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AND INSPIRE YOUR PROSPECTS RCI Presenter puts your owners just a few taps away from the dream of holiday ownership. Navigate your owners through the benefits of RCI in an engaging and interactive presentation




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Welcome RCI Affiliates

4 News The latest news from Europe and around the world 7 AMResorts Steps Into Europe The leading luxury hotel brand starts its European expansion with four new resorts in 2019 14 Sales And Marketing By The Numbers Perry Newton shares his insights into how to succeed in bundling and selling leisure lifestyle products 17 A Place In The Right Space An RDO and AIPP collaboration takes timeshare into the mainstream online property arena 22 Luxury Without Limits The Registry Collection and two of its affiliates share how they meet aspirational luxe lifestyle demands 26 Why You Should ‘Go Green’ A look at how improving sustainable tourism is vital to protecting destinations for holidaymakers 30 The Evolution Of Muslim Travel The Muslim tourism industry has seen an exponential rise in destinations and services 34 Final Thought: A New – But Familiar Face – for RCI Europe Robin Mills takes the helm of RCI EMEA’s Business Development team

Visit for news of the worldwide shared-vacation ownership industry and insight from the experts.

With my first issue of RCI Ventures magazine, I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the Publications team in getting our heads together to select the topics to feature in this issue. It brings home just what a diverse business we are in and how rich it is in opportunities for those with vision, and who are committed to the long-term game. Industry opportunity in the European region is a clear theme for this issue, with many of our developer contributors showcasing how they are unlocking potential in the luxury and new market sectors. In our cover feature on page 7, luxury hotel brand AMResorts demonstrates its appetite for opportunity, as it leaves its LATAM and Caribbean comfort zone to bring its brand experience - with some adjustments - over to Europe. The aspirational luxe lifestyle demand is undoubtedly driving consumer purchases in the leisure industry. On page 22, The Registry Collection and two of its affiliates, Karma Group and Falkensteiner Hotels & Residences, share how they engage the affluent traveller with strong product strategies and luxury offerings. Having a robust strategy in place has been instrumental to the success of Azure X, one of Europe’s most successful membership portfolios. Turn to page 14 to find out more about Perry Newton’s sales and marketing formulas. One market segment that has remained relatively untapped - until now - is the Muslim tourism market and, on page 30, we look at how to successfully engage the Muslim traveller. With opportunity firmly in our sights, the new collaboration between RDO and AIPP is set to propel the timeshare industry into the mainstream property market, find out how on page 17. And finally, the ‘Sir David Attenborough effect’ has taken the world by storm – unveiling the secrets of how our plastic waste is negatively impacting the planet. Those who have employed sustainable tourism practises provide valuable insight on ‘going green’ on page 26, to protect destinations for holidaymakers and resorts in the years to come – and it is clear there is opportunity for all of us to be more eco-friendly. We hope to provide you with much food for thought and inspiration in your RCI business magazine. Enjoy the read!


Vice President, Business Development Europe, Middle East and Africa – RCI Exchanges

  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: Rebecca Gormley. DESIGN: Charlotte Semark, Ginny Knight. PRODUCTION: Claire Williams, Natasha Hegarty, Helen Gurney, Trevor Lewis. PRINTING: Belmont Press. PHOTO CREDITS: Shutterstock. COVER: AMResorts. 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 2018



Karma Group expansion in Greece

AZURE X launch Azure X is a private travel and leisure club that champions access over ownership. This pioneering membership programme has revolutionised the popular timeshare concept in order to embrace a broader, more encompassing range of luxury products and services.

Azure Luxury Yachts.

Karma Minoan, Crete.

Luxury resort developer, Karma Group, has revealed major expansion plans in Greece following the opening of its latest resort, Karma Minoan, in Crete. Located just outside the historic town of Agios Nikolaos, the resort opened in June 2018 after an 18-month refurbishment project costing approximately €1.75m, according to Karma Group Founder and Chairman, John Spence. “We purchased the resort two years ago and it needed quite a bit of work, so we decided on a thorough refurb and rebuild, but keeping the traditional taverna feel,” he said. “The result is fantastic; it’s very much in a modern Greek style, but with some lovely extra touches. 4 Q 3/Q 4 2 01 8

“I took a personal interest in this redevelopment. I love Greece and found the project myself. It’s a small one – only 23 apartments – and I really enjoyed being part of it.” Spence said the company planned to do “quite a lot” in Crete and the Greek islands, with a 40-room resort planned in Mykonos and a land acquisition in Amorgos, an island east of the Cyclades. A number of new airports are planned for the region, and direct flights are now operating from the Middle East to Mykonos, increasing year-round season potential – all key factors making the region an attractive investment opportunity, Spence explained. He added that Karma

Group needs to expand in Crete, as Villea Village, its other resort on the island, is running at close to 100 per cent capacity, leaving no room for hotel and inspection tour guests. “We’re looking at some existing hotel properties, as well as some land we could develop,” he said. “There are some timeshare resorts in the area that we might be able to work with as well. “We are strengthening Karma’s presence in Greece. We have an office there, as well as good relationships with local architects, builders and the locals. “It’s my favourite country to holiday in, so it’s no hardship for me to be there, as I do like to take a personal interest.”

Launched by Azure Malta, the group’s affiliation to the RCI Holiday Exchange programme gives members of Azure X access to thousands of worldwide hotels and resorts. Azure X members can also make use of the finest motor yachts, a fleet of supercars, top-of-the-range motorhomes, and idyllic country lodges. Members will benefit from a whole host of other perks too, including free concert tickets and exclusive discounts. Each Azure X membership is powered by a unique e-currency called XP, which is built on the latest blockchain technology. In simple terms, this means that registered members are credited with an annual amount of XPs which they can spend on the experiences of their choice. This is an easy-to-use and cost-effective way of indulging in high-life pleasures without any of the liabilities that inevitably come with owning high-end products. The company is now in the process of acquiring further desirable assets to add to its ever-growing portfolio.

Golden Sands Island Residence Club, Malta.

RCI makes key appointment in Hungary

Monika Karcsak.

RCI has appointed Monika Karcsak as Affiliate Services and Support Executive for Central Europe, based at its Hungary office. In her new role, Karcsak will be responsible for dayto-day operational support of the affiliates in Central Europe. Karcsak, who speaks Hungarian, English and German, has a degree in Hospitality and Tourism from the Budapest Business School, together with seven years’ experience with RCI working at its Operations Centre in Cork. She joins the RCI EMEA Business Development team, having completed its affiliate operations training programme. She will report directly to Vassilis Themelidis, RCI’s Regional Director, Nordics, CentralSoutheast Europe and Middle East. Welcoming her to the new role, Themelidis said: “Central Europe has always been a strong and resilient region for RCI business, both as a member source market and as a destination of international demand for RCI-affiliated resorts. “To that extent RCI continues to focus on the delivery of exceptional support to the existing RCI-affiliated resorts, and also seeks to develop new membership and accommodation models in the region.” Karcsak said: “I am truly excited to work in Hungary in my new role, making sure our affiliates are provided with the best possible support. By maintaining a strong relationship, I am sure we will continue to achieve further success and development.”


Hotelier expands in Middle East The burgeoning tourism market in the Middle East has prompted Hong Kongbased Swiss-Belhotel International to push ahead with ambitious expansion plans in the region. The hotel management group is planning to open eight hotels in key destinations across the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states by 2019, with a number of other projects under development. Laurent A Voivenel, the company’s Senior Vice President, Operations and Development for the Middle East, Africa and India, said the new hotels would help it to penetrate new destinations, such as Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait and Egypt, and grow its presence in existing territories. Tourism in the main cities across the Middle East is expected to remain strong, particularly given infrastructure projects such as airport expansions, growth of low-cost carriers, new leisure attractions,

The business of blogging Blogs are becoming a great source of news and views about the timeshare and hospitality industries, with a variety of key figures sharing their opinions on a range of topics. RCI Ventures took a look at some of the most influential blogs from around the industry, and here’s a selection for you to check out… • Resort Development Organisation – RDO Chief Executive, Paul GardnerBougaard, offers his own take on the state of play in the industry, as well as fascinating insights into his dealings

Laurent A Voivenel.

enhanced business facilities and a year-long calendar of events. Voivenel commented: “The hospitality landscape is developing at a rapid pace and we are keen to take advantage of this massive opportunity. Our aim is to position Swiss-Belhotel International as the best alternative to blue chip companies offering superior returns, unbeatable value and unforgettable experiences.” with a range of interested parties. Visit: • Hapimag – The Swiss-based holiday company uses its blog to engage its owners, and prospective owners, using generic holiday material, as well as resort-specific content, to foster a community among its almost 60 resorts. Visit: • Skift – The New York-based media agency provides news, research, and marketing services for the travel industry, and its team blog ‘Living our brand as we define the future of travel’, covers a range of topics that impact operators across the gamut of the tourism industry. Visit: R CI VENT U RES 5


New resorts in RCI global expansion

one of the Seven Wonders of Nature and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. RCI’s portfolio in Vietnam now boasts more than 23 properties across 10 cities. In Japan, RCI has added the following properties: • Went Awaji Higashikaigan in Awaji Island, Hyogo prefecture. • Villa Kita Karuizawa L-Wing, located in a popular year-round destination in Gunma prefecture, approximately 1.5 hours from the centre of Tokyo. • Mikawawan Resort Linx in Nishio city, Aichi prefecture, surrounded by sea, mountains and rivers. • Towa Pure Hotel & Cottage, located in Nasukogen, Tochigi prefecture, a highland resort destination surrounded by mountains.

FLC Quy Nhon Beach & Golf Resort.

RCI continues its mission to expand the geographic spread of resorts it offers to members by adding a number of properties to its global resort network. The latest additions include new affiliates in the Far East destinations of Vietnam and Japan, and two in Turkey, as well as a new golf resort from leading European developer, Holiday Club Resorts, in Finland. Robin Mills, Vice President, Business Development, for Europe, Middle East and Africa RCI Exchanges, welcomed the latest additions to the exchange company’s global network, which now encompasses more than 4,000 resorts in 110 countries. “Having worked on the resort side of the

business, dealing with timeshare owners, I know how important it is to provide as much holiday experience choice as possible for RCI members,” he said. “I’m delighted to see, in my first months with RCI, so many diverse holiday destinations and experiences coming into our exchange network to reinforce our value proposition.” The latest additions include six new resorts in Vietnam through an affiliation agreement with leading real estate brand, FLC Group. The six properties are located in popular tourist destinations across Vietnam, including four new cities for RCI Members – Vinh Phuc, Sam Son, Quy Nhon and Ha Long. The resorts are: • FLC Luxury Vinh Phuc Resort, adjacent to the Red River in Hoang Xa province. • FLC Samson Beach & Golf Resort and FLC Grand Hotel Samson, both located on the Sam Son beachfront in Thanh Hoa. • FLC Quy Nhon Beach & Golf Resort and FLC Grand Hotel Quy Nhon, both located in the popular coastal city of Quy Nhon in Binh Dinh.

FLC Luxury Vinh Phuc Resort.

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• FLC Grand Hotel Ha Long, located on top of Van Nghe hill, offering spectacular views of Ha Long Bay,

• Cocopa Resort Club in Sakakibara Onsen-machi, Mie prefecture, an area renowned for its historical hot spring town, as well as close proximity to the Isejingu Shrine. In Europe, the latest resort from Holiday Club Resorts (HCR) to join the RCI exchange system is Holiday Club Vierumäki Golf Resort, which last year became part of HCR’s portfolio following an agreement with Vierumäki Country Club Oy. The resort features two 18-hole golf courses, an 11-hole par-three training course, and a host of other facilities.

Holiday Club Vierumäki Golf Resort.

RCI’s latest affiliations in Turkey are: • Laguna Termal Resort & Spa, a destination-style resort in Caygoren Dam, which offers lake scenery and healing thermal water resources. • Safa Sorgun Thermal Hotel, a thermal resort located in Yozgat featuring a healing Turkish bath, thermal pool, spa facilities with additional amenities such as a sauna, salt room, fitness centre and selection of swimming pools.

AMResorts Steps into Europe Having a portfolio of stunning hotels decorating the coastlines of Mexico and the Caribbean, AMResorts has set sail for new waters, ready to place its brand flags in the sands of Europe’s most iconic destinations.



MAY 2018 MARKED A SIGNIFICANT STEP IN the history of AMResorts. The luxury hotel brand, which dominates the upscale, all-inclusive space in Mexico and the Caribbean, announced its expansion into new territories – with Europe in its spotlight. AMResorts will make its debut in Spain, opening four hotels in its European portfolio, currently set to launch in 2019. From its early beginnings as an all-inclusive brand catering to the US mass market in 2001, AMResorts has developed into the luxury hotel brand powerhouse it is today, becoming one of the fastest-growing leisure companies in North America.

JAVIER COLL Executive Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer, Apple Leisure Group.

It is extremely exciting that AMResorts has selected Europe for its strategic expansion and it speaks volumes on the opportunity in our region. There is a clear appetite for luxury and ownership products in our market. – OVIDIO ZAPICO, Regional Director, South-West Europe, RCI Exchanges

The brands that are AMResorts As part of Apple Leisure Group, AMResorts has nine individual hotel brands under its Unlimited Vacation Club (UVC) umbrella, with each one offering a different level of luxury. Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer of Apple Leisure Group, Javier Coll, said: “When we launched in 2001, we identified a niche in the market. At the time, 99 per cent of the customer distribution in the hospitality market in our region – Mexico and the Caribbean – was American. Today we are creating different products for different markets.” With hotels ranging from three- to six-star, AMResorts’ success has clearly been driven by its ability to deliver bespoke luxury products to a wide demographic. “Our boutique luxury brand, Zoëtry Wellness & Spa Resorts, is considered to be a six-star rating - a rating level we define in our region - and competes with high-end brands such as Mandarin Oriental and Banyan Tree. “We have a number of high-end brands at five-star level, some of which are adults-only, including, Secrets Resorts & Spas, which is ideal for honeymooners and romantic getaways; Breathless Resorts & Spas – a lifestyle product with an emphasis on socialising; and Vivid Resorts & Spas – which is not yet launched – although we have acquired sites and properties. This brand will be similar to Secrets, but a little more relaxed,” Coll added. “We also have brands offering family-orientated holidays, including Dreams Resorts & Spas and Now Resorts & Spas, which are very similar but Now is a little more hip, as with Reflect Resorts & Spas. We’ve entered a joint venture with Krystal Resorts, based in Mexico, to launch our Reflect brand, although we will also drive its growth with other developers too. So far we have opened three new Reflect Krystal hotels, and we are currently 8 Q 3/Q 4 2 01 8

OVIDIO ZAPICO Regional Director for South-West Europe, RCI Exchanges.

evaluating other projects which would open under the Reflect Resorts & Spas brand.” In addition to its distinctive five- and six-star products, AMResorts also threads its luxe offering into three- and four-star brands to meet this demand, as Coll explained: “Our four-star product is Sunscape – a fresh and fun product which features a lot of on-site entertainment, and is one of our original brands. “The newest addition to AMResorts’ collection is the three-star brand, Amigo Hotels & Resorts. These resorts are not necessarily beachfront and will be rolled out in Europe. The award-winning Secrets and Dreams brands will also be launched in Europe, alongside Amigo Hotels & Resorts.” A global all-inclusive expansion The announcement of the group’s expansion into Europe follows a string of successes for both AMResorts and Apple Leisure Group. In 2017, Apple Leisure Group closed the year with the largest pipeline of all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean. In July 2018, it announced that it had closed the first half of 2018 with 10,000 rooms in its pipeline – the equivalent to 50 per cent of its existing inventory. Apple Leisure Group is the parent company of a number of different travel services and providers, including AMResorts. With a vertically-integrated business model, Apple Leisure Group leverages its five segments to deliver value to travellers, from online travel agencies, to tour and flight operators. As a well-established brand in Mexico and the


AMResorts’ boutique six-star brand, Zoëtry Wellness & Spa Resorts, offers the highest level of luxury.

Caribbean, also having resorts in Central America, bolstering its offering with yet more diverse locations was a natural step for AMResorts. Its appeal broadened in the Americas, and there is now an appetite for it overseas in Europe and Asia. Coll said: “The US is our major source market. Close to 13 million Americans visit Mexico and the Caribbean every year and, through our distribution channels, we control 3.2 million of them – so we take advantage of this. Canada is also a great market for us, they are similar to Americans but are more adventurous in terms of the destinations they are looking to visit. “The European source market grows every year. Although they travel year-round, their high season is summer – which works really well for us versus the Americans and Canadians who have a high winter season. Domestic tourism is also growing. Many of our Mexican resorts are very popular with local customers for long weekend breaks and holidays.” Another key source channel for AMResorts is group bookings. “Since we have such great facilities, we have tons of groups – both social and corporate – looking to stay at our resorts,” Coll explained. “Group bookings allow us to increase the average rates.” Why Europe, and why Spain? AMResorts’ decision to expand into Europe and open its flagship resorts in Spain is an excellent reflection of the demand and opportunity in our region. Coll said: “Europe is an exciting venture. We always strive to be innovators

in what we do. We are well-established in Mexico and the Caribbean and, after we launch three of our brands in Europe next year, we foresee the other brands being launched in this region. “We will continue to grow in Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean, of course, however, our established destinations will eventually reach saturation point. We are in this to make a profit, and for the long term, so we need to find new growth opportunities. Europe is a natural tourism market with lots of opportunity to grow our brands.” AMResorts’ European expansion will launch with four properties in Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and Mallorca. All four resorts will be conversions of existing hotels, which will undergo complete renovations to meet the standards of AMResorts’ brands. Once these resorts are open, Apple Leisure Group will evaluate additional conversion opportunities, as well as new builds, to expand AMResorts’ footprint in Europe. “Spain is the gateway to the leisure segment in Mediterranean Europe,” Coll stated. “As the second mostvisited country in the world in 2017, the time was right to expand our footprint across the Atlantic Ocean and into Europe, beginning in Spain. “We believe that Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and Mallorca are where the opportunities lie for our brand expansion. The hotel owners in those destinations are willing to trust us and believe that we do a good job. It is important that, while we do not own the assets, the R CI VENT U RES 9

owners of these assets believe in us. We look forward to introducing our vacation experience to these markets and bringing new European vacation destinations to our UVC members, adding greater value to their membership. As an RCI affiliate, this move will benefit RCI exchanging members too.” AMResorts will oversee brand management and sales of its four European properties, while the owner will maintain operational management of the resorts. Coll added: “Strategic alliances allow us to utilise our expertise of the all-inclusive sector, while partnering with key resorts, to create more value, and new brands, together with development and growth opportunities for the owners of the resort properties.”

I would estimate we spend two to three times more on ancillary products, in comparison to our competitors, to generate revenue. The money is out there and those with it are happy to spend on quality products and experiences. – JAVIER COLL, Executive Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer, Apple Leisure Group 1 0 Q 3/Q 4 2 01 8

A winning product AMResorts is recognised across the globe for the exceptional all-inclusive experience it offers guests through all nine of its brands. While the must-have features in the resorts vary from brand to brand, guests can expect luxurious spas, gourmet dining and opulent interiors as standard in all of the AMResorts’ properties. Coll highlighted what makes AMResorts stand out: “We invest enough to convert all our properties to a more upscale offering, including providing spacious rooms, as guests appreciate having space on holiday. The rooms must always look fresh with stylish designs. The bathrooms also need to be spacious with high-spec fittings and showers. It’s common sense really when it comes to the physical aspects of your resort design and offering. “The AMResorts’ USP is our significant investment in what we call the ‘software’ of the resort, for example, quality entertainment, plus á la carte food and beverage options with no reservations required. It’s more costly to offer quality branded spirits and wines, but we believe money invested in quality F&B offerings, live entertainment on resort, and lifestyle experiences, is money well spent. As we spend more money on these aspects we are obviously going to be a more expensive product.” It’s clear there is no expense spared in delivering a premium product, and AMResorts’ commitment to the luxury guest experience is reflected in the capital it invests in each of its properties.

JORDI DE LAS MORAS Managing Director, Europe, Apple Leisure Group.

A NEW LEAD FOR EUROPE Apple Leisure Group (ALG) has appointed Jordi de las Moras as Managing Director of Apple Leisure Group’s resort segment in Europe. In this newly-created position, de las Moras will lead the company’s European division across the continent.


A master suite with an ocean view at Breathless Cabo San Lucas Resort & Spa.

Based in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, de las Moras will report to Javier Coll, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer of ALG. “Europe is an integral part of our global expansion strategy, and we have now positioned ourselves to properly capitalise on the market,” said Coll. “Jordi brings more than two decades of hospitality industry expertise in the market, and will be instrumental in introducing AMResorts’ innovative approach to the all-inclusive resort experience in Europe.” De las Moras joins ALG from Valtur Milan, where he held the positions of Chief Commercial Officer and Chief Marketing Officer, with the mission of transforming the traditional tour operator into a hotel chain with 15 hotels across Italy and Croatia. Prior to this, de las Moras worked at Melia Hotels International for 17 years, where he held several key positions, including serving as Commercial Director for Spain’s leisure hotels along the Spanish coast, Balearic and Canary Islands, and Senior Sales and Contracting Director Leisure for Global Europe and Russia.

“When we take on a hotel, the owners usually ask about our cost controls – they think we spend too much because our spending is high,” said Coll. “We do have cost controls in place, and we know what we’re spending the money on. By investing in quality F&B and entertainment, we positively differentiate our hotels from the competition. We are certain that we will see return on investment, with higher rates and higher occupancy levels as a result.” The ability to distinguish its brands through ancillary products has also been advantageous when AMResorts has acquired existing properties, being especially valuable in prime locations where properties are landlocked and there is no room for expansion or redevelopment. Coll explained: “We can easily set and gain 20 to 25 per cent higher rates, due to the way we manage our resorts and brands for our different types of customers. We are known for our spa experiences, and the fine wines we sell at the resorts. I would estimate we spend two to three times more on ancillary products, in comparison to our competitors, to generate higher revenues. The money is out there, and those with it are happy to spend on quality products and experiences.” Marketing to the affluent customer With each of the nine brands offering a unique concept and personality, AMResorts appeals to a wide demographic, united in their aspiration for an unforgettable luxury experience. Breathless identifies with socialising and being active, appealing to young customers, whereas Secrets offers the ultimate romantic and restful retreat – attracting honeymooners and empty-nesters. The adults-only brands also attract social group vacationers, such as girls booking a getaway together. Coll said: “There is some overlap with our audience. Those who take a social group holiday – men and women together – often return at another time of the year with their children and book a family-friendly resort. We have a wide customer demographic because we have a product to suit all types of customer. However, they will all have a good socio-economic situation, as we are not an inexpensive holiday option.” In order to attract the affluent customer, AMResorts uses its strong collaboration with tour operators and travel agencies, paying them to promote its brands to clients. “This is a crucial marketing tool for us. We use email and direct mail campaigns with our existing customer base, but I would say that our most powerful channel is the use of tour operators and agencies,” Coll added. Unlimited Vacation Club In May 2018, AMResorts’ loyalty programme, Unlimited Vacation Club (UVC), welcomed its 75,000th member. Members of the exclusive travel club enjoy preferred rates and benefits at AMResorts properties in Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America through various participation levels, including Pearl, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond and Impression. As part of their membership benefits, UVC members are enrolled into the RCI Weeks exchange programme at point of sale. “UVC is a rapidly growing business,” said Coll. “Once our guests become a UVC member, they keep R CI VENT U RES 1 1

coming back to AMResorts. It is a great advantage to have a club membership within your product. Members have access to the new resorts we open after they get their membership, and if you consider that we have 10,000 rooms in the pipeline, that is a strong reason to join UVC. “Upselling membership to higher tiers is also important to our growth. Due to the customers’ love of the product, this is a strong sales line for us. We engage members at the earliest point of membership and educate them as to the value of their purchase,” said Coll. “Customer feedback validates that we have a great product.” Moving across waters As part of its strategy for Europe, AMResorts will maintain its strong brand identities, while packaging its products in line with the new European destinations. Coll explained: “Initially, our European product may be different in some ways to the Caribbean. It won’t be sustainable to do exactly the same in Europe as we do in the Caribbean. For example, the physical aspects of the properties in terms of space will be very different. Our standard and quality goals will remain the same, just adapted in terms of size and locations. “For Europe we will offer an all-inclusive package, as we do in Mexico and the Caribbean. But, in response to consumer expectation in Europe, we will also offer a half-board option. These customers will still enjoy and experience the brands in the same way as the allinclusive customers do. It will be a brand-immersive 1 2 Q3/Q 4 2 01 8


Sunscape Resorts & Spa Puerto Vallarta. Junior Suite Swim Out at Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay.

experience for all our guests, irrespective of the level they buy into our brand.” As an RCI affiliate, AMResorts will be supported in its expansion by RCI in LATAM and EME. Ovidio Zapico, Regional Director for South-West Europe, RCI Exchanges, said: “The RCI LATAM team has worked closely with AMResorts for many years, enabling its UVC members to take advantage of the exchange options RCI offers at its 4,300 affiliated resorts, in more than 100 countries. As a global operation, with teams in LATAM, APAC and EMEA, RCI is well-equipped to support developers, including AMResorts, in their strategic moves across continents. Our affiliate partners can leverage the global knowledge and experience we have in the ownership and exchange industry to grow their business and global footprint.” Coll agreed, adding: “I believe RCI is a key component of our vacation club. The fact that RCI can offer products within its own vacation exchange product portfolio is invaluable to our sales proposition. It gives us an endorsement – everyone in all regions knows of RCI – but not everyone knows of UVC. Our products are the best – and RCI is the best exchange services partner in our opinion. We are happy with our RCI connection and look forward to increasing our business with RCI in the future.” While the Spanish region has been a mecca for the holiday ownership and luxury market for decades, by launching four resorts in these destinations, AMResorts’ strategic decision reflects the vast opportunity the region

A M R E S O R TS ’ B R A N D P O R T F O L I O

Zoëtry Wellness & Spa Resorts The Art of Life® Boutique havens representing the highest level of luxury. Intimate and holistic experiences, sophisticated architecture and exceptional service. Secrets Resorts & Spas Escape Into Luxury. Adults-only vacation experience with an extra measure of romance and sensuality in spectacular oceanfront settings. Breathless Resorts & Spas Live Big. Breathe Deep.™ Exciting adults-only resorts, offering a calendar of activities focused on entertainment, relaxation and a vibrant social lifestyle.

holds for future development. Zapico said: “It is extremely exciting that AMResorts has selected Europe for its strategic expansion and it speaks volumes on the opportunity in our region. There is a clear appetite for luxury and ownership products in our market. We know that Spain is a safe and popular destination for families, it’s accessible for those looking for a group holiday and its idyllic destinations are perfect for romantic retreats. “We are very much looking forward to working with AMResorts in its exciting new venture, and supporting the brand’s expansion into Spain and further European destinations in the future.” Coll added: “Entry to the Spanish market is in its early stage. We have just hired our Managing Director in Europe, Jordi de las Moras, and we are now working on the design of our European strategy. RCI will play an important part in that strategy and we will be meeting with the RCI team. Exchange has been good for our customers in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean; it will be no different in Europe. The widest choice of destinations we can offer through RCI helps to sell our membership.” With Europe firmly in its sights, Apple Leisure Group’s global expansion of AMResorts will continue to fall into place as the brand establishes itself in new territories. Concluding, Coll said: “One day, in the future, we will turn our focus to Asia as a source market. But we must walk before we run, and complete each stage properly.”

Dreams Resorts & Spas Your Dreams. Your Way. Luxurious tropical escape for families, couples and singles. Beautiful beachfront locations and an exciting array of activities for every age and interest. Now Resorts & Spas Live in the Now™ Extraordinary seaside settings ideal for multigenerational groups. Style and sophistication meet relaxation and comfort. Reflect Resorts & Spa Discover. Live. Reflect. Vibrant vacations for the spirited traveller – perfect for all types of travel. Sunscape Resorts & Spas For the Kid in Everyone. High-energy, fun-filled vacations and getaways for families, friends, singles and couples.


Sales & Marketing BY T H E N U M B E R S

Perry Newton heads up Azure X, one of Europe's most successful membership portfolios, offering a range of luxury experiences, from hotels to Sunseeker yachts. In this case study he shares insights into how to succeed in bundling and selling leisure lifestyle products.

I HAVE BEEN MARKETING AND SELLING shared ownerships – timeshare and fractional resort properties – for over 25 years. In that time I have learned a lot about the efficiencies of the marketing and sales operation. Here’s what I know – ACQUISITIONENGAGEMENT-RETENTION: These are the goals! Initially, quite a few years ago, we would take prospective purchasers on sales tours, and would do at least three tours a day. When reviewing the cost of those tours against the percentage closing rate, this was not an efficient process for many reasons. There was a low level of engagement, largely because the sales representatives became tired as the day wore on, while the tours 1 4 Q 3/Q 4 2 01 8


Managing Director, Azure Malta.

themselves were built around the hard sell and did very little by way of giving potential customers a taste of our brand experience. Let's take a look at one of our sales operations at our property in Malta. Sales formula: efficiency How do you create industry-busting efficiency? We revised our marketing and sales process completely. The changes we made, which have been proven to increase our closing rates, are: • Researching the inbound visitors to our destination and targeting those source markets in our sales operation

• Using sales training programmes and matching our sales representatives to specific customer categories – a case of putting the right jockeys on the right horses • Limiting sales tours to one a day – six a week – to focus our representatives’ energies; there is no rush and each session is cherished, and the tour guests’ experience with us is far richer. In a resort comprising 240 units in total, we employ three sales teams, each staffed by representatives reporting to a team of two managers. In each team, the two managers are dedicated and specialise in either coldline selling – fly-buy promotional tours, for which we fund part of the cost of the resort visits; or existing members where we upsell our wide product range – including penthouse suites, and high-performance car and luxury yacht charter clubs. Care is taken to recruit sales staff who demonstrate professionalism and who are very good at what they do. Our cold-line and fly-buy sales lines generate an average of 1,500 new members buying into our vacation club every year. These sales lines have a cancellation rate of only 22 per cent. In order to calculate our effectiveness ‘efficiency’, we use:

Net Volume of Sales EFFICIENCY = Total Number of Clients, Net of Cancellations On average, our closing rates are around 25 per cent for new business. Currently our operation sees efficiencies by market source per client of: Off-Premises Canvasser (OPC)








Existing Members


We are constantly looking at other ways to enrich our tours. Today, for example, before the resort tour and well before any sales are presented to the guests, we treat them to a boat trip around the island of Malta, giving them an engaging 5-D tour, with guides educating them about the rich history of the island and increasing its value to the potential new member. Visits to attractions, such as The Grand Harbour, have an immeasurable effect, along with quenching the thirst and hunger of our guests with catering laid on to give them a taste of local delicacies and drinks. We capitalise on the value of the location itself as a special stay experience.

The five whys… Our sales and marketing strategy is very much shaped by the Shari Levitin sales training principle of the ‘Five Whys’ when talking with your guests. These are: Why holiday? What is important to your guests about

taking holidays? If they don’t have enough emotional reasons to holiday, it’s going to be tough. Why timeshare? If you value and love holidays, what

makes holidaying this way far better for you and those you love? What’s going to be your ‘why’ to change? Explain the many benefits of the quality, flexibility and value of timeshare ownership with an exchange membership. Why Malta? For example, highlight the features of

your destination that are attractive and offer value: it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are many iconic attractions nearby. What are your unique features? Share what your guests tell you about why they love the place. What’s the TripAdvisor ranking? Share flight links and ease of getting there… Why us? Describe what it is that makes you proud of your

brand and your company: its strengths; any experiential features of your offering; any spin-off products to be enjoyed as part of your offering. Tell them about your brand partners, such as exchange companies like RCI; the diversity of experiences when holidaying with your brand and at your resorts. What makes your company a cut above the rest? Remember, you can always tell the strength of a business by the company it keeps. Buyers like to feel proud of you too, so demonstrate your credibility. Why today? Your call to action – why not today? Why

should they sign today? If it’s an offer, then it better be a real one. Today’s buyer is not only tech savvy, but is also sales savvy and won’t fall for ‘this deal is only available today’. You need good solid reasons, or offers, so that your team can gain commitment with something real and of value. It’s a simple concept and our sales systems are built around it. At its heart is the business of building customer relationships. Other rules we follow are to resist bolting everything the industry has to offer onto your product – keep it simple, no-one wants, or has time, for complicated. Cold-line licenses can be costly and without the right team, damaging to reputations. While your fly-buy promotional clients, on the other hand, will often come from your online marketing efforts, and if you have a hotel or resort you have the accommodation and can absorb some, or all of that cost. A hotel is a rich source of leads if you go about it in the right way and can enter into alliances with other hotels. An Internal Personal Contact (IPC) or a desk in a reception area improves efficiency and effectiveness significantly over most cold-line operations, as the whole experience is a warmer one. Create your own tourist information centres in your destination, liaising with other tourist information centres to promote your own branded, sexy, island excursions or other smart tours and trips, using local people to give insider tips on getting the best out of your destination. R CI VEN T U RES 1 5

Create a craft market with local traders which can be We do lots of surveys through providers such as good for them, your clients, and a great capture point SurveyMonkey, to members and non-members, and for you. we get some interesting feedback as to why some Costs can vary. For example, do you people are interested in our offering, and We want to provide gifts – high value or less why others are not; what they would and will invest a expensive? Will you use an agency wouldn't like. or your own staff to operate your We find the majority of nonpercentage of our cold-line sales and fly-buys? Do you engagers at times do not know, or have annual marketing budget have to duplicate the operation forgotten, how to use the product in a new test and, if it setup, having subsections for or it’s been a while, and they’ve each different source market and missed a bit here and there, as doesn't drive ROI or some therefore languages, which will add developments and improvements to other benefit to us as to the cost? the product they bought have passed an organisation, We play around the edges of the them by – even with the best product business to test different strategic educational methods you may have. we will kill it. approaches and look for areas of It is always worth taking time – PERRY NEWTON, Managing possible growth. We will invest a to revisit your product educational Director, Azure Malta percentage of our annual marketing budget communications on a regular basis. in a new test and, if it doesn’t drive ROI or Remember the three pillars of your success some other benefit to us as an organisation, we will strategy should always be, ACQUISITIONkill it. ENGAGEMENT-RETENTION. Happy selling! 1 6 Q3/Q 4 2 01 8

A Place in the Right Space The influence of the online community is irrefutable. If your product isn't present in that space, it's dead in the water. European trade body, Resort Developers' Organisation, has sealed a deal with the Association of International Property Professionals to promote shared ownership on a new consumer property platform. BY H E L E N F O S T E R


‘IF YOU’RE NOT AT THE TABLE, YOU’RE ON the menu’ - so goes the mantra of many business conventions today and though it may sound trite, it is true. One of the best ways to get a place at that table is to ensure that your brand, services and products are being talked about in the most relevant and engaged online communities. The site statistics of A Place In The Sun (APITS), one of the biggest freehold property brands and a leading member of the Association of International Property Professionals (AIPP), demonstrate the potential of having a relevant online shop window. Andy Bridge, APITS Managing Director, told AIPP’s CEO, Peter Robinson: “The difficulty is to access the potential buyers. Promoters should take the broadest approach to digital marketing; there are lots of places to be, you need to work at finding out what works best for your product. We had over half a million visitors to our site last month, which is 30 per cent up, year-on-year.” The British are a major source market for the sale of holiday homes and leisure lifestyle products, such as timeshare. AIPP research shows that as many as 1.5 million UK residents own freehold, leasehold or timeshare property overseas, while an average of 30,000 more purchase foreign properties, including timeshare, each year. Timeshare statistics are impressive: 640,000 Brits own it and in 2015 there were 151,329 timeshare purchases with an average price of £12,700. According to the Shared-Vacation Ownership Worldwide Report prepared for the ARDA International Foundation in 2016, as many as 42 per cent of buyers wanted to buy more. With property markets on the up across Europe, there is clearly an appetite for the purchase of homes in the sun. The rise in the demand of access to assets rather than outright ownership puts the concept of timeshare in a strong place - giving buyers their place in the sun, with all the benefits of exchange into other destinations, without the financial burden and management responsibilities that come with whole-ownership. Timeshare ownership is a value-for-money residential leisure option to rival the so-called disrupters, such as Airbnb. Timeshare - having been established for more than four decades - has the advantage of having regulatory requirements in place which its home-sharing rivals don’t have at this time and which might present them with costly obstacles in the long term which are likely to be passed onto customers in the form of price increases. RDO Chief Executive, Paul Gardner-Bougaard, comments: “The Brits are the biggest holidaymakers in the EU. The appetite is there in the UK market, and some 1 8 Q3/Q 4 2 01 8


ROBIN MILLS Vice President, Business Development, RCI Exchanges EMEA.

of our competitors, Airbnb for example, are in choppy waters as countries such as Germany, France, Spain, and now the UK, start to look into the lack of any governing legislation or regulation.” There has never been a better time to get the product out in front of the right audience to maximise its potential, according to Robin Mills, Vice President, Business Development, RCI Exchanges, EMEA. He said: “Today’s buyers don’t necessarily want long-term whole ownerships. Property is morphing into a Venn diagram of options with different forms of ownership bolted onto it. Shared ownership today offers shorter term ownerships with the flexibility to be able to change the experience, which moves the cursor somewhat. “I can see inventory-backed membership options coming down the line; block rentals where 21 to 46 nights’ use can be purchased, or seven-nights with an exchange option. We at RCI will always be here for the traditional market, but are also looking at new leisure models because the scale and architecture of RCI puts us in a position to provide servicing for all types of property models.” So we have a great product which is very much of the moment in terms of what consumers aspire to. The potential is clear, but finding a way to showcase that product to potential purchasers, to be there for owners, and to educate in the relevant spaces is absolutely crucial for future growth. This is why the collaboration between RDO and the AIPP is such a significant and positive step.

FROM ONLINE SPACE TO FACETO-FACE: Your brand must be in the right places online if your product is going to be part of meaningful discussion around the table.

About the new AIPO platform A new online platform - - was launched by AIPP earlier this year, known as the Alliance of International Property Owners (AIPO). Its focus is to provide support to the growing community of UK-based owners of overseas residential leisure properties and, importantly, after several years of talks between the RDO and AIPP executive, incorporates a whole section dedicated to timeshare and timeshare owners. Crucially, the site purposefully places freehold and leasehold property in the same context as timeshare, promoting buyer decision-making in a positive, yet neutral, media environment. The vision for the site, in the medium term, is that it becomes a trusted ‘go-to’ online community for British owners and buyers of overseas properties. The website aims to provide support, advice, cost savings and other benefits for UK owners of leisure properties, from freehold and leasehold to timeshare. “The property market media platforms have spent far too long being segmented,” adds Mills. “AIPP, and now, AIPO, are closer to us and we to them than ever before. We are working to the same goals, we want the same things. With our acquisition of Love Home Swap - a whole-ownership residential leisure property model - RCI moves closer to being a one-stop-shop for leisure accommodation needs. Paul has worked tirelessly on this project with AIPP and Peter. They deserve every credit

for bringing the alliance between shared- and wholeownership professionals together.” The Association of International Property Professionals (AIPP) is the primary driver of the new community hub and the facilitating team behind it. AIPP is the ideal collaborator for RDO, being a not-for-profit trade membership organisation founded to improve consumer education and protection by establishing standards of professionalism in the largely unregulated international freehold property industry. Founded in London in 2006, the AIPP compliance guidelines for its members are endorsed by UK National Trading Standards (Estate Agency Team). The launch of AIPO and its website provides what has been missing across property markets, and that is somewhere owners can go with confidence for neutral, independent help, advice and support. AIPO provides, first and foremost, knowledge through guides and legal support; inspiration; savings and offers to lower costs,

Shared ownership has gone mainstream. I believe sharedproperty ownership, in particular, has the potential to shine. – PETER ROBINSON, CEO, AIPP R CI VEN T U RES 1 9

















Courtesy of Source: INE







and future potential for representation and government lobbying on owner issues in the UK and overseas. In time, it will be a strong community hub for the increasing numbers of British buyers of overseas property to go for support from a gamut of property industry professionals, from lawyers to financial organisations, as well as for peer-to-peer learning, and to avoid ‘fake news’. “The catalyst for the AIPO initiative was Brexit,” explains RDO’s Gardner-Bougaard. “I started speaking to Peter Robinson, CEO of AIPP. We met regularly and both felt there was a gap in the market in terms of who was there for the owners - purchasing any type of property overseas is a big emotional and financial investment. I also spoke to the team at ARDA, Howard Nusbaum, President, and Ken McKelvey, Chairman of ARDA-ROC, ARDA’s Resort Owners’ Coalition. They believed the need for owner support in Europe to be so important that ARDA generously offered some financial support to get both a Helpline, currently run by Kwikchex, and the AIPO site off the ground.” Timeshare from AIPP’s perspective “I’m on board,” says Peter Robinson, CEO, AIPP. “In a postglobal financial world, property ownership models have great potential. At a time where consumers are increasingly aware of the need to obtain the maximum utility and value out of an asset, from cars to handbags, shared ownership has gone mainstream. I believe shared-property ownership, 2 0 Q 3/Q 4 2 01 8




in particular, has the potential to shine.” A veteran of the fast-moving consumer goods market, retail and automotive sectors, Robinson has seen a push to quality at affordable prices from consumers. “Nobody sticks to one brand anymore. We shop at both Lidl and Waitrose,” he explains. “It is, perhaps, an inconvenient truth, but those of us in the freehold property industry should be mindful of asking buyers to sink huge amounts of money into a single asset when they may not be able to fully leverage the value they seek out of it.” Robinson has seen some dissatisfaction with wholeownership purchase when the owners begin to view their property as a burden three or four years down the line: “Ideally, the freehold industry should take a more ‘know your client’ approach to best serve the consumer, avoiding potential problems for the sector in the future. The AIPO mandate is to ensure buyers get the property product that best serves their lifestyle and aspirations, so we encourage them to think carefully about all types, from freehold to shared ownership. “We want AIPO to bridge the gap between the property purveyors and the buyers. Visitors to the site can see they have a wide variety of choices and access to impartial guidance. In the future we plan to introduce cohosted buyer webinars, where a variety of cross-industry professionals: agents, developers, exchange service providers, etc, will offer information.” Robinson believes the 1.5 million British-resident owners of overseas properties have become a disenfranchised group, with no community focus to address shared issues. He sees the AIPO providing that focal point. “It’s early days in the development of AIPO, but ignore these consumers at your peril,” he said. “The British overseas owners’ community now has a stake in a lot of far-off property and we should value those owners, as well as the potential to grow that market significantly. It’s time for the industry to come together to support the community of owners we helped to create. Buyers will be encouraged to follow!” AIPO membership is currently free of charge, in its beta launch phase. The site visitor statistics are small, presently, but the site is being supported with social media campaigns as part of its growth strategy. Robinson sees social media as a ‘crucial building block’, with a number of test-and-trial campaigns in place to ascertain the best ROI from different approaches. Though a young site (it launched in May 2018), it is worth noting that typing ‘AIPO’ into the search bar delivers the site at number one on the first page of Google. “We have a focus on getting engaging content on the AIPO site from the rich vein of topics in our world, and using it on social media to drive traffic to the site. We welcome editorial contributions from professional industry players” said Robinson. Learnings from the US Following the inclusive approach taken by ARDA and ARDA-ROC in the US, RDO and ARDA-ROC will co-host a meeting of Home Owners’ Committee (HOA) chairs, and others directly involved, before the opening of the RDO 2018 Conference, to be held at the Pestana Chelsea Bridge Hotel in London this September. The consensus of the RDO Board is that, following the demise of

TATOC last year, timeshare owners should have their own form of representation, independent of the industry, which should include a networking forum and access to support and guidance. The HOA meeting has been organised to discuss key issues affecting resorts. At time of going to press, 50 chairmen and others representing 35 clubs had registered to attend this meeting. Attendees will hear from Howard Nusbaum and Ken McKelvey as to how ARDA-ROC operates in the US, inviting discussion as to how RDO and an ARDA-ROC Europe organisation could work together to provide that much needed assistance to UK and European timeshare owners in the future. News of the decision coming out of that meeting as to the launch of any such owners’ organisation for Europe will be communicated as plans develop after that meeting. “ARDA-ROC in the US has been very successful and we know we can learn a lot from them,” says RDO’s Gardner-Bougaard. “That is how we want the AIPO online community to work for our owners as well. It is important that the industry doesn’t take over. This is not about making direct sales, it’s about helping owners - and potential owners - to feel more secure and to give them a voice, as well as a listening ear.” It is only right that the industry helps to protect the market it creates. AIPO has a mission statement of ‘Buy Right, Own Well’. If all categories of property buyer had the tools to do this, it would create happy owners and generate word of mouth sales to grow the industry. This philosophy has driven the success of ARDA-ROC, the US shared-vacation ownership owners’ body. So why is ARDA working so closely with RDO - and now AIPO? “Tens of thousands of Europeans own timeshare in Europe and in the US, we estimate that 25,000 US residents vacation in European timeshares each year. Supporting those owners is crucial to the long-term health of our industry,” Rob Webb, Partner at US law firm, BakerHostetler and Treasurer of ARDA-ROC told RCI Ventures. Webb says: “ARDA isn’t coming over to tell people how to do things, but to offer advice and information. After that, it is up to the owners themselves as to where they take things.” Gardner-Bougaard adds: “Any such organisation must be equipped to deal with key issues on behalf of HOAs. RDO has sent a questionnaire to meeting attendees, the responses from which will form the objectives for any owners’ coalition that may be formed in the future.” In the US, ARDA-ROC carries out pulse surveys which demonstrate that HOAs are doing a good job of taking care of their holiday product, teaching others how timeshare is a great way to holiday. “If an ARDA-ROC Europe is formed, it will grow into what its members want,” says Webb. “It is about self-determination. European owners need to decide what they want it to be. I would urge all involved to recognise the need for financial support of an ARDA-ROC Europe, if it is formed. An annual levy of between £3 and £5 – which is commensurate with the $3 to $10 levied in the US – per owner member is a small sum, but if the majority of owners across Europe contributed it would make a big

A I P O S I T E STATS , J U N E 2 0 1 8 Source:













K E Y M A R K E T DATA •• A strong recovery in 2017 with sales of 14,242 Spanish properties sold to the British. •• After a post-UK EU Referendum lull in 2016, Brits are back with Q1 2018 sales 14% higher than in Q1 2017. •• Brits are now paying an average of €1,628 per square metre in Spain – the highest rate since early 2013. Source: Spanish Notaries, as compiled by

difference to the support the organisation could offer its members.” Collaboration, together with a sharing of knowledge and experience will always help to find solutions. The message is clear – European owners need to be proactive in supporting AIPO and an owners’ coalition if they are to reap the benefits of ‘strength in numbers’. “ARDA is very comfortable with RDO’s choice of collaborator in AIPP,” concludes Webb. “The collaboration and launch of AIPO has given British and European owners a solid foundation to build on. I hope owners’ committees encourage their members to get behind it. The logic of building a strong owners’ representation, with the AIPO community hub support, is compelling.” RCI’s Mills described AIPO as “a crucial bridge between professionals and consumers in a world where we now have no other vehicle”. AIPO, being an openmarket/cross-industry channel, will help both owners and developers. Gardner-Bougaard points out that some of the industry’s resort developers are already members of AIPP, the developers’ professional body, and calls on their support: “This is a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness of shared ownership as a second home option. I would urge our resorts to help promote AIPO membership and the site - - to their owners and guests to help create a community that will build confidence in the product and help to stimulate demand.” R CI VEN T U RES 2 1

Luxury Without Limits

Consumers are increasingly seeking luxury leisure experiences, while the definition of luxury travel changes all the time. The Registry Collection and two of its affiliates, Karma Group and Falkensteiner Hotels and Residences, share how they meet aspirational luxe lifestyle demands. BY REBECCA GORMLEY 2 2 Q 3/Q 4 2 01 8

HIMANGI SATTLER Head of Sales, Falkensteiner Residences.


Karma Minoan on the iconic island of Crete.

“WE ARE IN THE BUSINESS OF entertainment, not the lodging industry,” stated John Spence, Founder and Chairman of Karma Group. An award-winning international travel and lifestyle brand, Karma Group is well-versed in offering a platter of tantalising experiences to its clients. “The best times, and the most memorable times of people’s lives are often when they are embarking on an adventure in an exotic location, during their backpacking days – when they had no ties and no responsibilities. “We take our clients back to that excitement, away from their busy working lives, whether they are enjoying a live DJ set at one of our resort beach parties or sampling the Karma wine at a tasting event in London,” explained Spence.

JOHN SPENCE Founder and Chairman, Karma Group.

Staying true to its ideals of the business of entertainment, Karma Group is renowned for its ‘five-star hippy lifestyle’, with clients flocking to the brand to be part of the experience. From week-long yoga retreats, to personal invitations to the Karma box at the Twickenham rugby ground, Karma Group’s more than 100,000 members have access to all of the lifestyle experiences they are seeking, through one single brand and membership – regardless of whether they are on vacation or not. The luxury experience The luxury goods market is set to explode in the next seven years, with a forecasted worth of US$450 billion by 2025. The definition of luxury has changed dramatically in recent years and, as demonstrated in Karma’s experiential product offering, the affluent traveller today expects so much more for their money than simply a finely decorated hotel room. With 30 properties in some of the world’s most stunning destinations, including Bali, Mykonos, Dharamshala, to name but a few, each of the Karma resorts offer unique opportunities for guests to fully immerse themselves in these beautiful locations, in addition to providing definitive luxury amenities. Spence said: “One of our latest ventures is our Karma brand wine, made locally at our resorts. We’ve recently acquired the Borgo di Colleoli estate in Tuscany – one of the most beautiful parts of the world in my view – where local wine tasting can also be enjoyed by guests. “Our wine offering has really shaped our decisionmaking for geographical expansion and, in addition to the estate in the Tuscan hills, we have acquired two further properties in Normandy, and we’re very close to opening the stunning Chateau de Samary in Carcassonne, France. These acquisitions will also offer the full vineyard experience for our clients in new, and sought-after locations.” Destination-led experiences are also part of the offering from Falkensteiner Hotels & Residences. The Austrian brand weaves its down-to-earth, southern Alpine culture throughout each of its 35 properties across central Europe, while also offering an authentic experience reflective of each property’s location. Himangi Sattler, Head of Sales for the Falkensteiner Residences, said: “The four elements which set Falkensteiner properties apart are: stunning architecture, the Acquapura spas, Alpine Adriatic cuisine, and the Falky programme for families with children. “Importantly, all of our hotels and residences are located in destinations which offer beautiful scenery, pristine waters and clean, fresh air. “All of these components truly reflect the Falkensteiner experience, giving our guests the feeling of being ‘at home’ on vacation, while also exploring some of the most fascinating corners of Europe, including Sardinia, Dalmatia, Vienna, and many more iconic destinations.” While the element of relaxation is a given in most luxury hotels and resorts, Falkensteiner is unique in that it has established its luxurious elements from the ground-up. “Falkensteiner designs, constructs and operates each of its properties, and by completely managing the entire R CI VEN T U RES 2 3

process from end to end, we can give our guests the full luxury package,” Sattler added. “We want our guests to come to us, and just relax. Whether they do this by taking in the fresh air on hikes, while they’re out skiing, or by taking part in a wellness activity, Falkensteiner gives them the retreat they need from their hectic lives.”

Karma has a mixed demographic – from Millennials, who are most likely to be interested in Karma Sanctum, our joint offering with the Iron Maiden rock group – to the older, more traditional fractional ownership buyers.

KELLY RENDER Product Manager, The Registry Collection.

– JOHN SPENCE, Founder and Chairman, Karma Group

Loyalty and luxury Loyalty and luxury are two components of the leisure experience which go hand in hand. Falkensteiner’s immensely loyal customer base has been the driving force behind the group’s expansion, with a new hotel in a new territory, Montenegro, acquired on 1 July 2018, and slated to open under the Falkensteiner brand in Summer 2019. In addition to this, Falkensteiner’s loyal following has also driven the success of its whole-ownership product, which launched in 2012 in the form of two exclusive residences – Residences Edelweiss located in the Katschberg region in Austria, and Residences Senia, nestled in Punta Skala, Croatia. Sattler explained: “The whole-ownership product with the concept, ‘Premium Living by Falkensteiner’ has proven to be so successful because we know our market and our loyal customer base so well. More than 60 per cent of our market is Austrian or German, usually affluent professionals or entrepreneurs in their mid-thirties planning to start a family, or they are approaching their sixties and are making plans for their retirement.” After sales began for the Austrian property in 2008, all 64 apartments were sold by 2017. To date, the Croatian residence, which recently won the ‘Croatia’s Leading Serviced Apartments’ award for the sixth time in a row, has successfully sold two thirds of its apartments. The success of Falkensteiner’s two whole-ownership residences, which are both situated in the grounds of its existing hotels, has spurred the development of a new residence being built on its established resort site in Jesolo, located close to Venice. “Our guests’ interest in our real estate offering stems from the fantastic holidays they have already enjoyed with Falkensteiner. These guests are our key leads for whole ownership, as they can still enjoy the restaurants, spas and family programmes, while also enjoying the benefits of purchasing real estate at a stunning property,” added Sattler. In addition to offering holidays, products, and experiences, Karma Group also provides opportunities for 24 Q 3/Q 4 2 01 8


From top; Falkensteiner's Residences Senia and Residences Edelweiss. Poolside luxury at Residences Senia.

GREGG ANDERSON Global Vice President, The Registry Collection.

members and guests to purchase fractional ownership at selected resorts. However, similarly to the sales strategy of Falkensteiner, Karma anticipates that the purchasers of its most exclusive product are likely to have been loyal Karma members for many years prior to their purchasing decision. Spence said: “We are entirely driven by consumer choice, as they will decide when they are ready to purchase fractional ownership, and are unlikely to be steered into purchasing by a sales manager. “When companies go straight into selling fractional and whole-ownership products today, without first establishing a loyal customer base, they are most likely to fail. “Karma has a mixed demographic – from Millennials, who are most likely to be interested in Karma Sanctum, our joint offering with the Iron Maiden rock group – to the older, more traditional fractional ownership buyers. “We call it the Karma escalator. Some of our members may join us when they are younger, and earning a certain amount of income. As they grow older, and Karma continues to exceed their expectations with new destinations and products to offer, their confidence in Karma grows and when they are earning a higher salary and no longer have a mortgage, they are most likely to purchase fractional ownership.” Leads for luxury While a loyal customer base is essential for introducing upscale, high-cost products, finding new customers requires innovative campaigns, and access to prospective leads. Spence said: “One of our latest marketing campaigns is with Tyrrells and their Poshcorn – a product which resonates loudly with our consumers. We’re offering a free Karma holiday prize each week, and a Tyrrells Karma Club Membership worth £350 to anyone who buys a bag of Poshcorn. “From this one campaign, we expect 15,000 sign-ups, generating significant new leads, especially from those who win the one-week holiday.” Both Karma Group and Falkensteiner have properties affiliated to The Registry Collection, the world’s largest luxury exchange holiday provider. The Registry Collection portfolio includes approximately 275 affiliated luxury properties, either accessible for holiday exchange or under development, in 40 countries across the world. Gregg Anderson, Global Vice President of The Registry Collection, said: “Since its inception in 2002, we have evolved The Registry Collection programme to meet the aspirational demands of the luxury market today. “The properties in The Registry Collection portfolio offer fantastic experiences. They can provide anything, from the most, super high-end, luxurious spa, to once in a lifetime, adventurous experiences – all in impeccable style of course. “However, one of the most fundamental benefits to developers offering one-week, fractional, and wholeownership products, is the fresh, verified leads we can deliver right to their doorstep. “As The Registry Collection continues to expand, we can also expand the pool of members who enjoy the benefits attached to vacation ownership, providing greater opportunity for affiliates to increase their sales.”

Members of The Registry Collection can also access its VIP Travel Concierge service, which delivers firstclass travel services to all members for their next beach holiday or urban retreat. This year, the programme has been revamped in line with customer demand, with a heightened focus on travel products – including luxury cruises, golfing excursions, safaris and yachting. Anderson said: “To give you an example of the types of experiences we offer, let’s take a look at some of our resorts in South Africa. You can expect fantastic food, impeccable service staff and all of the essentials of a luxury Registry Collection resort, coupled with one of the most amazing safari tours – which can be booked by our VIP Travel Concierge service.” The VIP Travel Concierge programme has proven highly successful in increasing year-round engagement with members of The Registry Collection. Kelly Render, EME Product Manager for The Registry Collection, commented: “We offer our members bespoke, localised marketing and servicing through our dedicated Call Centre team, helping the members to get the most from their membership. “They also have the flexibility to use their membership how they want to, and as we trade in credits, they can rent, borrow, extend or save these for their Exchange Holidays, in addition to purchasing Extra Holidays for cash. The Registry Collection is part of the RCI Exchanges’ family of brands, and its synergy also brings more holiday options to members of the luxury exchange programme. Render added: “As of January 2018, members of The Registry Collection have also been able to enjoy cash holidays at handpicked RCI Gold Crown Resorts.” Falkensteiner’s Sattler said: “The Registry Collection mirrors the service levels of Falkensteiner, and it’s exciting to work with a leading luxury exchange provider – for both the benefits we can offer our clients, and also the new guests we can welcome when they exchange into a Falkensteiner residence, through a Registry Collection exchange.” Choice, flexibility and authentic experiences are clearly the key factors which the affluent traveller is searching for. The secret to success in this market, is offering luxury products, without limits. John Spence added: “Ask any entrepreneur – and they will tell you that they don’t have a five-year plan, and that is the same for my strategy with Karma. “What we are focused on is our geographical expansion. I love Europe, I think there are so many opportunities there, as with Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar – these are key backpacking destinations which could be packaged together for a luxury offering. We’re also looking at opportunities in Western Australia, again with the wine focus, the Philippines, and so many more destinations. “I think it’s a psychological thing when people see the number of Karma flags on the map in our brochure. It shows that we are growing, and by doing so we are exceeding the expectations of the Karma members. As a boy, I enjoyed collecting stamps. Now, perhaps, it is luxury properties and resorts I enjoy collecting. The more flags I see in the sand – the more exciting Karma becomes for myself and Karma members.” R CI VEN T U RES 2 5

Why You Should Go ‘Green’ Implementing sustainable tourism practises has never been more vital than it is today. Protecting destinations and local communities for generations of travellers to come will ensure holidaymakers continue to flock back for the years ahead. BY N ATA S H A H E G A R T Y 2 6 Q 3/Q 4 2 01 8

WE DON’T WANT TO KILL THE GOOSE THAT lays the golden eggs. Our destinations need to be protected if tourists are going to keep coming back. After Sir David Attenborough highlighted the damage plastic waste is doing to wildlife and their environment in ‘Blue Planet II’, the world stood up and took notice. For businesses and consumers alike, it demonstrated just how important travelling ‘green’ really is. Leading the ‘green’ campaign Siobhan O’Neill, Editor of the Green Hotelier Magazine, part of the International Tourism Partnership (ITP), said: “The main trends we’re seeing around responsible travel are reducing food waste, water usage and plastic waste, thanks to the Sir David Attenborough effect. It really hit home with people when they saw some of the world’s most beautiful places and oceans drowning in plastic.” With supermarkets promising to significantly reduce their plastic packaging, businesses in other industries, such as travel, are promising to do the same with the aim of renewing consumer confidence. RCI affiliate, Diamond Resorts, has put sustainable tourism at the heart of its business. It has launched an app where it posts all the resorts’ announcements, with the aim of going paper-free. Cristina Gonzalez, Manager of Sunset Bay Club By Diamond Resorts in Tenerife, said to ensure staff are doing their bit to get the message out there, each resort has a Sustainability Ambassador who leads the ‘green’ campaign. Diamond now promotes eco-friendly practises, from reception, to the children's clubs. “Our animation team does a great job involving children

SIOBHAN O'NEILL Editor, The Green Hotelier Magazine.

CRISTINA GONZALEZ Manager, Sunset Bay Club By Diamond Resorts.

and adults at our resort by organising games and quizzes on being eco-friendly,” said Gonzalez. “It is important not just to teach children about the significance of reducing their carbon footprint and pollution, but to change parents’ behaviour too, so that it carries on at home.” She explained that the resort is doing all it can to keep its plastic usage to a minimum. “We no longer leave individually wrapped toiletries for guests, as it was using so much plastic. We now have refillable shampoo and body wash bottles to reduce our waste, so it is better for the environment.” Diamond is always looking to evolve its green practises. Gonzalez explained: “As of July 2018, we removed the packaging on dish sponges that we leave in accommodation. This will be 36,000 items per year that no longer have wasteful packaging. It might not seem like a large figure, but every little helps.” Recycling is another way resort developers are encouraging sustainability. The RCI-affiliated Macdonald Doña Lola resort in Málaga, has implemented a successful recycling initiative to ensure guests are disposing of their waste correctly. “When I arrived at Macdonald Resorts, I knew we had to do something to be more eco-friendly, and recycling was the first step,” said Sebastián Urquía, General Manager of Macdonald Resorts, Spain.  “Recycling is something that guests expect to be available anyway, so it was an easy decision to focus on that first. We now have recycling bins in each unit so guests can recycle easily. We also have an air-conditioned building – which has larger bins, clearly marked, that are also being used.” R CI VEN T U RES 27

He added: “Since we started the recycling initiative, the feedback from guests has been very positive. People are really into being eco-friendly and it is good that they can continue their recycling practises on holiday. The world is going ‘green’.” Space is running out It is clear that while some businesses are making a concerted effort to work in a more sustainable way, there needs to be more action to really make a difference. Rochelle Turner, Research Director for the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), said that the hospitality industry needs to act now, as the damage to the natural environment is already significant. “There are huge risks for the future of the travel industry if we don’t act now. We are already seeing destinations that have no proper recycling systems. The waste is just piling up and making what was once a beautiful place look like a rubbish tip, which has a knock on effect for tourism,” said Turner. “Visitors will see it and then complain to tourist boards, leave negative reviews on TripAdvisor and write about it on social media. Prospective tourists will then be asking ‘is this a destination I want to visit?’ and the destination will lose visitors, and, subsequently, investments.” Gonzalez agreed that, as Diamond’s Sunset Bay Club is on an island, it has to do its best to keep as eco-friendly as possible, as there is a limited amount of space.  “Being an eco-friendly business is important for life, especially on an island where there aren’t infinite resources. We have to protect what we’ve got, so we don’t lose it. To drive this point home, we took our staff to a local rubbish dump to show them just how wasteful we 2 8 Q 3/Q 4 2 01 8


Sunset Bay Club By Diamond Resorts in Tenerife, like all Diamond resorts, has its own Sustainability Ambassador.

SEBASTIÁN URQUÍA General Manager, Macdonald Resorts, Spain.

ROCHELLE TURNER Research Director, World Travel & Tourism Council.

can be, and to prove that space is running out. It had a huge impact on them,” said Gonzalez. “Sustainability needs to be a way of life. The only way to make it part of everyday life at home and on holiday is to teach, repeat and repeat,” she added. There is a lot of pressure, both from consumers and the government, for those in the hospitality and real estate industries to report on what they are doing to be more sustainable. Consumers are now more aware than ever that sustainable tourism should be the norm. “The hospitality industry is facing pressure to share what it is doing to keep ‘green’ and it is being held accountable with legislation, such as the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Both are demanding the industry does better,” Turner said. The Paris Agreement – not backed by law – is a promise made by 193 countries and the European Union to mitigate global warming. Everyone has to work together to make this happen, to save, and even revitalise economies. 

Since we started the recycling initiative, the feedback from guests has been very positive. People are really into being eco-friendly and it is good that they can continue their recycling practises on holiday. The world is going ‘green’. – SEBASTIÁN URQUÍA, General Manager, Macdonald Resorts, Spain

Looking to the long term It isn’t clear if travellers are actively looking to visit places because of their ‘green’ stance, however, as certain practises, such as recycling, are simply expected, they are likely to complain if they don’t see them already in place when they arrive. Turner believes that, by putting the effort into reducing their impact on the environment, developers will see a return on their investment in sustainable tourism. She said: “For example, insurers, from a risk point of view, are putting pressure on resort owners and developers to work more sustainably. If there is less risk, premiums are lower.” Some initiatives will be costly to implement initially - such as water recycling and reuse systems, equipment for locals to grow food, and energy-saving lights - so investment will be needed to get things started. The message is very much ‘don't kill the goose that lays the golden egg’, and instead, work together to make a better, safer and greener environment. Eventually the investment will come, in more ways than one, and resort destinations will become safer and more attractive investment options.  O’Neill says that looking to the long term is the way to go. “Going ‘green’ doesn’t necessarily mean a quick return on investment, so making your case to go with a new initiative can sometimes be hard,” she said. “But resort developers and hoteliers have the most to lose if there isn’t a focus on sustainable travel. Rising sea levels and inadequate recycling facilities can devastate resorts. Eventually there is going to be nowhere to visit. “Additionally, Millennials are more aware of environmental issues and they are the future of the travel industry. As well as travelling, they want to work for responsible businesses that have more about them than just making money. With public trust at a low point right now, the only way to build it up and get the best people in the jobs in this industry, is by taking this seriously.”


UN SecretaryGeneral Ban Ki-Moon presided over a high-level meeting to discuss implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement with John Kerry and other signatories. Below: International Tourism Partnership's sustainable goals.

and developers can get the message out to the guests and make it as easy as possible, there really is a point when guests have to start taking ownership in being sustainable as well. She explained: “Guests need to help and do their bit too – and even lower their expectations a little. Should they really be leaving the air-conditioning on all day, and do they really need their towels washed daily? When westerners go away to a hot country, they tend to use 10 times more water per day than a typical local. So, in countries and destinations where water is in short supply, many guests are really not helping the situation. It really is about getting the balance right.” Sustainable practises need to be in place – even if the return on investment isn’t immediate. We need to ensure the planet stays greener for longer, and that destinations continue to be attractive to tourists – either because they remain holiday havens, or attract eco-savvy tourists – thereby generating revenues for many decades to come.


Working together It is clear there is no quick fix to improving sustainable tourism business practices. It needs to be something that is implemented with a long-term goal – just like the Paris Agreement, as Turner explained: “We all need to work together – it’s the only way to fix the problem. Involve the stakeholders, as there needs to be a leader. Short-term plans don’t work for issues such as this one. The phrase ‘you buy cheap, you pay double’ applies to this.” Turner had some strong words of advice for the hospitality industry: “Get rid of emotion and look at cold, hard facts. Look at your vision and decide what you want your resorts and businesses to be in the future for the locals, tourists and your investors.” For businesses already doing all they can to reduce their impact on the environment, the biggest issue is getting the message across to consumers as to just how important it really is. Although, how do you do that when most holidaymakers just want everything easy? “We want to make it as easy as we possibly can for guests to recycle,” Urquía said. “There are large recycling bins right outside the resort, but we had to make it simple for our guests by bringing the resources to them.” O’Neill added that communication is key. While hotels R CI VEN T U RES 2 9

30 Q 3/Q 4 2 01 8

The Evolution of Muslim Travel Over the last decade, rapid growth of the Muslim tourism industry has seen an exponential rise in destinations and services engaging with this market. LORRAINE LOVELAND investigates how key industry stakeholders successfully attract this market sector. IT IS ESTIMATED THAT BY 2050, ONE IN three of the world’s population will be practising Islam, according to Pew Research Centre. Meanwhile the Global Muslim Travel Index 2018 by CrescentRating predicts that travel expenditure will continue its phenomenal growth reaching US$220 billion by 2020. Unsurprisingly, attention has turned to catering to the travel motivations of the world’s fastest-growing religious group. Markets meeting needs Destinations and services looking to satisfy the needs of the Muslim travel market must first understand the requirements. There are clear differences in behaviour from those less strict in practising Islam to devout followers. Success rests with destinations and travel providers who design all customer touch points around individual needs, creating lasting experiences for a wide demographic, not only the most devout of Muslim travellers. Regions such as Asia Pacific, UAE, Egypt and Turkey are popular with the Muslim traveller due to their high service levels, mosques, prayer-room facilities, halal food, and toilet wash facilities. Fazal Bahardeen, Founder and CEO of CrescentRating and said: “We must engage with travellers to raise awareness of destinations as Muslim friendly. The right information must be presented to them in the right spaces, otherwise how will they know you cater for their cultural preferences? “In recent years, Japan, Korea and Taiwan have been popular holiday choices for Indonesian and Malaysian tourists. Japan excels at providing local experiences with a Muslim-friendly twist. Ten years ago you would not have found halal ramen dishes, but they are everywhere now.” Mohannad Sharafuddin, Founder and Chairman of timeshare sales and marketing company, Arabian Falcon Holidays, added: “Morocco is very popular with Muslim families today, whereas previously, it was perceived as a place for less than wholesome fun. “Today, families realise how beautiful Morocco is, from

FAZAL BAHARDEEN Founder & CEO, CrescentRating and

MOHANNAD SHARAFUDDIN Founder & Chairman, Arabian Falcon Holidays.

OSAMA AL KHALOUT Managing Director & Board Member, Dream Plaza.

YASSER EL GAWHARY MENA Affiliate Services Manager, RCI Exchanges.

its landscapes to vibrant heritage. It all rests on tourist boards and airlines changing destination perceptions, and hotels facilitating needs. Dubai hoteliers offer dedicated non-alcohol rooms and halal food is provided – while some go a step further with segregated pools and beach access.” Bahardeen said: “Europe is popular with tourists from the Middle East and Asia, however there must be stronger promotion and emphasis of the region as being Muslim friendly. Yasser El Gawhary, RCI Affiliate Services Manager, MENA, added: “We are witnessing increased demand for Muslim travel services, expected to rise by 17 per cent in the next three years, with emerging destinations including Turkey, Egypt and wider areas of Africa. “England, Spain and France are also in demand with Middle Eastern travellers, but as mentioned, more marketing and promotion is required.” Tourism marketing firm, Dream Plaza, promotes Muslim-friendly travel for resorts, including Samra Bay Hotel and Resorts, and Mazar Resort and Spa – both RCI-affiliated – in addition to the White Rose Hotel in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Osama Al Khalout, Managing Director and Board Member of Dream Plaza, explained: “Saudi Arabia is considered the largest and most important source and destination market in the Middle East for religious tourism, as it’s home to Mecca, where Muslims travel to celebrate their faith.” Muslim groups make a pilgrimage to Mecca for Haji or Umrah. Haji is held during the last month of the Islamic calendar and Muslims are expected to partake at least once in their lifetime. Umrah is not obligatory and can be practised at any time of the year. “Under the directive of the Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, it is expected that Saudi Arabia will welcome 20 million Umrah visitors, which will provide a considerable boost to the tourist economy,” Al Khalout continued. “Tourist cities will be developed across the country to open up access to everyone. This is predicted to attract eight per cent of tourists worldwide, mainly from the Muslim travel segment.” R CI VEN T U RES 3 1

Spotting the difference “We all have our own needs as travellers. It’s no different to a wheelchair user needing more floor space in their room or someone with a nut allergy needing specially prepared food,” suggested Bahardeen. “The only difference is we’re referring to faith-based requirements, but it’s essentially marketing 101 – identify your market and satisfy their needs.” RCI’s El Gawhary said: “The difference here is we are still in the learning cycle to bring awareness to industry stakeholders of this ‘emerging’ segment. “Aside from hotel facilities, staff awareness and training are vital, but it has to be in a way that does not jeopardise the destination’s own cultural offerings, which leisure guests travel to experience.” Al Khalout also supports this notion: “Muslim-friendly travel is not an over demanding concept. Tourists visit Saudi Arabia for unique cultural experiences, not for a replica of their home – they just want services and facilities that allow them to practise their religion. Staff training in culture and languages is important to reduce barriers.” Education is crucial to equip tourism professionals with the necessary knowledge and skills. In addition to research and insight, CrescentRating offers a training academy programme to assist tourism providers in building the capability and capacity to welcome all tourist types. “Europeans, Americans and Chinese nationals prefer alcohol-free hotels in Dubai, as there’s no disruption – it’s more about family-friendly travel rather than Muslim centric,” advised Sharafuddin. But do dry hotels have a negative impact on hotel revenue? Not so, according to Sharafuddin: “The money you ‘lose’ in alcohol sales, you can recoup through repeat custom,” he explained. “If you satisfy your customers they become loyal brand ambassadors returning to your resort every year, and tell their friends about it too, which reduces marketing expenditure. “We are seeing a lot of investors financing this travel concept and encouraging more families to holiday in Dubai as it’s safe, secure and perfect for conservative travellers.” 32 Q 3/Q 4 2 01 8


From top; Mazar Resort & Spa in South Sinai offers authentic cultural experiences for the Muslim traveller. Muslim travel is set to increase by 17 per cent in the next three years.

Digital-savvy Millennials The Halal Travel Frontier 2018 Report by CrescentRating reveals Muslim Millennial travellers are key to industry success. Authentic, accessible and affordable experiences will continue to be high priorities for them. Bahardeen said: “More than 60 per cent of the Muslim population are under 30. They often travel with their family and even family members as young as 12 years old have a major impact on the final holiday choice. “With a shift towards digital, tourism providers must engage and interact with Millennials online, which, as we have seen already, will result in a decline in traditional offline agents. “Millennials want us to speak to both their travel and faith needs, and will continue to push industry boundaries. They are more likely to share their aspirations online, so social listening is important.” El Gawhary said: “They are the real driving force shaping the industry right now, so we must understand them for future success. They are more adventurous and are creating new destinations to visit, such as Japan and Latin America, with the digital space driving this trend.” Bahardeen added: “At a basic level, tourists search and book online according to their needs and will only travel somewhere they will feel safe and welcome.” Seamless online experiences are vital to build trust and credibility, as is the ability to provide local experiences which are authenticated as appropriate for Muslim consumption. Online apps, such as and one currently being developed by Dream Plaza, look to help travellers make more informed decisions on where they travel to. “ is a useful tool for planning Muslimfriendly breaks, with reviews and ratings of destinations and services according to specific amenities,” Bahardeen explained. “Other features, such as calculating in-flight prayer times, help to inspire other like-minded travellers in their holiday habits and decisions.”

1 0 K E Y M U S L I M T R AV E L T R E N DS

Tipping point in online transition

Rise of Muslim female travellers

Asia will continue to lead the way

Focus on talent development in halal travel ecosystem

Authenticating halal or Muslim-friendly claims will continue to be a challenge

Yearning for seamless content discovery

Travellers' visual stories will counter negative narratives

Developing unbiased AI-enabled travel solutions

Connecting with Muslim travellers through stronger brand empathy Muslim travellers embrace sustainability and community initiatives Source: Halal Travel Frontier Report 2018 by CrescentRating

Independent women Muslim women are now more independent, entering the workplace and receiving a better education in the Middle East and South-East Asia. “Lots of female Muslim groups now travel to Japan, and you wouldn’t have seen this a decade ago. These women feel secure and are not afraid to travel, which shows how society has evolved,” said Bahardeen. In Saudi Arabia, 24 June 2018 will be forever marked as a game-changing moment when the decades-long ban on female drivers was lifted, renewing hope for freedom, independence and empowerment. There are also government plans to increase the female workforce here from 22 to 30 per cent by 2030. These changes are shaping new trends, with independent and adventurous female Muslim travellers seeking more specialised travel and lifestyle experiences. Travelling with friends and family, they look for new experiences in warm and welcoming environments which they can use to inspire and empower their peers.

“As we enter this cycle of learning, we will see new facilities developed in resorts, such as private pools linked to accommodation points, curated spa programmes and more variety in shops, such as we have in Dubai and Turkey, which are key travel motivators,” said El Gawhary. “We collaborate with developers and hoteliers in both source and destination markets to be able to find ways to meet the needs of all segments, from Muslim Millennials to Muslim female travellers. It’s a continuous process as new trends emerge all the time.” A strong part of Islam is being sustainable, taking care of the environment, being charitable and supporting the community – something which Muslim Millennial travellers are keen to experience on holiday. Bahardeen added: “Industry stakeholders looking to get ahead of the curve should look at leveraging a sustainable tourism programme with local activities focused on doing more for the people and the planet.” El Gawhary said: “It doesn’t mean development plans are large scale either. They can be as simple as offering separate bathing times, rather than building a new pool. Catering to this audience is a cost-effective solution, having the potential to generate a good return.” Creating destinations for all It’s time to enable Muslim travellers to explore the world, and foster inclusivity and diversity for everyone. Whether for vegetarians or faith-related requirements, stakeholders have an incredible opportunity to make the whole travel industry accessible, authentic and affordable for everyone. However, with recent visa embargoes imposed on Muslim arrivals to the US, does it suggest that the freedom to see more of the world really isn’t open to all? Bahardeen said: “The outbound market actually only makes up two per cent of US arrivals, compared to Asia, of which 56 per cent are Muslim. It shows the lack of appeal in comparison, Asia is being geared up to meet faith-based needs. People will only travel to places they are made to feel safe and welcome. “And with plenty of destinations to discover worldwide, it’s not had a huge effect on the Muslim leisure travel sector, especially with lesser known destinations, which Millennials are very keen to discover, being opened up by budget airlines.” Al Khalout said: “The future looks bright and analysis suggests a rapid growth in demand for Muslim travel to reach 15 per cent of total worldwide tourism by 2020. “Emerging areas in Europe, Russia and Ukraine are embracing this concept, and with new destinations comes more investment from local and international brands, which will support worldwide growth plans.” Muslim Millennial travellers are a powerhouse, a strong online network who tailor their own unique holiday experiences while changing stereotypes and perceptions – they are worth their weight in gold, and not just in monetary terms. The investment and commitment of destinations and travel providers to engage Muslim travellers is evidently reaping rewards – and it is clear that this market poses a vast opportunity for all developers and destinations. R CI VEN T U RES 3 3


A New – But Familiar Face – For RCI Europe ROBIN MILLS takes the helm for RCI EMEA’s Business Development team at a crucial point for the business and the shared-holiday ownership industry.

I SEE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR growth in all markets within our region. This point in time is incredibly exciting, not only for RCI, but for the entire industry, with new opportunities and new business prospects at every turn. With the expansion of the RCI Exchanges’ family of brands, we can deliver a product to meet the needs of each developer, hotelier and resort in our region. From standard to luxury membership tiers, to fractional and whole ownership options, our portfolio of established brands offers unparalleled solutions to the shared-holiday ownership industry. RCI, The Registry Collection, Love Home Swap and DAE will each form part of our EMEA strategy for the remainder of 2018 and into 2019, as we focus on leveraging these brands to bring them together to further enhance RCI Exchange Holiday and leisure lifestyle products. Some of our affiliates and strategic partners will have touch points with all of the brands, whereas some may only utilise one or two to innovate their products. The breadth of brands RCI Exchanges now offers is groundbreaking and will be the driving force behind new areas of opportunity for our region. The Middle East, as we know, offers vast opportunity for development and forthcoming legislation will certainly fuel this growth, positioning it as a market which will be impossible for resort developers and marketers to ignore. Inbound figures for Spain and Portugal have soared incredibly in recent years, partly

34 Q 3/Q 4 2 01 8

driven by the fallout in consumer confidence for destinations in North Africa. Now that this confidence has been restored, loyalty products will be of paramount importance to Western Europe to retain inbound levels, which is where an enhanced RCI Exchanges’ offering can assist resort operators. The shared-holiday ownership industry is thriving, and it is essential that consumer and industry confidence continue to grow parallel to one another, so that we can influence the opportunities in our market. What better way to instil industry confidence than the tremendous news of AMResorts’ expansion into Europe, with the opening of four resorts across Mallorca, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote set for 2019. I believe the LATAM powerhouse’s selection of Europe, and importantly Spain, as part of its expansion strategy is the shot in the arm needed to boost confidence in our industry for its future development. It’s hugely positive to see an outside developer riding into our market. AMResorts’ investment is a clear demonstration that any negativity caused by restraints in our market, is incomparable to the opportunity our region holds. AMResorts is immensely passionate about the possibilities in our region. We at RCI, as its chosen exchange associate, look forward to joining in its quest for success as the shared-holiday ownership industry in Europe continues to evolve.

ROBIN MILLS Vice President Business Development – Europe, Middle East & Africa, RCI Exchanges.

ABOUT ROBIN MILLS With more than 30 years’ experience, Robin is a well-respected veteran in the timeshare and hospitality industry. Robin has established strong partnerships with numerous industry leaders and affiliate resorts throughout Europe and Africa. He has also served as MD Europe for Club Leisure Group, MD of the RMI Consortium/Petchey Leisure and worked closely with several trade associations, including ARDA and RDO. Robin holds a degree from Edinburgh Heriot Watt University.










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