Is it Timeshare…or a Long Term Holiday Club? How to know the difference

After relishing a decent break over the Christmas and New Year holidays, many of us are planning our next getaway.  And one of the best ways to get away more often – and spend less – is shared ownership.

For the uninitiated, the shared ownership umbrella spans a number of options: there’s timeshare(also known as vacation ownership), fractional ownership, destination clubs and private residence clubs…but do you know the difference between buying timeshare and joining a long term holiday club? They’re not the same, so it’s important to be aware of what’s what.

First a quick background on timeshare.  Since the timeshare holiday became a new way to enjoy vacations in the sixties, the industry has taken a huge leap into the future.  It used to be that you’d jet off to, say, Malaga in early June – same resort, same week, same destination.  Things have come a long way since then! Timeshare has never been more flexible or exciting, partly thanks to innovative developers who now cater for younger families, and partly thanks to the additional freedom that timeshare points offer.  This system allow you to bank your points towards holidays and even mini-breaks, using them in high, mid or low season, for a few nights away or a fortnight – the choice is yours.

Be wary of long term holiday clubs because they’re definitely not the same thing as timeshare; here are some of the main ways differences.

Long term holiday clubs are common along the Costa del Sol and the Canary Islands, they usually spring up in the most popular timeshare destinations. In general they are all about obtaining discounts on various components of a holiday rather than delivering accommodation. After paying a joining fee, membership of the long term holiday club is supposed to offer you the facility to make holiday related bookings at a number of destinations (including timeshare resorts) with significant discounts. There have, however, been complaints made by consumers that the promised discounts are no less than those available on the internet or in the high street which, as the European Consumer Centres highlighted in a recent report ‘defeats the object of joining such a scheme at a significant cost as well as paying the annual membership fees in the first place’.

Find out if the company owns or manages its own resorts – does it? If it’s a timeshare resort, the money will be invested in building and developing resorts and a purchaser’s future occupancy rights are protected (many through the UK’s trustee system). Complaints have been made by consumers who have purchased long term holiday club membership that booking accommodation can be problematic – this is because the accommodation is not owned or managed by the club.

How will you be paying? Generally, if you’re buying timeshare you pay an upfront sum to purchase “X” number of years’ holidays. You can also dip your toes in first by buying a temporary and extremely affordable trial membership to sample some of the resorts before you commit to full membership.  Fees vary between £4,000 and £25,000 and each year a separate management fee is payable by each owner within the programme, to cover upkeep, maintenance, the gardens, security, and so on.  With a long term holiday club, however, you’ll be paying a fee which can be up to about £25k and then you need to pay extra for your actual holidays.

Consumer protection. The official UK-based timeshare body, the Resort Development Organisation (RDO) has many members, including most of the leading timeshare and fractional developers in the industry.  To join, the corporate members must sign a code of conduct which entitles buyers (i.e. the consumer) extra levels of protection. If there is a dispute, which is very rare, the RDO www.rdo.org has a Consumer Services department and a free mediation service and Alternative Dispute Resolution measures (ADR) are both available, to resolve any consumer-timeshare company issues. RDO has no long term holiday clubs in membership.

If you’re still not sure if you are looking at a long term holiday club or timeshare deal, you can check with RDO before you buy.

Cooling off period.  It’s important to know – and note! – that in February 2011 a new EU Directive came into force governing how timeshare is sold in Europe. Now, long term holiday clubs are being made to comply with this law, which means buyers have the opportunity to cancel within 14 days. Long term holiday club operators must, additionally, divide the membership fee into equal yearly instalments and provide an annual cooling off period.

Timeshare owners are happy – the figures speak for themselves.  As an example, in 2014 RDO received less than 30 complaints during the whole year about its members, the vast majority of which were resolved amicably and quickly. And a major survey in recent years reported that timeshare owner satisfaction came in at around 85%, with the clear majority of timeshare owners stating that they were happy or very happy with their purchases.

If you are not sure about a timeshare or long term holiday club company, you can check if it’s a member of RDO by visiting www.RDO.org or emailing RDO on info@rdo.org for confirmation.  Timeshare is one of the most rewarding ways to holiday, which is why it’s shown tremendous resilience, even in downturns.  Just make sure you know exactly what you’re buying, and how the programme works – that way you can look forward to wonderful holidays and priceless peace of mind.

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