When the big yellow ogre known as Oömbaga experiences a growth spurt, you can be sure someone is fueling him with passion, innovative technology and visionary leadership. Oömbaga, a middleware platform that connects timeshare owners and resorts through a simple and effective mobile application, is the brainchild of John Staley and Delaina Probus-Staley. Together the couple founded Sarasota Software Solutions, which grew into Triton, expanded with Oömbaga LLC and last fall officially was unrolled as the unified brand, Oömbaga Investment Group.
In April of this year, Oömbaga I.G. announced it was partnering with CustomerCount to expand functions available through the app, which would add two new features. The first function, On Site Service Requests, makes it simple for vacationing owners to pick up their cellphone or other mobile-ready device and make non-emergency requests in a way that feels comfortable and nonintrusive yet is highly efficient. Smaller resorts that do not typically provide a 24/7 front desk staff improve their response to service calls and better prioritize the urgency of requests.
The second new feature enables app users to complete and return post-vacation surveys easily. Owners appreciate the opportunity to offer feedback on their resort experience and willingly do so when the process is available with the speed and convenience of an app.
These additions are only a few of the ways the functionality and services of Oömbaga are expanding. After a year of beta testing, the company is rolling out a feature unique in the vacation ownership industry. Through the app, owners have access to booking calendars for scheduling their float assignment. They can see which dates are open and the number of units available on that date.
The newest product to be introduced as an app feature is travel insurance offered through CSA Travel Protection. Available to renters and to owners, the product protects a family’s investment in vacationing while also generating referral revenue to the resort. In all, Oömbaga I.G. has 32 new features in various stages of development and launch, with half already fully architected.
Middleware… a Bit Like Middle-Earth without the Hobbits
For anyone not skilled in writing code or programing computers, the concept of middleware can seem somewhat vague. The word middleware describes a category of software that functions as a platform, connecting two applications that would not otherwise interface.
Oömbaga middleware is a proprietary user interface application that was purpose-built to communicate with timeshare owners and their resorts. The cloud-based program makes it easy for vacation owners to carry out routine tasks, such as making reservations or paying maintenance fees. Owners who use the application can choose to place their timeshare for rent, bank it for future use, exchange it with other owners at their resort or bank and exchange it at other properties through Oömbaga’s partner services with timeshare exchange leader, DAE.
Timeshare owners can make their OGRE decisions (Owner/Guest/Renter/Exchanger =OGRE) and choose to use their interval or points as an owner, share it with a guest, offer it for rental or exchange it. Because every action is independent, à la carte and carried out in real time, transactions are seamless. At any time, timeshare owners can engage with their resort and instantly accomplish tasks that previously required manual data entry and snail mail and typically took as long as six weeks to finalize.
However, what the program doesn’t do is as important as what it does. Oömbaga’s middleware is a gateway or portal. Information passes securely through it, but is not stored by the platform. The integrity of a resort’s list and the privacy of its owners is never compromised or challenged.
Oh Yes, They Do!
If you want to make a smiling ogre laugh out loud, just tell him that resort owners will resist using the app. In fact, thirty percent of owners begin using the application within the first month the resort offers it, with older owners consistently being early adopters, coming on board twice as quickly as younger timeshare owners. Within the first six months after the app is offered at a resort, over fifty percent of owners are using it; by year end, the average adoption rate is above seventy-five percent.
Revenue for Resorts
The features delivered through the Oömbaga app streamline and accelerate routine tasks for timeshare owners and resort management. With their jobs made easier, resort staffers are more responsive, less harried and generally more welcoming to owner/guests.
Happier, better satisfied owners view vacation ownership more positively and feel better connected to their resort. But the benefits of the system don’t end with the competitive edge created by enhanced convenience and goodwill.
The Oömbaga platform can provide additional revenue streams to a property, a feature especially valued by smaller, legacy resorts that may struggle to keep up with rising operational costs. With a share-of-wallet approach on co-branded initiatives, resorts can include a range of features from local businesses, such as attraction ticket sales, grocery delivery services, restaurant discounts and other opportunities for shared revenue between the resort and the local merchant.
The Belly Laugh Litmus Test
At the offices of Oömbaga I.G., the décor is tropically bright. Every day looks a little like casual Friday for a team that pulls more than its share of long days and late nights, hammering out imaginative solutions to problems that have daunted the timeshare industry for decades. Delaina describes the company’s talented staff not as programmers and developers, but as, “artists, energized by the possibilities inherent in yet-to-be written computer code in the same way a painter is inspired by a blank canvas.”
Clearly, the Oömbaga marketing team is as creatively disruptive as the developers who architect its software applications. No one at the company can pinpoint exactly how the idea of timeshare owners making their OGRE decision gave rise to the grinning, oversized troll known as Oömbaga. The team members can only tell you that from the moment the idea began to take shape, it immediately grew legs, both literally and figuratively, and they loved it.
As Delaina explained, “It made us laugh, and when an idea makes us belly laugh, then we definitely put it in our marketing.”
The word oombaga is simply an invented word, given an air of distinction by the use of an umlaut, that second “o” that appears with two dots above it. Umlauts occur in only a few modern languages, including German, Hungarian, Swedish, Icelandic and apparently, in the native language of large, hairy, middleware ogres.
At the current pace Oömbaga is evolving, envisioning all that comes next is nearly impossible. But predicting that this ogre still has more exciting growth and development ahead is an absolute certainty.