Each new year brings with it new opportunities to better ourselves and reach new levels of achievement. As 2018 comes in, Resort Trades has asked several industry leaders to share their hopes, expectations, plans and resolutions for the coming year. Here’s what they had to say.
Jon Fredricks, President and CEO, Welk Resorts
Like so many of us as the promise of a new year rolls around, fitness is on our minds here at Welk Resorts. But don’t expect us to be ordering up yoga mats on Amazon, or sweating off all that holiday cheer at the gym (at least, not after the third week of January). We’ve set our sights on long-term “fiscal fitness” as part of our five-year plan — by enabling innovation, agility and quality; in developing our people, teams and partnerships; and by building improved guest experiences and differentiated products. We sat down as a team in October of 2017 to do a little soul-searching and strategic planning, and hammered out seven key growth areas to focus on in the coming year. So, while we don’t expect to hit every target in 2018 (it is a five-year plan, after all), come January 2019, we’ll have a framework in place, and some benchmarks to celebrate, in our race to 2022. Lace up your running shoes, team, we’re in it to win it!
Mark Waltrip, Chief Operating Officer, Westgate Resorts
Bullish. That’s how we feel about 2018. Westgate is thriving, and we are on-track to significantly grow the company in the coming months. In addition to breaking ground on two new resorts, we are opening the Westgate Cocoa Beach Resort (formerly known as Wakulla Suites), which will complement our recently renovated Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier—a historic destination on Florida’s Space Coast. We continue to invest substantially in all of our existing resort properties, and we’re aggressively moving forward with the reconstruction and expansion of our Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Spa in Gatlinburg, which was extensively damaged by wildfires in November 2016. We’re confident that 2018 will be a great year both for Westgate and for our 12,000 team members nationwide as we work together to create one-of-a-kind themed vacation destinations for our owners and guests.
Lisa Siegert-Free, Managing Director and General Manager, The Christie Lodge Owners Association Inc.
2018 is shaping up to be an exciting year for The Christie Lodge! We have recently partnered with a new, full-time sales company, Trucation, headed up by two long time sales executives, Jamie Klein from The Lore Institute and Dave Stroeve from Breckenridge Grand Vacations. They have been very successful with providing daily tours, engaging new buyers to purchase at the Christie and helping current owners upgrade to Interval Gold memberships. Our renovation project “Project WOW” started last year and showcases our updated room product. The reaction from owners and guests has been phenomenal! We’re already talking about our next renovation phase which would include major upgrades to our lobby and a colorful facelift to the exterior of the building. Nature is ready to blanket our winter play-land, and we are looking forward to welcoming guests to the internationally recognized back yard of Vail and Beaver Creek Resorts!
Randy Steinbeck, President, staySky Vacation Clubs
As a newer entrant to the vacation ownership industry, in 2018 we’ll be continuing to focus on the basics, including tour efficiencies, the sales process and engagement with existing members. For example, we have over 55,000 non-timeshare arrivals at our properties each year, so we’re working to increase the percentage of those guests who visit our sales centers. To improve the sales process, we’re training salespeople so that everyone is on the same page, maximizing the value of the Generator sales tool. To engage our members, we’ve been making pre-arrival calls, increasing the frequency of communications such as newsletters and happy anniversary cards, and encouraging communication between our portfolio management staff and member services staff to rapidly resolve any issues that could get in the way of member satisfaction. So far, vacationers are responding very well to staySky’s unique product offerings, and we’re enthusiastic about building on this success.
Robert A. Spottswood, President, Spottswood Companies Inc.
Embracing change. When I was a younger man, I understood, embraced and frequently initiated change. Change was exciting and created opportunities to create wealth. As I age, change doesn’t come as easily. The new technologies aren’t as intuitive for me as for my younger colleagues. Experience, however, tells me how important it is to quickly recognize change or get left behind. As I begin 2018, I intend to overcome the natural stubbornness and resistance that comes with age, and to look ahead for ways to improve upon our business model and the way we use our products. Just look around, transformational changes are upon us—by 2025 our streets will be dominated by autonomous vehicles, artificial super intelligence will someday allow us to create robots that are superior in many tasks to doctors and lawyers, and by the year 2045 medical advances will allow people under 25 to obtain near immortality. So, in an age where the sharing economy is growing faster than ever before, I intend to look for new and improved ways to use and re-use our products and to embrace the changes that may come as a result.
Dave Pontius, COO, Bluegreen Vacations Corp.
2017 has been an exhilarating year of change and growth—both personally and professionally—culminating with the birthing of Bluegreen as a public company. Next year, I look forward to practicing what we always preach regarding the therapeutic value of great vacation experiences. My wife and I are continuing to pick away at our bucket list with a major excursion to Australia and I’ve “paid for it” so our family has to use our timeshare in ski country. On top of that, we always arrange a few tuck in getaways at our wonderful Bluegreen destinations. I love the Urban and Glamping experiences we have and seeing our team members in action is always impressive and inspires me to keep going.
Tom Lyons, President and CEO, Global Connections Inc.
Global Connections is focused on an aggressive growth strategy for 2018. To meet member demand for new destinations and vacation opportunities, our plans call for adding to our existing resort portfolio in the upcoming year, as well as developing new and innovative Club programs to broaden the member experience. In terms of sales and marketing, Global Connections will focus on promoting new and existing short-term Club products and our leisure benefits program to industry and non-industry partners. We will continue to build brand awareness and strengthen alliances within the timeshare industry to support our growth strategy.”
Judy Kenninger is principal of Kenninger Communication and has been covering the vacation real estate industry for nearly two decades.