Kurt Scholl, CEO of Switzerland’s “original timeshare company” Hapimag, spoke to Die Welt about timeshare today and why shared ownership is more relevant in the current holiday lifestyle market than ever.
Q: Do you enjoy running a company that is part of an industry that has a number of “black sheep”?
A: Those days are virtually in the past now. The industry has changed a lot over the last ten years and with the new timeshare law in force (the EU Directive – 23/2/2011) consumers are much better protected. Hapimag has always been an industry leader. It has a product that makes both eco- and economic sense. But to get back to your question…yes, it’s still fun to run this company.
Q: Nevertheless, it seems that if timeshare is mentioned in public there’s sometimes an element of negativity surrounding it.
A: It’s better to talk about the very obvious benefits that come with shared ownership – let’s look at the positives. How many people know that ours is a booming industry with growth rates of over 10%, for example? This holiday lifestyle is very eco-friendly, it’s a sustainable product – not unlike car sharing or public transport. Besides that, all the big hotel brands run successful timeshare divisions.
Q: How does timeshare stand up in a climate where consumers are booking low cost flights and combining those with independent hotel bookings and car rentals that they organise themselves? Is the consumer is becoming his own travel agency?
A: Timeshare today is more relevant than ever. The model combines the concept of common investment together with common use of resources. We don’t mind that people book their own travel, that’s absolutely fine, and we also offer travel services to our own members.
Q: Hapimag is one of the major players – you’ve been in business since 1963. What are you doing that’s different?
A: Our success story began in ‘63 with the idea of shared investment in and shared advantages of real estate. Today Hapimag offers its members, families and friends a platform of 56 resorts with 5300 units. A Hapimag member gets to enjoy a great deal of flexibility and can decide when, where and how to use the investment he or she has made. Members really are basically holding Hapimag company stock. Another essential difference is that we’re a non-profit organization that builds or buys properties for its shareholders and therefore we focus on a long term relationship with our customers. Other developers, on the other hand, may lose their interest in the project after the shares are sold.
Q: Isn’t it the case that those who can afford timeshare would rather buy a full ownership product at their favourite holiday destination?
A: Some do, and some don’t. But is that decision necessarily the right one in retrospect? These days we are experiencing a global issue around empty “second home developments” in almost all locations. Empty apartments, empty roads, expensive infrastructure that is not being used, holiday destinations that are busy for only a couple of weeks per year. The consequences for people, nature and economy are devastating! (Twenty per cent of those holiday homes are resold again within the first five years.)
Q: How can you assure a customer who might be worried about having to buy more points in order to get the holidays he wants. Doesn’t there seem to be an element of “inflation” here?
A: I’m glad you raised that question. Looking back at the past 20 years, these points have been raised from an average 18.4 to 22.4 points per week, and apartment. This is very low compared to the normal inflation and increased cost of living in Germany. And don’t forget that we have been investing in all of the properties and in amenities such as wellness, new kitchens, etc. So, to answer your question, no, we don’t see any inflation at all.
Q: What is your opinion of the new organisation timesharefoundation.com, only just recently incorporated in the Netherlands?
A: We support all efforts made to help improving the image of the industry – as long as they are competent, factual and informative.
Hapimag is a member of the industry trade body, RDO