2010 marks some important milestones in timeshare. As the shared ownership industry celebrates decades of success, there’s more to look forward to, as Fiona Klonarides reports
Innovative products, sought-after locations and exceptional service are core elements of the timeshare experience; and it has never been more flexible, more sophisticated or more affordable than now. As overseas property markets dip, timeshare and fractional ownership are beginning to steal the spotlight as consumers discover a viable, accessible alternative to whole holiday home ownership.
In the May issue of Perspective magazine, Nick Turner, who heads up the European division of The Registry Collection (the largest luxury exchange programme in the world and part of the Wyndham group) www.registrycollection.com , talks about the changing landscape of global shared ownership and how new fractional developments have shot into the media spotlight, particularly in the UK and Irish press.
“What’s been surprising,” says Turner, “ is where the new models and markets appear to be moving, and certainly fractional ownership seems to be eclipsing any other shared ownership model in terms of appetite from the press to cover it as an acceptable alternative to whole ownership.”
The sheer variety of markets Turner oversees are a testament to the international opportunities in the timeshare and fractional world. His focus is Europe and North Africa, covering destinations as geographically and culturally diverse as Madeira and Cape Verde to Cyprus, Turkey, the Ukraine, Scandinavia, Scotland, Morocco and Tunisia.
As Nick Turner points out, The Registry Collection is more than just an exchange programme. “Registry really has been created as a lifestyle programme where people buy quite stunning pieces of resort real estate and get access to what soon will be our 200+ resorts around the world – but we also have some great benefits in there as well, such as a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week global concierge and lounge access.”
Timeshare has come a long way since fixed weeks at fixed resorts. Favourite destinations have remained favourites – Spain, France and Portugal especially – but fractional developments in “new” markets such as Egypt, the Middle East and Thailand are proving popular, while in Italy a number of carefully converted medieval properties in picture perfect Tuscan or Umbrian towns offer buyers a unique opportunity to buy a share of “dolce vita” – a slice of the good life, Italian-style, theirs to savour at their leisure.
35 years of excellence
Just last year, leading exchange organization RCI www.rci.com celebrated 35 years in the timeshare industry. As it grew, so did the world-is-your-oyster for timeshare owners, and both RCI and global exchange company Interval International www.intervalworld.com make the oyster easy to enjoy.
In RCI’s case, some 513 RCI affiliates across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India have been affiliated with RCI for 15 years or more. Today, its reach has expanded to a mammoth 4,000-plus affiliated resorts making RCI the world’s largest vacation exchange company.
Of course service – as well as quality, location, flexibility and innovation – is key to customer satisfaction.
“All our developers have succeeded in this business by putting customer service first. Our ‘Count on Me!’ service philosophy means our shared owners and members can rely on RCI to deliver the very best in vacation exchange experiences,” explains Jonathan Back, managing director, RCI EMEAI.
Among the 70 developers who have been working with RCI over the years, four are celebrating a 25-year long relationship with RCI EMEAI this year: Resort Properties, the Pestana Group, Club Praia Da Oura (now part of the Petchey Leisure Group), and Club La Costa Resorts & Hotels.
Customer loyalty and high satisfaction rates continue to grow
Mexico specialists Royal Resorts www.royalresorts.com have grown their brand since 1978 by offering a consistently high quality holiday experience at their sought-after resorts in Cancun and the Mexican Riviera. A recent independent survey reported a 97% member satisfaction rating and 47% of its members have been returning to its Cancun resorts for over ten years.
Timeshare’s customer satisfaction rate averages over 80%, a statistic that reflects well on the industry as a whole. At Royal Resorts, 75% of sales come from referrals and its Royal Sands resort in Cancun is ranked third, no less, in the top ten family resorts for Mexico and the Caribbean in the Trip Advisor Travellers Choice2010.
‘Turkey has caught the imagination of our members –not only is the southwest coast beautiful and unspoilt, but property prices are considerably lower than in Spain or the UK, for example. We are also looking to develop in the USA and I expect to make an announcement about that very soon’
Shared ownership has become one of the most sophisticated holiday models on the market. Super car clubs, fine art and fine wines, as well as yachts, jets and vineyards are some of pearls in the fractional world-is-your-oyster way of life. The Registry Collection, for example, is essentially a luxury exchange programme with a very impressive portfolio of high end global resorts, but it goes way beyond that – guests can also charter a yacht in the south of France or a jet in Germany, for example.
Club La Costa Resorts & Hotels www.clublacosta.com broke the timeshare holiday mould a few years ago with the champagne launch of its exclusive new Yacht Club in Puerto Banus. Chairman Roy Peires was there to christen the first catamaran under a typically blue Spanish sky (in January) before the French-built catamaran set sail for Mallorca, the private sailing club’s first summer base. New bases in the Red Sea and more recently, Turkey, have followed.
Meanwhile, sales at Club La Costa’s first ever resort in Turkey, near Bozbuk Bay in the southwest, are propelling further development – buyers seem to have developed a sweet tooth for CLC’s Turkish delight.
Looking ahead, Club La Costa has plans to expand even further afield.
Just this week, Roy Peires told GoTimeshare.org, ““Following the sell-out success of Club La Costa freeholds at our first Turkey resort, Apollonium Spa & Beach Resort, building work is going apace on our second, Club La Costa at Kusadasi Golf, which is scheduled to open next year and I am pleased to report everything is on plan. Turkey has caught the imagination of our members –not only is the southwest coast beautiful and unspoilt, but property prices are considerably lower than in Spain or the UK, for example. We are also looking to develop in the USA and I expect to make an announcement about that very soon.”
Holidays for Life
Seasons Holidays www.myseasonsholidays.com also celebrated a first with the sell-out of its fractional homes at Forest Hills near Marbella last year. Many of the property shares were sold to existing timeshare owners, keen to own a slice of the Spanish sunshine at a resort they already knew and loved.
Another innovative launch comes courtesy of RCI. Its two new RCI iPhone apps enable holidaymakers share their holiday experiences with friends across social networks; its RCITV app for iPhone and iPod Touch lets users watch featured Destination Channel videos (available at RCI.com) and users can email video links and save them to their “favourites”. RCITV has just hit its own milestone – in less than six months it has already been viewed over one million times.
There’s also RCI’s novel new SnapBook to capture holiday photos, videos, voice memos and texts to users’ iPhones, which can then be uploaded to RCISnapBook.com and published in either a scrapbook, timeline or map display to share with friends.
RCI already has its own YouTube channel (since January) loaded with over 50 resort videos from RCI TV, with links to RCI.com and the actual resorts if users want more detail – a great way to get a taste of a resort before booking.
Saving the day
When smooth sailing turns to stormy weather, how a company handles a crisis can be very telling. During the travel chaos caused by Iceland’s most infamous and unpronounceable volcano, numerous member resorts of the Resort Development Organisation (www.rdo.org) stepped in immediately to help stranded guests.
Staff worked around the clock. They rebooked travel and extended stays for guests at lowered rates, often for free. Many quickly introduced perks like free internet access and special value menus for families who should have been back in the UK for the start of the new school term already. Club La Costa laid on coaches from Malaga to Calais for members willing to take their chances on catching a ferry from France back to Britain.
Petchey Leisure also had coaches to Calais on stand-by while resort staff re-accommodated 420 families holidaying at Petchey’s various Algarve resorts – all grounded during the peak of the ash crisis, 15th-22nd April. All families received a complimentary night’s stay and, as Andrew Walton, Operations Director at Petchey Leisure, explains:
“It wasn’t a question of whether we should or shouldn’t help. There was no question about it. We were only interested in acting quickly to accommodate and assist everybody affected. We are just relieved that this happened in April and not in August!”
For one British couple the ash crisis almost caused a honeymoon crisis. But when two of Petchey Leisure’s Club Infiniti members www.petcheyleisure.com realised the honeymoon they’d booked for their daughter and her new husband in the Algarve looked like a no-go event because of the no-fly zone in England, Club Infiniti stepped in to offer the newly-weds their own suite at Petchey Leisure’s Hever Hotel and Country Club in Kent where the couple were, in their own words, “treated like royalty.”
GoTimeshare Staff Reporting by Fiona Klonarides