When people hear the word “timeshare,” the expected knee-jerk reaction is to recoil and frantically scramble to the nearest exit. And there’s good reason for this. The timeshare industry has provided, admittedly, a lot of fodder for bad press. In its earlier days, potential buyers were given the celebrity treatment and would wake up the next day with a hangover, clutching the deed to a property they couldn’t afford.
Timesharing was born in Europe in the mid 1960s and the first North American programs were launched in 1969. Over the next few decades, dubious sales tactics and pushy pitches gave the industry a notorious name. However, as sales tactics changed over time, timeshares also evolved with the changing needs of their owners. Rather than owning a fixed week at one location, concepts like floating time, split weeks, fractional ownerships, clubs and point systems literally introduced owners to a whole new world of travel options. This new flexibility attracted hotel industry heavy-hitters including Marriott, Disney, Hilton, Wyndham Worldwide and Ramada. And with this rebirth, a new term was born: Vacation ownership.
With this renaissance, the market also saw its share of fraudulent companies surface, advertising timeshare units for sale on the secondary market. The Better Business Bureau warned timeshare owners about resale scams, including companies that charged an advance fee for transferring timeshare ownership or claimed to have a buyer waiting to snap up a property at an unrealistic price. With timeshares being a $9 billion industry, every shark in the water wanted to take a bite.
Thus, the industry suffered a permanent, damaging story angle in the media. There’s even a musical called Timeshare currently being produced in Australia that spoofs the tactics of timeshare sales teams. Timeshare owners have often held the reputation of being people who were “duped” by their purchase, when in fact, research shows that 80 percent of owners are happy with the product.
Additionally, there are now over 4,000 timeshare resorts in over 80 countries and a recent report by the Associated Press credits timeshares as the reason for Hawaii’s massive economic boost.
President and CEO Howard Nusbaum of the America Resort Development Association confirmed that timeshares in Hawaii alone generate 4,000 jobs, $100 million in wages and $67 million in tax revenue annually.
The real misconception about timeshares is the idea that they are a real estate investment and like all real estate, the owner should enjoy property appreciation. The key is for people to fully understand what they own. The notion that a vacation ownership is a financial asset is a fallacy. However, timeshares are a great investment for annual family vacations — building memories with our children and grandchildren are invaluable; timeshare ownership makes these vacations more accessible and depending upon how the property is utilized, more affordable. It depends on whether the owner considers emotional investment, an investment.
The timeshare industry has evolved to a branded, sophisticated industry, with large condominium and townhouse units. Owners have a lot more choices and inventive ways to optimize ownership than they did in the past. Additionally, with a new generation of savvy buyers emerging — thanks in part to the power of social media and online reviews — consumer power is at an all-time high. Buyers are smart. They make informed decisions and the timeshare industry is changing because of it. The industry has to continue to change in order to sustain itself. I believe public and media perception needs to play catch up.
Jay Yadon co-founded ResortShare in 2010, a simple and trusted platform for timeshare owners to get the most out of their ownership. The company has earned thousands of satisfied clients and an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.