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."