More than 500 participants from nearly 30 countries attended the 2016 International Shared Ownership Investment Conference at the Eden Roc on Miami Beach October 24-26. The mood was upbeat, and statistics revealed during the programming showed good reason for cheer. Annual timeshare sales in the United States were $8.6 billion in 2015 on annual growth of 5.7 percent, according to Jenny Davlin, vice president of member experience at the American Resort Development Association. Occupancy ran nearly 80 percent, and the average unit price was $22,240.
Conference highlights included guest speakers Scott Stratten, an expert in viral, social, and authentic marketing, and Adriana Grineberg, regional director for Facebook, along with sessions on timeshare trends, sales presentations, resort amenities, and media strategies.
“The high caliber speakers, panel discussions, and comprehensive industry research provided to attendees, along with the valuable networking opportunities were very well received,” said David Gilbert, Interval’s president. “The international aspect of the conference also continues to grow significantly, highlighted by the participation of influential dignitaries such as the Prime Minister of St. Maarten and Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, in attendance. We are extremely grateful to our sponsors for helping us host another successful conference, and to the speakers who were willing to share their expertise.”
Attendees looking to go deeper into the numbers presented were provided with research reports valued at over $1000, including three from the ARDA International Foundation (State of the Vacation Timeshare Industry. 2016 Edition, Financial Performance of the Timeshare Industry, 2016 Edition, and the State of the Vacation Timeshare Industry. 2016 Edition) and one from Ragatz Consulting (The Shared Ownership Resort Real Estate Industry in North America: 2016.)
For those who weren’t able to attend (or may have missed some sessions), Resort Trades was on the spot to report back on some of the important nuggets revealed. Here are a few of the highlights.
• The penetration rate of timeshare ownership continues to increase with 7 percent of U.S. households now owning at least one interval. Still, a higher percentage of households (11 percent) have used online home sharing services such as Airbnb and HomeAway. ARDA president Howard Nusbaum said that the good news here is that 72 percent of those surveyed say the sharing economy experience is not consistent, meaning that travelers who tried these services are now ripe for timeshare sales. By staying with a regulated property, consumers receive important protections such as standards for safety, security, health codes, accessibility and discriminatory behavior. The wisdom of purchasing timeshare was even highlighted by Consumer Reports, which said they “can be a savvy vacation strategy.” Adding in that 83 percent of timeshare owners report they are satisfied with their purchase, “timeshare is in the sweet spot,” Nusbaum said.
• The session entitled “Independents’ Day” featured four developers whose projects don’t fly a brand flag. They cited the ability to be nimble and make decisions quickly as advantages to this approach. “There’s less correspondence with the mother ship,” explained Jay DiGiulio, president of Boutique Real Estate Advisors LLC. The speakers also praised support from Interval International in equalizing their product with larger competitors’. “The Gold and Platinum products are great enhancements,” said Mike Vasey, owner of Vacation Ownership Sales Inc. “Add-ons like the priority pass for airport lounges create a VIP experience for owners.” The speakers all mentioned the importance of resort rentals for lead generation, with the actual timeshare experience being the product’s greatest recommendation for purchase.
• Recent hotel conversion projects, including Marriott projects in Washington, DC and New York City, have several advantages over building new resorts. Among them, the fact that inventory can be converted to timeshare as sales velocity dictates and zoning approvals are already in place. When hosting timeshare guests at the same property, staff should be trained to view timeshare owners as the most important guests. “It’s an awareness factor,” explained John Gordon, CEO of staySky Vacation Clubs and staySky Hotels & Resorts.
• Amenities can help make an older resort seem new, helping it appeal to younger buyers. Bob Craycraft, executive vice president of resort sales at Extreme Engineering, explained how a new installation at Calypso Cay Resort in Kissimmee, Florida, has bolstered sales and kept owners on property. “Now that the High Action Adventure Park is open, guests stay on property a half day more, which means more food and beverage sales as well as sales of themed merchandise,” he says. “Plus, adding video from the park to the resort’s website turns lookers into bookers.” The amenity welcomes guests of all ages, too. The park can accommodate guests from 45 to 300 pounds and a wide range of dexterity. “A grandparent can take their grandchild on the zipline,” Craycraft says. “We take the adventure and make it safe because we lower riders to the ground using hydraulics, and the decelerator stops the ride gently.”
• No conference today is complete without advice on social media, and Interval brought in two experts with plenty to say. Scott Stratten, president of Un-Marketing, said that true marketing occurs when other people talk about us. “The stories we tell are what creates a brand,” he said. “However, in order to get word-of-mouth, we have to do things worth talking about.” When communicating with owners, the only preference that matters is that of the person who is paying the bill. And, finally, guests don’t expect perfection, they expect accountability. Sometimes, responding sincerely and fixing a problem is a way to gain a loyal customer for life, but responding quickly is the best strategy.
• Facebook Messenger now has 1 billion users, and 1.7 billion people worldwide are on Facebook. And 900 million of them have at least one friend in another country. How can you leverage Facebook for owner communications and marketing? Adriana Grineberg, Facebook’s regional director for Latin America, shared advice and statistics from her company. She said 22 percent of recent travelers booked their stays on a mobile device, meaning that your digital presence should have a mobile first strategy. According to Grineberg, Facebook’s audience insights make it easy to target people based on demographics and interests, such as travel. As campaigns continue, Facebook learns which users are most likely to respond and continues to refine targeting.
The 19th Annual Shared Ownership Investment Conference will be held on October 23 – 25, 2017 at the Eden Roc Resort on Miami Beach. For more information, visit www.sharedownershipinvestment.com.