When RCI – part of Wyndham Destinations’ Panorama initiative – purchased DAE in late 2019, it was the world’s largest privately-owned global timeshare exchange provider and had gained a substantial foothold, particularly in the Pacific region.
Headquartered in Orlando, Florida, is the name was changed to 7Across with Amy Lipka appointed as its managing director. The team, here at Resort Trades, has known Amy from her senior-level positions while working at RCI (where she’s been for 30 years) and has the utmost respect for this remarkable woman. We recently caught up with her to discuss the company’s plans for 7Across:
TRADES: First, how did you come up with the new name?
LIPKA: During our strategy meetings we would brainstorm different ideas. We spoke of the seven continents: Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America. Also, I guess the word “seven” connoted the idea of ‘Seven Wonders of the World.’ And, of course, 7Across opens up these wonders to travelers and stretches across the globe. We felt this new branding reflects reaching all corners of the world. 7Across’ primary mission is to focus on vacation planning with ease. We’re meant to be fun and casual. We’re all about connecting timeshare owners to their next adventure in a way that’s hassle-free. We offer a straightforward approach to send them on vacation with lower fees and less fine print.
TRADES: What was behind the plan to acquire DAE and how is 7Across different than RCI?
LIPKA: After DAE was launched in 1997, by Ramy Filo, CEO at Classic Holidays, and Francis Taylor, both from Queensland, Australia, managed to grow it into the largest exchange company in the Pacific region. Their approach to exchange was simple – a platform that was self-service, easy to use, and required no fees for membership. We’re keeping this fun and casual branding approach, and giving access directly to the consumer. There are 20 million timeshare owners throughout the world. There are less than ten million affiliated with RCI or one of the other exchange companies. 7Across’ objective is to serve all timeshare owners, even if they’re members of another exchange company. Any timeshare owner can join for free and pay only when they use the service.
RCI works beautifully for members who use and enjoy their privileges. Our members may well be a younger generation that is not ready for a long-term commitment but wants to see the world in the simplest way possible. We can’t wait to help them see that world, simply. I see 7Across as representing a free spirit that’s joyful and alive, like our customers from around the globe.
TRADES: You’ve mentioned the word, “innovation” several times. Why is this; what will we be seeing emerge from this innovation?
LIPKA: 7Across will offer so much more than just exchange and bonus weeks in resorts. The timeshare exchange industry is ready for its next chapter. We’ll be at the forefront offering enhanced product offerings, such as “Fix-It” or “Flex-It.” We will continue to grow our members’ choices in travel and now with more benefits, discounts and travel possibilities. Vacationers will have the chance to exchange a traditional timeshare week for a stay at one of more than 2,700 resorts around the globe, either as a low-cost exchange or as a bonus week. There are three options: 1) exchange weeks – allowing timeshare owners to “bank” their points or traditional timeshare week, trading their deposit credit for a week at one of thousands of resorts around the world; 2) bonus weeks, whereby members get access to vacations without giving up their week or 7Across deposit credits, and can book short-notice, discounted vacations within a 6-month travel window (these can be shared with friends and family and there’s no limit to how many they can use); and 3) rentals which allow members and their families and friends can book deeply discounted stays at timeshare and non-timeshare resorts worldwide without using a deposit credit or paying an exchange fee. We also can offer discounted rates at a vast number of hotels
All timeshare owners can join 7Across with a free membership. The company also offers a Gold Advantage membership for a low annual fee, which provides deeper discounts and even lower exchange rates.
TRADES: What is meant by the term, ‘Fix-It or Flex-It’?
LIPKA: Today’s travelers need more flexibility when making vacation plans than ever before. So to allow them to make reservations with confidence, if they wish they can choose to “Fix-It” or “Flex-It” when booking exchange and bonus weeks. When choosing to “Flex-It,” that means they can reschedule or cancel their accommodations without any penalties, up to 24 hours prior to check-in, while ‘fixing it’ means they’re able to reserve…well, unreservedly. When we say 7Across is consumer-centric, we really mean it. Our entire focus is on allowing the customer to call the shots.
TRADES: Lately, we’ve heard our friends from Wyndham and RCI talk about Panorama. Can you explain what part 7Across plays as part of this larger initiative?
LIPKA: Panorama’s portfolio has three areas of focus, including timeshare exchange, travel and leisure businesses, and leading travel technology platforms. Panorama aims to broaden the business, identify new capital efficient sources of supply, offer new and innovative products and develop new travel solutions in partnership with club affiliates in order to increase overall usage and satisfaction of club members, and that’s where 7Across comes in.
TRADES: Amy, you are scheduled to be a ‘Trades Lunch Bunch’ guest on January 22, 2021, beginning at 1:00 p.m. (Resort Trades began presenting these free webinar-like chats in May of last year, in answer to the restrictions being placed on face-to-face meetings. The weekly 30-minute events are scheduled around brunch or lunchtime hour, much like the Brown Bag Lunch concept.) Perhaps during that time you can share with us what challenges and/or opportunities has COVID created in 7Across’ development?
LIPKA: Because we’re a global brand, at any given time, the challenge was different based on the region and at times it was like playing whack a mole. Spring was difficult but we started to see positive trends being created during our summer months. While this was all happening, we were committed to launching a global travel brand even during a time it was difficult for our members to travel. But, the beauty of the timeshare industry is that it’s uniquely positioned to bounce back faster than other sectors, thanks to its focus on the leisure traveler.
TRADES: Describe an ideal growth curve you’d like to see for 7Across.
LIPKA: We are a direct-to-consumer brand so our focus is on acquiring new members vs. resort partners. With 20M households owning timeshare, the sky is the limit on potential growth. We have nearly 70 employees globally and we’ll expand as our membership grows in order to provide the great services our members have grown to expect from our Getaway Guides.
We believe this industry offers unlimited growth opportunities. At 7Across we’re building for timeshare owners of today and for those of tomorrow. We know the next generation of travelers are looking for ease of planning, and that’s exactly what we offer. And, in 2021 we will focus on enhancing our digital experience to ensure our booking experience is more intuitive for our members.
Sharon Scott Wilson, RRP, is Publisher of Resort Trades, Resort Trades Weekly, and produces a weekly webinar series –the Trades Lunch Bunch. Subscribe to Resort Trades Weekly, https://resorttrades.com/emagazine/ and to our channel “Resort Trades” on YouTube.