The evolution and sustainability of fractional vacation ownership weighs heavily upon the shoulders of the resort developers to maintain a level of quality, standard and predictable growth of the product they offer.
Timeshare ownership in the United states is real estate. When you own a timeshare, you are literally the owner of deeded property. Of course you have to obey the HOA rules, just as home owners do. But just like the deed to your house will never disappear, so too timeshare ownership isn’t going anywhere. It is in perpetuity – lasting forever – and is continuously bought and sold through the secondary market.
To keep the interest peaked of its target market, the timeshare industry has had to closely evolve with the vacationing world. As travelers require more flexibility and spontaneity, changes are being made to make sure timeshare owners remain happy and feel their efforts and investment match the value and quality of their timesharing experience.
Resort usage and design have changed over the years to reflect the lifestyles and recreational preferences of those who are prone to invest in this type of vacationing. You can bet that as technology advances, timeshare resorts will stay right on the heels of any new trends in luxury travel and simply update their listed amenities to reflect the new furnishings and offerings they incorporate as time goes on.
Let’s take a look at some of the events that have driven the transformation of the industry to help it keep up with modern day trends.
We will begin by recalling timeshare prior to the 1980’s, when usage was only available in fixed week format. Owning a fixed week, you only get to stay at your home resort during the one and only week noted on your deed. You cannot use any other time of year without going through an exchange company, and exchange power is never as strong when you have to go outside your home resort network. You basically lose your owners’ priority when you exchange this way. Fixed week ownerships still very much exist today.
Over time, a majority of fixed week owners began feeling constricted and desired more flexibility. Resort developers responded to these consumer demands and introduced the floating week ownership. A deed that shows a ‘float week’ will also state the season which the week floats in and specify the range of dates that season goes through. With enough notice, the owner of the deed gets to choose each year which week they will stay during that time frame. This option gave timeshare owners a renewed love of using their holdings.
The product offering eventually further progressed to points based ownerships, which beautifully allowed for single and multiple day stays instead of the rigid one-full-week-at-a-time limitation. In 1992, Disney was the very first to roll out such a progressive idea, but it quickly became popular and was a very good move for the company. Many other resort corporations began to follow suit, such as Hilton and Hyatt, and the ever popular RCI points program was also introduced around the same time.
In 2010 Marriott began offering a points system. To announce it, they sent a letter out to all of their owners with an opening line of: “Introducing the next evolution in vacationing – Marriott Vacation Club Destinations Exchange Program – a new usage option that is a flexible, easy-to-use, and points-based approach to vacationing.” This catapulted Marriott into a new realm of desirability and was immediately a hot product on the market.
Another example of evolution in the timeshare industry is how resorts have largely “gone green” in the past decade. They found they needed to match the rising consciousness of humanity whose growing concerns around the importance of conservation and eco-awareness could no longer be overlooked.
Take Marriott’s Mountain Valley Lodge in Breckenridge, CO, for example. Recently owners and guests participated in a tree-planting program after a beetle epidemic decimated the area.
Marriott Ocean Pointe Resort on Florida’s Singer Island, offers owners and guests a weekly gathering for a “green update” aimed at educating them about recycling and tips for a greener stay. Weekly beach clean up activities also take place along a two-mile stretch near the resort.
Since 2009, Marriott as a whole has worked to eliminate additional landfill waste by utilizing recycled key cards and pens as well as paper that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
In 2011, Gary Hyde, senior vp of resort development for Wyndham Vacation Ownership (WVO) announced how the corporation made a commitment to reduce its carbon footprint by 20 percent over a five year period. During those years each of the resorts replaced all of their paper products with post-consumer recycled products, began using fluorescent lighting and water-saving fixtures and implemented the use of trash liners and biodegradable lotion, shampoo and detergent bottles.
“When you’re committed to reducing your carbon footprint, as a company you have to undertake vastly more significant measures. In addition to identifying consumer use items we are also focusing on energy conservation. We are retrofitting thermostats with infrared RFID technology that senses occupancy,” Hyde reported. “We also monitor all utility consumption at our resorts to see which ones use the most energy and then see how we can improve their efficiency over the next four to five years.”
Other measures that extend across most timeshare resort portfolios are things like utilizing green housekeeping chemicals, choosing staff uniforms that are made from recycled water bottles, consuming alternative fuels for the vehicles used on the properties, solar heating for pools and even in-room coffee programs that benefit the rescue of the rainforests.
The satisfaction of the owners in any resort system is the developers top priority. When wifi was the new big deal and everyone started bringing their laptops with them on their travels, resort developers quickly integrated the wi-fi accomodation into the list of amenities they offered to their guests.
The overall acceptance of the timeshare concept has endured a healthy sustained growth over the near century since it began. It is due largely in part to these modern advances that the industry is committed to incorporating for the long haul that helps to keep vacationers’ interest peaked.
Given the sustained development patterns being reported by several entities including ARDA, Pryce and Interval International, it is clear that consumer interest is on the rise and the timeshare concept will continue to evolve in wonderful new ways.