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15 UP CLOSE & PERSONAL The importance and power of personalised service

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WHAT’S TRENDING IN TRAVEL Latest updates from the global travel industry

GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY A visa programme bringing new buyers into the sales arena

12/02/2015 11:48

As an RCIÂŽ affiliate,

you gain more than just a partner...

you gain Preferred relationships – our partners can become yours Specially negotiated prices for RCI affiliates Quality products & services from trusted brands

To learn how RCI Affiliate Access can benefit your business, contact your RCI Affiliate Services Manager for more information.

CONTENTS IN BRIEF 4 In Brief The latest news from Europe and around the world INSIGHT 8 Getting Up Close & Personal Offering a personal service is still the key to success in the digital age 12 What’s Trending in Travel A review of the latest trends in the ever-evolving global travel industry 15 Business Builders A guide to the various models of the shared-vacation ownership industry IN DEVELOPMENT 18 Greece Up For Growth With all-time visitor number records smashed and low property prices, Greece is a developers’ market IN DEPTH 23 Success in the Global Market Timeshare is a global market – as a developer, are you making the most of the opportunities that presents? 27 Golden Opportunity The Golden Visa residency programme is set to bring non-European buyers into the European sales arena FINAL THOUGHT 30 The Snowball Effect Sergey Egorov shares his thoughts on the strong potential in the Russian market

Dear RCI® affiliates: In this issue of RCI Ventures we’re taking a look at the bigger picture and broadening our focus to review the wider travel and leisure industry. Timeshare is very much a part of the mainstream hospitality sector and we all need to be aware of what is happening in the outside world that will both impact and influence the business of shared-vacation ownership. We talk to Euromonitor on page 12 of this issue to get some insight into the latest travel trends and what our customers are likely to be looking for in our product offering in the future. For those new to the market, and to sow seeds of upsell and expansion for existing resort developers, we profile several key sharedvacation ownership business models on page 15. While on page 23 we highlight the opportunities you could be taking advantage of as a business operating in a single global marketplace – something we can easily overlook as we think in terms of our regional markets… Europe itself remains a strong market for timeshare with the green shoots of recovery in evidence across the region. Despite a period of economic and political turbulence, Greece smashed its inbound visitor record last year and, as our market report on page 18 reveals, there is much potential for resort development throughout the country. While the recently-launched Golden Visa property investment incentive programme, running in several European countries, is attracting leisure real estate purchasers from outside Europe – learn more about this on page 27. We hope that by taking a step away from the nuts and bolts of our resort operation to look at some wider influencing factors, this issue of RCI Ventures will give us all plenty to think about.

S E A N LOW E M A N AG I N G D I R E C TO R R C I E U R O P E , M I D D L E E A S T, A F R I C A A N D I N D I A Visit for news of the worldwide shared vacation ownership industry and insight from the experts.

  is published by RCI, a trading name of RCI Europe, Kettering Parkway, Kettering, Northants, NN15 6EY, United Kingdom. Tel: +44 (0)1536 314266. Email: EDITOR: Helen Foster. ASSISTANT EDITOR: Lorraine Karabin. DESIGN: David Clarke. PRODUCTION: Claire Williams. PRINTING: ESP Swindon/Excite Multi Channel Ltd. COVER CREDITS: David Clarke. Original articles and contributions may be reproduced or transmitted only with written permission from the publisher. All facts and figures stated in the articles contained in this publication are provided by the contributors and no responsibility is accepted by RCI Europe for content not created by them, nor for any losses or other consequences resulting from advertisements or other material appearing in this publication. You are advised to make your own enquiries and conduct further research if necessary. © RCI Europe 2015




Affiliate Access to help resort efficiency RCI has launched a new initiative designed to help its affiliated resorts to increase operational efficiency and optimise their businesses. RCI Affiliate Access covers a range of tools and solutions to help resorts boost sales, improve management and operate more cost-effectively, as the services are offered at preferential rates. Among services offered are:

RCI has added two new properties in Japan to its exchange network through an affiliation with developer Gumi Development Co. Ltd.

• Fee collection services • Owner loyalty rewards • Sourcing of goods and services • Legal services • Health and safety training • Marketing and PR services. Dimitris Manikis, RCI’s Vice President, Business Development for Europe, Middle East and Africa, said: “A benefit of being affiliated to the world’s largest exchange organisation is that we can pass on our economies of scale buying to get the very best deals for our affiliate partners. “The RCI Affiliate Access programme leverages RCI’s buying power in the marketplace, combined with our network of partners, to provide access to quality products and services, all at specially negotiated prices. The programme is all about helping RCI

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RCI affiliates two new resorts in Japan

Dimitris Manikis.

affiliates to optimise their businesses by providing custom solutions exclusively for them.” Manikis added that the programme reflected the importance RCI places on developing genuine affinity relationships with its affiliated resorts. “We really want to contribute to our affiliates’ operations because we know their success is our success too – an occasion when the expression ‘win-win’ is truly appropriate.” RCI will continue to expand the programme by incorporating more services from some of the industry’s top service providers.

Both properties offer RCI members the opportunity to visit Kyushu, an island located at the south of Japan. Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, the Japan Sea and the East China Sea, Kyushu is a charming destination famous for its picturesque mountain scenery, hot springs, hiking trails and delectable Kyushu Cuisine. J’s Nichinan Resort is located in Miyazaki prefecture. The 100-room hotel offers both western and Japanese-style tatami rooms, providing a unique experience for visitors. J’s Kobayashi Japanese holiday options for Golf & Resort RCI members. J’s Nichinan is located in Resort, top, and J’s Kobayashi Golf & Resort, above, on one of the most Kyushu Island. vibrant areas of Kyushu, offering many exciting activities. Accommodation comprises 18 Finnishinspired villas sited around the golf course. Jaeho Jung, CEO of JSPND Group, the parent company of Gumi Development, said: “Working with RCI will provide us with valuable support for our growth plans, allowing us to add more value to our holiday ownership product and give our members a wider variety of holiday options. This affiliation is very meaningful to us, and we hope that Bluejays Vacation Club can grow with RCI to become a global leisure company.”


FNTC acquires Continental Trustees

Sealing the deal at RCI HQ in New Jersey. Pictured from left, front: President RCI, Gordon Gurnik, and John Spence, Karma Royal Group Founder. With, from left, back row: RCI’s senior leadership team, Dimitris Manikis, Sean Lowe, Pali Badwal and Ricardo Montaudon.

Royal Resorts sign unique RCI deal A unique tripartite agreement has been signed between Royal Resorts, part of the Karma Royal Group, and RCI for RCI to provide an extensive club servicing programme to Odyssey Club members. It is a truly global servicing initiative involving three of RCI’s call centre offices: Cork in Ireland to provide European servicing, Bangalore to service Indian members and Singapore to cover Asia. The three RCI offices will assume the servicing of 23,000 - and growing Odyssey Club members with a customised service to enhance the member experience. The offices will be facilitating internal and external exchanges for Odyssey members. Karma Royal Group Founder, John Spence, said: “We have definitely leveraged RCI’s services as a primary navigator in our member journey, as we do not see that part of the business as being where our core

expertise lies. Having RCI as our partner will help us a great deal.” Sean Lowe, MD, RCI Europe, Middle East, Africa and India, said: “This is an exciting next stage in our journey with Royal Resorts as we become integral to each other’s operation. “For Odyssey members, we hope to expand their holiday choices outside the fabulous Royal Resorts’ properties they already enjoy by giving them access to the almost 4,500 resorts affiliated to RCI globally. “For John and the Karma Royal Group, we have designed our servicing plans to accommodate Odyssey Club growth in the future.”

Through its services, FNTC looks after the interests of over 650,000 consumers within shared-ownership and vacation-ownership schemes, as well as resort merchant and payment processing services through its CardScape platform. Continental was founded in 1995 and has 20 years’ experience in the provision of trustee, escrow, and collection services for a number of resorts, principally across the UK and Europe. The acquisition enables FNTC to strengthen its position as the largest specialist trustee in the holiday and fractional ownership market. The combined business will continue to focus on the global leisure business. Declan Kenny, CEO of FNTC, said: “We are delighted to announce the acquisition. The combined expertise allows FNTC to consolidate its business within Europe, while remaining focused on its operations in the US and Asia, which service the leisure industry, and expand its merchant services’ proposition. “I welcome Mike Murphy as a member of the FNTC management team, in the role of Operations Director, and look forward to engaging with Continental’s clients in the near future.” Mike Murphy, Managing Director of Continental said: “This is an excellent opportunity for Continental’s clients to benefit from FNTC’s worldwide industry involvement, processing efficiencies and advanced payment systems.”



Two leading resort trustee firms anounced a major consolidation within the industry. FNTC (UK) Limited acquired Continental Trustees Limited (Continental).


Outrigger Resorts opens in Moscow IN BRIEF

Outrigger Resorts has opened a sales, marketing and PR representation office in Moscow as it aims to tap into the growing Russian market. Moscow-based Travel Media is now responsible for Outrigger sales, representation, marketing, PR and travel industry relations in Russia and the CIS countries, which include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Outrigger’s Russian office will report to Mark Simmons, Outrigger VP Sales and Marketing, Asia-Pacific. He said: “The opening of the Russian office adds another key market in Outrigger Resorts’ move to become the world’s premier beachfront resort. “Over the last few years, an increasing number of Russian holidaymakers and families have enjoyed the unique Outrigger Resorts’ experience. It’s a relationship that our new office in Moscow will nurture and grow.” On the Russian economy, Simmons added: “Outrigger is aware of the issues and is taking a proactive position based on a long-term, strategic view.”

New legal office in Spain Alex Radford, timeshare law specialist, has opened a new legal practice in Spain. My Lawyer In Spain will provide specialist timeshare, fractional and shared-ownership legal services from six offices along Spain’s south coast: Marbella, Torrox Costa, Almeria, Murcia, Alicante and Valencia. “A number of colleagues from Irwin

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Mitchell and I decided to set up our own law practice,” Alex told RCI Ventures. “Through strategic alliances with two law firms we have known for some time, we are able to offer clients a more personalised legal service along Spain’s south coast. “The European industry has changed greatly over the years and I am pleased to have grown with it. When I first set out advising industry clients, we were drafting purchase and sale contracts, and advising on mergers and acquisitions. Now the buzz words in the European industry are consolidation and developing exit strategy models for timeshare owners. “I am pleased and appreciative that my timeshare resort developer clients have followed me to the new law firm.” Radford

Elena Vetrova, general director of Travel Media Holding, said: “Travel Media strongly believes the variety of iconic beachfront resorts offered by Outrigger, from Mauritius through Asia Pacific to Hawaii, will be a perfect fit for many Russian sun seekers.”

Russia PRs tourism In another development, research and planning is underway for a large-scale project to develop Russia Centres in major cities worldwide. A group of Russian businessmen is investing in the centres, to be opened over the next five years. They will allow the public to learn more about Russian culture, traditions and the opportunities the country presents. Locations for the centres are still to be decided, but the first ones are most likely to appear in China, India, the Middle East and Latin America, while London will be the flagship centre for Europe.

has been advising resort developers, bankers, trustee companies and hoteliers for 16 years. To learn more, visit



Brockwood Hall refurbishment: an inspiration RCI affiliate Brockwood Hall is undergoing a major refurbishment, having recently become a resort member of TATOC, the Timeshare Association (Timeshare Owners and Committees) and achieved its TATOC Resort Accreditation status. The First Resorts’ property, is located on the doorstep of England’s spectacular holiday hot spot, the Lake District. Guests can enjoy the unspoilt beauty of the region’s green fells, overlooked by the Blackcombe and Whitecombe Hills. Though Brockwood Hall itself offers a range of activities on site. The property is comprised of 32 self-catering Scandinavian-style lodges on the estate of a 19th century hall. All lodges are being refitted, which also includes improvements to the resort’s facilities, gardens and more, according to Resort Director Robin Mills. “It’s a top-to-tail project,” he explained. “We’re spending hundreds of thousands of pounds improving the whole resort, from brightening up the lodges with new furnishings and modern equipment – including the installation of hot tubs on balconies – to modernising facilities and improving the gardens and access roads.” Mills said the lodge refurbishment should be complete by the end of the year. “This is a realistic time frame given

that we’re doing the work while the units are occupied,” he said. While the garden landscaping has seen an incredible 30,000 bulbs planted, with summer terraces and barbecue facilities among the new features. “We’ve cut back a lot of overgrown areas, tidied lawns and opened the gardens up. It looks like a different place,” Mills added, saying the work boosted the resort from an operational, as well as a business perspective. “Timeshare sales and rentals will benefit from the improvements, but we’ve also made it into a much better environment for the staff to work in. “The resort has used local labour and suppliers for much of the work, as it seeks to build relationships and integrate itself back into the community,” explained Mills. “Local people say First Resorts has made a real difference in the 18 months we’ve been here, which is great to hear. Brockwood is the company’s first and flagship property in the UK. There will be more to follow…”



Getting Up Close & Personal In terms of progress in the digital age, everyone talks technology as the way to get ahead. In the hospitality business however, there is no getting away from the fact that it is people who make the biggest difference. HELEN FOSTER explores the power of personalisation. 8 Q 1 /Q 2 2 01 5

Why and where people? People are needed at crucial customer touch points throughout your business. While that might seem a very obvious statement and you may think you have it covered, are you really sure you aren’t driving customers to an online channel in areas where a personal interface would be more engaging and effective? A ‘Count On Me’ culture is in the RCI staff DNA.

Irrespective of nationality or market, that culture binds RCI’s worldwide staff together as one. Sean Lowe, Managing Director, RCI Europe, Middle East, Africa and India said: “We aim to deliver World-Class Experiences to our customers, both affiliates and members. Naturally, technology plays a big part in improving our customer journey and increasing our operational efficiencies, as highlighted by our £1.5 million investment last year in enhancements to the functionality of alone, together with our forthcoming investment in this year.

We use contemporary technology to underpin the guest experience. Technology is an enabler. Hospitality is about providing a service and there has to be some human interaction to do that in an engaging manner.

MICHAEL LEVIE Founding Partner, citizenM Hotels

SEAN LOWE MD RCI Europe, Middle East, Africa and India


“Our goal is that customers should enjoy a seamless and immersive RCI experience, which is why we maintain an extensive call centre operation, servicing members in as many as 25 languages. We know our customers, on both the B2C and B2B sides of the business, will have different preferences as to how they want to research and communicate. “We recognise our customers are increasingly internet savvy, but we know that many also need a personal connection at different times, and for different reasons, so we continue to support our call centre operations. Many larger club affiliates fully appreciate the need for the human touch in the guest journey as well, which is why RCI leads the field in offering clubs a bespoke whitelabel member servicing option.” RCI Guides, as RCI call centre operatives are known, are available at the end of a phone line and have become greatly valued by RCI members as trusted travel advisors. And it’s not just about having bodies at desks, as Lowe explained: “We are careful to select staff with a passion for travel, and that is just the starting point. We then ensure they have the right training, including educational trips to our affiliated resorts, to prepare them to give the best possible guidance to members wanting support in holiday planning.”


THE PERSONAL TOUCH IS THE MIDAS touch in the resort and hotel business. “If you’re not nice, you won’t be working with us,” states Michael Levie, Founding Partner of citizenM Hotels. Despite using a gamut of advanced technologies across his hotel operation to build a great guest journey, he believes people are irreplaceable in giving the citizenM brand experience real standout. He adds: “We draw a simple line in the sand. All taskorientated procedures such as check-in and check-out are automated for our customers, who are accustomed to controlling process in their lives. Our staff, or Ambassadors as we call them, are present throughout our hotels to greet guests with the warmest of welcomes, to present a friendly face, to be there to talk through any concerns, alleviate friction and to foster a sense of caring and comfort. They carry our culture, which is also that of our guests. Guests cannot go to machines or computers for that kind of welcome and warmth.” Gerd Leonhard is CEO of The Futures Agency, keynote speaker and futurist who regularly takes the platform to extol the ways in which technological advances will transform our world. Though his is a world shaped by digital wizardry, like Levie, he readily acknowledges that continued investment in people is as important as investing in new technologies – more so if you are in the business of selling an immersive vacation experience. “Most of the time, our world is better for being highly digitalised. TripAdvisor, Google Maps and more – all very smart technologies using intelligent search engines that know who we are and make matches that will appeal to us,” he explained. “But never forget that it is context and relevance which matters. People will not book a vacation without some feeling of a human connection, and technology is not often good at that, yet. Machines know binary – ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Humans are not binary and have so much more to give between ‘yes’ and ‘no’. For example creating a sense of mystery, excitement, and building trust. It is the uniquely human, emotional connection, combined with truly engaging technology, that will, in the end, make people buy your vacation product.”



The RCI Guides are so valued that last year the company launched a programme sending them out to selected resorts to talk to guests about any aspect of timeshare and exchange for those who wanted a better understanding of how to use timeshare. “In most web-enabled markets, 50 per cent of customers want to speak to someone over the phone at some stage of their journey and we don’t see that changing in the short term,” Lowe added. “We invest in our people as much as the process.” Levie cites an interesting case when he was asked by an airline for help with its check-in process which, from negative feedback received, clearly wasn’t working for its customers. “We walked into the check-in area to be confronted with a line of 20 automated kiosks and not a person in sight,” said Levie. “We suggested mixing it up and putting in several desks to provide human connectivity, just a friendly face on hand to answer questions and simply to smile. That was all that was needed to turn around customer satisfaction ratings at that stage of their journey.” Futurist, Leonhard, like any savvy businessman, sees technology as an enabler. He knows it can be used to enhance the customer experience, citing YouTube as an example of technology working to make a product more tangible. “It takes two minutes to see what you get and to feel you have experienced it,” he said. Leonhard is optimistic about Facebook’s purchase of Oculus Rift, a company working with 3-D helmet technology to take the wearer into a 360-degree virtual world, and is sure resort staff will one day be a ‘tele-presence’ in what he terms a ‘remote immersion technology’… But that time is still to come. “That technology is still too geeky and no real substitute for a people experience. Look at the enduring popularity of conferences, despite video conferencing technology options,” he said. “A conference is a trustbuilding exercise. You can access the truth because you can see it and hear it.

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GERD LEONHARD CEO, The Futures Agency

Personalisation is not only about people – the voice on the end of the phone – it is about the application of social and emotional intelligence via technological platforms. And they will only ever be as good as the brand and the people behind them. – GERD LEONHARD

“People like great technologies, but don’t want to feel they are being automated or instrumentalised. What builds trust is transparency, backed by a human component that says ‘you can trust me – I can fix things if they go wrong’. And your technology should be used to amplify this.” Social media is an area in which technology and the human touch fuse perfectly. For the most part, offline or online, you are talking to the same customer. However, just as running a call centre has to be about more than having a voice at the end of a phone, social media works harder for your sales when it is properly prepped, planned and intelligent. Leonhard believes the future lies in resource and channel optimisation. “Each channel needs to be top notch at what it does. Computer software can produce copy – but it doesn’t write with imagination, it can’t tell stories and it can’t design websites with real passion and visual impact – these are all human skills, at least for now,” he explained. “Pricing algorithms can be left partially to an engine and, in the future, I see companies shedding more filing and ‘counting’ jobs, leaving them to the machines in


Karma Royal Group & The Personal Touch If you look at the file for just one member request, the number of emails and phone calls logged is unbelievable. It might be resource consuming, but to that member it is the most important thing in the world to them at that time and you must be responsive if you are to make them into your brand ambassadors. It takes scale of operation and having RCI as a partner to take on the personalisation of this part of our customer journey has helped us greatly. – JOHN SPENCE, CEO & Founder, Karma Royal Group

Techno-human fusion Since the days of the industrial revolution, man and machine have worked in harmony towards the end goal of increasing profit. A software program, much like a 19th Century reciprocating steam engine, works best when intelligently applied and operated by the right personnel. This is the starting point for RCI’s delivery of World-Class Experiences, according to Lowe. “Using the integration and optimisation of technologies across all our customer communication platforms –, call centres, RCI Chat, emails, marketing mail outs and social

media – supplemented by staff personalisation, either directly or behind the scenes in the engineering, our members should enjoy the RCI experience, however they choose to contact us,” he said. “This customer-centric approach has been developed around our member journey mapping to meet individual customer needs and preferences. It brings greater personalisation, value and simplicity to our service for our members.” Levie’s citizenM Hotels fuses the best of human and technological interfacing. “In-room we provide a userfriendly tablet to control the mood lighting, music, wake up calls, room temperature. It’s so easy to use our guests don’t see it as ‘technology’ – it is invisible technology,” Levie explained. “Our guests get free movies and Wi-Fi, we communicate with them pre- and post-check-in to share useful destination information. It all combines to enhance their stay experience.” Levie is quick to point out, however, that it is the people who are behind the development of citizenM technology, people who manage the websites, decide what goes into the communications, onto the tablet devices and, ultimately, who manage the ‘conversations’ by monitoring guest needs and satisfaction levels to create experiences that will engage. “That content can be dynamic to ensure every guest can access the detail they want,” he said. “We use contemporary technology to underpin the guest experience. Technology is an enabler. Hospitality is about providing a service and there has to be some human interaction to do that in an engaging manner.” There is no doubt technology will continue to evolve and we will all increasingly accept it as an integral part of life. “We fell out of our chairs years ago when we saw the first fax, and yet today the fax machine is defunct,” said Levie. “Where technology will take us, nobody can say for sure. I would say that it will be in a supporting role. Technology will never replace the smiling face or the warmth of a personal welcome.”


People and technology must work together, from in-room tablets to control the environment in the guests’ rooms, such as those pictured at citizenM Hotels, to a friendly face to provide a warm welcome.


order to make way for staff with creative brains to drive their social media. ‘Visuality’, better known as content marketing, is a gold mine. Videos and infographics are powerful and appealing – stories through blogs and reviews on your site with links to Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook – are all going crazy.” And it is getting the right people on board with the skills to create engaging content that will make the difference to the power of your web platforms and social networking. The quality of the creative thinking behind offline and online marketing strategies, together with populating your channels with influential and engaging content will be the game changer. It really is about giving your brand a human face and qualities. Leonhard said: “Personalisation is not only about people – the voice on the end of the phone – it is about the application of social and emotional intelligence via technological platforms. And they will only ever be as good as the brand and the people behind them. While it is hard to build trust online, it is easy to destroy it. “These are positive developments for the travel and hospitality industry, which will benefit greatly from being able to give a human face and voice to its branding using technology. But it is important to remember that it is having the right people on your team that will create a better signal, and less noise. Above everything, brand must create trust.”


What’s Trending In Travel


Each year the travel industry gathers in London for World Travel Market (WTM) and is presented with a report on global travel trends. SARAH LEE reviews the key trends coming out of WTM 2014 to identify what future travellers will be looking for.

OUR INTERESTS IN TRAVEL are fickle. We’re always looking at what the trendsetters are doing to discover where we should go next, where the up and coming holiday hot spots are going to be, and what the latest gadgetry can do to make our journey better. It can be a challenge for resort developers to keep up with travellers’ ever-changing demands. It’s important then to anticipate and identify the trend shifts in your own market, as well as in those which could impact your market, as soon as possible – and be prepared. World Travel Market (WTM) joins forces with Euromonitor, a leader in consumer strategy, each year to look at trends in the travel 12 Q 1 /Q 2 2 01 5

industry. Its findings are used by travel strategists, planners and developers, to shape the products of the future. Here are some highlights from WTM 2014. Anticipating Growth The global economy is still relatively turbulent. Though economies in some European countries, notably the UK, may be in recovery, those of France and Germany are stagnating, Spain is still struggling, Italy is in recession, while Russia moves towards it. Given this market volatility, it is difficult to identify countries that will be the strong development and source markets of the future. However, according to Euromonitor, the demand for holiday

accommodation is growing across Europe. Euromonitor Travel Research Manager, Michelle Grant, is one of the authors of the 2014 WTM Global Trends Report. She said: “Tourism in Turkey, Spain and Italy should grow in the coming year, but they are dependent on the Russian market, which has driven a lot of arrivals to resorts in all of those countries, as well as Greece, in the past few years.” She acknowledges the recent decline in the strength of the Russian rouble could impact travellers from Russia. “The decline of the rouble will slow growth down, except perhaps in Spain, which is favoured by Russia’s middle and upper classes as an aspirational destination,” she said.

TRENDSETTERS AND JETSETTERS: Some of the predicted holiday trends include the rise in the quality of European allinclusive resorts and their food quality, iBeacon technology to track guest traffic flow to monitor needs, an increasing popularity for Croatia, more importance on interior design and the growth in driveto destinations for North Americans and Europeans.

MICHELLE GRANT Travel Research Manager, Euromonitor

“It’s hard to say what the net effect of the rouble slide will be on the Russian consumers. They may see timeshare as a good investment, but if their money isn’t already out of the country, they might not have as much to invest.” With the euro’s value dropping against the US dollar, and the fall in oil prices putting more money into the pockets of a continent of motorists, we could see North Americans investing in Europe. Grant explained: “People in the US drive everywhere, so the fall in oil prices will ease a lot of financial pressure, allowing them to travel more widely. And when North Americans consider international travel, Europe is always high on their list of must-visit destinations.” But Grant warned, the drop in oil prices will not ease the cost of flights. “Some airlines buy their fuel ahead to avoid unpleasant surprises – they call it hedging. Those airlines are currently paying more for their

is also experiencing an upturn in popularity,” explained Grant.

fuel and this, combined with a stronger dollar, means European carriers aren’t saving as much on fuel as you might expect. But generally airlines operate on a supply and demand model, so won’t reduce the cost of flights by much as long as the demand is there. “What we will see though, is an increase in the popularity of drive-to destinations, which is good news for North American and European resorts alike.” Euromonitor expects to see tourism growth in some emerging markets. “Croatia has flown under the radar for a number of years but is set to become a popular holiday destination. Egypt, after some years of reduced visitor numbers,

Large global chains have also developed their own boutique brands, such as Hyatt’s Andaz, and Intercontinental Hotels Group’s newly-acquired Kimpton brand, bringing strong design to the fore. Grant said: “Some Hiltons and Sheratons have the look of architect design and this is proving important as travellers seek more features in their hotels. Personality too is vital. It’s about making sure your resort, service and its online presence extol your unique brand personality.” Another trend is the rise of all-inclusive resort facilities. With European all-inclusive resorts competing with those in the Caribbean and Mexico, the Europeans may need to look at

Better By Design Design is playing an ever-increasing role in resort development, and now many countries in the Middle East are demonstrating its importance. There are design weeks being held in Dubai and Lebanon. The trend sees a focus on interior design becoming more prevalent in the region, as well as in parts of Africa, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Egypt and Morocco. “Morocco is proving very popular with French tourists right now,” said Grant. “And riads in particular are loved by travellers who enjoy strong design principles and authentic experiences. Unsurprisingly, the close relationship between France and Morocco sees a current trend among the French for buying riads as second homes.”

improving on-resort facilities and food quality. This is especially true for those marketing to British, German and Scandinavian guests who are most likely to travel to all of these destinations and be able to draw comparisons. She added: “There has been a lot of upgrading of food quality, in particular in the Caribbean and Mexico and, with that, consumer expectations of all-inclusive resorts are also getting higher.” Switch On Technology is becoming central to delivering the guest experience and is one global travel trend showing no evidence of waning. Grant explained: “Technology is important for resort developers as guests demand more of it. There’s a lot to be said for integrating technology in a simple and seamless way, and much to be considered, from guests entering their room, to turning on the lights and television.”


How resorts deal with Wi-Fi too has to be clear, as this will impact the guest experience. “It’s a given that resorts need to supply Wi-Fi for today’s traveller,” said Grant. “But they should make it clear to guests what they can expect for free and what might attract a fee.” Wi-Fi availability is critical, according to Euromonitor’s report, which identifies the next travel trend – the increase in holiday ‘braggies’ or guests who post photos of themselves online while on holiday and are encouraged to do so in exchange for rewards and perks. Marriott PlusPoints programme, for example, allows members to earn points for their social media postings around their Marriott holiday.



The Euromonitor report suggests: “Hotels’ social media strategies have been robust in recent years, with nearly all major brands and global chains having a presence on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. However, those brands that have succeeded the most on social media are the ones using content drawn from their customers’ and potential customers’ online behaviour.”
 Social media sharing and adoption is growing globally, yet according to a Pew Research Center Report, consumers in emerging markets are the most active on social media. Resorts should therefore look to engage consumers in countries such as China, Brazil, Argentina and the Middle East where social media usage is growing quickly. 
 Grant added: “This trend however creates a new challenge for operators, as customer reviews and spontaneous uploads mean their services need to be flawless in order to maintain a strong reputation. There’s also the issue of who manages the profiles – Home2Suites, for example, gives many employees the ability to speak on their behalf on social media and this is an opportunity for timeshare too. Social media also offers an important customer service element, one which younger guests in particular will use keenly.” A new technological trend using smart phones with iBeacon technology is opening up real opportunities for resorts. Hotels, Grant explained, are using transmitting boxes around resorts to track guest traffic flow and highlight areas of opportunity. “Using this technology resort managers can send drinks to guests who’ve been waiting in reception for a long time, for example, or be able to announce spa availability through push notifications on people’s phones. iBeacon technology will play a vital role in enhancing the guest experience in the future.” From technology to design – little stands still in the world of travel. The future is bright, so take it, shape it and own it.

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G LO B A L V I L L AG E WO R L D K E Y P E R F O R M A N C E I N D I C ATO R S 2 0 1 3 - 2 0 1 5 VALUE % GROWTH (USD) 2013















Source: Euromonitor International

• Global hotel sales experienced four years of consecutive growth by end of 2013, boosted by a persistent recovery. • The hotel industry is predicted to experience non-stop growth through to 2018, as a result of network expansion, innovative strategies and new brand launches. • Brands are also embracing social media as part of their marketing strategies, presenting interesting developments for mobile technology.

N U M B E R O F P H OTO S ( M I L L I O N S ) U P LOA D E D DA I LY TO S O C I A L N E T WO R KS A N D M O B I L E A P P S 2 0 1 3 600



400 350 300 214


100 58 0 

Whatsapp Facebook



Kimpton’s Karma loyalty program considers brand engagement through social media interaction as ‘good deeds’. Based on client ‘random acts of Karma’ which include among others, posting photos on the hotel’s Facebook or Instagram account, users are granted free perks and rewards. – FROM KIMPTON KARMA REWARDS MEDIA FACT SHEET

Source: Companies' statistics compiled by Euromonitor International as of August 2014


2013 global online travel sales, or 27% of total travel sales


 orecast 2018 online travel sales in Asia Pacific, F set to double from £59.5 billion


Spent by tourists in France on food


Spent by tourists in Italy on food


2013 global arrivals, forecast to increase by 4.7% in 2014


Holidaying cyclists worldwide in 2013, with DuVine Cycling Tours seeing a 70% increase in demand across Europe and in the US since 2009


Forecast growth in UK tourism receipts by 2015, with accommodation taking the lion’s share

Business Builders The rise of collaborative consumption communities, otherwise known as the sharing economy, creates opportunity for the shared-vacation ownership business. Here we review different industry models designed to fit a variety of markets. BY H E L E N F O S T E R

Traditional Timeshare Timeshare is the traditional model in which a resort offers owners the opportunity to purchase a week’s use period which they are entitled to use every year, for the duration of the ownership agreement. The earliest contracts tended to be in perpetuity, while many have a lifespan of between 25 to 30 years, after which time the ownership reverts to the

resort management for resale. Owners of weeks have the option of converting their week(s) into a points value, which can then be used as an exchange currency to make reservations at other resorts belonging to the developer of their home resort (a points club) – and to exchange them for alternative holidays and travel services through membership of an exchange holiday services provider, such as RCI. Bolting on membership of an exchange company to timeshare ownership enables the owner to unlock the real value of timeshare. Exchange membership gives owners more holiday choice and flexibility. RCI members currently have almost 4,500 resorts to choose from in the RCI exchange holiday global network. A traditional timeshare can be just the start of the owner’s journey, which can take them through various types of holiday ownership. The different tiers of SVO provide developers with the opportunity to build brand loyalty, increase customer retention and upsell, as customers’ needs change over time. With this in mind, resort developers are launching flexible short-term ownerships that provide the best of the timeshare experience, packaged exactly as today’s purchasers want it, having a shorter term commitment and reduced financial exposure.


THE FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE of shared-vacation ownership (SVO) is that it allows multiple owners to share long-term use of an apartment, villa or a collection of properties. SVO broadly encompasses six models of leisure real estate products, ranging from apartments to luxury homes. With more than 1.5 million timeshare owners in Europe alone of which, as found in an RDO survey, 87 per cent are satisfied with their ownership, timeshare makes good sense and good business. For the purchaser it is a means of second home ownership representing better value than whole ownership, coming with a greatly reduced financial outlay, without the hassle of upkeep, and with the bonus of being able to exchange their holiday home for one of commensurate quality in some of the world’s finest holiday destinations. Most owners exchange in their third year of ownership.


In 2011, Pestana Vacation Club (PVC) reinvented its timeshare ownership to suit the contemporary buyer with the launch of Pestana OPTIONS, a points-based holiday product that provides buyers with ten years of holidays – exchanging their PVC Credits to holiday either at the many resorts owned by Pestana, or around the world using RCI membership. The annual maintenance fee has been replaced by a daily ‘hotel fee’, paid only for the days owners stay at a PVC hotel or resort. Payment is made upon check-in. PVC owners are also allowed to accelerate usage so they can use all of their Credits in the first year or two if they choose to.


Mixed-Use Timeshare run in conjunction with a hotel operation is known as a mixed-use model. Mixed-use can derive from a hotel operator redeveloping site assets to bring in a timeshare operation – and timeshare developers can introduce hotels within their timeshare complex. Shared-vacation ownership is the fastest growing segment of the international hospitality sector. It is believed that business models incorporating SVO stand to achieve average occupancy levels of at least 77 per cent. There are many advantages to the mixed-use model, such as levelling out seasonal occupancy peaks and troughs allowing for ease of staff planning, higher revenues from timeshare sales and maintenance fees bringing greater financial stability and contributing to the overall cost of keeping the resort in good repair and providing better on-site facilities. Sharing of sales and marketing expenses between the two operations will also reduce lead generation costs, while the hotel’s channels and customer database can be used to create warm timeshare sales leads and no-cost marketing opportunities. Fractional Ownership Fractional is considered to be the next tier of ownership, offering the benefits of a luxury second home, but at a fraction of the cost, with the added benefit that annual maintenance fee costs are often included as part of the purchase price. Fractional resorts are traditionally mid- to upscale-apartments or villas offering more spacious accommodation and higher quality amenities than timeshare. Fractionals are typically purchased in longer use periods, often expressed as a fraction: 1/10, 1/8, or 1/4, which as a number of weeks are five, six or 12, for the duration of the contract. A short-term fractional purchase gives first-time buyers the opportunity to test drive this type of ownership with the opportunity to buy into a longer term product when they are ready. The Registry Collection is an exchange programme tailored to luxury residential leisure properties offering fractional owners the flexibility of staying at other properties of commensurate quality, along with access to concierge services and other lifestyle benefits. Private Residence Clubs For a more personalised and exclusive shared-ownership option, Private Residence Clubs (PRCs) offer all the 16 Q 1 /Q 2 2 01 5

features of a fractional with additional amenities, but with a five-star service provided by dedicated staff. Traditionally these properties are in prime beach, ski and city destinations, with maintenance fees charged by the day. Shares in the property are usually divided between four to eight owners, who purchase from four to eight-week stay periods per year. The PRC affords all the pleasures and rewards of owning a luxury holiday home, together with a worldclass service overlay. Service features are of a distinctively different level from those found in traditional fractional ownerships and can include pre-arrival concierge services, pre-stocked groceries, airport limousine transfers and valet parking. Importantly, members will have a deeded interest in one of the properties in the PRC portfolio but can enjoy access to all the properties within their ownership category in the PRC. Destination Clubs Destination Clubs give members access to more luxury residences than a PRC. The homes are typically multi-million dollar residences, sited in triple ‘A’ exclusive residential locations. The model is based on a right-touse membership and guests are afforded between 10 and 60 days usage. Service levels are high and can include pre-trip planning and concierge services, with daily maid, butler and chef services. There are three types of Destination Clubs: • Non-Equity Club – Members don’t own an interest in the homes and so are not impacted by property appreciation or losses of the club’s residence portfolio. A deposit is taken and, when members want to leave the club, they may receive a deposit refund of 75 to 100 per cent. Though there has been a move away from refunding deposits. • Equity Club – The up-front payment can be considered an investment, subject to typical investment risks. The members do jointly own the club’s properties. When leaving the club, the refund of the initial payment is adjusted to reflect changes in the value of the home portfolio or in the fee for new members. • Managed and Controlled Club – The increase in property values made the equity model attractive. However, the stalling of the property market in 2008 resulted in model innovation and this model offers the same product as non-equity clubs but because the club in this case leases the properties in its portfolio, as opposed to owning them, the cost of membership is significantly lower than with the other destination club models. Members pay an up-front membership fee and an annual renewal fee with no long-term commitment, but do not benefit from equity or appreciation. Condo Hotels The world’s most prestigious hospitality brands and desirable locations, with the ultimate in amenities and vacation experiences are characteristic features of the

condo hotel, also known as condotels and apartotels. Typically found in high-rise hotels, an owner can use their condo hotel unit when they like and, when they are not using it, it can be put into the hotel’s rental scheme or an exchange programme, or a combination of both. Rental revenues help to cushion the cost of purchase, while membership of an exchange programme gives the owner access to a range of equally luxurious holiday options in fabulous locations across the world. Unlike other models, condo hotels afford the owner longer periods of residence, from weeks and months to year round. Product Packaging Lisa Migani, Director of Business Development at FNTC, believes the short-term European fractional product is the key to growth in the shared-vacation ownership market. She is confident the appetite is there in Europe

for a place in the sun – but not at any price. She says it is crucial to introduce greater use flexibility with a range of accessible price points. Providing a reassuring exit route and an affordable entry point, the short-term product is an attractive, no pressure introduction to shared ownership. For business models offering membership stepping stones, from entry product to the full-blown fractional, there is real opportunity to build brand loyalty and upsell, thereby creating what Migani terms “a healthy continuum of sales” as owners’ circumstances change throughout their ownership journey. The more you explore the options of shared-vacation and mixed-use models, it seems that given the right property in the right location, the only limit to the ways in which you can increase ROI on your asset is your imagination.

It is crucial to introduce greater use flexibility with a range of accessible price points. Providing a reassuring exit route and an affordable entry point, the shortterm product is an attractive no pressure introduction to shared ownership. – LISA MIGANI, Director of Business Development at FNTC


















400 - 500

650 - 800

850 - 1,000

1,050 - 1,300

























* Source: 2011 RCI Europe ** Source: The Shared Holiday Ownership Resort Real Estate Industry in NA by Ragatz Associates.

M A N AG E M E N T S E RV I C E S – T H E CO N S I D E R AT I O N S When thinking about how your resort is to be managed – management services outsourced or handled in-house – you should consider the following:

Fee Structure: Either a flat fee model (with margin built in) or a ‘cost plus service charge’ (service charge typically built as a percentage of cost). Either fee structure can be very attractive as scale builds.

Core Competency: Does your organisation’s unique strengths include management services and an understanding of owner association issues?

Sales and Service Integration: Synergies can be found between sales and servicing, especially when related to add-on sales and referral programmes.



Greece up for Growth Greece has taken the No. 15 slot in the 2014 UNWTO World Tourism Rankings. In a ‘cloud and silver lining’ scenario, recession has made this sun-kissed country a great value holiday destination. Combine this with low property prices and a range of new tourism initiatives, and you have a market set for growth. BY STEVE ADAMS

18 Q 1 /Q 2 2 01 5

Strong Stats & New Laws Driving tourist numbers is also a key task for the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE), whose ‘Tourism Strategic Roadmap 2021’ aims to raise the number of international visitors to 24 million by 2021. According to SETE President, Andreas Andreadis, it is already ahead of schedule. He said: “Last year was undoubtedly a golden year for Greek tourism. A year in which, while striving to overcome our greatest post-war crisis in which our economy shrank by 25 per cent during five years of deep recession, we exceeded the 20 million visitor threshold for the first time.” Andreadis reported that the final

2014 visitor figure was 21.5 million, with Greece and its islands seeing an additional 2.5 million cruise ship arrivals. The numbers place the country among the world’s top 15 tourism destinations as measured by the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). The year-on-year increase in visitors not only boosted Greece’s market share against rivals, Turkey, Spain, Italy, France and Croatia, but led to the all-important creation of more than 100,000 jobs, according to Andreadis. “Direct and indirect tourism revenues surpassed €37.6 billion, generating more than 20 per cent of GDP,” he explained. “The Strategic Roadmap aims to attract more than 24 million international arrivals, generate €40-41 billion in direct and indirect revenues, add nine units to the GDP and create more than 300,000 new jobs, taking the total employed in the tourism sector to one million.” The aims are ambitious and built on solid foundations. In addition to increased marketing and PR efforts, last year SETE helped launch Marketing Greece (, a privatelyfunded organisation that will represent the Greek tourism industry and showcase its tourism product in co-operation with the public and private sectors. The Greek government has passed a number of laws aimed to encourage international investment, aligned to the development of new tourism products. The new legislation impacts a number of areas, including: • Adopting the Golden Visa programme offering residency status to non-EU purchasers spending at least €250,000 on a holiday home or shared-ownership product (see page 27) • Setting out rules for licensing and operating seaplanes (see panel) • Boosting private investment by cutting red tape

• Introducing a legal structure allowing whole- and sharedownership products to exist within a single development. Vassilis Themelidis, Regional Director for RCI in Central and South Eastern Europe, believes the latter will open the way for mixed-use resorts to gain a foothold in the country with the potential to become as popular a model in Greece as they are elsewhere. “The recently introduced legal framework is a positive development for leisure real estate projects. Previously it was almost impossible for developers to offer a second home product within a touristic project, but now they can,” he explained. “I strongly believe many developers will evaluate the potential of including fractional villas and timeshare properties within their leisure real estate planning, which is an exciting prospect for the shared-vacation ownership industry in Greece.” Golden Opportunity Another shared-vacation ownership model with significant potential in Greece is the fractional product. The Golden Visa requirement of a minimum investment of €250,000 fits this high-end model perfectly, but recent changes to the law mean owners can now legally rent out any unused weeks. Owners of villas and holiday homes previously had to have the legal status of a hotel but they can now obtain a licence to rent accommodation to third parties. In the case of a fractional, the resort will hold the licence and the owner simply has to enter into a rental agreement with the operator/ developer. Vassilis Avramopoulos, a senior partner at Athens-based law firm Avramopoulos & Partners, said the move, which also applies to wholeownership properties, marked a major step change in the country, reflecting the Government’s desire for more inward investment. R CI VEN TURES 1 9


SEVERE AUSTERITY measures, imposed as a result of two EU/International Monetary Fund bailouts, coupled with the global financial crisis, saw the Greek economy shrink by 25 per cent from 2008 to 2012. However, there are strong prospects for the hospitality sector in the form of the country’s resurgent tourism industry. Last year Greece welcomed more than 20 million visitors, an increase of more than 20 per cent on 2013 delivering a new inbound record total. It was the third consecutive year to see tourism numbers surge. Tourism contributes an estimated 20 per cent to the Greek Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is a huge boost to the country’s economy according to Christina Kalogera, Director of the Greek National Tourism Organisation. She said: “We are delighted to report 2014 proved to be a fantastic year for tourism and we are proud it is one of the main factors driving recovery in the economy. We continue to work hard to extend our holiday season, facilitating the development of a range of new holiday products, as well as highlighting unknown gems that we are confident people will love to visit.”


“Greece welcomes development,” he said. “Anything that will create jobs and raise income from taxes and social security payments is good for the country. Making it legal for fractional or condo owners to rent out their unused weeks is obviously good for the purchaser, who gets a return on investment or to cover their maintenance fees, and good for Greece in that it attracts investment into the country. Fractional products also raise accommodation standards and extend the country’s overall offering.” Tourism and Politics Improving the overall tourism product is a key focus for the Greek government, according to SETE’s Andreadis. “At a recent Greek Tourism Confederation General Assembly, the former Prime Minister stated that the tourism industry will be supported with a sum of €500 million on an annual basis,” he said. “The money will be spent on improving infrastructure, as well as encouraging the development of

new facilities and attractions. “Following the outcome of our general election, I would be surprised if the plans to boost the Greek tourism sector change greatly. One in every five jobs in our country is generated by the tourism industry and it contributes significantly to GDP making it a key industry in Greece. Our newly-elected government clearly values tourism as a pillar of the Greek economy and is currently reviewing the type of tourist we need to attract. “It is likely that we will be looking to introduce higher quality accommodation for independent travellers who want to become part of the local communities they are visiting, thereby feeding into the micro-economies and strengthening the industry while enhancing the visitor experience of our culture and country.” Other items on Andreadis’ agenda include a more attractive and stable tax law, together with an improved and transparent zoning, land use and coastline regulatory framework.

He added: “Privatisation should be accelerated, chiefly to enable the required infrastructure investments. “There are several specific developments that will support tourism growth further in the near future.” Growth Potential Themelidis said there was scope for growth all over the country, particularly with depressed property values – prices have slumped by a third – offering great value for investors. He identifies two potential development areas presenting opportunity: • Peloponnese – a peninsula in southern Greece, home to several destinations and having the advantage of close proximity to Athens airport. “There are also plans to further develop and expand Kalamata Airport which is perfectly located to support resort development in this region,” he explained. It is also an established drive-to destination for Greeks,


Just over 21 million tourists visited Greece in 2014 which was a record high. New tourism initiatives are set to drive that figure up to more than 24 million international arrivals by 2021.

2 0 Q 1 /Q 2 2 01 5

Seaplanes ready for take off huge interest to tourist visitors, as well as to foreign investment. “Greece could be the Maldives of Europe,” he added. Hellenic is due to start its operations with four 19-seat seaplanes in May 2015 and aims to increase the number to 20 by 2017. Once a national network of water airports is developed, it plans to connect Greece with neighbouring countries such as Turkey, Bulgaria, Italy and Croatia.

If all goes well, 2015 will be the year that Greeks could fly almost everywhere by seaplane.


In addition to fulfilling his role for SETE, Andreadis is CEO of Sani S.A., which runs Sani Resort and construction company, Andreadis-Zissiadis S.A.

– NIKOS CHARALAMBOUS, President and CEO, Hellenic Seaplanes


as well as for other mainland European nationalities. The west coast of Peloponnese already has an internationally recognised mixed-use resort, Costa Navarino, and established regional hotel chains and tourist attractions in the Kyllini areas. • Porto Heli – also close to Athens. Themelidis said: “This area is also beginning to see some expansion in hotel projects, with tourism set for growth in the years to come, making it a prime development region.” Athens itself is very much back on the tourist map. Arrivals were up by 35 per cent in 2013 and Themelidis reports that a number of major hospitality brands, largely conspicuous by their absence from Greece, are starting to show interest in operating projects in the area. “Tourism is coming back to Athens and the international brands will follow,” he said. It’s good to note that some of that tourism growth is coming from

within Greece, after the domestic market suffered dramatically during the economic recession, with unemployment running at one in five. Domestic tourism typically represents less than 20 per cent of the Greek market, but things are starting to improve, according to Andreadis. “Fortunately we are monitoring a positive trend, which we believe will continue to grow as financial stability returns to the country,” he said. Themelidis believes the recession has changed the way Greeks holiday, with a switch to drive-to destinations, often staying with friends and family in their second homes at the expense of hotels. “This change of mindset brings a real opportunity for timeshare and other models of shared-vacation ownership in the Greek market as they are second home products – and more affordable than buying a second home outright,” he explained.

“As tourism returns, pushing hotel demand and room rates up, it can only benefit timeshare, which will represent better value to the Greeks, who find hotels too expensive and will look for a better value way to holiday with their families. It makes financial sense to be able to access four- and five-star resorts in their own country when the cost of staying in high-scale hotels is out of their reach.” With more flights into Greece, it is becoming a year-round destination. SETE recorded an increase in air arrivals over the last four years, rising from 2.8 million between April and June in 2010, to 3.6 million during the same period in 2014. This is encouraging for potential timeshare resort developers. While many will be wary of the country’s apparent political uncertainty, Andreadis believes the high quality of the country’s tourism offering, combined with a favourable exchange rate and low oil prices, will override such concerns.

Senior Partner, Avramopoulos & Partners

Avramopoulos established his law firm with his litigation partner in 1989. The firm provides legal advice to both Greek and multi-national companies.

VASSILIS THEMELIDIS RCI Regional Business Development Director

Themelidis is responsible for managing RCI and industry relationships in Central and South Europe.



With hundreds of islands, many of which are poorly connected, and a major tourism industry, the potential for a successful seaplane business in Greece is obvious, and one that Hellenic Seaplanes is determined to realise. The company was formed in May 2013 in the wake of the introduction of Greece’s first-ever rules for licensing and operating seaplanes, and it now has more than 40 water airports at the final stages of development according to President and CEO Nikos Charalambous. “If all goes well, 2015 will be the year that Greeks could fly almost everywhere by seaplane,” he said, suggesting that the new routes will be of


STOP PRESS Newly-elected Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, made headlines just days after his election victory by announcing that he had been in talks with tourism bodies across Greece to focus on the type of tourist he believes the country needs. It was widely publicised that Tsipras is on a mission to attract independent travellers who will spend time and money in the local communities around their hotels and resorts. Reuters reported that Tsipras’ left-wing Syriza party favours boosting tourism, and extending the tourist season. New Tourism Minister, Elena Kountoura, from the right-wing Independent Greeks party in Tsipras’ coalition, told reporters: “There won’t be any action against all-inclusive








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“A new incoming government will not delay the process of our hospitality companies throughout the country preparing for the new season,” he said. “Greece is one of the world’s leading travel destinations, combining a wealth of natural beauty, sun, sea and cultural heritage with a diverse array of unique experiences. A keen interest from major airlines, many are adding new routes and increasing their services, together with far more diverse distribution networks for our tourism product, means the outlook for Greek tourism in 2015 remains positive.”



Newly-elected Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras is on a mission to attract independent travellers.

2 2 Q 1 /Q 2 2 01 5

holidays. On the contrary, further upgrading the quality of these packages will boost and extend benefits in local markets and communities.” “Mrs. Kountoura comes from the Independent Greeks party whose programme is very tourismfriendly,” Andreadis told Reuters, noting the party had sought a cut in value-added tax for the industry. This is especially good news for timeshare, which is a holiday product sold to travellers who want the freedom away from the package holiday and, typically, stay in self-catering accommodation doing their shopping and dining in the towns and villages around their timeshare resort.

Success In The Global Market Business and news media remind us that the world is a global marketplace, but are timeshare developers prepared to reap the rewards of a single marketplace? SARAH LEE explores the opportunities. IN DEPTH

AS AN INDUSTRY LEADER, RCI ran an international sales seminar to demonstrate the opportunity for timeshare developers to take their product to international markets. The seminar, held in Florida, saw business development heads from RCI Europe and the US, coming together with several major industry suppliers, to investigate opportunities for sales to foreign markets. The seminar was attended by 18 representatives from 11 RCI-affiliate developer companies and showcased this potential new revenue line to developers in the US, Dominican Republic and Mexico. As the European market has been hit by the global financial crisis, it’s perhaps easy to understand why Europe hasn’t been viewed as a strong source market for resorts in sale. However, many European economies are bouncing back and, as the seminar revealed, now is the time for developers to start

considering how they will benefit from renewed financial confidence. “International travel to the Americas is increasing, as economies grow and consumer confidence returns. For example visits from the UK to the US were up in 2013 for the first time in five years,” explains RCI’s Director International Affiliate Accounts, Susan Duncombe. “The UK 2013 visitor number to North and South America hit more than 24 million. This resurgence in the UK travel market equals opportunity for US developers and those in other markets popular with UK travellers.” Florida is the most popular US destination for UK visitors, a demand fuelled by a search for sunshine and facilitated by 10 flights a week to the Sunshine State by British Airways alone. But it’s not only Florida that is attracting UK visitors. Developers in New York and Nevada in particular could also benefit from the influx of UK visitors.


134 DAYS


Mean advance trip decision time

Average length of stay in US


Mean average household income



It’s a trend that Lisa Migani, Director of Business Development for First National Trustee Company (FNTC), has also identified: “These travellers are visiting resorts in Florida and beyond, and as the UK economy continues to strengthen, this will only become more prevalent, so developers need to look now at how they can get their product in shape for future international sales.” People from other European markets are also travelling to the US – French and German visitor numbers are showing growth. But with the British Pound currently at a five-year high against the US Dollar, Brits are making the most of their increased spending power. In the Dominican Republic however, developers are looking further east. The government in the Dominican Republic is focused on increasing arrivals from Russia, as well as from the Middle East. “Russians have been encouraged to the Dominican Republic by innovative excursions such as kitesurfing and diving, which they can’t do at home,” explained Duncombe. “There have been big increases in Russian tourism arrivals, with 172,000 visits in 2012 – expected to rise by 48 per cent annually over the next five years. Russia is now one of the Dominican Republic’s top five source markets.” Migani added: “The reality is the market is there for the taking and developers need to be open-minded about where future sales may come from. Years ago, the Italians were happily buying into the Canary Islands and were the top source market for developers in the Canaries – and then Domina, one of the largest Italian developers, decided to explore new pastures. “Domina started selling Sharm el Sheikh, in Egypt, which was an unheard of resort on the Red Sea. They created a destination and started selling timeshare there and did extremely well. It goes to show that opportunity is there for the taking for those willing to seize the future.” Meeting the task However, identifying opportunity is just the first step. How can

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developers prepare themselves to sell to international markets? Market intelligence is imperative. “It’s a case of knowing your customer,” says Migani. “Now is the time developers should be doing their research – find out what your government and local tourist board is doing to encourage visitors from stronger source markets to your region and, if they’re not doing enough, lobby them to do more. “Study the data to identify seasonality and optimum booking times for guests from international markets, as they can vary significantly. Identify what these guests will look for in your resort – can you introduce new amenities, services or activities which are particularly attractive to them? This will vary by market, but developers have a fantastic tool at their fingertips in RCI. The exchange company’s market insight and support is second to none, as it’s one of very few travel organisations having a truly global reach, able to talk to numerous nationalities.” Gordon Gurnik, President of RCI, said: “Each year RCI helps millions of travellers take vacations in more than 100 countries across the world. This global perspective provides us with valuable insight when it comes to understanding the habits of international travellers and the regional differences that exist. As a result we can determine where specific travellers want to go, when they want to travel there, and which resort amenities are most important to them.” Developers really do need to design their product for prospective clients and overcome numerous challenges to getting sales, including speaking the client’s language. Duncombe said: “To better cater for Russian tourists, a number of tour operators in the Dominican Republic have already hired at least one Russian translator to assist with excursions. It’s this kind of thing that resort developers need to be doing.” Tools for the job RCI helps affiliate resorts by providing printed language materials, and websites giving information on timeshare ownership and the benefits of RCI membership.

49.2 million

UK passengers travelling outside Europe*

LISA MIGANI Director, Business Development, FNTC



SUSAN DUNCOMBE Director, International Affiliate Accounts, RCI

20.6 million

UK passengers travelling to North America in 2013*

holiday destination. The Dominican Republic and Mexico are also on our radar as having potential to develop international sales lines, particularly to the UK market.” Connections Money can offer flexible loan products with an upper limit of £50,000 and maximum repayment period of 15 years, subject to client status and age. The decision is instant via an online portal and the documentation is printed out immediately. There is a 14-day cooling off period and funds are paid to an escrow agent, such as FNTC and Hutchinson & Co within Europe, and to other agents outside Europe. The loan is in sterling and, for the British client, there is no tie into fluctuating exchange rates or wire transfer costs the UK consumer may have with a USD loan from a US-based lender.

RCI’s market insight and support is second to none, as it’s one of very few travel organisations having a truly global reach, able to talk to numerous nationalities. – LISA MIGANI, Director of Business Development for FNTC

It comes with the protection of the UK Consumer Credit Act, all of which makes it an easy product to use for UK buyers. This additional peace of mind could make the difference between buying or not, and gives further credibility to the developer company. FNTC is now also in the business of facilitating financial transactions. The firm is known for the provision of trustee and legal structures to resorts, ensuring they are compliant with legislation. The company’s new product, however, will greatly benefit resorts selling to international markets. FNTC launched CardScape, an e-payment solution that can be used for initial timeshare or fractional sales, as well as annual maintenance fee collection.



Managing Director, Connections Money Limited

Duncombe said: “We have an affiliate website which is a great source of information and support for affiliates selling to European and US members. We are also able to provide call centre servicing to members in 25 languages.” Other facilities created by RCI to support international sales include its member website,, available in multiple languages, including Chinese, and packed with educational and inspiring content, as well as resort offers, making it easier and more appealing for members of all nationalities to transact. Members also receive RCI’s magazine, Endless Vacation. Meanwhile, the company further supports sales by spreading the word about the benefits of timeshare and affiliated resorts through its PR initiatives and sponsorship of travel and vacation lifestyle online magazine, “We are always looking for ways to leverage our resources to help our affiliated resorts capitalise on

potential business opportunities,” added Gurnik. “By utilising the knowledge we possess as the global leader in vacation exchange, we are able to enhance the tools and services we provide to our partners and help them better attract international buyers in today’s ever-increasing global marketplace.” Jon Baker, Managing Director of Connections Money, provides the consumer finance packages which oil the wheels of international sales. Taking a pragmatic view, he said: “We know Brits like to travel, short and long haul, and with the scrapping of UK flight tax for children under 12 making savings of £140 for a family travelling to Florida and £26 on flights to Spain, travel is becoming ever more affordable in what is a major source market for our industry globally.” Timeshare is very much a global product and market. In recent years we have seen an increasing number of developers moving outside their home countries to take their brand abroad. However, the business of providing finance is one of risk and reward, so what are the criteria for the provision of consumer lending packages to the British timeshare buyer abroad? “Know the size of the prize is my starting point,” said Baker. “Review the product and assess if it will work in the location and, if outside the EU, ensure the developer company has carried out due diligence and completed an assessment process to offer product in a compliant manner. The financial product should be tailored to that of the resort offering. A short-term trial product, for example, will need a short-term loan repayment period at rates which work for both lender and client. It’s about looking for the right opportunity, which would be a developer with an established sales line to British clients in reasonable numbers.” Currently, there aren’t many North American developers selling to the Brits, but Baker sees potential: “I saw plenty of buy in and interest in the development of international sales lines at RCI’s Orlando event. The British are increasingly travelling out to the US and in particular favour Florida as a great family

32.7m s pa i n



s c a n d i n av i a

9.2% 2.2%


r e p. i r e l a n d



3.0% germany



eastern europe

i ta ly

11m 1 0. 4 m benelux 9.8m r e p. i r e l a n d 9 . 7 m s c a n d i n av i a 9 . 7 m switzerland 5.9m portugal 5.5m turkey 5.4m greece 5m balkan regions 2.2m




0.9% balkan regions


eastern europe







CardScape is hosted on FNTC’s secure servers, quickly and securely enabling online credit card authorisation in all major currencies, and with most banks. “Resorts have to make it as appealing and as easy as possible for buyers to make the purchase decision and that means speak the language of the people they are selling to, understand what they are looking for, and give them an easy way to pay for their purchase, such as CardScape,” explained Migani. And how do you identify new markets? Without a crystal ball, it is impossible to predict economic fluctuations and their impact on your business – but a keen awareness of the bigger picture and preparedness to meet change is everything. “Market volatility is everyone’s nightmare and opportunity at the same time,” said Migani. Meanwhile, it pays to keep an eye on the national carriers – follow the new air routes and additions to flight schedules to see where your potential buyers will be taking their next holiday. 2 6 Q 1 /Q 2 2 01 5



i ta ly


s pa i n

6.2% 4.8%

turkey greece



Being confined to a small island clearly drives UK residents to travel. *The 2013 figures from the UK Civil Aviation Authority demonstrate an increase in UK travel into the majority of neighbouring European countries.


Exploria Resorts Our growing owner base seeks greater diversity of vacation destinations, including European resort locations. European timeshare owners are also looking to buy in the US. In fact we are engaged in preliminary conversations with a developer in Tuscany, Italy, who is seeking a ‘fee-for-service’ model. The presence of this European inventory in our club will support sales and enhance the product’s appeal. – JUAN BARILLAS, Executive Vice President, Exploria Resorts


Bahia Privilege Club The US and Canada are presenting as excellent destinations for European timeshare buyers and becoming increasingly popular exchange options for Europeans due to the euro/dollar exchange rate. We mustn’t forget, it is a two-way street, and North Americans have a real appetite to take vacations in Europe. - PEDRO GOMEZ, Director of Operations, Bahia Privilege Club

Golden Opportunity A place in the sun can be so much more than a place to play for the savvy investor. For non-European buyers, a European passport could now come as part of the purchase, along with the keys to a holiday home. It is the Golden Visa programme that makes this possible. BY HELEN FOSTER.


THE GOLDEN VISA investment for residency programme, launched across Europe at the start of 2012, was born out of the need for European countries in recession to attract investment in a bid to boost their economies. They shrewdly identified the popularity of their property markets, made more so with a fall in property values, and rolled their holiday home offering up with residency rights and even citizenship, in return for a specified level of investment in their property market.



Golden Visas, as they have become known, were first launched in the Caribbean in 1984 and the UK has run a similar scheme for some years. What is different about the implementation across Europe during the last 24 months is the lower price point for entry to the programme, which presents a golden opportunity for the developers of high-end timeshare and fractional product. Countries & Criteria There are 22 European countries participating in the programme. The fundamental criteria for investors across all countries is that they should not have a criminal record and should have a source of funds with which to purchase a property. Many of the participating countries require a minimum stay each year for the duration of the temporary visa, some do not. Temporary visa status usually runs for five years, during which time visa holders can travel freely within the Schengen Zone (an area comprising 26 European countries that have abolished passport and other border controls at common borders), including Switzerland but excluding the UK and Ireland. In the last year of the programme – usually the sixth year – the buyer is granted a European passport and dual nationality. Current purchasing patterns reveal that the Golden Visa is much in demand from passport shoppers coming from countries where travel abroad can be difficult due to visa and travel restrictions. Unsurprisingly, much of the current demand comes from Russian and Chinese nationals. Here are the details governing the visa residency schemes of several countries in key shared-vacation ownership markets: GREECE: Minimum investment is €250,000, and an initial five years’ residency permit, renewable every five years, is granted. No minimum stay period is required. A major advantage, apart from the dramatically lower price point than for other countries, is that the purchasers’ children aged 21 or under will also be granted a visa. 2 8 Q 1 /Q 2 2 01 5

MALTA: Minimum investment is €275,000 (€220,000 in Gozo and southern areas). An annual flat tax of €15,000 must be paid in advance and its programme requires a minimum stay period of 183 days each year. PORTUGAL: Minimum investment is €500,000, and the temporary visa requires seven days’ stay in the first year. The visa can then be renewed twice in blocks of two years, requiring a 14-day stay in that period. In the sixth year, citizenship and full residency rights may be granted. Portugal benefits from a simple legislative process which has been stripped of all bureaucratic challenges. SPAIN: Minimum investment is €500,000, and as in Portugal, successful applicants will, initially, receive a one-year, temporary residence visa which can be renewed twice, in two year extensions, before full residency is applied for. ITALY: Minimum investment of €300,000, and visa is renewable each year for five years, after which a longterm residency visa valid for five years is awarded, and citizenship after 10 years. Other countries participating are Cyprus, Hungary, Latvia, Austria, Australia and St Kitts in the Caribbean. As with all great opportunities, there are always those looking for a scam. The programme in Portugal was hit by some negative publicity relating to corruption charges among immigration and border service officers. However, action was taken very quickly to stamp this out and several well-publicised arrests were made to send out a strong message that there was zero tolerance for the fraudsters. Industry Opportunities Peter Booth, MD for the Pestana Hotels & Resorts group in Portugal, where Golden Visa sales to passport shoppers has reached a value of €1 billion, has seen his business benefit. “We have sold a significant number of our Algarve golfing villas under the residency programme here. Typically, the buyers are coming from China and Brazil, the

latter having a language in common with Portugal,” he said. “We have also sold a number of our villas to South Africans who are looking for European nationality and find our properties attractive because the Algarve is a good golf destination. The two- and three-bedroom villas sell at €500,000 to €600,000 and come with a golf passport giving the owners access to five golf courses. The weeks they are not in residency they are able to put into a rental programme to support the cost of purchase.” Golden Visa buyers are looking to Lisbon, a cultural and sophisticated capital city and, Booth believes, at a fifth of the cost per square metre of property in London or Paris, the city offers real value. These buyers are however buying a passport and it is therefore likely that, as Booth has already experienced, when property in Lisbon falls into short supply they will start to look at the outlying areas, such as the Algarve. While the cost entry point excludes standard timeshare from this programme in Portugal, Booth sees opportunity for fractionals. “Three-month fractional sales at €200,000 have been very successful. As for source market, we are concentrating our marketing focus on South Africa and have sent our marketers out to give roadshows in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban to showcase our villas. South Africans usually have to go to the trouble and expense of travel visas and, especially as this visa covers their family, this really is a golden opportunity for them to travel widely across Europe.” Booth believes the Pestana villas represent good value, though he will not be building specifically for the programme. “I would not accelerate our building programme to take advantage of it, as it can be withdrawn at any time. Meanwhile, I have seen a definite appetite at €500,000 and am very confident our market will hold up,” he explained. Even in markets where the price point excludes timeshare, Dimitris Manikis, Vice President Business Development, RCI Europe, Middle East and Africa, thinks timeshare


PETER BOOTH Managing Director, Pestana Hotels & Resorts in Portugal

VASSILIS AVRAMOPOULOS Senior Partner, Avramopoulos & Partners

DIMITRIS MANIKIS VP Business Development, RCI Europe, Middle East and Africa

high-end timeshare and fractional property sales. Developers should look at this in an opportunistic way to promote their product.”


billion The value of Golden Visa sales to passport shoppers in Portugal Vassilis Avramopoulos of Avramopoulos & Partners shares Manikis’ optimism. “An attractive innovation of the programme in Greece is that if you pay the same amount for an apartment, condo or fractional in a Greek hotel, you obtain the same programme benefits. “The developer or operator of a resort could sell timeshare or fractional interests of a minimum value of €250,000 to third country (non-EU) citizens and obtain the relevant residence permits for them

and their families for the entire duration of the timeshare lease. Once they have the permit, they and their families are able to travel to all Schengen countries without having to comply with any visa formalities.” Because the programme also offers a commercial investment plan, it could also encourage developers from non-EU countries to invest in Greece, and other participating countries. “The Golden Visa could be of interest to, say, a Chinese developer who could build a property in Greece and, in doing so, gain entry to other countries in Europe for himself, his family and his eventual purchasers,” Avramopoulos explained. In addition, unused weeks of residency at the purchased property – a whole-ownership property, timeshare or fractional resort – can be leased or rented to a third party without the owner losing their residence permit rights. There seems to be no doubt that the Golden Visa residency programme does represent a golden opportunity for developers of upscale timeshare and fractional properties to take their sales into new markets and boost their revenues.


A significant number of Algarve golfing villas have been sold under the residency programme in Portugal.



will still benefit. “In Greece the minimum investment is €250,000, so a higher price point than for a timeshare sale. However, timeshare developers and hoteliers alike must see the bigger picture in all of this,” he said. “The government’s key objective is to boost the economy and tourism is one of the largest contributors to GDP. Though there may not be a direct impact on timeshare sales, the overall rejuvenation of leisure facilities, infrastructure and tourist attractions will benefit all resorts. “Greece already enjoyed record tourism arrivals in 2014. With the Golden Visa buyers comes more money and investment, and they are also a strong lead generation channel for vendors of alternative second home products such as shared-vacation ownership models.” Greece has seen €65 million revenues in Golden Visa sales. That scale of spending has to breathe new life into what was a stagnating property market. Manikis sees the buyers coming from Russia, China, South Africa and the Arab states. “This is a market in evolution and it is exciting. The price point in Greece, and in many participating countries, is a perfect fit for


The Snowball Effect Russia has been on the radar of hospitality companies since the country opened its borders to a wider tourism sector, making it a primary market. SERGEY EGOROV, Director of Development for Wyndham Hotel Group (WHG) and RCI in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), shares his thoughts. THERE ARE MANY EXCITING opportunities for both hotels and mixed-use developments in the region. With franchise hotels, there are always opportunities to talk leisure real estate. Benefits for hotels working with WHG and RCI include access to international markets, plus the potential to boost sales and affiliate marketing opportunities while reducing operational costs. We are seeing an increasing interest in shared-holiday ownership among hoteliers and developers. Our presence at the key roadshows allows us to promote the industry and explain the benefits of introducing franchising and shared ownership into the hotel operation structure. At present, we have several projects underway in Russia, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. The positive for our industry is that while one area in the CIS might experience a decline in development, another will be picking up. We can provide both variety and consistency of opportunity for development. Despite ongoing political and economic pressures in Russia, the domestic tourism market saw a number of hotels signing to Wyndham which indicates its continued health, as well as being a positive sign for the potential of the shared-ownership product. Looking to the future, we need to support our brands in international markets to strengthen the perception of leisure real estate in the Russian and CIS market. The mindset in Russia is very different than Europe. Russian consumers are Euro-Asian and their attitude is if they like what they see, they will buy. The emphasis must be on quality and aesthetics first and foremost for resort development. By presenting potential clients with a success story, we can prove that the hotel and

30 Q 1 /Q 2 2 01 5

timeshare mix does work, it won’t take long to build developer and consumer confidence. As we start rolling the mixed-use concept out, we predict a snowball effect, with take up of WHG franchises and RCI affiliations together. Our benefit of international reach to support sales and marketing opportunities will far outweigh any caution previously felt by industry players in Russia and the CIS. The recent affiliation of Crown Hotel Baku in Azerbaijan is our first affiliation in the country, which is also a relatively new destination for timeshare. The rapid growth in the strength of the consumer sector of this ex-Soviet country, driven by wealth generated from its natural energy industry, gives it great potential as a leisure real estate market. The will is there for resort development. The Federal Agency for Tourism of the Russian Federation has coordinated and simplified visa procedures, including transit-free visas to open up the borders and improve tourism flow. Furthermore, the construction of worldclass hotel resorts and infrastructure to support last year’s Olympic Games in Sochi, along with a Ramada affiliation in Moscow, makes twin-centre holidays through RCI and WHG possible for domestic and international tourists. RCI, the world’s leading exchange holiday provider, working with WHG, the fastest growing hotel group, can provide unique international reach and expertise for developers looking to affiliate with us. We would like to share these benefits through new hotel and resort partnerships to support the region. In the meantime, we must focus our efforts on strengthening PR support, on a global level, for the brands in the region while continuing to explore new opportunities. Exciting times lie ahead.


Director of Development, Russia and CIS – Wyndham Hotel Group and RCI

ABOUT SERGEY EGOROV Dr. Egorov graduated with a Ph.D. in Economics and a Masters’ Degree in Hospitality, and has a wealth of experience in the hotel development business in Russia, Asia, Europe and Africa. He has held several executive posts in the resort development and hotel management industry. He started out in resort sales, working for Absolute Development Corporation, before moving on as General Director of 5* Medical Spa Resort RUSS, and was appointed Director of Development, Russia and CIS for the Wyndham Hotel Group and RCI in 2014.







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RCI Ventures Magazine Q1/Q2 2015  
RCI Ventures Magazine Q1/Q2 2015