Notable anniversaries

Now that the 2013 midyear mark has passed, the business environment for the remainder of the year seems a little clearer. Indeed, things seem to be getting brighter.

With this sentiment in mind, I’d like to salute those players in the industry who have survived over the years and through the recent economic downturn, in particular. It may only be August rather than January. It’s far too early to ponder the past or make resolutions for the future, yet the occasion prompts me to do a little reflective thinking.

How many of the industry’s pioneer developers are still around? Certainly one of the most active ones is the “lion of the industry” as this publication once dubbed him, Keith Trowbridge.

Trowbridge established one of the first development companies to get involved in timeshare, after beginning his career as a motel developer in 1973. In 1974, he developed the first successful, purpose-built interval ownership (and used the name “vacation ownership”) resort in the United States, called the Sanibel Beach Club.

Keith now uses his 40 years of experience in the business and his thousands of contacts in his executive search business through his company Executive Quest Inc.

More than a few “old lions” have retired. Some have even passed the reigns to their progeny, such as in the case of Sheldon Cloobeck, whose sons Stephen and Richard are both heavily involved in continuing his legacy. Shelly Cloobeck established The Jockey Club in Las Vegas in 1980.

Other senior entrepreneurs may remain active with their children assisting them in the business, such as David Siegel of Westgate Resorts and Bill Cutillo of Steele Hill Development.

No less visionary have been the principals of companies serving the industry as suppliers and vendors. One of them, Rich Romanello, president and CEO of Holiday Travel of America, parlayed a remarkable ability to build relationships into a business of creating travel-based incentive packages. He originally entered the retail land business in 1969 with Boise Cascade Recreational Land Development Division, before establishing Holiday Travel in 1988.

Romanello says, “To remain a superior company, we must make sure the economics of our product development is designed with use in mind.” In other words, deliver on your promises. Holiday Travel celebrates its 25th year in the business this year, so they must be doing it right.

Another visionary was Karl Lange (1987) who created an innovative software company, Systems Products International (SPI), which has been called upon to evolve not only with an ever-changing resort product and financial reporting requirements; but to continuously invest in technology that demands a tremendous amount of money and brainpower.

Craig Nash, along with an exemplary team of professionals, deserves mention in the context of discussing pioneers in timeshare. Thanks to their leadership, Interval International – part of Interval Leisure Group, which was founded in 1976 – continues as a leading provider of vacation services.

Interval’s mission is to provide the highest quality and best value services to its two constituencies – its industry partners and consumer members. This commitment to being selective in the resorts they affiliate and innovative in creating new services, keeps the company at the forefront of the exchange world. (Resort Trades news journal is a media sponsor for Interval International’s 15th annual educational seminar for prospective developers, the Shared Ownership Investment Conference, from October 28 – 29, 2013, at the Eden Roc Renaissance in Miami Beach, Fla.)

One thinks of Concord Servicing Corporation founder Bob Bertrand (1988) who took advantage of the opportunity to provide a third-party company to process the receipt of monthly payments of installment loans, thereby insulating lenders and resort developers from handling that part of the business.

Bertrand is a wise executive, always encouraging his company to think creatively and strive for continuous improvement. “We have morphed also into a technology company providing our software on a software-as-a service-basis (SaaS) over the Internet to our clients,” he adds. “One other important service we provide is late-stage delinquency collections through a separate entity, Blackwell Recovery.”

At the risk of sounding self-aggrandizing, it’s only fair to observe that this publication, itself, celebrates its 26th year of serving the industry. Resort Trades has been sent to every resort in the U.S. every month since 1987. That’s more than 300 issues! Resort Trades is a news journal, rather than a magazine. As such, its mission is to provide current and relevant information directly to resort personnel. It’s a distinction about which its writers – me included – feel strongly.

Having written for Resort Trades since 2006, I now have an additional bond….It’s called Holy Matrimony! For you see, the publisher, Tim Wilson, and I were married on June 20th of this year.