A Brief History of Timeshare

From its small, Swiss beginnings to the major global industry it is now, timeshare has come a long way since the days of “same week, same location.” So much so, the hardest part of booking next year’s holiday might be simply deciding where to go next.

Timeshare is almost fifty years old, but contrary to popular belief it all started in Switzerland, not the US. Five decades later, it’s an industry that continues to evolve, offering timeshare owners a world of holidays, all over the world. Fiona Klonarides reports.

The original holidaymaker’s flexible friend, timeshare was born in the German part of Switzerland, in a small town called Baar. The founders of a holiday company called Hapimag wanted to explore a new holiday concept, so they invested in real estate and used the apartments within an ecologically and economically sustainable holiday model. Hapimag members were offered shares, enabling them to book holiday accommodation using a points system and such was the appeal of this new way of holidaying in France and the Alps that Hapimag’s membership quadrupled during the ‘80s and ‘90s before levelling out and then booming again in recent years.

Timeshare catches on in the USA

In America, the timeshare story began in the garden paradise of Hawaii – Kauai, to be precise. In 1969, members of the Kauai Kalani resort were offered the chance to purchase deeds which bought them one week stays for a period of forty years; the idea took off in another holiday hot spot, Florida, in the ‘70s, soon followed by resorts in California, such as Sausalito near San Francisco and Lake Tahoe.

The World Is Your Oyster – Interval International and RCI

The appeal of timeshare continued to grow: holidaymakers could now spend time in some of the most sought-after locations in Europe and the US and enjoy the savings and convenience that timeshare accommodation offered. Self-catering apartments with resort facilities cost less than hotel nights and although the two leading exchange companies, Interval International and RCI, offer a world of holiday possibilities these days, in the early days timeshare members liked the fact that they could return to their favourite holiday resort for a week or two each year, again and again, for considerably less than the price tag of a comparable hotel room.

The Fifties and Sixties

In the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, holidays took off – literally – with the arrival of the commercial jet. The Mediterranean quickly transformed into a summer playground for the rich and famous, as well as those who could afford to get away but had never set foot in such “exotic” locations as Marbella or Mallorca.

The coastline along the south of France and southern Spain, once just strings of fishing villages, was becoming a bracelet of hotel complexes and holiday resorts. If the ‘50s were about style, the ‘60s were all about freedom. Handsome pilots and Grace Kelly lookalike hostesses made flying to new places glamorous. Why stay in Bognor Regis when you could be in Biarritz?

The Seventies and Eighties

As timeshare expanded its reach across the US and Europe in the ‘70s, it was the ‘80s that saw the popularity of resorts in Spain, Portugal and France soar, as well as other more exotic locations – all thanks to the new flexibility and choice offered by the exchange programmes of Interval International and RCI.

Timeshare goes mainstream

By 1990 there were almost 2,500 resorts around the world; over 40 million timeshare members were enjoying a different way to holiday. The nineties also saw the opening of resorts in Eastern Europe and Asia, which offered exceptional value for money and a complete change of scenery. Timeshare was well on its way to becoming a familiar model within the overall holiday industry in Western Europe and North America, as members criss-crossed the globe in search of new, more unusual destinations.

If timeshare was still not a household name for some consumers, things changed when the “big boys” joined the industry. Although it had been the smaller timeshare companies that launched the concept in the early days, the concept of the luxury timeshare vacation really solidified when the major US hotel brands began developing their own timeshare inventory. Marriott Hotels was offering timeshare membership by the mid-eighties, and soon the giants of the hotel and hospitality world – Hilton, Disney, Sheraton, Four Seasons, Hyatt, Ramada, Westin, Ritz-Carlton, Radisson and Starwood being the main players – hadn’t just joined the timeshare boom, they were actively fuelling it.

Each leading hotel brand etched its own style of luxury, quality and service in consumers’ minds, offering guests memorable stays in unforgettable scenic locations. As a result, wherever timeshare members stay these days – be it a spa resort in Singapore or a country hotel in the Highlands – they have come to expect the same high standards, whatever the season, whatever the location.

From its small, Swiss beginnings to the major global industry it is now, timeshare has come a long way since the days of “same week, same location.” So much so, the hardest part of booking next year’s holiday might be simply deciding where to go next.
GoTimeshare.org Reporting by Fiona Klonarides

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>