2018 Starts Off with a Bang as Timeshare Universe Adapts to Major Changes in Travel Industry

Forget January.  February 2018 is a great start for the new year.  All maintenance fees should be paid by now, and if you want to go to your Hawaiian timeshare next winter, now is also the time to make that 12-months-in-advance-of checkin reservation at your home resort.

But it’s also a good month for most timeshare football fans, and they tend to go together, based upon our experience watching NFL games from swim-up pools and hot tubs in all the places that snowbirds escape to during winter months. The Eagles surprise Super Bowl victory over the Patriots was a win for all underdogs, which pretty much takes us all back to our roots as regular people struggling to make our mark in the world.

Speaking of embracing challenge, traditional timeshare developers and vacation clubs are ramping up their efforts to adapt to an Internet-based world where travelers can book timeshares, instantly, for rental rates that match maintenance fees.  For travelers of all ages, this means you don’t have to own a timeshare to use one. The companies are also rapidly trying to get younger so they can appeal to new and monied travelers who, historically, shy away from lifetime timeshare offerings.

Here’s a snapshot of the US timeshare world provided to RedWeek by the American Resort Development Association (ARDA), which serves as the trade association and national lobbying organization for all brand-name timeshare developers and their cottage-industry service companies, including realtors, title companies, lenders, etc.

According to ARDA’s industry surveys, developers racked up $9.2 billion in sales in 2016 (and probably more in 2017) in the US, and an estimated $19.7 billion worldwide.  These numbers don’t include resale transactions, which are not clearly tracked by any major industry group.  The industry employs 500,000 people in North America with many based in sunny Florida, which is the WW headquarters for most timeshare companies and home to 50 percent of all US timeshare resorts.  More than 9.2 million US households own one or more timeshares.  FYI, all major timeshare companies are sloughing off that word — timeshare — and using “shared vacation ownership” instead.  Years of largely negative news stories about timeshares have taken their toll on the value of the word — so watch it continue to disappear in 2018 as marketers promote shared ownership and “alternative accommodations.”

On the advocacy front, the industry continues to fight transient tax increases in states (Hawaii, et al) that prey on timeshare owners who have no local political representation.  It also lobbies regulators and lawmakers to crack down on timeshare scams usually perpetrated by self-styled “transfer and relief” companies that solicit owners (for thousand-dollar upfront fees) with phony guarantees that they will help owners get out of their timeshare contracts.  On a related front, individual timeshare companies (Welk, Westgate and others) launched a concerted legal campaign last summer to sue some of these companies that offer exit strategies to owners.  While these cases wind through the federal court system, owner lawsuits against timeshare companies are also increasing with claims alleging elder abuse to misleading sales practices.

The industry’s published goals for 2018 include more expansion, particularly into the Asia-Pacific and urban markets, more anti-fraud campaigns, developing successful messaging to reach new and younger potential buyers, and “telling our story” to combat negative myths about the industry.  It’s a full and ambitious load of goals, which we will track for owners as the year unfolds.

CNBC Story Paints Vivid Picture of Industry Resale and Inheritance Issues

CNBC news, a national news organizations headquartered just outside Manhattan, published an in-depth news story Feb. 6 that provides a vivid and comprehensive picture of the major issues confronting timeshare owners.  Written by Strategic Content Editor Barbara Booth, the story focuses on the “inherited timeshare conundrum” that confronts owners who are unable to sell a timeshare and cannot give it away to their children or heirs (usually because the kids don’t want to inherit the annual maintenance fee bills that come with timeshare ownership).  It is a very thorough and balanced piece of journalism that also discusses resale issues, timeshare scams, rental alternatives for owners and corporate exit programs.  Booth used RedWeek as a source for some of her material, so we’re happy to recommend this article to anyone looking to off-load their timeshare.

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