Occasionally the lead timeshare story in the mainstream news is about a sports team timesharing a position between two athletes, but most often when you read about timeshares, it is yet another state’s attorney general coming down hard on unscrupulous resellers or questionable sales practices. Do the efforts of these government agencies demonstrate long overdue consumer protection? Absolutely. But for legitimate timeshare resale companies, focused on providing a valid and much-needed service, the paint brush with which timeshare resales are being painted has become much too large and those wielding it, alarmingly unconcerned about how they paint, taint, or devastate the reputation of an entire niche within the service industry as they go after the disreputable.

Each time the word timeshare is used in the same sentence as fraud, scam, or ‘burden you can’t get rid of,’ the entire industry takes another blow. Many consumers, uncertain how to distinguish the good guys from the bad or if the good guys even exist at all, shy away from any product, service, vendor, or corporation that seems to be part of the enigmatic world of vacation ownership.

Only ourselves to blame

Some fifty-plus years ago, when the timeshare product was initially launched, absent from the big picture was a viable plan for what to do with timeshare when an individual no longer wishes to own and use the product. With no logical exit strategy in place, schemes and scams sometimes crept in, exploiting the dearth of resale direction within the industry.

Tending to be naturally commitment-phobic in the face of today’s uncertain economic climate, consumers have become leery of buying a vacation plan that is perceived to be inflexible or coming with too many strings attached. Buy a new Ford or Toyota and you know that you will, at some point, trade it in, resell it, or pass it on to your teenage son or daughter. But buy a timeshare, even one that carries the confidence-inspiring name of a global hospitality brand, and the timeshare buyer is left to wonder how he or she will get out of it in the future.

Timeshares, here at the zoo

In the world of shared or vacation ownership, resales have too long been the elephant in the room that no one wants to discuss. Now, the monkey is clearly on all our backs, and here at the zoo (a.k.a. the timeshare industry) there is frankly, a bit of confusion. Many timeshare companies are working to stabilize their business in the wake of the credit crisis and redefined consumer spending patterns. Concurrently, timeshare resales companies either are closing their doors forever or are working double-time to remind both their clients and their peers that they are in fact open for business. Most disconcerting of all is that those timeshare owners who really need to sell their interval or points ownership are left more uncertain than ever as to where to turn or how to proceed.

Yet timeshares are still a great product. They bring affordability, ease of vacation planning, and nearly unlimited opportunities to the millions who use and enjoy them each year. For many owners, timeshares are recognized, not as a commitment they hesitate to make, but as a secure benefit they look forward to enjoying now and for years of vacations to come.

Timeshare resales: A fresh face

Only an industry-wide attitude of unity and purposeful intent will finally stop timeshares sales — both new and on the secondary market — from being painted that unappealing off-color associated with frauds and scams.

As the timeshare industry rises to the challenges inherent in past business models, we all look to the future, focusing on the wants and needs of consumers. Working together as a cohesive industry, timeshares can present the world a product that is vibrant, durable, and relevant to today’s vacation needs; the fresh face of timeshares painted with transparency.