ARDA has represented the timeshare industry as its highly-respected trade association for over 50 years … decades before the internet, points-based vacation clubs, fraudulent exit companies and the emergence of Vrbo and Airbnb. During the industry’s evolution, ARDA has remained the steady captain who skippered the industry through unchartered – and always changing – seas.
Upon the recent retirement of Howard Nussbaum – who had been ARDA’s CEO for the past 20 years – the association conducted a year-long national search for his replacement and they found a winner with Jason Gamel … almost in their own back yard!
Jason’s significant strength to ARDA members comes from being almost at Ground Zero for a timeshare professional … smack in the center of everything that makes a resort run. This was during his most recent position of six years as senior vice president of legal at Wyndham Destinations. Here he had legal oversight of sales, marketing, privacy regulatory compliance, consumer affairs consumer finance club operations and state and government relations. This senior leadership role made him uniquely qualified to take on the opportunities and challenges of leading the association. The path to his current position was a natural transition for the late-40s father of two girls – aged 10 and 12.
Jason holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Florida – Fredric G. Levin College of Law – and is licensed to practice law in Arizona, California, and Florida. His career includes almost 21 years of experience in the hospitality and timeshare industries, with six years as an associate in the real estate and hospitality practice of BakerHostetler, one of the nation’s largest law firms.
Between 2004 and 2013 Jason was vice president of state and government affairs at ARDA in Orlando, where he oversaw the direction of local, state, and regional legislative and lobbying activities in the United States and throughout the Caribbean. During this time, he helped grow the government affairs program by forging strong relationships with regulatory agencies, hotel brands, HOAs, and independents together while at the same time broadening their horizons and serving the needs of all types of members.
“My challenge today is to determine how ARDA can deliver a product that will benefit our membership in the future,” says Jason. “For the first six months, I plan to do a lot of listening. In charting a new course for our continued success, we must be decisive about how we ‘retool’ with the right staff, strategic direction, and vision. Implementing innovative initiatives while providing educational and legislative representation to our entire membership will be key components toward making this happen.”
In looking ahead, Jason shares, “What keeps me awake at night is the consolidation of the industry and trying to envision how our membership may look in the next 50 years. How can we retain our current membership and nurture a new one? How can we improve our meetings and regional events? We want to ensure that what we are doing what is best for the membership as a whole. In the final tally, this is what will either defend or justify the purpose of our organization.”
Jason sees a strong need to further engage resort management, HOAs, and legacy resorts, to work with ARDA’s Resort Owners Coalition. (Over 1.5 million timeshare owners continue to support ROC with their $3 donations as part of their maintenance fees.)
When asked about what ARDA can do to help bolster a healthy secondary market, Jason added “We have to consider not only the options that a consumer has to sell their timeshare but also the options that can be provided by a developer or management company. Our industry was founded 50 years ago by true entrepreneurs. Today, ARDA can orchestrate affective regulatory systems and provide a welcoming atmosphere for new entrepreneurs with the same entrepreneurial spirit to come to the table with creative solutions. Instead of thinking of a secondary market as someone who wants to share, it should also be thought of as what a developer can provide for its owners, as in buy-back programs.”
Concerning third-party rental disruptors like Vrbo or Airbnb. “I believe the product is complementary to timesharing as these are great platforms for potential timeshare buyers. It’s important to recognize that people still enjoy the positive memories from returning annual vacations combine with the powerful feeling of ownership. This is one reason we continue to grow in sales revenue each year; at last count, it was $9.8 billion!”
On a personal note, Jason says, “I deeply admire people who have overcome seemingly impossible challenges and risen to the top in their professions. They often have strong convictions combined with a vision and a deep passion for what they see is right. They appeal to me as leaders in their fields.”
According to Robert Spottswood, ARDA Chairman, “The best leadership requires vision, communication, and execution. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of our industry and enter the next half-century, we are fortunate to have a leader with those qualities as well as a deep understanding of our business.”
Marge Lennon loves to tell other people’s stories. She has had a front-row seat to the growth of the timeshare industry since 1978 and has written about its entrepreneurial developers and their amazing people from the Adirondacks to Australia. Contact her at Marge@LennonCommunications.com.