Tuesday, May 31, 2011

GNEX Review

Sometime ago, I declared that “2011 will be an important year in the timeshare world.”  My prediction is that in 5 years time, the industry will look back on this year as the year that they “got it” or the year that they had the opportunity to finally “get it”, but didn’t.

Having recently returned from Perspective Magazine’s GNEX2011, I feel more confident about this declaration than ever.  The rumblings about the need for change and education have grown into full-fledged discussions; some of which actually involved high-level executives talking to me in a serious manner.

For me, GNEX2011 can be summed up in one word-“groundbreaking.”

Groundbreaking because of the global makeup of the attendees; 120 people, representing 80 (!) companies from 15 countries across 5 continents.  And groundbreaking for the unique, no-barrier communication opportunities it presented for everyone, including this writer.

Due to the relative small size of the convention, the organizers were able to slot the educational and information sessions independently; nothing was running concurrently, which allowed for participants to give their full attention to the discussions rather than worry about what they were missing out on at another session.  There was also ample time for networking and I was pleased to see that people were actually taking time and interest in each other---many business conferences seem eerily reminiscent of high school where people hang out with their own cliques.

Paul Mattimoe, President of Perspective International had this goal in mind when he started GNEX2011; “to see if we could get industry leaders from around the world to come to a new conference with an idea to network and discuss global issues.  If people came from everywhere, then there would be something that everyone could take away that could be implemented in their own businesses and regions with the goal of making their businesses better and generating more revenue.”  When I asked him for his thoughts immediately after the conference ended, he stated that GNEX 2011 was “a good start, a good foundation for the next one.”

The 2-day conference was capped off with a lavish award dinner including Bahamian entertainment.  Dial an Exchange and The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana were the big winners of the night.  You owe it to yourself to check out the full list of all the winners at http://perspectivemagazine.com/blog/2011/05/17/the-2011-perspective-magazine-awards-winners-unveiled-at-gnex-conference. 

For this writer, who has a background limited to the United States and even more narrowly in Orlando, I was both excited and intrigued by the timeshare resorts and professionals in places such as Thailand, Cancun, the Dominican Republic, the United Kingdom and South Africa where I have yet to visit.

My one wish for GNEX2012 (purportedly being held in Cancun) is to somehow include timeshare owners and potential owners.  I feel strongly that timeshare professionals, especially at the level of GNEX attendees, NEED to hear from the people that are directly affected by the discussions and decisions that these executives make.

And while that in itself is a valid reason for including consumers, I’ll leave you with this reason---it’s the consumer that will ultimately hold the timeshare industry to the changes that were discussed and will decide the industry’s fate.  In the words of The Who’s Pete Townshend, “We’re not gonna take it, never did and never will.”  Here’s hoping that the timeshare industry doesn’t force that outcome.

My sincere thanks to Paul and Sharon Mattimoe, Steve Luba, Matt McDaniel and Susan Knox from Perspective as well as the conference attendees I met with for a truly eye-opening and worthwhile conference.

5 Things Your Timeshare Salesperson Won't Tell You


Happy summer!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Timeshare Conventions: Why They're Important

This is a reprint of a feature that ran in the May/June 2011 issue of TimeSharingToday.

If you're not employed by the timeshare industry, you might think that these annual conventions mean nothing to you and are just an excuse for timeshare executives to run up their expense accounts and get away to some fun locale for a few days.  You would be very wrong.  I just finished up the 2011 American Resort Development Association (ARDA) Convention.

So what was my take on the ARDA Convention?  Great!  I found a more serious tone to this year's convention, no doubt due to the continuing challenges that the industry faces.  However, I thought that unlike previous years, people were really listening, paying attention and willing to make some changes.

There is still some significant disconnect between the movers and shakers of the industry and you, the timeshare owner or prospective owner.  Case in point:  I sat in on the ARDA-ROC session where one of the important issues being discussed was the seemingly endless proliferation of the so-called "postcard companies."  Rich Muller from VRI Management did a superb job of talking about the damages these companies do to both individual owners and HOAs around the country.  When he was finished, I asked the assembled 40 or 50 industry people if any of them had actually attended one of these sessions held by the postcard companies.  Interestingly enough, no one had.  I cautioned them that, in order to effectively deal with this threat, they needed to know exactly what they were dealing with and attend one of these sessions that many of you have already attended, sometimes with disasterous consequences.

I also attended a session on resales and this one left me a bit more optimistic than in years past.  Much attention was given to ARDA's Resale Act (you can find more infomation on this act at ARDA's website, (http://www.arda.org/) and there did seem to be some acknowledgement of the entire resale issue, which was refreshing, because up to now, my feeling was that any discussion of resale revolved around people putting their heads in the proverbial sand and pretending that there was no issue.  My takeaway from the session was that some resorts are doing what I feel is "the right thing" by buying back their inventory on a consistant basis and other resorts are doing "the wrong thing" by not giving their owners a way out.  Besides what seems to be a bad business decision, I feel that these resorts are putting forth a "this is basically worthless" message and that does no one any good.

Probably the most exciting and refreshing session that I attended was entitled "What Would You Do?---The Timeshare of the Future" where the 70 or so attendees broke up into groups and designed the timeshare of the future based on some survey infomation presented at the start of the session.  All 7 or 8 of the groups came quite close to designing similar timeshares, i.e. non-deeded, point-based, 5-15 year term and marketed and sold using techniques other than the 90 minute presentation coupled with a bribe of some sort.  This was very encouraging news to me, because as I've said all along, getting out of the "we've always done it this way" mantra will be timeshare's saving grace.

There were lots of announcements about new resort affiliations by both RCI and II and RCI rolled out their Platinum enchancement to Weeks, due in part to the successful launch of the Platinum enhancement to Points they unveiled at last year's conference.

I also conducted an intriguing interview with Alain Carr, the President of CARE (the Cooperating Associaton of Resort Exchangers) that is available on my site (http://www.thetimesharecrusader.blogspot.com/.)

This writer was left with a positive feeling after this year's convention.  No doubt, the timeshare industry will continue to evolve and I am not alone in saying that in 5 years time, there will be fewer independent, one location resorts.  I think this will be a win-win for the industry and more importantly, the consumer.  As for this year having the title "Year of the Consumer", I would go out on a limb and say that every year should be the "Year of the Consumer."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What Is A Legacy Anyway

There's a lot of talk lately about how the "younger generation" doesn't want to inherit their parents' or their grandparents' timeshare.  Frankly, I believe that most of this push-back is because the kids are tired of going to the same timeshare year after year, as the current owners don't know how to maximize their timeshare purchase.

And there's also a lot of talk about how now a timeshare is a burden, rather than a something that people want due to the continued annual fees.  As if anything, vacations in particular, are ever free.

I recently came across an advertisement for a Patek Philippe watch (retailing for over $18,000) with only a few lines of copy:  "You never actually own a Patek Philippe.  You merely look after it for the next generation."

I think timeshare can learn a valuable lesson on legacy from Patek Philippe.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Public Service To Timeshare Marketers

Since allowing people to buy timeshare instead of trying to shove timeshare down people's throats may still be too much of a shift for timeshare marketers, here's some free information, courtesy of The Timeshare Crusader.  At the very least, market your timeshare in these geographic areas where people just may have the propensity to pay for the timeshare.  Groundbreaking, I know.

Timeshare Insights has NEVER said that we have all the answers.  Marketing and sales is not a "one method" venture.  However, marketing a $20,000+ product to people spending $99 for 3 days/2 nights in a hotel and upping the bribe by throwing in 2 theme park tickets worth $160, with no regard for their income or their FICO score, doesn't seem to be  a)  the smartest move or b)  working that good any longer.

So, why not consider these areas:

Green Bay, Wisconsin
Average FICO Score   786.06

Madison, Wisconsin
Average FICO Score   785.30

Minneapolis, Minnesota
Average FICO Score    784.12

San Francisco, California
Average FICO Score     779.26

Boston, Massachusetts
Average FICO Score    777.79

Lincoln, Nebraska
Average FICO Score     776.16

Seattle, Washington
Average FICO Score     775.66

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Average FICO Score     775.59

Fargo, North Dakota
Average FICO Score     773.85

Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Average FICO Score     773.44

One more thing...the residents of these cites didn't earn this high FICO scores by making purchases on a whim, or buying things that they didn't need and/or couldn't afford.  Don't pitch invesment, don't rush these people and above all else, show them a value proposition to your timeshare.

And let me know if you can convince Warren Buffet, one of Nebraska's most famous residents on the value of timeshare.  If you can figure that one out, you've got it made!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

One Way To Get Rid of "Timeshare Resale" Phone Calls


Me:  Hello
Them:  We're calling about your RCI timeshare.
Me:  Which one?
Them:  We're calling about your RCI timeshare you want to sell.
Me:  Which one?
Them:  We're calling about your RCI timeshare.
Me:  Which one?

They hung up.  Enough said.

Monday, May 16, 2011

My Thoughts on the CRDA Summit

Truth be told, I was expecting my first CRDA-Canadian Resort Development Association (http://www.crda.com/)  convention to be routine. I’ve been privileged to attend the past 6 or so ARDA (American Resort Development Association) conventions and while I’ve noticed a decided swing in the tone; from all is great, to all is depressing to (thankfully) this year’s all is changing. I expected CRDA to be a carbon copy, albeit with a Canadian flair. Boy, was I wrong!

My first indication that this was different was the name of the convention; it was billed as a “summit”, which I took to be a play on words; “summit”, “mountains”, “Vancouver”, cute! The next indication that something was different was that Ross Perlmutter, the President and CEO of CRDA asked me to moderate the “Ask The Owners” panel. Actual timeshare owners taking part in an industry conference---moderated by the “controversial trouble maker” (others’ words, not mine or Resort Trades) Timeshare Crusader herself! This was different indeed.

Jim Madrid (http://www.jimmadrid.com/), CEO of Entelechy started things off with a Keynote Address focused on change and the fact that we can, and must “Snap Out Of It.” I believe that the message of “we change for one of two reasons; inspiration or desperation” will prove to fateful insights in 2016. The industry will be looking back on 2011 as the year that “we got it” and made the necessary changes and retooled OR the year that “we coulda, shoulda changed” but neglected to.

As with any conference that has more than one concurrent breakout session, there were some sessions that I couldn’t attend. Rather than give a review of the sessions that I was able to attend, and thereby ignore or somehow diminish the ones that I was not able to attend, I’d like to concentrate on Linda Clemmons’ excellent session entitled “Negotiations and Communications-Is Your Body Talking?”, the finale of the summit entitled “Changing Gears-The Industry Workshop” and a bit on the session that I moderated, “Ask The Owners.”

There’s a reason Linda Clemmons (http://www.ziglar.com/ourspeakers_linda_clemons.html) is one of the Zig Ziglar’s most in-demand speakers; she not only commands attention, but is a masterful communicator and was able to bring the sometimes mysterious world of non-verbal communications into crystal clear focus. As a former timeshare salesperson and frequent public speaker, I thought I understood non-verbal communications. It has been drilled into my head that only 7% of communications is what we say-the rest being how we say it and our body language.

Linda was really able to demonstrate non-verbal communications in a powerful segment where she was able to “read” the 5 people she selected from the audience. By simply observing the way in which these people stood, how they held their arms and hands, she was able to gain insights into the inner workings of these people, to the amusement and bemusement of all. Let’s just say the “ah ha” or light bulb moment for me was when she talked about the positioning of feet. I’ll never NOT look at feet again in a social or business situation!

“Changing Gears-The Industry Workshop” was a continuation of and an enhancement of ARDA’s excellent “What Would You Do?-The Timeshare Of The Future” session. In this high-tech segment, timeshare professionals from many companies collectively answered the following questions: “How would you change the way we reach/solicit and/or interact with our prospects?” “How would you change the products we offer?” and “How would you change the sales and purchasing process?”

The collective answers surprised, amused and on a purely personal level, vindicated me. (NOTE: Pending CRDA’s permission, we’ll reprint the results in a later issue.) Let’s just say that if they had to do it all over again, timeshare would NOT be quite what it is today. There was a tremendous emphasis on letting people buy timeshare rather than selling, much agreement that timeshare might be better as a short-term (no more than 10 year) right to use product and much talk about issues of transparency, social media, letting the consumer do more of the dictating in terms of the product specifics and more of a global focus where a timeshare “point” in one system is the same as a timeshare “point” in another system in order to let consumers use the product with great ease.

One of the most used words in this session was the word “education.” As someone who was harshly criticized 6 years ago for saying “an educated consumer is this industry’s best friend”, I had to smile. Education seemed to be on everyone’s mind and the need for education on the consumer level, the mainstream media level and the industry level seemed to be on everyone’s mind. Whether all this good news remains in the talking stage, or actually gets implemented is of course the key to the timeshare industry’s future.

A final word about the session which I moderated, “Ask The Owners.” These gracious timeshare owners took time out of their schedule to attend an industry event without any compensation. They were not “vetted” or coached in any way and they delighted the audience with their knowledge and their candor. It was my privilege to get to meet them and learn from their years of experience. Having witnessed what they bring to an industry event (where most of the executives haven’t dealt with an actual owner in years, if ever), I feel strongly that including timeshare owners in all future industry events should be mandatory. We as an industry owe it to ourselves and to the owners. They are our future.

Monday, May 9, 2011

When Is A Resort Not A Resort?

Merriam-Webster online defines a resort as "a place providing recreation and entertainment especially to vacationers."  Interestingly enough, the Internet being what it is; immediately following the definition were a series of advertisements linking to a resort, i.e. timeshare vacation.

I interviewed three people about what a resort mean to them and here are their similar answers:

Roger from Florida said that a resort is a "stress free place, with a kitchen and lots of activities, with privacy and more like a second home than a hotel."

Mark from Minnesota described a resort as "someplace nicer than a hotel, with tennis courts and a golf course, maybe a spa and big rooms with large beds and expensive furniture and the latest in technology in all the rooms."

And Rita from Illinois chimed in with "a resort is where you go to relax, have fun, be catered to and have no worries."

Hunt down your latest copy of the Interval International directory and you'll see that is a "Resort Directory."  Same with the RCI directory.

If you check out the list of available amenities, Interval International shows this array:  Auto Rentals, Babysitting Referrals, Bar/Cocktail Lounge, Bicycle Trails, Boat Marina/Landing, Casino Gambling, Clubhouse, Day Spa, Entertainment (Live), Exercis Room (Equipped), Fishing, Golf, Grocery or Convenience Store, Horseback Riding, Lake, Playground, Racquetbal, Restaurant, Sailing/Rentals, Sauna or Steam Room, Scuba Diving, Skating (Ice), Skiing (Cross Country), Skiing (Downhill), Swimming Pool (Indoor), Swimming Pool (Outdoor), Tennis, VCR/DVD, Waterskiing, Whirlpool Spa or Hot Tub, Air Conditioning, Cooking Facilities, Fireplace, Television and Laundry Facilities.

Obviously, it would be impossible for any timeshare resort to have all of those ameniti4es.  Ice skating and casino gamblin in Orlando or Gatlinburg?  Of course not.  Cross country skiing in Cancun or waterskiing in Sedona?  Not likely.  And not expected.

But what if the timeshare "resort" that you own at, exchange into or are thinking fo purchasing at shares it's pool area with an adjacent rundown hotel, its exercise room consists of 3 machines and an exercise mat and all of which are located in the adjacent hotel?  Does that resort have the right to call itself at resort?  It does and it's rated 5 stars for some reason.

How about a five star resort located in San Franciso whose only onsite amenities are cooking facilities (which may or may not be a 700 watt microwave), television (WOW!) and laudry facilities?  Is this what yu would call a resort?

There are of course, many true resorts affiliated with both II and RCI.  Less than two miles away from the mysterious five star resort in Orlando that shares its pool with the run down hotel, there is a beautiful, well-maintained, amenity loaded resort in evey sense of the word, including 24 hour manned security.  (Note to both II and RCI---this 24 hour manned security entrance should be an identifiable amenity in all future directories.  As consumers are finding it scarier and scarier to leave home and travel to begin with, security has become a paramount concern.)

And while we're at it, how about timeshares calling themselves timeshares for a change?  Bravo to Breezy Point Timeshare in Minnesota.  There they are in the RCI Directory in all of their amenity laden (beach, boating, cross-country skiing, fishing, game room, lake, laundry facilities, live entertainment, indoor pool, restaurant, waterskiing, whirlpool/hot tub) glory, proudly announcing to the world that they are a timeshare!

If timeshare is ever going to shed its reputation for its less than transparent aura and position itself as a sometimes more costly alternative to vacationing at hotels and motels, it needs to get a grip on what consumers think a "resort" is and not use the term quite so freely.

Perhaps ARDA, RCI and II should all reconsider what passes for a resort in the timeshare world and not allow developers to use the term quite so freely.