Thursday, March 29, 2012

Five and Almost 10 With...Mel Grant

Today we take a peek at Mel Grant, President and CEO of SFX Preferred Resorts.

What was your first job in timeshare?
Liner in Hawaii.

What is the greatest lesson you've ever been taught?
Always believe in yourself.

What is your favorite vacation destination?

If you had the power to change one thing about timeshare, what would it be?
Get rid of monopoly practices, e.g. exclusive affiliations.

What is your favorite color?

Thanks to both Mel and Cory from SFX.  If you own a timeshare and don't know about SFX, you owe it to yourself to check them out at

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Celebration World Resort, Festiva and Upgrades

FULL DISCLOSURE HERE FIRST:  I worked as Celebration World Resort's Director of Communications from 2007 until August of 2010 when I was laid off with a promise of a 4-6 week layoff...which obviously was a lie.  I was well aware of the problems that the resort was going through; in five years they had dropped from an RCI Gold Crown Resort to merely a Standard Resort, they had assessed a special assessment to the owners to cover long promised refurbishments that never quite materialized, the sales department was hawking a vacation club and pitching against timeshare ownership, etc.

I attended the HOA meeting through an owner's proxy in early 2011 and it was obvious to all the owners who attended that all was NOT well with CWR.  The speakers had no answers for any questions, claimed to not know the status of the resort, etc.

I received this e-mail earlier this month from an owner who will remain anonymous here.

Hi, I'm Bill, my wife and I have acquired a few timeshares over the years and for the most part the systems have worked well for us. Recently we were notified that Festiva had purchased Celebration World Resort and  we would lose our RCI points program at that resort. Our option was to upgrade with Festiva and use their points program. Considerable assessments could be levied on the original owners to refurbish the property if they were not in the new program. How can I find someone who will tell me the truth?  Thanks for your consideration.

This seemed weird even for timeshare; Festiva was threatening to levy yet another assessment if the owners didn't "upgrade" to Festiva's program?  Several weeks later, I received this follow up e-mail from the same owner:

Hi Lisa Ann, We went to the meeting today.  Festiva officers pleaded ignorance to sales dept tactics.  Many owners there were furious over the intimidation they got at their Festiva update.  The company reps outlined their plans to refurbish and even continue new construction when finances allow. Concerning RCI:  seems as though RCI Points had been sold without inventory to back them up.  These plus other financial details went undetected prior to the purchase, so say the new managers.  My understanding is that a study needs to be done to determine from contract wording, actual deed content, or how much equity we each control and what maintenance fees we are responsible for.  Thanks very much, the meeting was worth going to and now I am confident knowing we did the right thing to cancel that Festiva contract.

I've tried to contact Festiva to talk about this issue to no avail.  Celebration World Resort has more than 10,000 owners.  I'd like to hear from others...what is happening?  Did you get similar non-answers?

And if anyone from Festiva is reading this...what is going on?  Financial details went 'undetected" prior to purchase?  Really?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Five and Almost 10 With Cory Phelps

Today we meet Cory Phelps, Senior Vice President, The San Francisco Exchange Company (SFX)

What was your first job in timeshare?
My first job in timeshare was with California Riviera Vacation, now Pacific Monarch Resorts.  I answered an ad to become a bartender on the beach, and guess what, I was officially in the timeshare business.  I worked for there for 16 years and it was truly a great learning experience.  I would not be where I am today without that job

What is the greatest lesson you've ever been taught?
Keep it simple stupid

What is your favorite vacation destination?
The Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas.

If you had the power to change one thing about timeshare, what would it be?
Exclusive affiliations forced on resorts by Interval International and RCI.

What is your favorite color?

Friday, March 16, 2012

The View From 38,000 Feet

I’m writing this at 38,000 feet in the air, surrounded by shrieking English children on my way back from my first TATOC Conference.

I was generally pleased with the conference and my thoughts once again are that the timeshare industry is FULL of good people with good intentions.  Lots of relevant and important issues were discussed and I have no doubt that change is absolutely necessary if this industry is to succeed and if the timeshare product is to thrive and be more accepted worldwide.
As with other conferences that I’ve been privileged to attend, this one was not without its controversy.  For reasons not known to me, some of my comments were misunderstood (whether on purpose or accidentally) and those comments made it back to the US in record time, causing some people, once again, to question my stance.

So, I find myself once again in “hot water” and once again having to make announce my stance on the timeshare industry in both a public and a private forum.
So here’s the public pronouncement:  I think that the timeshare product is a wonderful one that has, unfortunately been tainted in the publics and the media’s eyes by a few things that need to change.  Namely:

·         Outdated marketing and sales techniques
·        The lack of an exit strategy
·        The lack of any true valuation for a timesare on the secondary market, similar to Kelly’s Blue Book value for used automobiles in the United States
·        The lack of ONE clear voice of the timeshare industry that all concerned will trust
It’s this last point that got me into hot water.  My view is this:  the “good-guys” in and around the industry agree on perhaps 85% of the issues facing the industry.  If everyone were to put aside their egos and sit down to actually do what needs to be done with no regard to “claiming individual victory”, massive, positive changes could be implemented rather easily.  And the other 15% of the issues that are not easily agreed on would diminish in importance.
But I’ve yet to see this happen despite the fact (I say yet again) that the majority of organizations involved are comprised of decent people.  I’ve never been good at politics, (despite the fact I announced only somewhat factiously that I’m running for President of the United States this year), which accounts for the fact that I’m self-employed, constantly questioned, excluded out of various organizations and events and let’s be honest, with a few notable exceptions (for which I am eternally grateful), continually viewed as an outsider in the industry.
Politics and egos MUST be put aside for the common good.  Changes need to happen and changes need to happen quickly.  We’re in the middle of a jam-packed timeshare industry meeting season.  I hope that at the end of the season we can join together and implement the necessary changes.
Oh, and one more thing---those who aren’t viewed outsiders, who play nice politics and play nicely with others all time (and of course are rewarded by high paying jobs and tons of industry overage)---regularly write some terrific stories about the industry, full of good news, interesting statistics and positive strides.  I’d like to see some of those stories in the non-industry press.  While I know, more than most people that you can’t control the press or force them to publish something, I’d like to see less focus on telling ourselves as an industry that we’re wonderful and start telling those on the outside---on whose reputation the very industry depends upon.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

It All Boils Down To Education

I've just completed my first TATOC ( conference near Manchester.  Lots of great people, lots of information, terrific sessions.  And after all of this, I'm convinced that most, if not all of the issues facing both timeshare owners and timeshare resorts could be solved with more consumer education.

Look at the current problem caused by the scam resale companies and now the increasing number of scam "legal assistance" companies.  SOLVED if there was more comprehensive consumer education.

This would in turn, put a huge dent in the financial issues that too many resorts are facing with the unpayment of the annual fees.  If timeshares weren't turned over to scam companies that aren't paying fees, the fees would be paid.

And continuing education might just stop the issue of an aging owner base being unable to pass on their timeshare to their children and grandchildren.  I've always said that there is no reason why a child or grandchild would NOT want a timeshare for just the cost of the annual fees if they knew how to properly use the timeshare.

And education would just about solve the issue of people dumping their timeshare for $1.00 on eBay or other sites.  Even the proverbial "blue week in Alabama" is worth more than $1.00.

Knowing how to properly use a timeshare would lead to happier owners, better stories in the media and maybe, just maybe more referral purchasers.

And of course, better education would lead to people who quite honestly shouldn't even be thinking of buying a timeshare, for any number of reasons, from doing so.

I know that there are issues ahead of all of us and we need to have an honest discussion of just who is going to be responsible for this education.  It is not something that can be fixed instantly.

But it's crystal clear to myself and everyone who attended and participated in this year's TATOC Conference that the time for hiding heads in the sand is over.

Education will solve most of the issues that the timeshare industry faces.  Who is going to take the first step?

Hello From TATOC 2012

My first TATOC Conference here in Manchester has proven to be quite eye-opening.  I'll be writing much more in the following days, but I am quite impressed with what this organization has done and continues to do for the timeshare owner.

Yesterday was a full day (and I do mean a full day) of presentations and panel discussions that were both helpful and interesting.  On a personal note, I was honored to receive so many compliments on my presentation entitled "It's Not Rocket Science."  I hope that I was able to demonstrate that we in the US face many of the same issues that the industry faces in the UK and elsewhere in Europe but that these issues are in fact quite surmountable if we work together, get our collective heads out of the sand and simply DO something.

It's been terrific to get an appreciation of the UK timeshare business and I'm looking forward to visiting one or two timeshares in my remaining time here in the UK.

Hats off to Harry Taylor and everyone (who will be mentioned later) at TATOC for a superb job done.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Some Wise Words From Sarah Smith In Torquay

In the Winter/Spring 2012 Edition of Sharetime ( there is a excellent article written by Sarah Smith, Club Manager of The Osborne in Torquay.

Here's some of what she said:

"Just as important to us to have a VisitEngland tourist grading, it is essential that in the timeshare industry we are a bona fide resort."

"The present challenges of the timeshare industry are well documented and The Osborne is no exception in facing an aging ownership and how to regenerate the membership in the present economic climate."

"There could be far more press endorsements of the benefits of timeshare in the travel sections of newspapers.  Many people don't understand how a timeshare resort works, and do not realize it is open to anyone who wishes to rent a week."

While some may read this and be discouraged, I am (for a change) actually encouraged by Sarah's article.  It is evident that the timeshare industy in the UK faces many, if not all, of the same challenges that we in the US do.  So I'm encouraged because this presents great opportunities for all of us to work together to not only have a united front to the media and to owners, but to prospective owners and increase worldwide acceptance and ownership.

Thanks Sarah for a terrific article and to TATOC and Sharetime for a wonderful publication.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Timeshare Meeting You Need To Be Aware Of

Timeshare Board Members Association to meet in Orlando April 22-24, 2012
Resort delegates from across the country have confirmed their attendance. Space is limited and we encourage HOA Board Members and Onsite Managers to visit or call Shep Altshuler email at Don't delay.
Note: Industry experts and providers interested in TBMA need to contact Shep Altshuler at: or 201-924-7435.

We will have on-target interactive panel discussions, extensive Q & A and ample time for networking.

There is no registration fee for those resort delegates attending TBMA Orlando. Thanks to our supporting sponsors, meals will be provided during the meeting.

There are many issues affecting resorts. Some are facing severe financial challenges. Others are proactively exploring and implementing new methods for generating revenues and saving money. You will hear some terrific bright ideas from your peers. See the Membership and Meetings Tab at


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Advice On Maintenance Fees?

In the most recent issue of a timeshare magazine that I hold in HIGH regards, there's an article on maintenance fees and how to "offset them."

I was stunned at some of the "smart" suggestions offered such as "using the kitchen", "renting out part of your time" and my personal favorite, "conducting business on vacation."

These suggestions may very well work on unsuspecting prospective timeshare owners...heck I used the kitchen idea back in my timeshare selling days...but this is a magazine aimed at people who already own timeshare.

Interestingly enough there's an article on the very same page talking about the $5,893.32 special assessment levied on owners of Diamond's Poipu Point Resort in Hawaii in addition to the $1,400 in annual maintenance fees.

Even if we set aside the special assessment issue (which is a continuing source of frustration to the owners there), none of these suggestions come close to covering a $1,400 annual maintenance fee.

Owners need more usable advise than "use the kitchen" to deal with the ever-increasing fees that resorts are charging each year. 

Owners need to educate themselves, join together and work with their resorts' HOA to address the issue.

On a separate note, I'm off for the UK on Wednesday where I'll be speaking at this year's TATOC Conference and touring some timeshares in the area.  Check back soon to see updates.