As a marketing geek the one thing that strikes me as an anomaly in vacation ownership today is the lack of innovation when it comes to selling online.
I don't want to get wrapped up in the legislation and regulation surrounding ownership of deeds and leisure real estate in all its forms. Because of the restrictions imposed - rightfully - on the selling of traditional timeshare, it's probably something that is beyond reasonable hope for now.
But we do have a major opportunity to create a product for vacation ownership resorts that is saleable on the internet - a gateway package to the real thing.
Not speaking specifically to the trial club crowd, here, but I'm guessing that a lead-in product that entitles the buyer to experience the magic of timeshare - the genuine bonhomie, family feel and community aspect of 'belonging' that you simply won't find at your typical hotel - would be something easily sold using the magic of internet marketing.
Talking hotels, there's an industry that's mastered the online distribution channel. Using a combination of owned, earned and bought media, hotels both chain and independent have been seeing the internet gaining in share of rooms sold year on year.
So why are we so different? Why are we in the main allergic to using the internet as a sales channel?
There are certainly tools out there to assist us. Programs like the RCI eSchool - available free to RCI-affiliated resorts - are a great example of strides forward we're taking as an industry to grasp all the opportunities available to us.
And we are slowly coming to terms with the lead generation gold mine that is rental of unused inventory. What better a product to get us acquainted with doing business online than selling our unused usable units on our websites. Once you've embarked on an eCommerce strategy you can start gleaning the all important information from your future customers to build a stronger, leaner, more effective transactional platform.
Where do you start if you want to get your rental inventory online? Companies like Wyndham Worldwide will sell on your behalf, giving you a chance to dip your toe in the water of eCommerce without the hassle of setting up your own virtual shop window. Endless Vacations Rentals is where many resorts offer their own rental inventory, and Wyndham's daughter entity, the timeshare exchange company RCI, can advise on how to get units into the system.
At the end of the day the internet is going to get bigger and a more pivotal part of all our businesses, as more and more people spend more and more time online.
If you're not doing business virtually, now would be a great time to start!