The Development of the Timeshare Industry Since the 1970s

Since the early 1970s, when the timeshare concept of apartment owning was in its infancy and evolving in separate fashions in Asia, Europe and North America, the industry has grown into a worldwide phenomenon with the timeshare product now located in nearly all the major Beach, Ski and Country holiday destinations around the world.

Gone are the days of the small proprietary owner resorts, now concentrated and merging into larger groups.

Originally Timeshare was the acquisition of one or more weeks within a specific, fixed apartment at s particular resort. The concept was relatively static until the advent of an exchange product being bolted onto the timeshare apartment complexes. It allowed users to exchange their week(s) with users of other resorts and completely changed the industry dynamics through the greater flexibility it introduced.

Two USA based start up companies, Interval International (II) and Resort Condominiums Intl (RCI), pioneered the exchange concept and it created the catalyst to jump start the timeshare concept into a new Vacation/Holiday product. It is now recognised as a separate sector of the global travel industry.

With the rapid growth of the Timeshare concept, developers, seeking to further increase the product’s flexibility, introduced the sale of floating weeks within seasons. This enabled the users to request each year a particular week within a season rather than being allocated a fixed apartment within a specific week.

The flexibility was then further increased through point-based systems allowing purchasers to acquire points rather than units. Each Resort unit was allocated a specific number of points based upon demand factors. Thus a 2-bedroom unit in High Season could have the same number of points as 2 one bedroom units in Mid Season, or perhaps 4 one bedroom units in low season. The greater of number of points the user acquired, the greater the flexibility within the size of the unit, the number of weeks and the seasonality available.

Points were then allocated based on the apartments’ size and seasonality but not tied to a specific unit and this developed into points being allocated ona multi-resort basis. Users could now choose their resort as well as time of the year, size of unit and number of weeks.

The system worked so that should two or more users with the same demand factors, such as unit size, number of points etc request the same unit in a given year, their ability to acquire the unit would be weighed against their past use history and ranked accordingly.

More recently the industry introduced the concept of multiple week purchases, known as fractional programmes, where persons can acquire from 4 weeks up to 3 month or more tranches.

Fractional weeks can be used on a continuous basis, exchanged or rented out through the resorts rental programmes. The fractional programmes tend to be very luxurious with extensive space in most units and they tend to cater to families wanting the privacy of a luxurious second home without the day to day maintenance concerns.

Very soon the major hotel chains spotted the opportunities in the Timeshare segment of the travel industry. The Sheraton Group was one of the first, building a luxurious self-contained, purpose-built timeshare apartment building alongside their hotel in Cancun. They would not only realise a profit on the sale of Timeshare units but they would also significantly increase the adjacent hotel’s profits thanks to the increased trade generated from the Timeshare users’ complex.

What followed was an explosion of entry into the market of big name hotel chains, including Accor Hospitality ‘Best Western International – Carlson Hotels – Disney Group – Hilton Worldwide – Hyatt Hotels – Intercontinental Hotels – Marriott International – Starwood Hotels & Resorts – Wyndham Hotel Group amongst others.

The involvement of these national brand names increased awareness of the prouct and provided a sense of its security. The hotel groups incorporated all the latest design and furnishing techniques of the leading timeshare developers.

The industry axiom is the higher the level of luxury, the easier the sale of the product. Included in the facilities are open-plan kitchens to the living rooms, allowing families stay as a unit while meals are prepared. Kitchens are kitted out with the equipment from ovens, microwaves, dishwashers, large refrigerators and automatic ice-making units and a wide range of Kitchen utensils, cutlery and glassware.

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