Timeshares Gain Share of Meetings Market, 2000

July 9, 2011 by Paris and John  
Filed under Sample Articles



by Paris Permenter & John Bigley

Remember those timeshare deals of the 70s and 80s? Free television sets just to drop by and talk with a salesperson? Free trips in return for endless property tours?

Well, times have changed. Today timeshares have gained not just respectability, but a considerable share of the hospitality market as well. You’ll find timeshares — from luxurious beachfront properties to cozy mountainside retreats — throughout the West, some offering  meeting space, convention services staffs, and hotel amenities.

Now a $3.5 billion industry in the US alone, the timeshare industry has grown at a rate of 10% annually for the past decade. The result? More and more timeshares that planners can utilize for all types of meeting functions, from small corporate retreats to large meetings to energetic incentives. “There are timesharing resorts in not less than 40 US states, four Canadian Provinces, and nearly 90 countries around the world,” notes industry expert Rod Hackman, president of  The Timeshare Beat (www.thetimesharebeat.com)

More and more members of the corporate world are becoming interested in the timeshare industry, according to industry experts. Chip Ballew of TimeShareBuddies.com notes that the interest of corporate America in timeshares for meetings and incentives has risen “most definitely, as plush lodging accommodations are available, as well as meeting facilities at most resorts. Weekend getaways, or week, for that matter, are certainly attractive incentives to employees.”


One factor that has added to the respectability of timeshares is their acceptance by the top names of the hotel world. These timeshare or vacation ownership properties increasingly sport names like Ritz-Carlton, Radisson, Marriott, and Four Seasons.

While these timeshares as part of a branded luxury property are gaining more and more attention, it’s not a new move in the timeshare industry. “This is not a recent trend and in fact  ‘branded’ hospitality corporations have been around this industry [in the US market] beginning with  Westin hotels as early as 1983,” explains     Hackman. “Westin Hotels introduced their first property in  the State of Hawaii, the Ilikai Hotel and Resort (Harbor Tower) on the  island of Oahu during the fall of 1983. Although the project was selling,  Westin decided to sell that specific building to a group of investors within the first year of operation and thus ended their first entry into this industry. Today of course, Westin has a significant presence in our industry. Over the last ten years the major brands have been entering the industry at a rather rapid pace (by corporate America standards) and in Europe branded companies such as  Hapimag have been involved in the industry since the 1960s.”


Meeting planners will see numerous new timeshare properties on the horizon throughout the West. Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts has plans to open two new  Western timeshare properties. The new  210-room Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale, Arizona includes a 126-unit vacation ownership development.

“Four Seasons Resort Club Scottsdale at Troon North unites the rich design of the Southwest with Four Seasons luxury and service excellence. Our goal is to provide Four Seasons Resort Club owners with a private desert vacation home blended with the luxury and amenities of a five-star hotel,” explains Duffy Keys, senior vice president, Four Seasons Vacation Ownership. The Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, located north of Puerto Vallarta, will have a 96-unit timeshare division along with 100 guest rooms. This property will have 3,700 square feet of meeting space, a fitness center and spa, and access to an adjacent Jack Nicklaus-designed, 18-hole golf course managed by Four Seasons.

A new vacation ownership brand called Horizons by Marriott Vacation Club  specializing in the moderate tier of the timeshare market has also been started by Marriott Vacation Club International (MVCI). “Our goal is to revolutionize the industry with a brand of resorts to deliver great on-site fun, flexibility, quality, and affordability,” explained Stephen P. Weisz, president, Marriott Vacation Club International.  Currently Marriott Vacation Club International is the world’s largest vacation ownership company with 38 resorts.

This increase in the construction of timeshares at branded hotels is one that Hackman believes will continue, thanks to the earnings potential. “The industry is not just a profit center originating from the sale to a consumer, but  timeshare resorts also have a much higher occupancy ratio compared to standard  hotel properties/accommodations,” notes the timeshare expert. “This allows the hotel/resort operator to both  project and control current and future operating costs, increase revenues from  added value services as well as guarantee a maintenance fund that protects the quality of the resort property.”


More and more timeshares are now targeting the luxury market. Royal Resorts (888-373-5959, www.royalresorts.com), with five timeshare resorts in Cancun, recently opened Royal Sands, which offers guests everything from on-site gourmet restaurants to a travel counselor to book day tours to watersports. “Whether it’s tennis, sailing from a private marina or lounging on a beach or poolside, our quest is to offer unequaled amenities to our members and guests,” explains Richard Sutton, Royal Resorts general director. The timeshares recently signed a five-year contract with Pok-ta-Pok golf course to give guests unlimited greens fees for a membership fee at the Robert Trent Jones, Jr.-designed course. “Member satisfaction is the key to our success, and this golf package is just one more unique benefit we are able to offer,” said Sutton.              Sutton notes that one difference in Royal Resorts’ timeshares and others is that it is a full-service resort. “We are a full property, A to Z.  In the industry, I don’t know of many others that do this. Most build the timeshare next to a hotel and the facilities are at the hotel.”

Use of the timeshares by corporations has been two-fold. Some small groups use the resort for intimate meetings, often using villas for catering and meetings. “Many also purchase these as incentives for their employees,” says Sutton.


Sometimes the line between timeshare and hotel is all but invisible to attendees, as is the case with Park City, Utah’s Grand Summit Resort Hotel and Conference Center at The Canyons (www.thecanyons.com). With 15,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space in the hotel’s central area as well as 510 guest rooms, full service health club, fine dining, and other facilities, meeting participants might think this 510-room property was a luxury hotel.

“Grand Summit is a unique brand–when you arrive it is very much a traditional hotel with bellmen, a concierge, and other hotel services,” explains Dave Stevenson, vice president of sales. “The rooms look very much like condominiums. You get the best of both worlds–a full service hotel and a kitchen, a sitting area, and a fireplace. We have a lot of groups come in. Often the CEO or VP comes in and wants a private meeting for the senior managers. We have central suites they can use for a small meeting then go back to the general conference center and rejoin the main group. It’s very casual and comfortable.”

This July, Utah’s Grand Summit will have a new cousin in Colorado. Also operated by American Skiing Company, Steamboat Grand (877-269-2628, www.steamboatgrand.com) will offer groups a $100 million facility with 327 guest rooms, 29,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting and function space including a 250-seat amphitheater for outdoor events, and amenities like a valet who greets guests and takes ski equipment straight to the ski room.             “We’re building these hotels to serve many different markets,” notes Stevenson. “Conference space can drive spring, summer and fall when the mountain is closed.”

And, although the hotel may be a timeshare, meeting planners find that their share of the work is the same as at a hotel. “There is no difference for a meeting planner to work with us,” explains Stevenson. “We have a conference team that functions like a hotel but with more flexibility in room types and room accommodations.”


So how does the timeshare fit into the meetings equation? Just like any other hotel, according to most.

Some corporations have purchased timeshares as an incentive to offer  their employees. Chip Ballew says, “There are tax benefits to ownership.  Someone who understands how timeshare works can purchase one week, yet have virtually unlimited time available through bonus weeks.  This is mid to off-season time at resorts.  Weekends can be very reasonable…as low as $99 and entire weeks can be found for as little as $199.  This bonus time can be purchased and given to employees.”

Properties are also seeing companies purchasing timeshares for employee incentives. The Canyon’s Stevenson says, “We saw a lot of small businesses purchasing a unit to use one week out of the year for corporate retreats.”

Nevertheless, meetings remain a primary corporate use for these vacation ownership properties. “Due to the complexity of the  various corporate structures, I feel that the major appeal for a  corporation would be more along the lines of an ‘executive retreat’ for  specific officers and other VIP’s of the corporation including corporate  clients,” says Hackman.

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