader.

Walt Disney's parks-and-resorts division underwent a major realignment in 2005, which included Weiss' elevation to its top job this past November. He continued overseeing the Walt Disney World Resort while searching for a successor.

Disney promoted a second executive Thursday. Jim Lewis, who was senior vice president of Disney Vacation Club, was named president of the growing timeshare division, which now has 300,000 members in 100 countries.

"Jim is not just a good choice for Disney but a good choice for the community," Crotty said.

Crofton serves on the board of advisers at Rollins College's Hamilton Holt School in Winter Park. She attended Rollins before receiving a bachelor's degree in marketing and a master's in business administration at Florida State University.

"She has been a very dynamic leader," Hamilton Holt Dean Sharon Carrier said. "She has an incredible memory for details, and she is able to inspire others."

Peter Rummell, former chairman of Walt Disney Imagineering, said he worked with Crofton during his decade at the Walt Disney Co.

"She is a smart, thoughtful person who has seen Walt Disney World evolve probably as well as anybody and has been a major part of it," said Rummell, now chairman of developer St. Joe Co.

He said her low profile isn't unusual at Disney.

"Disney can be kind of an insular place," he said. "There are a lot of very important people there who don't have a lot of outside contact. But Meg will handle that [the president's] job well. She has great poise and real presence."

Since moving to her current job four years ago, Crofton said she has spent most of her time in California, Hong Kong, Paris and Tokyo while living in Winter Park.

She said she now plans to spend time getting to know Orlando's Walt Disney World more intimately.

"In the first few months of my role, my first priority will be to listen and learn, which I believe is the responsibility of an effective leader," she said.

Crofton, the fourth executive to lead Walt Disney World since it opened in 1971, faces an assortment of challenges as the park continues to reinvent itself in a changing world.

"The maturity of the industry is important," said Steve Baker, an Orlando theme-park consultant and former Disney executive.

"She is extremely talented and very well thought of," Baker said. "She has had some important roles in the company, and I would have probably figured she was on the list. She's a good choice."

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Timeshare Owners Avid Hotel Room Buyers

While it may be logical to think those consumers buying into a timeshare resort would use less hotel room nights during a typical year, experts actually believe timeshare ownership doesn’t impinge on the industry’s ability to sell room nights. Turns out once timeshare owners buy into vacation ownership they become more brand loyal and continue taking trips to other locations throughout the year or extend their stay before or after utilizing their resort week.

“I don’t think the timeshare business takes away from the hotel business: It adds to it. The hotel industry and timeshare are symbiotic,” said Howard C. Nusbaum, American Resort Development Association’s (ARDA) President, noting the largest purchaser of hotel rooms in Myrtle Beach, SC, for example, is the timeshare industry. In this instance the rooms go to people interested in purchasing a timeshare and utilize the rooms during their stay. In Orlando, Nusbaum estimates the timeshare industry is responsible for selling a 200,000 room nights or more.

According to recent consumer research conducted by ARDA, the organization pinpoints that 21.5 percent of people traveling on a timeshare vacation will stay in the area beyond their allocated resort time. Additionally, timeshare is a near $8 billion a year business. At the start of 2005, ARDA research showed there are 1,668 resorts located in 47 States and more than 3.9 million U.S. households own 5.8 million timeshare weeks.

At Las Vegas based Sunterra Corporation (NASDAQ: SNRR), a vacation ownership company founded in 1996 with nearly 100 branded or affiliated vacation ownership resorts throughout the world, Chief Marketing Officer Dave Lucas is also finding timeshare owners to be strong purchasers of hotel rooms. Here, proprietary market research is suggesting the company’s target customers take a variety of trips throughout the year in addition to their annual timeshare experience. This opens up the opportunity to form synergistic relationships with hotel brands.

“Timeshare can be a very complimentary business. People will stay in hotels in an urban or business situation, then when they vacation they will be more interested in going to a resort.”

ARDA’s Nusbaum agreed. “Hotel companies wouldn’t come into [the timeshare business] if there weren’t synergies. People buy into a timeshare brand and they become more brand loyal.”

And for large companies such as Starwood Hotel & Resorts Worldwide, having a timeshare entity is helping boost brand loyalty and ensuring that when its timeshare owners need somewhere to stay overnight, its at one of the company’s branded properties. To help grease the loyalty wheels, Starwood timeshare owners automatically become Gold level members. This benefit gives those individuals special benefits such as automatic room upgrades, a 50 percent Starpoints® bonus which can be traded for free room nights, and other extras such as a 4 p.m. checkout.

“They have a vested interest in staying at other Starwood properties,” said Dave Matheson, Starwood Vacation Ownership’s VP Corporate Communications. “The typical owner of one of our products travels more than the typical hotel guest and stays longer. They will stay in their timeshare, then they do a night or two in one of our hotels. The incremental benefit of unrealized income at hotels is something that I don’t think anyone anticipated.”

Starwood’s Matheson also said timeshare is chipping away at the second home ownership market, especially at the higher levels of timeshare. He explained people would rather check in somewhere and jump right into a vacation, whereas second home owners typically have to make sometimes frustrating repairs fixing what broke since the last time they were there.

Richard L. Ragatz, President of Ragatz Associates -- an international consulting and market research firm to the resort industry founded in 1974 -- said this is especially true at the highest end of the market where consumers purchase fractional ownerships rather than a traditional timeshare product.

He said the average income of someone looking to buy a second home is $250,000, an income level that makes fractional ownership an intriguing option. In 2005, the fractional industry in North America was about $2 billion in 2005, which increased an astounding 28 percent from 2004.

“The product out there now having an impact on second home sales is fractional,” Ragatz said.

Monday, August 14, 2006


Positive Outcome For New Timeshare Regulations

The new regulations issued for timeshare in Malta have generated a positive outcome, the Ministry for Tourism and Culture said in a statement released on Thursday.

These regulations aim at minimising the harassment of tourists by timeshare promoters, better known as OPCs, by properly licensing marketing companies and levying heavy fines in the eventuality of defaults.

They are the result of a series of meetings held between representatives of the timeshare industry and officials from the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA).

To facilitate enforcement, greater financial and human resources have been dedicated to intensify monitoring. Marketing companies are also being requested to deposit money, in the form of bonds, from which eventual fines will be drawn.

The Regulatory Directorate of the MTA is investigating over fifteen cases of reported abuses ranging from working without a valid licence to over-aggressive selling.

Since the relatively recent establishment of the regulations, a dramatic drop in the number of complaints has been observed which is indicative that this exercise is indeed having the desired effect.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Harbor Island Timeshare Plan May Be Test Case

At first glance, the latest hotel planned for Harbor Island merely adds to the growing list of high-end lodging for tourists eager to take in San Diego's stunning coastline.

There would be a pool, a full-service spa, restaurants, well-appointed rooms with million-dollar views and all the amenities vacationers need. And the locale – a small stretch of San Diego's bayfront – provides access to a harbor, ocean and everything they offer.

The proposal from Woodfin Suites Hotels LLC would be the first of its kind on California tidelands, once-submerged public property filled in the name of progress and for the people's benefit. In addition to 100 traditional hotel suites, 40 privately owned timeshare units would exist within the eight-story resort.

Proponents see the inclusion of timeshares as a way to help finance new hotels when construction costs are skyrocketing and securing loans is increasingly difficult. But critics argue allowing this hotel-hybrid on Harbor Island would spawn a development trend that further threatens access to the waterfront and turns the publicly owned real estate into a pricey and exclusive destination.

The state has long permitted development on public tidelands in the way of hotels, restaurants, parks and other attractions that draw people to the waterfront. Private residences of any kind, however, have traditionally been banned. And now the question arises, do time shares encourage or exclude the public from enjoying the coast?

A 10-year-old ruling from the state Attorney General's Office concluded that time shares on tidelands are permissible under certain circumstances. Even so, the issue remains murky and the state has kept timeshares at bay since the 1996 opinion.

The San Diego Unified Port District is determined to use the Woodfin project as a test case. Elsewhere in California, eager developers, trustees of the tidelands and environmentalists are watching this case closely.

The Port Commission pushed the project forward over objections from the state's two main regulators of the coastline, the State Lands Commission and the California Coastal Commission.

The State Lands Commission, which watches over development of tidelands and enforces the Public Trust Doctrine designed to protect them, disagrees with the 1996 ruling by then-Attorney General Dan Lundgren, said Executive Director Paul Thayer.

“The commission is very concerned about access to the coastline,” Thayer said. “Timeshares are privately owned and they exclude the general public from being able to use them.”

In a July 11 letter to the San Diego Unified Port Commission, Jennifer Lucchesi, staff counsel for the State Lands Commission, wrote that time-share developments “do not enhance the general public's enjoyment of trust lands, nor is a timeshare development necessary or incidental to accomplish or promote such uses.”
The letter went on to state that “the primary rationale leading to the promotion of timeshare development is the desire of private developers to reduce their economic risk and maximize their financial return.”

Monday, August 07, 2006


Harper Seeks At-Large Director Position For Timeshare Community

A resident the past four years and a non-resident and timeshare owner at Fairfield for nearly two decades, Glenn Harper feels he can fairly represent all three important groups on the board of directors of Fairfield Glade.

According to Harper, all three groups want similar results; cost control and improved facilities. Popular amenities such as golf, tennis and the lakes are obvious winners. Residents also want police and fire protection, good roads that are well marked, completion of the new community center and the fulfillment of a promise for a new grocery store.

The non-residents would like upgraded roads to their lots, extensions of water and sewer and other consideration to ease their eventual building projects.

Timeshare owners love our amenities. They have made a tremendous contribution to Fairfield Glade. Their dollars fund many of the existing amenities and contribute to the addition of new ones. Without their contributions, the new community center probably would not contain a swimming pool. Secondly, just having them here adds to the financial welfare of not only the merchants of Fairfield Glade but all of Crossville.

Our ever growing population forces the board to reappraise its actions constantly. There are many questions to answer. Will the widening of Peavine Road get emergency crews to the hospital faster or cause fewer accidents? Have we done enough to prepare for nursing home and limited care facilities for our aged and infirm? Have we made mom and dad aware that their children can go to the Mirror Lake Fishing Derby and catch their first fish? Our issues are both big and small. They all need to be addressed.

"Let's continue the pride and hard work of the past that has made Fairfield Glade such a great place to live today."

Because of his community and civic involvement and his proven business skills Harper feels that he is qualified to seek the at-large director position of Fairfield Glade. For three years he has served on the lakes committee, two of which were as chairman. The fall issue of the "Fairfield Glade Update" will be delivered the week of August 7. In it will be the business backgrounds and qualifications of each candidate.

Friday, August 04, 2006


Timeshares Seem To Be A Money Pit With Few Returns

You can't walk through the lobby of any Orlando hotel these days without seeing signs for reduced rates or free tickets to the area's amusement parks. Of course, there's a hitch: You have to hear the pitch of salespeople who want you to buy a timeshare.

The dream they're selling is having a place at a luxurious resort where you can vacation each year. You buy either a specific week or points that can be exchanged for any week. There are people who adore this system, so much so that they buy multiple weeks at various places.

They like that it forces them to take a vacation when they may not otherwise have left town. Other people love that you can buy a share in a particular place but use it like a voucher for another place anywhere in the world.

Owning a time share means having a perpetual obligation. You own it forever, and you can pass it on through your will. It's fine as long as you want it. But that's the end of the good news.

The shock sets in when people see their maintenance fees go up or get hit with assessments that leave them with no rights to appeal. When you buy a timeshare from a developer, most of what you pay for is marketing, sales, promotions and commissions. Almost none of the money goes to the value of the time share. Typically, time shares lose 80 percent of their value immediately. What other purchase would you want to make that loses that much?

Another problem arises when you want to sell. Most people find that it's almost impossible to do. I get a lot of calls and e-mails from people who want to give their timeshare away, and nobody will take it! Because they lose so much value and are so difficult to sell, I consider timeshares to be a defective purchase.

People who are still sold on the idea would do well to buy one from someone who's desperately trying to get rid of it. Some buyers have found good deals on eBay, but I'd suggest doing a lot of study on the resort before you buy.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Timeshare Real Estate Pumps Millions Into Area

The timeshare industry contributes up to $343 million to greater Williamsburg's economy, according to one study.

The very nature of the service inspires something lusted after by hotels and attractions repeat customers.

“We've got 4,000 units here, and I'm told by people in the industry that we could have 12,000 units at build-out,” said Dick Schreiber, president of the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance.

That would put them ahead of the 10,000 guest rooms of the local motel and hotel industry.

Kevin Jones, CEO of King's Creek Plantation, said that's a realistic projection. “I can see that happening,” he said. “If we reached our full 1,500 and other resorts reached their build-out.”

King's Creek recently cleared 26 acres off Route 199 for another 400 timeshare units.

Jones said King's Creek has also begun construction of what will be the “highest-end” timeshare product in the area, 52 “manor homes.” An interest in those units will sell for “more than $39,000.”

An estimated 90,000 owners of timeshare units comprise a solid base of visitors who travel to Williamsburg yearly. If that number triples along with the 12,000 build-out, Williamsburg is looking at 270,000 potential timeshare customers annually.

According to a 2004 study of the timeshares in Virginia funded by the industry and prepared by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the industry contributes nearly $1 billion to the statewide economy.

Although the study was not broken down by region or locality, rough figures for greater Williamsburg can be extrapolated. According to the Department of Professional & Occupational Regulation, 11 of the 31 timeshare developments registered in Virginia are in the Historic Triangle.

That works out to $343 million in economic impact. About $210 million is direct impact in the form of business generated by and salaries paid by the timeshare companies. The other $133 million is in indirect impact.

The study indicates that the timeshares create about 1,330 local jobs in direct sales, management and operations and another 1,120 jobs created indirectly by the increased economic activity in the area generated by the timeshares.

Jones said he thought these figures accurately portrayed the timeshares economic impact on the area.

Timeshares here generated $43 million in tax revenue for federal, state and local governments. That includes not only property taxes paid by the resorts, but income taxes paid by employees and sales tax paid on everything the timeshare companies purchase in the local economy.

Because extrapolation is ambiguous and the 2004 report is based on 2002 data, Ernest Liberatore of Vacation Time Inc., a marketer with ties to the local timeshare industry, suggests that an updated and more localized economic impact study be conducted.

Schreiber said having such a study would be helpful, but it's pricey. “To do a good economic impact study would cost about half a million dollars,” he said.

Schreiber said the importance of the timeshare industry to our tourism economy can't be overestimated.

He said a study done by the Virginia Tourism Corp. showed that 20% of the area's visitors stayed in timeshares and that they stayed about three times as long as those visitors who stayed in hotels. That translates into more money poured into local attractions and restaurants.

“I know there are people who wish they weren't here,” Schreiber said. “But they are. The timeshare operators know how to make money, they're smart and aggressive.”

That aggression is one reason that shoppers don't want them here.

Timeshares tend to buttonhole people on the street while out shopping.

“I know people don't want to be approached on the street, I don't like it either,” Schreiber said. “But while there are a few that give the industry a bad name, like in any industry, most operate in above board manner.”

Liberatore, who called the street approaches “intrusive” said, “There's a better alternative, and that's ‘vacation stores,'” he said. “Look, this is a young industry, only about 30 years old. We need to recognize the things that don't work and fix them.”

Vacations stores are self-contained shops that offer a number of vacation products.

Jones said that King's Creek already owns two vacation stores and plans to open another. He said that although the resort used “off-property contact” personnel, he's not sure that's the future of the business. “It's better when the customer come to you,” he said.

Liberatore said the timeshare industry has to “evolve to match the sophistication of our customers.” He said marketing schemes that are appropriate for Las Vegas might not be appropriate for Williamsburg and that the timeshare operations need to adapt.

“I agree with that absolutely,” Jones said, saying that Williamsburg was a more upscale market, like Hilton Head.

A big reason for opposition to timeshares here is the belief that they hurt the hotel industry. Booming attendance rates at area attractions this summer haven't translated into improved occupancy rates at motels and hotels.

Liberatore said that isn't true. “For every ten people who come into a timeshare salesroom, only one buys,” he said. “But the other nine are also exposed to information of a positive nature that encourages a return trip or extended stay even if they don't stay in a timeshare.”

Schreiber said he believes those who buy timeshares are those who are impressed enough with the destination to want to make return trips.

“I think they stay in a hotel their first time here and decide they like it so much it's worth purchasing the timeshare,” he said.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Butlins Takes Timeshare Route

Holiday company Butlins has teamed up with RCI to launch a timeshare service as the group is building its first timeshare resort in Somerset.

The new resort, which is called BlueSkies and situated in Minehead, Somerset, is a vacation ownership development worth more than £4.5m.

BlueSkies members will be able to purchase points which can be used each year to buy either one big holiday or a number of small breaks in a timeshare of their choice.

Members will also be able to exchange the points with timeshare specialist RCI share owners around the world.

The entry cost for members will be £6,000 for 30 years of holidays.

Head of the BlueSkies development Mike Crowther said: “BlueSkies is holiday heaven for the growing number of people who enjoy the fun and convenience of a UK family break. Second homes and holiday apartments are an unattainable dream for many people as they can be expensive to buy, maintain and manage.”

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