Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Difficult Lessons Learned From A Timeshare Newbie

This is a Guest Post from Kevin B. Kevin had already reached out to The Villa Group to no avail. I offered him this platform in hopes that The Villa Group would do the right thing and avoid the incidents covered in this post getting more media coverage. I still hope that’s the case. 

Difficult Lessons Learned From a Timeshare Newbie






Before I recount my experience purchasing a timeshare, I’d like to clarify WHY I’m telling the story.   At 50 years old, this was the first timeshare I’d ever purchased.  In fact, I had never even sat through a timeshare presentation before.  You should have seen their eyes light up when I told them I was a newbie. That’s the root of why I’m telling the story.  To grow awareness of the deceptive selling tactics, and carefully crafted contract language in the timeshare industry.  At the end of the blog, I’ll provide a few suggestions so you can avoid being taken advantage of like I was.


I’ve been vacationing in Cabo San Lucas for almost 30 years. I love everything about the town, the culture, and the residents.  At every resort and restaurant you’ll find hardworking staff that are eager to please.  Cabo is one of the only places I’d be happy to visit a couple of times a year, so I had a growing interest in learning more about timeshare opportunities.


Earlier this year, my wife, two kids and I spent a week a Villa la Estancia, one of 4 Villa Group properties in Cabo San Lucas.  I decided this was a good time to start gathering information on various investment opportunities in Cabo.  I wasn’t sure if I wanted to purchase a propertyor start small with a timeshare.  The resort offered a discounted pirate ship dinner cruise, which my boys loved, in exchange for a “tour” of the properties.  I knew “tour” was code for a timeshare pitch but I was OK with that.  I was genuinely curious to learn more about timeshares in Cabo.


The Sales Pitch


After a quick tour and free breakfast, my wife and I were escorted up to the sales office and provided with free drinks while someone watched our children.  Once we sat down I was introduced to our salesperson Angel Wong.  Angel was friendly and answered all of our questions. Although I was a timeshare newbie, I did know enough to ask about point values. Whenever I’d heard timeshare horror stories, they always seemed to revolve around decreasing point values.  In other words, you sign up, get enough points for one week a year and next you know,  you’re required to buy additional points to maintain enough points to get you a full week.  Angel was VERY clear when he explained that point values won’t change but that my yearly maintenance fee may go up to cover increasing costs, inflation, etc.  I was satisfied with his answer, it made perfect sense.  


As our negotiation continued, Angel provided me with hard copy Point Value Charts for all of the Villa Group resorts.  The charts helped me figure out how many points I needed to purchase to get the desired number of days I wanted per year.  He was also quick to point out a brand new resort that has just opened, Villa la Valencia, and provided me a Point Value Chart for that property as well(Figure 1).



The first three offers presented to me were more expensive than I was comfortable with.  Angel’s boss came over and together they made a final offer which gave me the number of days I was looking for at a price within my budget. I was excited, we moved forward with signing the agreement.  Despite Angel’s assurance that point values are static, I was careful to read the agreement for any mention of changing point values.  There is no mention of Villa Group having the ability to change point values anywhere in the agreement that I signed and initialed. Keep this in mind as you read the rest of my story.


Double Checking the Points Value policy


After signing the agreement I felt both excited and nervous.  One of the reasons for my excitement was a day pass Angel had arranged for us the following day at the new Villa La Valencia resort.  Our experience at Valencia was awesome, we were there for 5-6 hours.  They have a gorgeous infinity pool that overlooks the ocean and a lazy river that my boys both loved!  Any apprehension I had about purchasing a timeshare was put to ease by the wonderful day we spent at Villa LValencia.  I was looking forward to coming back as soon as possible.


When I’m on vacation, I like meeting new people.  I’m one of those people who will strike up a conversation with a perfect stranger.  While at Valencia, I had a conversation in the pool with a current vacation club member.  He mentioned that point values at Valencia were more for him because Valencia didn’t exist years when he signed up and was given his Point Chart Values.  I wasn’t alarmed by what he had to say.  It made sense that when a company opens a new resort they can set those point values at whatever they’d like.  Because I was given a hard copy Points Value Chart the previous day when I signed the agreement, I had no reason to be suspicious, the point values were already set, but just to be safe, I texted Angel to confirm (Figure 2).  


Angel, did in fact reconfirm my point values, and reiterated that Point Value Charts are the source of truth when it comes to points.  Had I misunderstood his explanation of point values the previous day, this would have been a great time for Angel to clarify.  Instead, he doubled down with his assurance that my point values were static.  His response was immediate, and well within the 5 day window I had to cancel the agreement.  Had he told me that point values would be changing I wouldn’t never have signed the agreement until I knew what the new point values would be.


(Figure 2)


The Villa Group Dishonest Sales Practices


In mid-July, 2022, less than 3 months after signing my agreement, I called, the Villa Group service company, to book Villa la Valencia for December.  I provided the agent with the 5 days/nights we preferred for our stay.  He informed me that my points were only enough for 4 nights.  My heart sunk; this was the moment I realized something was awry.  I informed him that my Points Value Chart clearly shows that my points were enough to cover the 5 days.  He told me the point value’s had retroactively been changed and that my points were now worth 20% less.  Within days of signing my agreement that point values were changed on me.  I was irate! I tried calling my salesperson Angel, who never returned my call so I reached out via email to member services.


A few days later I was contacted by Director of Member Services Claudia de Avila.  I explained my situation, she reconfirmed that information I had received from, my point values had changed.  I explained to her that Angel had reassured me on multiple occasions that my point values were static.  I explained to her that I expected The Villa Group to honor the agreement I signed, or I’d like my money back.  She told me she would escalate my request and get back to me. Meanwhile, still no response from Angel, who I have not heard from to this day.


The Villa Group Response(s)


The next time I spoke with Claudia, she cited a loophole in the agreement which allowed Villa Group to retroactively decrease the value of my points. The following passage is in the agreement which I had signed and initialed.


“The consumer and the intermediary agree at the time of the signing of this agreement that the value of the points for a week in the “Future Resorts”, have not been established because the resorts either do not yet exist and/or are not in operation.  The value of the points will be set later by taking into consideration the characteristics of the resort, unit amenities, services and demand at the time of being put to use for Timeshare members.”


There are numerous reasons why this statement has nothing to do with my current situation.  Rather, it’s a baseless attempt by Villa Group to explain retroactively adjusting points values on existing members:


1.      “Future Resorts that do not exist or are not in operation”.  I visited Valencia on a Day Pass on April 22, one day after signing the agreement.  The restaurants, the pools, pool service, Kids Club, Fitness Club, Spa, lazy river, and mini-mart were all open. Additionally, I found an Events Calendar for the resort dated March 24th, 2002 (Figure 3).  Without question, this resort “existed” and was “operational”, generating revenue for the business.  

2.     “The value of points will be SET later……”.  This is clearly referring to the first time point values are set. This has nothing to do with resetting or changing Point Value Charts that have already been set. Points for this resort had been set already. I have the Point Charts to prove it (Figure 1 above).





I explained the above reasoning to Claudia via email and was able to easily refute her assertions that the company was within their right to change point values within days of signing a new agreement.  4 more days passed before I heard from Claudia again.


When I next heard from Claudia, via email, she cited a new passage, not from the agreement I signed but rather a passage from the 80 page member handbook.


“(4) Club Points Charts.  The Club Manager shall issue Club Point Charts which describe the associate Club Point value required for a Member to use his or her Use Period.  The Club Manager reserves the right to periodically modify, change, and/or amend Club Point Charts.”


Isn’t it interesting that there is no mention of changing point values anywhere in the agreement/contract members sign and initial?  I wonder how many people would sign up for the club membership if The Villa Group was clear about changing point values?  


At this point, I felt that I still had a strong argument because I possessed the screen shot of the text where Angel provided contrary information regarding point value changes. Unfortunately, The Villa Group has still refused to resolve my situation in a fair and honest manor.  


I’m really surprised that a company that makes millions, if not billions of dollars wouldn’t do the right thing for a customer who had clearly been lied to by one of their own employees.  I was also surprised to find a passage in the agreement that allows Villa Group salespeople to tell you anything they want in order to secure the sale.


“14. No other representations:  Member understands, verifies and accepts that no oral representations have occurred that conflict with the above clauses and understands any claim of oral representation will not be cause for cancellation of the purchase agreement.”


The above statement is a license to lie for all Villa Group salespeople.  They can tell you anything they want with no accountability.  However, it does say “above clauses”,there is no mention in any of the above clauses, or anywhere in agreement that allows The Villa Group to retroactively change point chart values.


What I would later find out BLEW MY MIND


Since mid-July, when I realized my points were worth 20% lessI’ve been pressing The Villa Group for the specific date the Point Value Chart for Valencia was changed, and details on how the change was communicated to existing members.  After multiple requests, I finally received a partial answer.  The point values were changed on May 1st.  I couldn’t believe it.  I signed the contract on April 27th.  The agreement I signed clearly states that I had 5 days to change my mind and terminate the agreement for a full refund.  72 hours after signing the agreement they changed the terms of the agreement by changing my point values.They made these changes within the 5 day window I had to cancel the agreement but they conveniently did no communicate the change to existing members, specifically those who were still within the window of cancellation.


Lessons Learned


As I mentioned earlier in this blog, the reason I’m telling this story is so others don’t make the same mistakes that I did.  There’s not much you can do about a dishonest salesperson but here are a few tips that should reduce the chances that you’ll be taken advantage of.


1. Show me, don’t tell me:  Rather than ask a question like, “Can The Villa Group change point values retroactively?”, instead say “Show me in the contract where point values are static”.  
2. Read the entire handbook within your cancellation window:  It’s not a coincidence that something as important as changing point values is not mentioned anywhere in The Villa Group membership agreement.  This was clearly done by design.  Had there been mention of changing point values in the agreement, I would have been able to point out the inconsistency between what Angel had told me, and the contract language.  Take the time to read your member handbook, cover to cover, and ask follow-up questions if anything is unclear.  If they’re not able to provide you with an acceptable answer, this should be a red flag.  Cancel within the 5 day opt out period.
3. Research the timeshare company prior to your tour/presentation:  During my timeshare presentation, I asked Angel and his boss if I could have the night to think about the offer.  They were adamant that if I left the room, the offer was off the table.  Do your research in advance, this way you’ll know if the timeshare company has a good reputation.
4. They can do whatever they want, you must accept that:  Given the lengthy agreement and 80 page membership booklet, typical with most timeshares, you should assume there is probably a loophole for everything.  In my case, they couldn’t find anything in the agreement citing their ability to change my point values, but they did cite a passage buried in the handbook.  This is why it’s so important to choose a reputable, honest timeshare company who treats their members fairly.


Next Steps


I’m not sure if there is any legal recourse for my situation.  The fact that they changed my point values within the 5 day window of cancellation and didn’t communicate that to me is my strongest point if we have to litigate.  I’m currently exploring my legal options and have filed a complaint with Profecothe Mexican government office for consumer protections.


Regardless, of whether or not there is a legal path to resolution, I’ll always have my voice. I’m a member of numerous Facebook forums for the various Villa Group properties as well as forums for Cabo San Lucas tourism.  Additionally, as a Villa Group member, I’ll have plenty of opportunities while visiting their resorts to share my story with prospective customers.  


After providing The Villa Group with a draft copy of this blog, and giving them the opportunity to refute any of my accusations I received another response from Claudia.  There were more references to legal loopholes and a thinly veiled threat of libel. She sent me this passage; the last sentence was underlined in red:


“(g) No negative Statements or Actions.  No member, User or their respective Related Parties shall at any time directly or indirectly take any action and/or make, publish, file or record any oral or written statements that would likely have a negative or injurious impact up the Club and/or its Related Parties except in the connection of enforcing the Governing Documents and/or as required by Applicable Laws. No Member, User or their respective Related Parties shall engage in any action that is derogatory, defamatory, libelous, or slanderous to the Club and/or its Related Parties.”


Telling the truth is not derogatory, defamatory, libelous, or slanderous.  Isn’t it interesting that when given the opportunity to correct my version of events they had nothing to dispute?  Also interesting that in addition to having a clause that permits the salespeople to lie, they also have a clause that tries to intimidate anyone who dares to expose the lies publicly.


For my own legal protection, let me be clear. I’m not accusing The Villa Group of breaking the law.  The Villa Group is under no legal obligation to resolve my situation, they should do it because it’s the right thing to do. I signed up under false pretenses and had my contract changed within the 5 day cancellation windowRather than give my request fair consideration, they’ve decided to flex their corporate muscles, and hide behind a pile of legalese.  That’s well within their right.  I’m also well within my legal right to tell my story to as many people who are willing to listen.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

What The Salesperson Said

 I’ve covered this topic before, but since I keep receiving so many emails and read so many social media posts about “what the salesperson said”, it’s time to talk about it again.  

If you are required to attend a timeshare sales presentation, and you are required to do so if you’ve accepted any type of bribe/incentive, you’re going to talk to a salesperson. Not a vacation counselor, not someone from corporate wanting your thoughts on their new program, or anything else they may call themselves. This salesperson who may or may not be licensed, is working for the developer, not you. 

This is important to remember because they won’t divulge this except in the mounds of paperwork generated should you decide to purchase. 

Why is this important?   

The salesperson has no fiduciary relationship to you at all. If they’re licensed, they are the seller’s agent, not yours. Read that again. They’re the seller’s agent. 

Now, granted this does not give them permission to lie to you. It also doesn’t give them permission to leave out material facts. But what qualifies as material?  For some people, information about the ability to resell is material. For others, information about exchanging is all they care about. I can tell you from personal experience as a salesperson and manager, it’s impossible to cover everything about a timeshare; which is why I wrote 2 books as well as co-authored a college level textbook on the topic. 

All of this is to remind you that the only things that you can count on is what’s in the contract and accompanying paperwork. Even ARDA-ROC, in a document that we wrote together last year stated: “Finally, make sure to get all of the terms and conditions of your purchase in writing. You cannot depend solely on verbal representations made during the sales process. If something is important to you and is a major reason you want to purchase, then make sure to get it in writing.”

Friday, July 29, 2022

An Exclusive Catered Event-Exclusive To Those Foolish Enough To Attend

Going through a stack of mail yesterday, there it was. An oversized, 4 color glossy postcard with two photos of frankly unappetizing looking food with the following copy:  “Please Join Us for an Exclusive Catered Event!”

On the reverse, there was an explanation of what attendees would receive:  A catered meal for 2: a $100 dining card plus a $25 gas voucher. 

Then the exciting Topics of Discussion:

*. Permanently eliminate all your timeshare obligations

*  The bona fide ways to get out of a timeshare contract when it no longer suits your needs

*  OR how to access GUARANTEED savings above and beyond your current timeshare benefits 

*  Recover 100% of your timeshare’s full purchase price while retaining ownership

What wasn’t on the postcard?  Well, the name of the company behind this exclusive invitation for one, which should be a huge red flag to anyone even considering this. 

These road shows are notorious for being woefully short on truthful information and big on scare tactics…I’ve been to several of them. 

These companies use the bribery, errrr incentive method of marketing just like…you guessed it…the timeshare developers themselves. This isn’t by accident. First, many…I’d venture to say the majority of these companies are staffed by former timeshare developers. Most of them are not known for doing anything other than same old/same old. Secondly, they already know it works on a certain demographic; namely YOU. YOU bought your first timeshare after accepting a bribe/incentive. 

Bottom line remains thus:  Avoid any entity that initiates contact. It almost always ends poorly and costly to you. 

Monday, July 18, 2022

Back From Never Being Gone

The following is the text from an article by Eva Schram, writing for FD in the Netherlands that I was happy to be interviewed for. There are some interesting comments in the article from all 3 sources. I’m unable to post the translated article as a full article, but here’s the entire text:

Back from never being gone: timeshares

The maligned timeshare industry in the US remains very much alive, despite all the warnings and bad experiences from people in the past. Eva Schram almost fell for it herself on her honeymoon in Hawaii. What makes this business so successful?

Before my eyes the radiant blue ocean glitters in all its glory in the sunlight, in the distance I see dolphins leaping out of the water. I watch this idyllic scene from the 11th-floor balcony of the Diamond Resort on the Hawaiian island of Maui. 'Can you imagine waking up in the morning, drinking your coffee here in this chair, and this is your view?' a saleswoman asks me. She leads us—my husband and I, on our honeymoon—around the corner of the balcony, where we suddenly look out over a spacious pool with cabanas and lounge chairs. "And there, in that corner, we do a free luau every week," the saleswoman says, referring to the traditional Hawaiian feast with food and theater (though most guests usually come for the open bar).

The tour of this 11th floor apartment is the culmination of a two-hour session in which the lady in question tries to sell us a timeshare. Timeshares are holiday apartments in which you buy a share, often for a week a year or every two years. So you own 1/52nd of that apartment. Unlike hotel rooms, timeshare apartments have a kitchenette and an extra bedroom, but like hotels, the complexes are equipped with a swimming pool, restaurant and other amenities. Timeshares are popular in the US, but also exist in Mexico, Asia and Europe.

For just over $10,000 and an annual contribution of about $1,000 to maintenance costs, we get to stay at the Maui timeshare for a week every other year. Or well, in an apartment at the back of the building, overlooking the car park. The ocean view costs much more.

Body snatchers

We ended up on this Diamond Resorts timeshare tour through another savvy seller in downtown Lahaina, the town where we are staying on our honeymoon. "A 'body snatcher' is what they call that person in the industry," said Andrew Meyer, a Florida attorney who specializes in canceling timeshare contracts. 'The sole purpose of body snatchers is to get you into a tour with so-called incentives, or just bribes. They are paid a commission for this. Then you have to deal with the seller who shows you an apartment with a beautiful view and then a third person comes along to make you an unmissable offer that is valid “only today” – you have to sign immediately. The whole process is quite sophisticated.'

I can confirm that. The night before we went on the tour, I shouted as loud as I could that I would never buy a timeshare in my life. But after two hours of sales talk, I was almost ready. Luckily my husband kept a cooler head. He called me to order. We wanted to save for a house, didn't we? And hadn't we just spent a lot of money on a wedding? Was this really that wise?

He was right, of course. Once away from the resort and the rousing sales tactics, I was happy that my husband had saved us from an expensive, lifetime contract that is difficult to cancel (and sometimes not at all).

Also millennials and generation x
Like many other sectors of the travel industry, the timeshare industry has bounced back with great success after the pandemic. According to the US industry association ARDA, the companies that run the resorts — well-known names such as Marriott, Hilton and Wyndham, although they are usually companies other than these hotel chains from a legal perspective — sold $8.1 billion worth of timeshares in 2021, compared to $4.9 billion in 2021. 2020. In the last pre-corona year 2019, the industry had realized a turnover of $10.5 billion with what it also calls 'holiday property'.

That term is less euphemistic than it may seem. More and more often, as a consumer, you do not buy a specific week in a specific resort, but you receive a number of points for the purchase amount that you can exchange for a stay in resorts at other locations. "That is perhaps the biggest misconception about timeshares: that it is still the same product as it was in 1980," said Jason Gamel, CEO of ARDA. 'The points system was introduced to offer the buyer flexibility. And if you don't want to use the points, you can often exchange them for a rental car or a hotel room.' Another misconception: only baby boomers buy timeshares. According to Gamel, the average buyer is 52 years old and more than half of the sales now go to millennials and Generation X'ers.

Popular due to inflation
According to Gamel, the pandemic shows that timeshares are not losing popularity. “Even in the midst of the pandemic, people were still buying $5 billion worth of timeshares. It remains a popular product. Even now, in times of high inflation, owning a timeshare is popular, because you don't have to deal with hotel room prices that rise by 65%.'

Gamel's point about inflation sounds familiar: the lady who tried to sell us a timeshare in Hawaii calculated how much we could save on our vacations over the next 40 years if we bought a timeshare now. With calculations that I couldn't control at the time, she came out at $40,000. Compared to that, the $10,000 for the timeshare was a steal. We'd be crazy if we didn't go along with that, wouldn't we? What about the $1,000 annual maintenance cost, which typically increases at about 5% per year? They wouldn't be worth anything if in the future we could always go on holiday for a week on this paradise island, or in any place on earth we wanted?

No ads
It's this kind of sales pitch that timeshare activist Lisa Schreier most denounced. She spent five years in the industry, but realized that the marketing and sales tactics were not for her. "I decided I would be happier if I educated consumers about timeshares," she says. That's why Schreier started a blog, The Timeshare Crusader, to shed light on sales practices and other issues within the industry. “It starts with the fact that you never see ads for timeshares. Potential buyers are always lured to a tour with certain incentives," she says. For example, my husband and I received $150 worth of vouchers to use at local restaurants and a voucher for a week's free stay at a Hilton hotel.

But what bothers Schreier the most is the pressure put on buyers to decide within ten minutes whether they want to take the offer. “I don't know of any other product or service where the buyer has to decide so quickly and under such great pressure. The story is always that the offer is only valid today.' I recognize that too: with us the pitch was that because Diamond Resorts was recently bought by competitor Hilton Grand Vacations, we were dealing with a so-called Black Friday moment. It was now or never and we would be a thief of our own pockets if we didn't buy a timeshare now.

According to Schreier and lawyer Meyer, this high pressure means that buyers do not always realize what they are signing. 'A timeshare is a legally enforceable contract, usually without an end date. But it is not an investment where you can make a profit. Consumers need to understand that,' says Schreier. She even says that you should never use the words timeshare and investment in the same sentence.

No investment
To be fair, you're not likely to hear timeshare sellers and developers claiming that the product they're selling is an investment. Gamel, of the trade association, says it himself: "You should only do it for personal use and pleasure."

According to Meyer, there's a good reason developers don't promote timeshares as an investment (apart from the fact that timeshares only very, very rarely increase in value after purchase – they usually become virtually worthless). 'A few years ago it was said that timeshares should be seen as tradable securities. The developers have strongly opposed this. That would mean that they would have to deal with much more regulation.'

At present, there is no regulation of the industry at the national level in the US. The individual states do have laws, but what they exactly mean differs from place to place. For example, in Florida, where 24% of US timeshare resorts are located, buyers are given ten days to withdraw. In Hawaii it is seven days.

However, one crucial element of the contract is rarely defined: a validity period. Without such a paragraph, when you buy a timeshare, you take on the obligation to pay the annually increasing maintenance costs for life. But when my husband and I got our timeshare tour, we were told: if we ever wanted to get rid of our timeshare, we could do it without any problems. Once it's paid off (most buyers take out a loan for the purchase), you can return the timeshare to the real estate developer, in our case, Diamond Resorts, at any time. According to Gamel, all timeshare companies work like this.

But giving back is not that easy, warn Schreier and Meyer. "It often costs you money to cancel your contract after you've already paid thousands of dollars for the timeshare itself and thousands more in maintenance costs," says Schreier. "And even then , many developers only take back a limited number of timeshares per year."

The bottom line, Meyer says, is that the developers typically have no contractual obligation to take back the timeshare. "So it just depends on whether you have a desirable week in a desirable place." A developer probably wants to take back the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve in a winter sports resort - they can sell it again in no time. But with a week in August in Palm Springs, if it's above 40 degrees every day there, you're probably stuck as an owner.

Exit industry
It is Meyer's day job to help people cancel their timeshare contracts. He usually finds a solution, although he never makes that promise because sometimes it doesn't work. That makes it different from the countless small companies that are active in a shadowy industry that has arisen around timeshares: the so-called exit industry. Gamel, Schreier and Meyer all agree that consumers would do well to stay away from these dubious companies. 'It's very simple,' says Schreier, 'a timeshare is a contract and you need a lawyer to dissolve it.' Gamel has stories of people so desperate to get rid of their timeshares that they give a dubious company tens of thousands of dollars that they never see again.

Meyer also finds these practices objectionable. But at the same time, he says, 'you have to ask yourself why such an exit industry even exists. That stems from the fact that the timeshare industry makes it very difficult or impossible for you to get out of your contract.'

The common argument that many timeshare developers and sellers give (including us, when we were on our honeymoon) is that you prepay for your vacation for the rest of your life, and that's how you commit yourself to taking an annual vacation. Meyer thinks that's nonsense. 'They also say that when you join the gym, that you force yourself to exercise with your subscription. But it does not work like that. Sometimes life gets in the way. The difference is that you can cancel your gym subscription. But you can't cancel your timeshare.'
Cash flow bangers
How attractive are timeshare companies to investors? Most of them, such as Marriott Vacations Worldwide, Hilton Grand Vacations or Wyndham Vacation Ownership, are listed on the stock exchange. According to analyst Patrick Scholes of investment bank Truist, shares in these types of companies are attractive, “especially the free cash flow that these types of companies generate. That money is often paid back to investors through share buybacks and dividends.' In addition, according to Scholes, the companies are somewhat resilient to a recession because the product they sell is prepaid.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Changes Abound With Marriott

As we briefly discussed last week with Jason Gamel, changes are nearly constant within the timeshare industry. Today we look at the new Abound program with Marriott. I spoke with Lori Gustafson at Marriott Vacations Worldwide to get details and discuss recent activity within the timeshare industry. 

Thanks for your time Lori. What’s your role at Marriott Vacations Worldwide?

My name is Lori Gustafson and I am the Executive Vice President and Chief Brand and Digital Officer for Marriott Vacations Worldwide Corporation (NYSE:VAC), a leading global vacation company that offers vacation ownership, exchange, rental and resort and property management, along with related businesses, products and services. We have over 120 vacation ownership resorts around the world, and approximately 700,000 owner families in a diverse portfolio that includes some of the most iconic vacation ownership brands.  Primarily, I am responsible for the growth of the enterprise’s global brand footprint, leading several global centers of excellence encompassing business transformation, digital products, customer experience, data and analytics, brand, and communications.

MVW recently announced a new program called Abound. Can you give our readers a brief description of this new program?

Abound by Marriott Vacations™ is a new Owner benefit and exchange program that is going to make vacationing even better with more destinations, more brands, and more choices. Abound provides access to 90+ vacation club resorts across Marriott Vacation Club®, Sheraton® Vacation Club and Westin® Vacation Club, as well as access to 8,000+ Marriott Bonvoy hotels, 2,000 vacation homes, and 2,000+ unique experiences like cruises, guided and culinary tours, premiere events, outdoor adventures and more.

Does Abound require current owners to make an additional purchase?

Owners do not need to make an additional purchase to experience the benefits of Abound by Marriott Vacation™. Launching later this summer, eligible Owners can reserve vacations throughout an expanded network of brands or for cruises, vacation tours, hotel stays, car rental, airline miles, golf, travel protection, and more.

Will owners of all the timeshare brands under the MVW umbrella be able to take advantage of this new program?

Launching this summer, Abound by Marriott Vacations™ will be made available to eligible Owners of Marriott Vacation Club®, Sheraton® Vacation Club and Westin® Vacation Club. Designed to offer more flexibility and access, we affiliated our internal exchange programs. This helps simplify our products and offerings, connects our vacation ownership products with Club Points and amplifies program benefits including cruises, guided tours, hotel stays, and more. 

MVW has recently acquired several timeshare brands. What is behind these acquisitions?  Do you feel that the industry is going to see more M&A activity and if so, is this a good thing for owners?

Our acquisition of ILG in 2018 combined two of the premier global vacation ownership companies to create a leader in the vacation experiences industry with significant scale, an expanded presence in key leisure destinations, the largest portfolio of upper-upscale and luxury brands in the industry and world-class exchange networks. The acquisition also allowed us to be the global licensee of seven upper-upscale and luxury vacation brands, including Marriott Vacation Club, Grand Residences by Marriott, Ritz-Carlton Destination Club, Sheraton Vacation Club, Westin Vacation Club, St. Regis Residence Club, and Hyatt Residence Club. While we are not currently planning for any acquisitions, we regularly assess the needs of our business and will make additional changes as appropriate to match changing business needs.

We all know that the message from the developer sometimes gets lost. Has MVW contacted all their owners to let them know about Abound? 

Communicating news with our Owners is always a major priority, and our Owners will receive information as the program rolls out formally later this summer

Lastly, where can owners turn to get their questions answered without necessarily attending a sales pitch at a resort?

Travelers interested in Abound by Marriott Vacations™ can visit a newly created website later this summer when Abound launches to learn more about our Vacation Clubs and the benefits of Vacation Ownership. In the meantime, travelers interested can click here for more information.

Thanks Lori. 

Remember, as she said, the best way to keep up to date on these and other changes is directly from the developer.