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MONDI MOVES UPSCALE Executive holiday product takes things up a gear

STRONGER TOGETHER Work with RCI and you’re working with Wyndham

OUT OF INDIA New markets for major Indian timeshare brands



WITH YOU IN MIND With that, we would like to invite you to visit our website… Stay in the know on industry news, plus insightful features from RCI Ventures magazine

Learn about RCI 360° full circle support of products and services

Experience first-hand why RCI is the industry leader in timeshare exchange


IN BRIEF 4 News The latest news from Europe and around the world

Welcome RCI Affiliates

INSIGHT 7 Critical Moves High-profile mergers and acquisitions in the world of travel 10 Power Of The Online Marketplace Expert insight into influential online trends IN DEVELOPMENT 17 Warming To Thermal The appeal and advantage of the thermal resort product 18 Thinking Outside The Box Domina Vacanze goes pan-European with hotel acquisition plan 21 Strength In Numbers Go global by using the Wyndham Hotel Group and RCI multiple business units 24 MONDI Moves Upmarket MONDI-HOLIDAY launches executive holiday product IN DEPTH 27 Education, Education, Education Why an understanding of product is crucial to successful selling 30 India – Inside & Out Mahindra and Sterling are set to make an impact on markets in Europe and the Middle East

We start the year in a good place, with more than 50 active prospects in 26 regions and many new business leads for both RCI and The Registry Collection. To maximise this opportunity for our affiliate community, the industry as a whole and RCI, there are several important touchstones, all of which we explore in this magazine. Our cover feature on Page 10 looks at the changing online landscape and the need to be in that space to drive your business. We believe engaging content, plus holiday research and booking tools on our member website, making the member journey as easy and pleasing as possible, is crucial for new and existing resorts going into sales. They will be talking with the Millennial buyers; and not forgetting Generation X, an increasingly active online community. Dedicated teams at RCI monitor online trends and, pivotal to our strategy, is significant investment in the continued enhancement of both and All in the industry recognise the importance of innovation, new product and new ways of working to take our industry forward. On Page 18 Domina Vacanze shares its latest business development initiative, while on Page 24, MONDI showcases its new product. We are also pleased to be able to introduce a new way of working for RCI affiliates on Page 21, whereby resort developers – such as Barrasford & Bird Worldwide, in a European first – can access the multiple hospitality business units of the Wyndham Hotel Group and RCI to give their brand and operation international reach. I hope you find much to interest and inspire you in this issue of RCI Ventures magazine. If you want to discuss any of the ideas in these pages – or new ideas of your own – your RCI Affiliate Services Manager is there to listen.

FINAL THOUGHT 34 How I Holiday With Timeshare Egan Wild, RCI member, tells us how he uses RCI membership S E A N LOW E

Managing Director RCI Europe, Middle East, Africa and India

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

  is published by RCI, a trading name of RCI Europe, Kettering Parkway, Kettering, Northants, NN15 6EY, United Kingdom. Tel: +44 (0)1536 314266. Email: EDITOR: Helen Foster. ASSISTANT EDITOR: Leigh Connelly CONTRIBUTING EDITOR: Steve Adams. DESIGN: David Clarke, Charlotte Semark, Ginny Knight. PRODUCTION: Claire Williams, Trevor Lewis, Leigh Connelly. PRINTING: Portland Print. PHOTO CREDITS: Thinkstock, Shutterstock. 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 2016




Ronaldo scores hotel deal with Pestana Football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo has joined forces with leading Portuguese hotelier, the Pestana Hotel Group, to launch four boutique hotels. The €75 million range of hotels will appear under the Real Madrid striker’s ‘CR7’ brand and be located in Funchal, Lisbon, Madrid and New York. The four boutique-style properties comprise a total of 400 rooms and are due to open within the next two years. The joint venture is co-owned by Ronaldo and Pestana, and will be managed by the hotel group, whose operations include the RCI-affiliated timeshare arm, Pestana Vacation Club.

Dionísio Pestana, Owner and Chairman of the group, and Ronaldo, who both hail from Madeira, said the collaboration is based on a mutual empathy and trust. “This joint venture has enormous potential. It echoes the consistently innovative spirit that embodies the Pestana Hotel Group,” said Pestana. Ronaldo added: “My job is to play football, but life won’t always be like this. I have to dedicate myself to this new project and I have the best team in the world around me. I’m certain this investment is surely one of the safest deals that I can capitalise on for my future.”

Cristiano Ronaldo and Dionísio Pestana at the launch of their hotel joint venture.

HCR acquires Swedish spa hotel firm Finnish-based Holiday Club has purchased a 51 per cent stake in Swedish spa hotel company, Visionsbolaget AB. Following the deal, Visionsbolaget will become a subsidiary of Holiday Club Sweden AB and will change its brand to Holiday Club 4 Q 1 /Q 2 2 01 6

Sport and Spa Hotels AB. It will continue to operate spa hotels and other supporting businesses. HCR is one of Europe’s largest timeshare operators and this property joins the 31 resorts in the group’s portfolio. Seven HCR resorts feature spa hotels and eight resorts are located outside Finland in Sweden, Spain and the Canary Islands. During the 2013-2014 financial year, HCR recorded a turnover of €124 million. An RCI affiliate, HCR signed its first timeshare resort, Punkaharju, to RCI in 1989.

Disney Vacation Club turns 25! Disney Vacation Club is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a range of special member events and offers planned throughout the year. The RCI affiliate made its debut in 1991, offering a flexible, pointsbased vacation system rather than traditional fixed-week timeshare model. It currently has more than 200,000 member families in approximately 100 countries. As well as being able to stay at any of the 13 Disney Vacation Club resorts and thousands more around the world through RCI, Disney members can also use their membership points to take trips on Disney Cruise Line or guided vacations with Adventures by Disney. In 2016, Disney Vacation Club will debut new member events and offers at Disney theme parks and resorts as part of its anniversary. The extensive line-up of offerings for members will be branded ‘Membership Magic’. Ken Potrock, Senior Vice President and General Manager, said: “Membership Magic gives families even more to love about Disney Vacation Club. Now, for our 25th anniversary, we’re introducing even more amazing membership extras, exclusive experiences and enhancements. “It’s our way of thanking our members for being such a valued part of the Disney Vacation Club family throughout these past two and a half decades.”

Ken Potrock.

Karma Group creates single brand for all resorts

THC signs with RCI The Holiday Club (THC), one of South Africa’s largest timeshare clubs, has renewed its five-year Master Affiliation Agreement with RCI. An RCI affiliate since its launch in 1994, THC has won a multitude of awards for superior excellence and performance, including six RCI Developer of the Year Awards, four RCI Enrolment Awards, the 2011 VOASA Environmental Innovation Awards and the RCI Hall of Fame Awards for its founder, John Beekman. Dimitris Manikis, Vice President, Business Development, RCI Europe, Middle East and Africa, said: “THC has contributed tremendously to the development of the South African timeshare Industry, through its investment in innovative product and quality offering. We are delighted that THC has chosen to renew the affiliation agreement with RCI.”

and revamped website have united the Karma Resorts, Karma Retreats, Karma Royal, Karma Estates, Karma Beach and Karma Spa brands. John Spence, Chairman, CEO and Founder of Karma Group, said: “I am delighted with our new company branding and associated website. I believe it represents a huge step forward for the group and is both an extremely attractive, informative and exciting development. Work on the site will be ongoing and dynamic, which means we welcome all feedback.”

To view the new-look website, visit

Azure Ultra is making waves in timeshare Azure Malta’s new fractional yacht product is set to make a splash in the growing sharing economy, as well as signal a new era for the vacation ownership lifestyle. Azure Ultra is the latest addition to Azure’s luxury lifestyle collection, and offers buyers the chance to purchase fractional ownership of one of three Sunseeker motor yachts moored at the Grand Harbour marina in Malta. Ten-year fractional ownerships range from £37,500 to £59,500 per week, with annual maintenance fees ranging from £520 to £660. Perry Newton, Managing Director of Azure Malta, said the project was six months in the making and Azure

members were involved at all stages, from initial feasibility studies through to design. He said: “We sold out the first motor yacht before launch, which highlights the importance of interacting with your customers to better understand what they are looking for.” Azure’s target markets are Britain, Scandinavia and Italy, with sales generated through a mix of member marketing, fly-buys and charter rentals. Owners can exchange their yacht usage for a choice of accommodation worldwide using membership of RCI’s luxury exchange programme, The Registry Collection, or can charter their on-board entitlement to generate income from their ownership plan.

Azure Ultra is a luxury lifestyle offering from Azure Malta, and is affiliated to The Registry Collection.



Luxury resort developer, Karma Group, has undergone a total rebrand that brings all its brands and resorts together under a single Karma identity. This one brand and logo will now embody the growing portfolio of lifestyle experiences and service ethos that drive the company’s many holiday and leisure products. The Karma website has been given a complete redesign to create a primary showcase, enabling visitors to ‘virtually’ experience all 24 properties in the group’s portfolio. The rebrand exercise

Spence said the group’s wide range of offerings, as well as future expansion – another nine resorts are currently in the pipeline – meant a new approach to product and a new website were essential in conveying its brand values. All the Royal Resort properties now come under the umbrella of the Karma brand and will be undergoing an associated brand refresh. Will Hall, Senior Director, Marketing, RCI Europe, said: “The new website succeeds in telling a strong and emotive story. Our members will be inspired by the immersive Karma journey on the new site.”



RCI Platinum Shines An enhanced RCI Platinum membership has been launched, bringing further benefits to RCI members. This higher-tier RCI membership offers a range of lifestyle benefits that can be enjoyed at home and abroad. Among the new RCI Platinum membership benefits are:

RCI affiliates three AAA resorts in the Maldives

• The ability to upgrade units and request a resort change in the destination area up to three days before check in, subject to availability • For Weeks members – automatic restoration of full Trading Power, free of charge, for Weeks deposited up to six months in advance of the departure date • For Points members – opportunity to extend their RCI Points’ life for two years for the price of a one-year extension, plus free Points transfers to another eligible RCI member’s account to combine and boost their exchange value.

Education First RCI invests significantly in educating members to ensure they get the best value out of timeshare, using RCI membership. A new ‘Help’ section on was launched in six languages at the start of the year, and will be rolled out in all supported languages by the end of March. The ‘Help’ section carries useful guides to make the experience of searching for an exchange holiday, and booking, as easy as possible. Importantly, there are new sections on understanding membership, with tips on exchanging with RCI to access much-in-demand resorts. Among other enhancements are Self Help answers to technical difficulties, easy to follow graphics and step-by-step guides. “We know timeshare is a fabulous family holiday product, with spacious apartments, lots of on-resort facilities 6 Q 1 /Q 2 2 01 6

Grace Salaman, Head of Product for RCI Europe and Middle East, said: “There has never been a better time to become an RCI Platinum member. We will continue to look for ways in which to bring greater value, flexibility and travel opportunities to our members. We have calculated that, for the £49 Platinum membership upgrade, our members could receive more than £500 value out of the increasing range of RCI Platinum membership benefits available to them.”

and the opportunity to travel the world using exchange,” said Tanya Lee, Director of Product, Channel and Content. “But some of our members are not as confident in using RCI membership as they need to be to get the most out of their timeshare purchase. We are committed to continually enhancing, to be sure we are giving our members 24/7 online access to educational material to help increase their understanding, thereby increasing their satisfaction with timeshare.”

Help is at hand for RCI members 24/7 online at with simple step-by-step guides and answers to technical questions.

Filitheyo Island Resort in the Maldives.

RCI added three properties in the Maldives to its exchange network through an affiliation with AAA Hotels & Resorts. The affiliation brings RCI members access to high-quality resorts in the famous tropical destination known for its beaches, blue lagoons and extensive reefs. The three villa-style resorts are Medhufushi Island Resort in Meemu Atoll, Filitheyo Island Resort at Faafu Atoll, and Bathala Island Resort at Alif Alif Atoll. Pali Badwal, Managing Director, RCI India, said: “The Maldives is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations and we are thrilled our members can now travel there. We look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship with AAA Hotels & Resorts.” Ahmed Hamza, Deputy Managing Director of AAA Hotels & Resorts, said: “It is with immense pleasure that we commence our partnership with RCI. We believe that, together, the synergy will enhance the services we offer our customers and deliver our promise to our customer of a great experience for future travels.”

Critical Moves


In recent months there have been a number of high-profile mergers and acquisitions in the world of travel. This trend shows no signs of slowing and the moves are set to impact the travel and tourism industry. BY LO R R A I N E K A R A B I N

DR WOUTER GEERTS Travel Analyst, Euromonitor International


IN NOVEMBER 2015, MARRIOTT International announced its takeover of Starwood Hotels & Resorts for $12.2 billion, creating the world’s biggest hotel company and the second-largest hotel merger since 2007. In the same month, Expedia’s purchase of HomeAway for $3.9 billion gave way to a ripple effect of rumours in the industry as to when the next acquisition will be, and which brands will be involved. We look at the impacts and benefits of these mergers in what is now the status quo for surviving in today’s chess board of a travel market where the players are all looking for their next move.


Positional Play Following the acquisition of Starwood, Marriott sales account for 8.4 per cent of all global hotel sales, which is the largest share of any hospitality group based on 2014 room sales. This move surprised everyone, as Hyatt was tipped as the forerunner to buy Starwood, and industry observers have speculated over what might have driven Marriott’s big deal. “The driving force behind this transaction is growth,” Arne Sorenson, Marriott President and Chief Executive, said in a press release. “This is an opportunity to create value by combining the distribution and strengths of Marriott and Starwood, enhancing our competitiveness in a quickly evolving marketplace.” With 30 brands now coming under the Marriott umbrella, the group will benefit from increased profitability, improved procurement cost efficiencies and a stronger market presence with 5,500 hotels in more than 100 countries. Accor Hotels has also dipped its toes into the acquisition waters, with the announcement that it has bought FRHI Hotels, the owners of Fairmont, Raffles and Swissôtel, to expand geographically and into luxury travel. “The announcement of these consolidations confirms a strong trend in the travel industry,” said Dr Wouter Geerts, Travel Analyst, Euromonitor International. “Hotels now need to invest in the spread and diversification of their market operations. Such is the case with Accor Hotels, which has invested in the expansion of its portfolio into the luxury market.” “These new deals will certainly impact the competitive landscape, and only time will tell before we are able to fully understand the degree to which the impact of these moves are felt by well-known brands.” Hyatt and Hilton have already offered Starwood members the opportunity to transfer to their own branded loyalty schemes, with added perks. Geerts 8 Q 3/Q 4 2 01 5

believes this will affect the US market the most. He explained: “The major impact of this deal for travellers will be around the loyalty schemes of Marriott and Starwood. For example, will Starwood Preferred Guests be taken over by Marriott Rewards, and will Starwood Preferred Guest members be happy with this?” With a suite of compelling offers for existing loyalty members, the mergers also create opportunities for competitors to gain new customers through the growth and innovation of the increasingly popular loyalty schemes. The situation presents both challenge and opportunity, and it will bring a wave of change across the hospitality world. Aggregator Moves Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) are also playing with a new strategy by bringing in their own deals. Last November, Expedia acquired HomeAway, bridging the holiday rentals gap in its portfolio and gaining a strong competitive advantage over The Priceline Group (TPG) and Airbnb. The HomeAway deal is, for Expedia, the last in a long series of acquisitions which followed the controversial spin off of TripAdvisor in 2011 and have significantly strengthened its position in the online travel space. Expedia also owns a majority share of the largest global hotel metasearch engine, Trivago, which gives it a leading position in this fast growing and strategic area and also strengthens its position in Europe. HomeAway’s vast portfolio of mainly second homes in holiday resorts will strengthen its online travel offer with quite a unique inventory of products, providing Expedia’s OTA brands with a competitive edge over other online travel players. “TPG operate very intuitive technology and HomeAway will still have to play a bit of catch up, which will be achievable now under Expedia’s marketing and technological guidance,” said Geerts. “The travel industry is volatile so OTAs and hotels must keep innovating and acquiring new businesses to increase their competitiveness and market share.” Only 50 per cent of HomeAway inventory is bookable online. Once these developments are complete, HomeAway will have a fully functional website, and be able to compete on a level playing field with the likes of TPG and Airbnb. “OTAs have the booking platforms in place making anything possible, from selling ancillary services to luxury villas,” he added. With Airbnb now looking to partner with Virgin America, as well as planning moves into hotels, holiday homes and villas, there is all to play for as OTAs look to provide a complete travel solution. The perceived competitive threat is evident, as Expedia’s merger with HomeAway to strengthen its position in online travel demonstrates, clearly challenging Airbnb and TPG with its now more diverse and competitive offering. Needless to say, travel purchasers will be presented with even more choice and greater convenience in travel planning and booking over the coming years, as the deals

Travel Trends for 2016

and technological developments now in the pipeline begin to deliver.

Euromonitor has recently published its travel industry predictions for 2016. Here is your round up of some of the most significant trends emerging.

Opponents & Onlookers The rise in OTAs is not such good news for some independent hotels, which can pay up to 20 per cent commission per booking through an OTA site. Without OTAs however, hotels would lose out on sales and revenue, as consumers are increasingly turning to sites such as Trivago and As a consequence, many hotel brands are now developing their own strategies to encourage customers to book direct with them. “Hotels promoting direct bookings have little impact on players like HomeAway,” explained Geerts. “However, for players such as Marriott, which are not willing to pay high commissions to OTAs and, having a powerful brand, scale and resource, it makes sense for them to promote their own websites and to cut out the OTAs from the booking process.” Meanwhile, OTAs aren’t standing still. “HomeAway, for example, is in need of changing its own commission system, as most of its hosts pay an annual subscription fee – a one off payment at the beginning of the year,” said Geerts. “This means that HomeAway does not make any money from subsequent bookings made through its platform.” Airbnb has been very successful with a pay-perbooking system where hosts pay around 10 per cent commission per booking, which leads to far greater revenue streams. “HomeAway has now been focusing on converting all its annual subscriptions to this same system,” he added. A real challenge for Airbnb will be the innovation and development from the Expedia team, which will help Expedia to keep competition from the industry disruptor at bay. And now, coming into the game with some new moves of their own, tour operators are creating their own holiday rentals business units. For example, recognising the growing popularity of rentals, TUI has recently launched a new rentals division.

Spain has revived itself, not just as a beach destination but as a cultural centre. San Sebastian was voted European Capital of Culture for 2016 and, with the weaker euro, Spain is still very attractive to UK visitors. Nationals from Turkey, Greece and Russia will also head for Spain due to recent economic and political events which have impacted their holiday planning. Cuba will experience a boom in tourist numbers when US travellers can discover the country for the first time since 1960, once the US Government travel embargo is lifted for US citizens. Iran has improved ties with the international world, and will be a major tourism contributor for the Middle East. Accor Hotels has recently negotiated hotel deals in Iran.

Emerging Holiday Experiences European hipster holidays are the latest trend, where visitors prefer to stay outside of major cities in a holiday rental for an authentic local experience. Asia has experienced robust growth over the last few years, and a sharing economy model has been launched in China, modelled on Airbnb and Uber.

Future Buyer Behaviour Mobile bookings are expected to account for 25 per cent of all global online travel sales by 2019. More consumers are turning to social media networks, price comparison and online review sites to inform their decisions. Mobile apps will grow in significance, using push notifications to provide local information and gain feedback on the user’s travel experience. See Page 10 for full insight from the experts in online travel.


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Playing Strength As technology has advanced and consumer confidence in the internet increased, so has the rate of online bookings. OTAs currently retain the largest proportion of global online and mobile travels sales accounting for 12.5 per cent. To keep pace and maintain a competitive advantage, they will need to continue to innovate to deliver better and more immersive experiences, which are responsive and meaningful. The travel landscape is an ever evolving one as providers seek to implement more cost-effective measures and enter new markets to earn a bigger share. During these changing times it is clear that many stakeholders are set to become the King of the Hill in what is currently an open game. The important question is… who will make the next move?

Top 2016 Destinations


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The Power Of The Online Marketplace The internet is an international 24/7 shop window. But has your digital channel evolved into the powerful social hub it needs to be to turn lookers into bookers? Some of the best in the business share their views on the transformation in the way your consumers are buying. BY H E L E N F O S T E R

Persuasive Package “With so many social platforms out there, you have to convince your travel buyer to make the purchase there and then,” stated Richard Jones, CEO, EngageSciences. “You don’t want them jumping off to other sites. If your website has everything they need to make the purchase once they are on your site, then it is the powerful tool you need in today’s online landscape.” Jones’ organisation has developed a platform that filters and curates User Generated Content (UGC) from many websites, automatically getting permissions for its clients to use the material on their own social media platforms. The campaign framework provided by EngageSciences allows its clients to launch campaigns across different social media channels and third-party sites, while the data collection that sits behind the programme categorises demographics and holiday preferences, enabling future campaigns to be targeted to specific consumer segments. UGC was the number-one trend identified by EngageSciences last year and the travel industry represents its largest client base. Among big brand clients are Marriott, Starwood and Heathrow Airport. R CI VEN TURES 1 1


WITH A WORLD OF FABULOUS destinations, awe-inspiring sights and resorts offering amazing lifestyle experiences, the timeshare industry is made for ‘sharing’ – in every sense of the word. Your owners, members and guests have always shared the memorable times you gave them. Not so long ago they used coffee table guidebooks and your brochures during the planning stage, and weighty photo albums and slide shows on return from holiday. Those days are gone. Your consumers today are connected to the web around the clock; trusted travel websites are now likely to be the first port of call in their holiday planning and booking, and they will share the experience during their holiday across social networks by posting pictures on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, videos on Vine and YouTube, real time streaming on Periscope, talk on mobile messaging apps – and the chatter will go on, post-holiday. If you’re not building enduring relationships with your customers on your social hub, staying and playing with them throughout their travel journey, year in and year out, you’re not building a future for your business. Harnessing the power of these influencers is critical in strengthening your brand and growing your business.

Powerful Persuasion EngageSciences carried out some research across a group of its clients’ consumers in 2014 to track their response to User Generated Content (UGC) on its clients’ websites. The results were very positive and revealed: • 10% reduction in bounce rate • 300% increase in dwell times on pages • 22% increase in click throughs on CTAs • 11% overall increase in traffic to site. Use of social content in other marketing channels resulted in: • 8 x better performance when ads feature social content rather than standard CTA banners


• 59% increase in email open rates.

According to Jones, the travel business has a big advantage: “Social proof or consumer testament of great experiences abounds in the holiday industry. Most industries have to work hard to get authentic UGC but in travel everyone wants to brag about the fabulous times they’re having on holiday. Your customers are sharing in huge volumes without any incentive to do so, and the best thing about it is, it’s free,” he said. “Consumer advocacy, especially pictures and videos, is proven to maximise the sale conversion rate. From our client case studies we found authentic UGC, particularly photos, used at point of sale to be a very powerful component, driving an incremental increase in bookings of seven per cent on average.” Although Jones points out that web strategy is strongest with an optimal content mix. “You should definitely not ignore your own, professionally produced content,” he added. “Studies show brand engagement rises by 28 per cent when users are exposed to both types of content, so it is clearly about ensuring the right mix of owned and earned content.” Euromonitor International is another organisation with travel on its radar, and Angelo Rossini, its Online Travel Analyst agrees with Jones. “Across Europe and North America 50 per cent of all online transactions are made in travel and tourism. It is definitely one of the best industries in terms of consumer engagement with online and mobile channels,” he said. Rossini reports the increase in use of mobile devices in travel and holiday research, and travel support, is a significant trend identified by Euromonitor. As good as your website might be, it may not be enough to keep you ahead of the game. You should be travelling with your customers. He explained: “Travellers want assistance during their trip; to be able to make additional bookings for excursions and attractions; a check-in and check-out 12 Q 1 /Q 2 2 01 6


(ABOVE) EngageSciences’ Heathrow Terminal 2 social campaign got 17,000 interactions in the campaign timeframe. (LEFT) John Beckley’s successful online media campaign for Sands Beach Hotel got six million views.

functionality on their smartphones and tablets. In a new focus on the travel experience itself, your customers want you to provide a complete service that can be accessed from their mobile devices.” Dominating this space is the Priceline Group with $50.3 billion in total gross online bookings for 2014, servicing in 42 languages and hosting 45 million reviews; and Expedia Inc, having 200-plus travel booking sites and 150 mobile sites serviced in 35 languages, with $50.4 billion in gross bookings as at the end of Q3, 2015. The commissions for hotels using the aggregators are challenging – between 15 and 22 per cent. However, as Rossini says: “The numbers speak for themselves. These online travel agencies are increasingly popular with consumers and it is difficult for hotels to work without them.” But nothing is ever as straightforward as it seems. “Hotels and resorts which are still working to build their brand profile need to sell through these intermediaries, but also need to use direct sales. Direct sales, supported by an inspirational online content strategy, will create customer loyalty and increase the value of your brand,” said Rossini. “Today’s travellers are becoming more loyal to brands. They are also building trusted relationships with the online agency brands, making it important that your consumers are sharing their experience reviews of their stays at your resorts in those spaces. Consumer ratings are extremely influential.” Rossini has seen the availability of online price comparisons attracting consumers. “They want ease of use and transparency. Being able to compare prices while shopping makes sites such as Expedia a must-visit holiday planning resource,” he said. Someone who has been working hard to bring timeshare kicking and screaming into the online space


ANGELO ROSSINI Online Travel Analyst, Euromonitor

JOHN BECKLEY Resort Community Manager


increase In bookings using UGC

tour companies in the sale of destination excursions. Nobody can infuse your ‘voice’ with the warmth and energy that is your brand better than you can, and you need to get your voice out across as many media channels as possible to create community and give your brand standout by giving it a personality.” There are tips and tricks of the online trade to be learned to help define your presence and voice, which is where Beckley can help. He runs training programmes for clients and, having just been appointed by timeshare trade body, RDO, as its 2016 Digital Consultant, we can expect to see a strengthened timeshare online community. He explained: “We can achieve so much working together across the industry as one movement. I am looking forward to working with RDO and resort developers on a strategic long-term plan designed to win the industry some influential online friends which will help to improve the perception of the industry.”

300% increase In dwell times with UGC


for many years is John Beckley, Resort Community Manager. One of the first resorts he encouraged to get an online presence was that of his brother, James Beckley, who launched a web presence for The Pearly Grey Ocean Club in Tenerife six years ago. “James and his team had a fear of the unknown. They were afraid of the backlash from the whingers,” he said. “The truth is they have only had to delete one abusive message in six years.” Some complaints have been posted but, as with most things in life, honesty and transparency bring rewards. Beckley explained: “It is important to respond quickly to manage your reputation. We even found that Pearly Grey owners and loyal guests will stand up for the resort in the face of negative commentary, turning it into a positive.” It is the deep regard and vested interest that timeshare owners have in their home resorts which makes timeshare the ideal online media player. Beckley believes with this advantage, timeshare should be at the forefront of online conversations. “Your loyal guests are your best ambassadors and you should be encouraging them to have a voice. Sadly, I’d say at least 80 per cent of timeshare resorts are simply not in the game by not having a strong online presence and being out there answering queries on TripAdvisor,” he added. Beckley admits it is a resource-hungry activity. Content is king – you need rich content, great photographs and videos, regular content refreshes and the ability to keep up with the chatter and to respond in a timely fashion. “You post a picture of your amazing pool or seafront location and you will have hundreds of Likes, Shares and people commenting ‘wow, I want to be there’. But to do it effectively you need to dedicate a creative PR person to the job and you need to treat it with the respect it deserves.” Beckley has recently been working with the Sands Beach Hotel, Lanzarote, on its digital media strategy with some considerable success. Apart from its website, this brand has also built a strong presence on a plethora of social media platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Flickr. “We published 10,000 photographs and videos and have had six million views,” said Beckley. “Using this direct approach, the hotel outsold COSMOS and other

350 million Monthly visitors to TripAdvisor

Millennials Driving Change Millennials have far greater trust in user generated content than in what you tell them about your product. And they are clearly influenced by what their counterparts are saying. • 44% of Millennials are asking for travel opinions on social media. • 97% of Millennials share experiences on social networks while travelling. • 72% post holiday photographs on a social network while still on holiday. • 76% post holiday photographs on returning from holiday. • 46% post hotel and resort reviews. • 70% of consumers worldwide say online consumer reviews are their second most trusted form of advertising. Source: Talking to Strangers: Millennials Trust People Over Brands 2013 Nielsen 2013 Study Courtesy of EngageSciences.

TO P G LO B A L O N L I N E R E TA I L E R S BY VA LU E SA L E S 2 0 1 2 - 2 0 1 3 Source: Euromonitor International Note: Value sales exclude taxes except for online travel agencies' (Expedia, Priceline and Orbitz) sales, which include them.




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Wal-Mart Stores Inc Orbitz Worldwide Inc Rakuten Inc Inc Apple Inc eBay Inc Inc Expedia Inc Alibaba Group Holding Inc Inc

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Industry On The Internet Fellow Wyndham company, Hoseasons, was the first UK holiday company to launch a website back in 1999. Founded as a boating holiday company in 1944, James Hoseasons Junior followed in his father’s footsteps as a technical pioneer, guiding the company’s web strategy. In 2001 he expanded the website, introducing interactive activities, such as search and booking functionalities. Three years after its acquisition by Wyndham Worldwide in 2010, it took a big step in its digital journey by bringing in Reevoo, a third-party provider of independent customer reviews for its website. “It was a bold move which potentially opened us up to criticism,” said Adam Lascelles, Digital Development Manager. “However, we found customers trust your brand more if they can see both the good and the bad. It made some of our owner relations a bit tricky for a while, but we worked in collaboration with them and now they are the biggest readers of the reviews, using them to make improvements to their product. It was a gamble, but it paid off.” Accepting that Google is “the go to place for any research”, Lascelles believes if you’re not out on the web, consumers won’t find you. “Nearly 65 per cent of our bookings are now done online,” he explained. “The vast majority of our customers have been on our website to research before they make a call to our sales centre. The margin split of online bookings versus sales centre has grown every year for the last eight years, making our online presence an important part of the business. We have recently rebranded and the new brand was designed to be fit for the digital age. A key focus now is the creation of relevant and inspirational content to inspire bookings, and we have appointed a dedicated digital marketing team to do it.” Unsurprisingly, a growing number of people in their 30s are using the site – around 30 per cent fall into the Millennials demographic, which is a growing market for Hoseasons. “Like timeshare, we feel some of our customer segments are ageing, so attracting a younger audience has been a focus of our digital strategy,” said Lascelles. “As well as introducing more luxury product across our portfolio of lodges and boats, last year we launched a web responsive website for a great browsing experience on mobile devices. As many as 40 per cent of our site visitors come from mobile phones, with an even split between desktops and laptops.” Its site receives 15 million unique visitors each year, pay per click Google ads being a primary driver, but Hoseasons isn’t stopping there. He added: “We need to encourage customers to share while they are in the lodges and on the boats and we know we have to be able to support them while they are out on the boats – connectivity is essential throughout the holiday period. This is a really big thing for us right now with owners, and even boats, having free WiFi – it really is the norm today.” Strengthening its online presence and personality is a priority for RCI Europe to best serve its European markets. RCI is investing significantly to be able to provide, its member website, in all supported languages. Currently, the site is available in 15 languages

ADAM LASCELLES Digital Development Manager

TANYA LEE Director of Product, Channel and Content, RCI Europe

DAVID SCHECKTER Vice President of IT, Karma Group

in their RCI membership lifecycle,” she added. “We will continue to look for new opportunities and technologies to help us to achieve this key RCI goal.” 2015 was a truly innovative year for John Spence’s Karma Group. In a group-wide rebrand, uniting all brands under the Karma brand umbrella, a new consolidated interactive website was created with alignment of all social platforms. More than 30 separate sites were decommissioned and technology solutions such as Google apps for CRM, online reputation management, guest surveys, web chat allowing 24/7 customer servicing, online booking, guest WiFi and more were introduced. “The time, effort and resource spent on online technological solutions has brought tremendous efficiency and revenue gains, as well as improved customer engagement and satisfaction levels,” said David Scheckter, Vice President of IT, for Karma. “System consolidation has given us a single view of customer activities by all our staff, wherever they are, so customers are getting what they want, first time.”

The time, effort and resource spent on online technological solutions has brought tremendous efficiency and revenue gains – DAVID SCHECKTER, VP, IT, Karma Group

Key to the enhanced customer experience have been: a mobile responsive site giving access from all devices; online bookings giving different currency and language options; consistent tone of voice; regularly refreshed content including Karma news; full SEO; easy site navigation with external page opening to keep browsers on the Karma site; clear CTAs; live weather feeds; TripAdvisor reviews; community building tactics – social links, live social feeds, newsletter subscription, exclusive member content; content sharing and tracking – dark social widgets to build user profiles and identify shared content, social sharing pop ups. And there’s more to come, as Scheckter explained: “Phase two includes a mobile app and multi-lingual capabilities. We are committed to ensuring all our staff can serve our members to their utmost satisfaction. The new CRM system has been a game changer, enabling all our staff across our offices to track and record, in real time on a single cloud-based platform, all our guest interactions. This system brings us closer to our customers and allows us to respond sooner to their requests, as well as helping us to identify marketing and sales opportunities. Following its implementation, Karma has amassed more than 11 million guest profile records and has already seen an increase in sales conversions and return guest ratio.” Karma also uses social media logins to build an intelligent view of guest preferences, age, marital and work status. “This is invaluable to our sales team,” said Scheckter, “so much better than just a name.” WiFi access is used to target customer segments with offers, special deals, real time and delayed voucher functionality, which Scheckter reports has provided a R CI VEN TU RES 1 5


with Swedish for points members set to go live next. A priority goal for RCI is providing a web experience that will travel with its members. Tanya Lee, Director of Product, Channel and Content, explained: “We are now working on a web responsive member site which will deliver a similar experience on a mobile device that a member can get on a desktop. It will make our member transacting journey completely seamless, wherever they are when logging on to plan and book their holiday.” RCI’s KPIs for the last year confirm that investment in the online marketplace is crucial. Despite the older demographic of its member base, RCI saw an increase in online engagement with total online reservations, exchanges and other RCI bookings up at the close of 2015 by 17 per cent on the prior year. Points members demonstrated a slightly higher online engagement than weeks members. “Our points members are a younger demographic and are highly engaged online,” said Lee. “They also have a better understanding of what they have in the product and how to use it. We saw growth in excess of 30 per cent among our points members booking through last year, while weeks’ growth was more than 12 per cent, with a spike in engagement from our members in Denmark, Benelux and Hungary.” Last August RCI launched a Facebook page dedicated to its members in Europe and the Middle East, which has now received in excess of 20,000 Likes, with 42 percent of Likes coming from the UK, Turkey and Finland. RCI will be growing its online community later this year with the launch of Instagram and by looking to better integrate User Generated Content (UGC) across all its marketing communications. “UGC and increased personalisation and relevancy is central to our 2016 strategy,” said Lee. “We are building our online community to channel the power of all the great material our members are now sharing online, and with us, into a carefully focussed strategy. “There will be richer inspirational content incorporating UGC, to be accessible both pre- and post-login on our member site, with links to and from our social media platforms. The power of advocacy will be harnessed by seeking permission to use the reviews and recommendations from our member Welcome Home feedback. We will be reviewing the holiday search functionality to simplify it; we have created a new Help section with simple guides and educational content to help members get real value from their timeshare through RCI membership, with a ‘how to’ for online transacting. ‘Help’ will be rolled out in all supported languages by the close of Q2 this year. We are also exploring the use of animations on, to be embedded into our EM marketing campaigns as well, to make the understanding of our product even easier.” RCI will continue to monitor the social media chatter on a daily basis and feed that insight into the evolution of its online marketing strategy and product development, as well as sharing with its affiliates when relevant. Lee, who heads up RCI’s online Marketing team, says there is more in the pipeline. “We pride ourselves on being there for our members, every step of the way

strong leads pipeline for the in-house sales team, helping to drive incremental revenues through returning guest patronage. Like others taking the bold step of putting themselves in the review spotlight, Karma has come through the pain and is now enjoying the gain, as Scheckter explained: “Using reputation management solutions we have been quick to respond and used it to improve the quality of our offering and guest services. The commentary is largely positive and has resulted in an important boost in our rankings on TripAdvisor. The mobile app allows resort and hotel managers and key staff to review and respond to online commentary in real time, being able to turn what could become a poor guest experience into a great one by responding directly with the guest, in most cases, while they are still on resort.” The worldwide web can no longer be treated as a distant channel. “There’s no such thing as a minimal presence,” concludes Beckley. “There’s no hiding anymore. Everyone, in real time, can see what people are saying and you need to have a voice in that conversation.” Statistics supplied by EngageSciences and Euromonitor International.


Masters of the Online Universe TripAdvisor launched 15 years ago above a pizza shop. In 2010 it partnered with Facebook and launched its first iPhone app to encourage the sharing of reviews in a wider community, and three years later it introduced Hotel Price Comparison, followed by mobile booking functionality a year later. The important figures are the 350 million unique monthly visitors, and 290 million reviews covering 5.9 million accommodations, restaurants and attractions. Other key statistics are: • 46 million authentic traveller photographs posted • 190 new posts made every minute • 90 million marketable members worldwide • 85 per cent of questions posted to TripAdvisor’s English-speaking forums receive a reply from other travellers within 24 hours.

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TripAdvisor spokesperson, Stephanie Boyle, said: “The internet has revolutionised the way travellers shop and research purchases. They are no longer interested in just hearing what hotels and resorts have to say about themselves – they want to hear what people who have stayed at your hotel, or eaten in your restaurants, have to say about the experience as a whole.” This statement is borne out by a 2015 Phocuswright study commissioned by TripAdvisor which revealed 83 per cent of global users ‘usually’ or ‘always’ reference TripAdvisor reviews before making a decision on a hotel booking and 82 per cent agreed it helped in planning better holidays. The study also reinforced the importance of management interaction with customer reviews, showing that 65 per cent of TripAdvisor users agree that seeing hotel management responses will make them more likely to book that accommodation, while 85 per cent said a thoughtful management response to a bad review improves their impression of the hotel. As many as 80 per cent of users say that seeing hotel management responses convinces them that the hotel cares more about its guests. “We’d encourage hospitality businesses to register on TripAdvisor, as it is a powerful influencer in the holiday buying decision making process,” said Boyle. “Registration is free and they can use our free tools

STEPHANIE BOYLE TripAdvisor spokesperson

and resources to manage their property listing, including emails each time they receive a new review, and they can access data about each review, with feedback from the reviewer.” Business owners registering will also be given access to widgets and badges which they can use on their own websites, social media and marketing materials, including sample reviews and any TripAdvisor awards won. “Scale is key,” concludes Boyle. “The site is so useful because it delivers the wisdom of the crowds. The sheer volume of reviews on the site means travellers can make an informed decision with confidence. It has also created a level playing field for businesses large and small, helping them to compete on the service and value they provide, rather than simply on how much they can afford to spend on marketing.”

Warming to Thermal Turabi Celebi, CEO of the Dogan Geothermal Group, discusses growth opportunities for the thermal resort business model. BY L E I G H C O N N E L LY

TURABI CELEBI CEO, Dogan Geothermal Group

IT IS ACKNOWLEDGED THAT NO RESORT developer would consider creating an upscale holiday experience without a suite of thermal spa and treatment options. In Turkey, this is especially the case as many resorts have the advantage of access to geothermal springs. Tourists relish Turkey’s well-developed thermal holiday product and there are now more than 1,500 thermal resorts across the country – establishing Turkey as the cradle of thermal spa and wellbeing experiences. The popularity of the thermal experience, particularly within the Turkish market, has created a strong foundation for growth. The Dogan Geothermal Group currently has three thermal mixed-use resorts, all of which are affiliated to RCI’s Holiday Exchange programme. The first affiliation came in 2008 with the Astyra Spa & Thermal Resort in Edremit, followed in 2013 by the Hitit Aya Termal in Ankara, and the Erzin Isos Termal in Hatay. Plans are also in place for the development of two further resorts, one of which is already underway in Bolu. Standing Strong It cannot be ignored that difficult times lie ahead for some developers and hoteliers in Turkey. “Although Turkey continues to be popular with inbound visitors, we need to accept that the current political problems will impact inbound numbers,” said Ali Egilmez, Affiliate Manager, Business Development, RCI Turkey, “which is why quality thermal holiday offerings are becoming increasingly important.” The strength of the thermal spa product in the domestic market will continue to attract Turkish nationals, protecting resorts from any negative impact and downturn in inbound visitor numbers resulting from the current political situation. “Wellbeing is more important than ever today, with clients from our domestic market increasingly seeking out the thermal holiday experience,” said Celebi. “We have thousands of members, and continue to enrol new members, year on year.”



Quality Over Quantity Clearly there is great potential in Turkey for the growth of the thermal product and Celebi sees opportunity for investment. However, he believes there is a limited understanding of the sector, and a need to raise awareness. In working with the RCI Business Development team, Celebi has increased his knowledge of how to make thermal work with timeshare. “Many investors believe that resorts must be built with a large capacity. But this is not the case. RCI has advised that smaller, more intimate resorts can bring greater guest satisfaction, being packaged as a more exclusive and personalised offering than with a larger upscale operation. There is the additional benefit of a lower cost centre. The group’s new resorts will be developed to this strategy.” The resorts will have 250 units and feature a medical spa. Following successful models, it will benefit from a great location, close to the seafront or a city, and within reasonable proximity to an airport. “We believe we will be able to achieve our goal of being the largest thermal timeshare company in the world within ten years,” said Celebi. “We are happy to do this in conjunction with RCI – and continue our much-valued relationship.”


Known for its beautiful Italian resorts, Domina Vacanze has taken its brand a long way from its native shores. It is a hospitality operation full of surprises.

“I was interested to learn recently that the impact and influence of the Domina Vacanze brand is more extensive than I had fully appreciated. Of particular interest to me is the group’s commitment to developing a sustainable business model that it is using to support and rescue smaller hotels in distress. These smaller hotels have been run with pride, more often than not by generations of families, for many years. They have a charm, an ambience and offer an experience that is unique to them and different from the larger resorts. They contribute greatly to the diversity of the lodgings market. During tough economic times, so many of these small hoteliers are being forced to close, and with the closures go an important holiday choice for the consumer. Eugenio Preatoni, CEO, Domina Vacanze, has come up with a plan to save the smaller operator, while bringing more to his own product portfolio.”


– Helen Foster, Marketing Manager

Thinking Outside the Box

and Editor, Publications, RCI Europe.

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Domina Home Piccolo in Portofino, Italy. BELOW: A taste of the more intimate Italian hotels rescued by Domina.

Seven-Year Plan “Within seven years Domina will be the largest hospitality company in Italy and a major pan-European player,” Preatoni said. “We have an acquisition plan to bring between four and six hotels a year into the Domina portfolio, operating under our brand umbrella.” This ambitious strategy is backed by a business development plan which puts at its centre a unique idea which brings benefits to both Domina and those of Italy’s small independent hoteliers fortunate enough to be brought into the plan.

“Over the years there has been an over building of hotels in Italy. Add to this the downturn in the economy, and many small hoteliers without robust financial backing have found themselves in deep waters. Sadly, we see hotels closing down every day in our country,” Preatoni explained. “For the last five years many have been waiting for rich Russians to come and buy their hotels, but this has not happened. “We are not interested in buying the hotels immediately and completely taking over. However, we are interested in using our unique set of skills and our shared vacation ownership experience to help sell other people’s product. My father introduced timeshare and shared ownership to our hotel operation many years ago and we have asked ourselves many times over the years why, if it has worked for us, more hotels had not used it to boost their occupancy levels and revenues. “Our formula now is to introduce timeshare and fractional sales to the hotels which are struggling. We can then manage the shared-holiday ownership business for them. As many of these hotels are family owned we will give the families the option to stay on to manage the hotel side of the business. We know how important it is for families, and for Italians especially, whose businesses have been the pride of many generations, to maintain an involvement and presence in their business.” Faced with the option of closing or becoming a Domina-branded hotel, the choice would not be a difficult one for most hoteliers. For hoteliers working




FOUNDED IN 1988, ITALIAN HOSPITALITY group, Domina Vacanze, has come a long way in a relatively short time. Eugenio Preatoni, CEO and son of founder Ernesto Preatoni, is, like his father, a leader who thinks outside the box when it comes to strategising to secure a healthy future for this family business. Domina Vacanze now has 11 hotels throughout Italy, plus the Domina Coral Bay Resort & Casino in South Sinai, all in holiday destinations and affiliated to RCI’s holiday exchange programme. The company also owns hotels in Frankfurt, Milan, Riga and Tallinn in Estonia where parent company ProKapital is headquartered, all of which attract a business clientele. All this has been achieved without any loan facilities, which is a testament to the financial strength of this company and an indication of how far it will go in the future.


discounts on food and beverages at the Domina hotels, poolside and restaurant reservation services, discounts on tours and excursions, and access to a new development with the creation of country clubs, which will be rolled out across the Domina resorts. Timeshare owners will be enrolled into the country club automatically and buyers of high-end villas or residences will pay a fee. “Domina clients will be made to feel completely different than they would if they booked holidays through the search engines. They will belong to something exclusive and they will be given VIP treatment,” said Preatoni.

with Domina, they will benefit from Domina’s brand strength, unique skill set and innovative shared-holiday ownership programme, all of which will generate significant additional cash flow. But what’s in it for Domina and the Preatoni family? “The hotels will have to meet stringent criteria and guarantee the VIP service levels we expect for all our guests – hotel and timeshare. As the number of hotels grows it will boost our chain, brand strength and position us as the leaders in our market,” explained Preatoni. “There will not be any money in these agreements in the short term for us. However, over a period of five to seven years, we will buy the hotel through revenues raised in the sale of shared ownerships.” The Shared-Ownership Product Timeshare, fractional and shared-vacation ownership clearly has an important role in the group’s future strategy. Preatoni said: “Square metres and bricks and mortar are not as sexy as making a product that is all about experiences. It is a generational change. Traditional timeshare is not competitive in today’s consumer environment. It is competing with programmes such as Expedia, so we decided to make it about the service and experience that today’s consumers demand to make them feel like celebrities and to enjoy a feeling of exclusivity.” Domina Vacanze buyers have full ownership in the form of a deeded share of the property, usually a condo-style apartment in a hotel complex. They are all enrolled into the RCI exchange holiday programme and can take advantage of holiday swaps from the 4,500 resorts affiliated to RCI’s programme worldwide, or can exchange into other Domina properties. If they choose not to use their week(s), then they do not pay any maintenance costs for the unused period. “This works very well in the Italian market,” said Preatoni. Typically, the Domina timeshare offering comprises suites in four- and five-star hotels, though there are an increasing number of residences as well. All guests enjoy exceptionally high service levels. They are also presented with a strong value proposition, having up to 30 per cent 2 0 Q 1 /Q 2 2 01 6


The spectacular PK Parkhotel Kurhaus, set on an island in the River Nahe in Germany, is now a Domina offering.

Another World True to the family DNA, Preatoni has some surprising plans for the future of the group. Discussions are in hand with the Egyptian government to restart an investment programme at Sharm el Sheikh, once the resort is out of crisis. In what Preatoni terms a “Dubai-scale project”, Domina will be reconstructing Italy’s Lake Como resort in Sharm El Sheikh. “Our family lives in Milan, though we all love our family home on Lake Como. We have built an artificial lake at our Domina Coral Bay resort in Sharm,” Preatoni explained. “The great thing about replicating Lake Como is its G-string-like shape which gives us many waterfront plots on which to develop residences.” Domina also has plans for Dubai itself. “We are building a 45-storey skyscraper there next year,” he adds. “We cannot decide whether it should be called Domina Tower or Preatoni Tower.” And looking east, the family has purchased significant land parcels in Russia, Riga, Tallinn and Latvia for the development of mixed-use, largely commercial, shopping complexes. While in Siberia, the third most popular city in Russia after Moscow and St Petersburg, a new Domina hotel in Novosibirsk opened its doors last year. Preatoni fully expects to sell this hotel on to a large international chain, given its prime city location, at a healthy profit on its development costs. Given the innovation of this family, it should come as no surprise to learn that the Preatonis have got NASA on board to help in their marketing and sales programme. “We have just purchased some NASA technology which allows us to give our owners 3D virtual tours of all the Domina hotels and resort residences,” he explained. “All our owners receive an iPad as a gift with an app installed to enable them to select services such as airport collection, drinks ordering and restaurant bookings, as well as use the virtual tours to explore Domina resorts they can visit.” Domina is also shifting its sales pitches to the iPad, installing them with the RCI Presenter app, emotional sell videos about each resort featuring the 3D tours, which even allow buyers to take in the views from the windows and balconies of the rooms. “Our salesmen operate very traditionally and often visit clients in their homes upon invitation. But we have to blend tradition with today’s new technologies which really do make a big difference to the whole sales journey for the purchaser.”

Strength In Numbers IN DEVELOPMENT

When you’re working with RCI, you could also be working with the Wyndham Hotel Group (WHG). This means you will receive operational support from the world’s largest and most diverse hospitality group, Wyndham Worldwide. BY H E L E N F O S T E R

WHETHER YOUR BUSINESS IS HOTEL operation, shared-holiday ownership, residential leisure real estate development, or all of these models coming together in a mixed-use development, access to the combined business units of RCI and WHG could put your resort development on a fast track to becoming bigger and more successful than it could ever be on its own. As part of the Wyndham group of companies, the RCI and WHG business units are uniquely positioned to deliver the benefits of a large-scale and multi-faceted international operation to your project and business. R CI VEN TURES 2 1



Franchise and Management Services Get access to WHG’s vast global distribution platforms, including OTA relationships, pre-opening and ongoing global sales, marketing and operational support teams, as well as PR professionals and an expert architecture, design and construction team. A WHG franchise or management agreement is designed to enhance guest experience and optimise sales and marketing activities, driving rate, occupancy and incremental spend to your hotel. Other services include training, procurement, on-site support and consultation to address guest retention and revenue generating opportunities. Distribution and Brand Building Marketing experts optimise brand exposure and maximise distribution of accommodation through a multi-faceted, multi-channel programme to give your business unrivalled international reach. Bespoke integrated marketing strategies created to drive more business include:

DAN RUFF WHG President and Managing Director, Europe, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa

ROBIN BARRASFORD Managing Director of Barrasford and Bird Worldwide

•• Being part of national, regional and trade campaigns •• Direct, online and social media platforms and exposure on top search engines, online travel sites and other ad networks •• Leveraging call centre support, relationships with travel agencies and travel management companies. Revenue Management Flexible services tailored to size of operation, market and preferred approach, to assist in strategic demand planning, sales analysis and reporting. Wyndham Rewards Give your owners access to a flat, free-night loyalty rewards programme based on a generous points earning opportunity and give them more reason to stick with your brand, driving loyalty and lowering your cost of sale. Brand Strength Choose to use the Wyndham brand to give your business wings!

These WHG services are in addition to, and can be used with, the support and services offered by the RCI and The Registry Collection teams, which include: •• The provision of the world’s largest holiday exchange membership programmes for timeshare, fractional and mixed-use products •• Product development consultancy services •• Lead generation support •• Analytics and insight into consumer trends •• Access to innovative marketing and sales support tools developed by RCI, such as RCI Livestream which takes the sales discussion right into the homes of the consumer.

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DIMITRIS MANIKIS Vice President, RCI Europe, Middle East and Africa

Why RCI and WHG? Developer, Robin Barrasford, Managing Director of Barrasford and Bird Worldwide, selected Wyndham Worldwide as its franchise partner for its first European mixed-use development. Offering a combination of hotel accommodations, as well as luxury leisure residences, the Wyndham Halcyon Retreat Golf and Spa Resort in Limousin, central France, is the first of its kind in the region to leverage the joint power of the hotel and vacation exchange businesses at Wyndham Worldwide. The new agreement includes the construction of the 225-room resort hotel to be franchised through Wyndham Hotel Group, plus Barrasford’s purchasers of luxury residences will be able to travel to destinations around the world through The Registry Collection, a luxury holiday exchange programme offered by RCI. Due to open early in 2017, through its franchise with WHG and affiliation with The Registry Collection, the Wyndham Halcyon Retreat Golf and Spa Resort will offer diverse holiday options to meet the expectations of the most exacting travellers, from exceptional nightly stays to full vacation ownership, as well as many benefits to its developer. “Only Wyndham could provide us with a perfect alliance of both hotel and leisure residence exchange through its Wyndham Hotel Group and The Registry Collection,” said Barrasford. “This deal gives our residential leisure properties a truly unique advantage, delivering exceptional experiences and value to both our luxury residence purchasers and hotel guests. As property developers, we also benefit greatly from the international reach in terms of distribution and marketing that working with this global hospitality leader gives us.” Welcoming a new way of working with group partners, Dan Ruff, WHG President and Managing Director, Europe, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa, commented: “The signing of Wyndham Halcyon Retreat is a significant milestone in our development; partnering with our fellow Wyndham business unit, RCI, for the first time within the region is a testament to the flexibility only we can offer developers. This resort provides a blueprint for investors and property owners looking to develop mixed-use resorts and benefit from the unique breadth and scale of our diverse hospitality business.” Ruff describes the power and scale of WHG as “truly impressive” and believes it can bring many new business streams to timeshare developers, as well as an opportunity to bring global recognition to their resorts by being part of the biggest hotel group in the world. “Wyndham Destination Network – of which RCI is a part – manages an unrivalled portfolio of holiday space. Add to that the hotel potential, and we are a unique one-stop-shop for any leisure resort developer,” said Ruff. “We can support any aspect of a resort operation, anywhere in the world, which is something none of our competitors can do.” Dimitris Manikis, Vice President, RCI Europe, Middle East and Africa, said: “Together with WHG, we can offer a seamless mixed-use business model that is unique in the lifestyle options it provides for the buyers of a resort’s residential leisure properties. This model presents a stronger offering to buyers, giving them far more value

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE NUMBERS WYNDHAM HOTEL GROUP (WHG) •• Over 7,700 hotels and 672,000 rooms worldwide in 71 countries •• 16 internationally-recognised hotel brands, including Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Ramada Worldwide, Days Inn, TRYP by Wyndham, Super 8 and Dolce Hotels & Resorts •• Wyndham Rewards Programme – Voted in top two hotel rewards programmes by US News and World Report, and the 2015 Freddie Awards Programme of the Year, Wyndham Rewards is a simple-to-use loyalty programme giving members a generous points earning opportunity to be redeemed at thousands of hotels across the world. It is the first of its kind to offer a flat, free-night redemption rate •• 110,000 properties in more than 100 countries •• Eight internationally-recognised brands, including RCI, James Villa Holidays, Hoseasons and •• More than 10,000 industry associates •• Sends more than five million families on holiday each year, including 3.8 million through RCI exchange

More information:


Wyndham Halcyon Retreat and Spa Resort is the first in Europe to use the combined services of the Wyndham group and brand.

from their purchase than they would get from a standalone second home purchase, as well as far greater holiday choice using the holiday exchange component. “Our international team of hospitality and business development experts offer immediate and unique experience and ideas to support our affiliates in achieving the maximum return on their investment.” And There’s More Though the WHG franchise model is performing very well, Ruff is quick to identify new opportunities, for both his group and its associates. “The fastest-growing sector of our business is Hotel Management Services,” he said. “In the Middle East and Africa, it represents 70 per cent of our pipeline. We expanded our managed portfolio with the acquisition of Dolce Hotels and Resorts last year, and we are interested in extending those services across Europe. In markets like London and Paris, where there is international leisure and business demand, we see huge potential for the addition of a timeshare component to what is predominantly a business hotel.” The reasoning is that if WHG can bring a ‘Gold Standard’ hotel experience to any resort or hotel, then it also brings revenue opportunity. Everyone in the industry recognises the success story that is mixed-use operation where the guest falls in love with the hotel and brand experience, and is then happy to buy a timeshare unit at that resort. “Mixed-use can work just as well the other

way round, with a timeshare property moving into hotel operation,” explained Ruff. “If a timeshare resort has a pot of unsold inventory just sitting there, an owner can leverage our marketing and distribution channels to distribute it as hotel rooms to drive revenue. We have options to help owners, including training to support, complete management services, or a full franchise.” Constantly looking for additional synergies to create an ever more attractive product, Ruff revealed the awardwinning Wyndham loyalty programme may be coming into play for timeshare developers. “There is definitely a play with Wyndham Rewards to bring benefit to both WHG and RCI affiliates. We are working on it.” WHG is a young and dynamic company, which is another benefit the group can bring to timeshare operators. “We are all chasing the Millennial buyer. We are not afraid of the Millennials because we are Millennials – we are today’s timeshare buyers and we think that is important in helping timeshare developers with the sales challenges they face,” he added. “Right now is the right time to be in hospitality and to partner with Wyndham. People are travelling in many kinds of ways, and only Wyndham has the breadth of product to satisfy those needs. We are going to help businesses succeed in ways they may never have imagined.” R CI VEN TU RES 2 3




MONDI Moves Upmarket MONDI-HOLIDAY is making waves in the still waters of the German hospitality and timeshare industries with the launch of an executive holiday product, supported by an aggressive online marketing strategy. BY H E L E N F O S T E R

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blends tradition and luxury. Alpin Chalet’s idyllic location in the Allgäu Alps, Germany. The Tirolensis Hotel benefits from upscale accommodation in Italy’s South Tyrol. The Rose Garden Suite at the Tirolensis offers an elegant retreat for romantics.


THERE ARE BIG CHANGES at MONDI-HOLIDAY with the creation and introduction of a completely new upscale product and holiday experience. And taking the product up a gear was an easy decision to make, according to Dr Mike Dörr, Managing Director, MONDI-HOLIDAY. There were no feasibility studies or months of strategy meetings. “We listen carefully and closely to our sales guys. They have the best knowledge of what is trending in the market,”

he explained. “The decision to build the Alpin Chalet Oberstaufen as our first executive model product was taken in a matter of hours. We could not be sure it would work, but fortunately enough, it did.” That was back in 2013, when MONDI opened the doors of its Oberstaufen resort in the Allgäu Alps, in the company’s home territory of Germany. The property comprises 16 large luxury suites sold as a regular fixed-weeks timeshare product, supplemented by a service package branded Alpin Chalet Privilege. Owners meeting the qualifying criteria, including ownership of a timeshare right, can expect to benefit from reserved parking, pre-prepared and early check-ins, late check-outs, ability to change arrival dates to two weeks earlier or later without a charge, a Welcome Package, concierge service and use of the sauna at no extra cost. On Trend This model is right on trend,

according to a recent report by Savills and the Association of Serviced Apartment Providers (ASAP) which says that serviced apartments are set to expand faster than any other segment of the hospitality market. In a report published by The Caterer magazine, ASAP survey results were said to have revealed an anticipated global increase in the supply of serviced units. Marie Hickey, Commercial Research Director at Savills, said: “The serviced apartment or aparthotel segment, also known as extended stay, is set to change.” Hickey believed the serviced apartment sector has benefited from the impact of Airbnb on the hospitality sector. “Airbnb was touted as a big threat, but in fact it has helped to raise the profile of alternative accommodation, such as serviced apartments and aparthotels, to prospective consumers,” she said. “This is reflected in the number of operators listing properties on the site and as a R CI VEN TURES 2 5


result travellers are becoming increasingly more open to concepts that are better aligned with their specific requirements.” Dörr has seen this for himself first hand. Sales of the executive suites have gone so well that MONDI is now rolling the model out across several of its resorts. There are two more exclusive suites available at its Bad Gastein property, First-Class Aparthotel Bellevue, with two more suites opening later this year. While there are three suites open in MONDI’s Tirolensis Hotel in the South Tyrol, and the company is negotiating with local authorities in Grundlsee, in Austria’s Eastern Alps, to build 16 deluxe chalets at Seeblickhotel Grundlsee in the further expansion of this project. Like many successful timeshare companies – and MONDI is a founding father industry pioneer – it found that after selling out its eight clubs in the ‘80s, its owners today are getting too old to travel. MONDI turned to the younger buyer. “There is a lot of money out there and a holiday lifestyle is important to young professionals,” said Dörr. “They don’t want complexity in an ever confusing world, and they aren’t willing to compromise. Our no-compromise, no-worries, secure holiday product is a perfect fit with their lifestyle aspirations.” Consumers buying the Alpine product today have more money to spend on holiday product than ever before and will spend it if they see value in the purchase. “Buyers, as well as existing owners upgrading, find it easier to find successors in their families willing to take on the more expensive executive-level timeshare product,” explained Dörr. The MONDI-HOLIDAY destinations in Germany, and the Austrian and Italian Alps are becoming popular with travellers of all ages, as people look to the healthy great outdoors experience to enjoy nature at its best. The spike in visitor numbers to this region also correlates to the political and security issues impacting travel to other holiday hot spots. “We have seen a growing demand into our resorts from mainland Europe, as people are increasingly reluctant to fly,” said Dörr. Dörr lists the main attractions of the new MONDI product as offering a no-compromise, worry-free product with an absolute ‘wow’ factor; fabulous locations in a naturally beautiful environment; trust in the strong and reliable MONDI brand; and the company’s experienced and professional sales team. Having that something extra to offer guests also plays a crucial part, as he explained: “The upmarket gourmet dining experience is becoming more important for all our guests, including our timeshare owners. In the past we outsourced our restaurant management but that did not give us the control we needed to raise the quality bar. With the exception of Oberstaufen, we now manage all our large restaurants ourselves, with increasing success. In Grundlsee, where we have doubled the size of the restaurant, we have just earned our first ‘Haube’ which is the quality star rating of the Austrian Gault Millau. 2 6 Q 1 /Q 2 2 01 6

“Today we are selling mainly to German speakers. We plan to sell more to the British and Scandinavians, as we have a strong rental business with those markets,” said Dörr, “and we have an attractive entry product for the first-time buyers.” Pay To Talk More than 70 per cent of MONDI’s marketing budget is invested in online platforms, Dörr told RCI Ventures. “There is significant investment in attracting new timeshare buyers and rental customers through multiple channels,” Dörr explained. “In 2015 we put €300,000 into Google AdWords, pure online marketing campaigns and an SEO-optimised website. Because we then want to make new guests into ‘repeaters’, we ensure our service levels and in-resort experience is everything they could want and more.” MONDI has also invested heavily in developing its own software to provide a comprehensive online booking capability and generate engaging html email offers, pre-stay email campaigns to build excitement and increase the ‘chatter’ around forthcoming stays, as well as post-stay campaigns to thank guests and invite them to rate their experience online. The technology also allows Dörr’s team to track the guest journey and deliver insight through reporting. “A web-responsive website is the most recent development, complete with webcams in our resorts, 360° panoramic tours, simple navigation and a ‘search by activities’ function for each resort,” he said. That is everything the Millennial buyer could want, but Dörr is not overlooking his established and older clients. “The technology is a must to attract younger clients and to build our brand in the online space where everyone is talking,” he said. “However, we still need to communicate with our older owners and clients, so we still use the ‘old-fashioned’ direct mails, reward cards and incentive vouchers in our marketing mix to build our recommendation and customer loyalty programmes.” It is a mix that is working for MONDI. The brand currently sees several thousand resort ratings generated by its owners and guests each year on the leading online review sites and the score ratings are excellent, said Dörr. “Today, First-Class Aparthotel Bellevue has a 99 per cent stay recommendation on – up from 74 per cent two years ago. The three other MONDI resorts offering the executive product and our Chalet Privilege service programme have all seen reviewer rating increases on this site of between 95 and 99 per cent.” The figures speak for themselves. In just under three years, MONDI-HOLIDAY has reinvented its product, its brand experience and its future. The successful launch of its executive suite and Chalet Privilege programme are proof positive that there are many buyers with money out there who are willing to spend if the product is right for them – and the price point isn’t the deal breaker. See how it works, visit

EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION Education and understanding the product is the key to happy customers, which in turn create strong businesses. We investigate the power of education in the timeshare sales process. BY L E I G H C O N N E L LY IN DEPTH

THE REPUTATION OF TIMESHARE IS constantly improving, with countless consumers benefiting from quality holidays in quality resorts, and either returning to their home resorts or exchanging into others, year after year. It is, however, fair to say that in previous years, some of the techniques used by sales people to sell timeshare have been less than honest and transparent. The reporting and sharing of bad experiences has a wholly negative impact on the industry, and more importantly, creates dissatisfaction for the consumer. In order to safeguard all parties, a focus must be made on eliminating poor sales practices. To gain further insight into what exactly must be done, and how it can be achieved, we spoke to Harry Taylor – Chief Executive of the Timeshare Association (TATOC); Robin Mills – RDO Communications Council Chairman/Club Leisure Group; and Martin Saunders – an experienced timeshare owner. R CI VEN TURES 27

Customer satisfaction is based on trust and consistency.



Biting The Hand That Feeds Picture, if you will a timeshare owner who is completely on board with the product, loves the concept, and understands the ins and outs of exchange. Consumers like this are our biggest ambassadors, spreading positive words about the industry and helping to dispel the negative. This model customer is also willing to buy more timeshare, and actively attends a sales presentation with the intention of purchasing. How awful would it then be, for this potential buyer to become the victim of a sales scam while on your resort? This is exactly the situation Martin Saunders experienced, when he found himself in a confused timeshare purchase, in which the salesperson was not authorised by the resort to sell. Saunders has been a member of RCI since 1997, he owned two weeks on canal boats which he then converted to points, before purchasing further points in 2001. Martin also owns a fixed week at an Anfi resort in Gran Canaria, which he returns to each year. Fortunately, RCI, TATOC and Mills were able to work together to find a solution for Saunders, but it is alarming that an experienced and engaged timeshare owner should find themselves in such a situation. The industry must learn from owners like Saunders, who love the product but, had there not been an adequate resolution, would have become a lost customer, deterred by a bad experience and quick to share it with all who care to listen. Having seen both the good and the bad, we asked Saunders what he does and doesn’t want from a sales experience, and how incidents like this can be prevented. He began by explaining that sales representatives should be clearly authorised to act for the resort, and be identifiable as such. He was also very enthusiastic about a great purchasing experience with a salesperson named Peter at his Anfi Resort in Gran Canaria. “He built a relationship with us and kept the pitch low key, letting the product sell itself. We were also given options and initially chose an alternate year contract. Peter was confident in the product, and in the knowledge that we would eventually buy more; he invested in us as a longterm customer of the resort.” Saunder’s overall concern was simply with honesty and transparency. He explained: “When making the 2 8 Q 1 /Q 2 2 01 6

significant purchase of timeshare, all consumers need to know that what they are buying is exactly what they are going to get! I expect the quality to be as described. If I have bought weeks in the school holidays I expect there to be availability, and if I’ve been shown a picture of the beach in the pitch, I expect to be able to access the beach easily. Consumers need to get what they have been sold or there will be frustrations. To put it plainly, customer satisfaction is based on trust and consistency.” So, what’s on his no-go list? “Hard-nosed, aggressive sales people,” said Saunders. “Those sales people don’t create the foundations for long-term relationships.” Saunders also placed emphasis on clarity in exchanges. “The product should be the same, however you holiday,” he explained. “For instance, if home resort members get a golf buggy, I should get a golf buggy when I stay too. I want to receive the same benefits, even if the resort is not my home resort. I don’t want an apartment which is not as nice, or to feel I am in the ‘cheaper seats’, I just want what I initially thought I was getting and the consistent quality I expect from timeshare.” Experiences like Saunder’s highlight that although things have changed dramatically in recent years, there is still work to be done to improve sales techniques, and to protect the consumer. TATOC’s Harry Taylor agreed, stating “past challenges are being resolved, slowly but surely”. Transparency Above All The work of TATOC since 1989 has brought about significant change. It has become a very active organisation, which works for the benefit of timeshare owners, ensuring the industry works for them. TATOC is helping to drive an industry-wide review of marketing and sales processes, with many operators deciding on a new, fresh approach. Robin Mills has seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to selling timeshare. We asked him which aspects of the sales process he believes to be inappropriate and counterproductive to closing the sale, and even damming to the consumer perception of our product. “Many of the old marketing techniques,” he said. “Aggressive sales people pressuring consumers to purchase on the day were an issue. The 14-day cooling-off period has helped somewhat to combat aggressive selling, but there is a lack of enforcement on this, and some who don’t adhere.” Like Saunders, Mills stated a need for more transparency in the sales process, saying that “offpremises canvassers, or OPCs, chasing consumers down the street and touts claiming holidaymakers have won a prize, before taking them to a sales presentation, is not the correct way. Misleading and deceitful lead generation techniques are a waste of time for both customers and sales people.” Taylor’s comments regarding transparency echo those of Mills and Saunders. He said: “Developers have come a long way in earning trust, but there is a lot of work to do. Sales need to be more open and transparent.” A further concern, for Mills, again relating to transparency and product education, is sales people not being upfront about the cost of exchanges. He explained that neglecting

HARRY TAYLOR Chief Executive of TATOC

ROBIN MILLS RDO Communications Council Chairman/Club Leisure Group

experienced timeshare owner and RCI member

The Right People “Timeshare within Europe is an important part of the hospitality sector,” said Mills. “Yet if you visit a hospitality college most students don’t want to be a part of the timeshare industry. We urgently need to move away from this and to belong to an industry which appeals to consumers and to professional sales people. We don’t want sales people to think of timeshare as a last resort.” Mills believes that altering the commission reward structure would help to attract the right calibre of salesperson and that although commission will always be a part of sales incentives, sales roles should become more salary based, moving away from commission-only contracts. In terms of the selection and training of sales people, Taylor stated that TATOC would “like to see the industry develop a form of sales licence”. Fortunately this is set to become a reality, with RDO implementing a trial course later this year. “The aim is that RDO members’ sales people would need to complete the training programme before they were able to sell. As a result clients would have confidence that they are with a trained person, benefiting from their product knowledge while feeling comfortable and assured they are being dealt with in an honest and professional manner,” he added. Selling To The Millennial The Millennial is a different breed of buyer. In our technologically-driven world, there are significant characteristics of the younger timeshare buyer that sales people really ought to be aware of when selling to them. “Let’s begin with the sales presentation,” said Mills. “This traditional way of selling is unlikely to work with Millennials, they simply don’t want to sit through a four-hour presentation – and they won’t.” Instead, what is needed is a “short, sharp and factual pitch – with no pressure”. Mills believes that the right product, a more relaxed approach, and better venues, for example, the hotel lounge or an actual apartment – not forgetting the use of online access to sales collateral – would collectively address many of today’s issues. Most importantly, this generation doesn’t want to be tied down, so long-term contracts are unlikely to be a winner. “The Millennial just wants to make up their own mind, not have it made up for them.” There is no questioning that things are a lot better than they once were, but we still have some way to go. For future sales teams and resort developers, the most important thing to keep in mind, according to Saunders is that: “If you have a quality product, and there is confidence and honesty in selling your product, then everyone should come out a winner.”

Mills’ To p T i p s

A Perfect Pitch • P re s e n t a f l ex i b l e p ro d u c t • Be clear and concise • M  a ke s u re yo u r c l i e n t i s aw a re o f a l l c o s t s a n d T& C s o f u s e • T  hink about the age of the p e r s o n yo u a re s e l l i n g t o, b e f o re s e l l i n g l o n g - t e r m p ro d u c t s • E  x p l a i n o p t i o n s f o r i n c re a s i n g a n d d e c re a s i n g p ro d u c t s – ex p l a i n i n g a s s o c i a t e d c o s t s • T  a ke a l l f a c t o r s i n t o a c c o u n t a n d m o u l d t h e p ro d u c t t o t h e customer • D  o n ’ t t r y t o f o rc e t h e c l i e n t – l i s t e n t o w h a t t h ey wa n t .

Misleading and deceitful lead generation techniques are a waste of time for customers and sales people. – ROBIN MILLS, RDO Communications Council Chairman/Club Leisure Group




to mention exchange or membership fees, or presenting the RCI Resort Directory and telling them they can exchange into any of 4,500 resorts without explaining trading power or points values, will undermine what is undoubtedly a fantastic selling point for timeshare owners, creating only dissatisfaction and a lack of trust.

India – Inside and Out

As India’s timeshare industry turns 30, two leading players share how they are expanding their horizons as they look to the future and beyond their comfort zones. BY S T E V E A DA M S


ARUN NANDA Chairman Mahindra Holidays & Resorts India Limited

PANKAJ AGARWAL Head of Customer Acquisition Middle East, MHRIL

RAMESH RAMANATHAN Managing Director, Sterling Holiday Resorts

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THE TIMESHARE INDUSTRY ARRIVED IN India 30 years ago. Despite a questionable start, with some operators looking for quick profit over long-term development, it has matured as an integral part of the overall travel and hospitality sector in the country. According to national industry body the All India Resort Development Association (AIRDA), there are now more than 350,000 owner-families in India, and a potential market of ten times that size. The timeshare product itself continues to evolve to meet the needs of contemporary consumers through innovative products, high-quality resorts and mixeduse developments. There is an increasingly varied range of holiday experiences, from hedonist beaches and luxurious Ayurvedic spas to pilgrimage sites and traditional hilltop plantation locations. AIRDA Chairman BS Rathor, believes the changes are all part of a natural evolutionary curve. “Current and future growth will be in unchartered territories and undiscovered locations with great tourist potential, where timeshare activity will contribute to local commerce, employment and economic activity,” he said. “There are visible changes in the delivery models of timeshare experiences, it is no longer just the location, but value adds around the holiday such as golf, trekking, river rafting, jungle safaris and new-adventure sport.” According to Rathor, the timeshare landscape in India will see radical changes as more and more global brands join the industry. “Almost all major global hotel chains Marriott, Starwood, Hyatt, Holiday Inn and others – have timeshare in their inventory,” he added. New Horizons Timeshare’s potential has also been identified by major brand names within India, not least Mahindra & Mahindra, one of the country’s biggest companies. The $16.9 billion multinational group’s origins are in the steel and automotive sectors, but it now operates in a wide range of industries, employing more than 200,000 people in more than 100 countries.

Mahindra’s expanding presence in Europe will be based on our understanding of the behaviour and demands of our members for us to provide them with exotic holiday options – ARUN NANDA, Mahindra Holidays & Resorts

The company’s timeshare arm, Mahindra Holidays & Resorts India Limited (MHRIL), was formed 20 years ago after extensive research into the concept, according to Chairman Arun Nanda. “Curiosity and intuition made us want to learn more and understand the concept, the product, the market, the initial euphoria and the subsequent consumer backlash,” he said. “Through initial studies we realised that the product had to be tailored to suit the Indian market and the business model has to evolve for it to deliver sustainable value to its stakeholders.” As with its other industries, Mahindra has been hugely successful. Two decades on MHRIL’s Club Mahindra subsidiary – which is affiliated to RCI – has more than 190,000 owner-members and 44 resorts in India and abroad. Last year it acquired an 85.6 per cent stake in leading European timeshare operator Holiday Club Resorts, adding 50,000 members and 30 resorts to its inventory, making it the largest vacation ownership company in the world, outside the US. The company will continue to look beyond India for its further expansion, according to Nanda. “We are constantly on the lookout for interesting opportunities and MENA and Europe are part of our consideration,” he explained. “Mahindra’s expanding presence in Europe will be based on our understanding of the behaviour and demands of our members for us to provide them with exotic holiday options.”


(high net worth individuals) with a high propensity to holiday, so this presents us with the opportunity to grow our member base in the region.” The company currently has one resort in the region, Arabian Dreams in Dubai, but with Indian nationals becoming more attuned to travelling beyond India, the figure is likely to rise. That said, Agarwal says the main challenge of entering the new market involved assembling a skilled distribution team and creating a robust distribution channel. The company’s Middle East operations have a wide remit, covering UAE, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Kenya and Tanzania, with the network set to expand to target customers in Bahrain, Uganda, Nigeria and South Africa, according to Agarwal. “Each market is different in character, so we had to go from the traditional approach of selling to devising an innovative approach for lead generation for our direct sales team,” he said. “The concept of vacation ownership is new to this market and efforts are needed to educate our target audience as to its benefits. However, changing family holiday patterns indicate that the market is poised to see a healthy growth in the region.” Despite operating in a range of markets, Mahindra’s product offering largely remains the same, regardless of the customer’s location or nationality. “We have designed a unique vacation ownership product for our members which allows them to holiday at any of our resorts for 25 years on a floating concept – both in terms of resort and week,” explained Agarwal. “This offer is standard for all our members across different markets and regions.” Despite an innate confidence in its offering, Mahindra isn’t resting on its laurels, and Nanda says that although the 25-year product has been popular with its target market, other models are under consideration. “With changing preferences we are working on some interesting product concepts in line with emerging holiday trends,” he said.


To make this happen, Nanda says MHRIL is planning to invest up to $90 million during the next two to three years to add around 700 units at resorts in India, as well as Europe, South Africa and South East Asia. The move to explore new markets has been partly prompted by help from RCI’s Business Development team, with which MHRIL enjoys a close relationship, according to Nanda. “Our alliance with RCI has helped us spread our wings in newer markets and understand the potential of growth in these regions,” he said. “In fact the introduction to Finland’s Holiday Club Resorts happened because of our association with RCI.” Expanding into the Middle East was a natural step, given the large number of Indian nationals living in the region. The company now has sales offices in Dubai, Qatar and Abu Dhabi. Pankaj Agarwal, MHRIL’s Head of Customer Acquisition - Middle East, said: “We have a large base of resident Indians in the Middle East, so the main objective of establishing a presence here was to service our members in the region, as well as to tap into the potential customer base of a significant number of Indian expats residing in Dubai. “Almost 25 per cent of the total population in the UAE market consists of Indian expats who are HNIs


(CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT) From the bright lights of Dubai with its Arabian Dreams property to the natural beauty of Finland with its stake in Holiday Club Resorts - the Saimaa and Saariselka resorts pictured MHRIL is entering new markets.





Sterling Members

The company also uses a range of marketing channels from traditional lead generation schemes to its ‘Happy Family Referral Programme’, a unique loyalty programme that makes the most of its owner-base. “Under this programme, when our members holiday with us at one of our resorts and create magical memories for a lifetime, we encourage them to share the experience with their family, friends and acquaintances,” explained Nanda. “This initiative has received a great response from our members and is currently one of the leading contributors to the steady growth of our business.” Nanda also attributes the growth, MHRIL’s year-onyear profits to September 2015 rose by 17 per cent, to a brand building exercise, using digital and other media, and a further strengthening of the member experience. “In the past year we have been focused on implementing a pull-based marketing strategy to reach our target audience and generate high-value leads with better conversion,” he said. “Our efforts in the space of building digital visibility and engaging prospects, together with our Happy Family Referral Programme, have shown great results.” Nanda is confident India’s timeshare market is at a key growth stage with huge potential, as long as

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customers understand the benefits of the product and an optimistic Europe still offers scope for expansion. “The key to growth in these markets will be a high level of education about the concept and the benefits of vacation ownership,” he said. “Providing new and diverse experiences to members will also influence continued success. “The European market is comparatively more mature in terms of understanding and therefore growth will come from creating new product concepts. Mining our existing member base will offer interesting avenues, and places such as Eastern Europe and Turkey are becoming increasingly popular.” Agarwal is also upbeat about prospects in the Middle East, which he described as being “at a nascent stage” in terms of vacation ownership. “Growth will come through efforts in multiple areas, including innovative business models, tapping into changing holiday behaviours, expanding our network and building the knowledge and skills of employees,” he said. With greater integration with Holiday Club Resorts identified as a priority for 2016 – to enable the company to utilise its combined strength to expand its presence in Europe and Asia – Nanda believes the future looks bright. “We would like to grow our network to newer destinations in order to provide our members with exciting holiday experiences across the world.” Sterling Evolution When it was formed in 1986, Sterling Holiday Resorts Limited had a vision ‘to deliver great holiday experiences to Indian families’. This passion saw it entering timeshare in India, establishing 24 mixed-use resorts across the country. Sterling’s timeshare model – a 25-year, points-based product that is affiliated to RCI – has proved hugely successful, earning the company more than 85,000 satisfied owner-members, according to Managing Director, Ramesh Ramanathan. The company is looking to the future too, with 15 new resorts in the pipeline and new product models under development.


(CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT) Indian style and design makes for a holiday with a difference at Club Mahindra Udaipur, Sterling Kodai - By the Lake, and a bedroom at Sterling Manali - White Mist

In fact, most of India’s neighbouring destinations are more economical to fly to than to some destinations within the country itself,” he explained. “RCI, with its vast network and expertise, has been consistently guiding Sterling Holidays in identifying potential destinations, insights on the travel movement to these destinations and making the right choices while choosing destinations.” Ramanathan also believes a key indicator of timeshare’s potential in the region is the fact that the majority of Indian nationals in India and the Middle East have only embraced holidays as part of their lifestyle during the past decade. “With increasing income levels and the need for safe family vacations we see tremendous potential for growth across tier two and tier three towns in India,” he said. “Given the low penetration of vacation ownership in India coupled with the increasing number of Indians holidaying, the potential for growth is considerable.” It is clear that, with two of India’s biggest players looking for growth opportunity outside India, the next decade will see some new resorts and product coming into markets in the Middle East and Europe, which can only serve to strengthen the industry as a whole.


(ABOVE FROM LEFT) Benefiting from exceptional locations are Sterling Manali - White Mist and Sterling Dindi By the Godavari.


“Sterling is studying the evolving needs of the customer in India, based on which new products will be launched,” said Ramanathan. Already a strong brand in India, Sterling now enjoys an even higher profile after becoming an independently managed subsidiary of Thomas Cook India in 2014 – a move that has given buyers even greater confidence, according to Ramanathan. “Thomas Cook’s strong brand equity and trust has definitely reinforced the confidence in Sterling among Indian customers, thereby increasing penetration of vacation ownership in the Indian market,” he said. “The synergy with Thomas Cook will enable us to reach out to its customers and explore opportunities to expand vacation ownership in India. At the same time we can offer Thomas Cook customers access to a wide spectrum of destinations and experiences at Sterling.” As with Mahindra, the Middle East is a key market for the forward-thinking company. It opened a sales office in Dubai in August 2015 and has plans to open a resort there too, says Ramanathan. “For Sterling, the Middle East market is a natural extension to our Indian operations as it has a huge number of customers from the Indian diaspora,” he said. “Considering the high disposable income among this customer set, Sterling has the opportunity to sell higher value memberships, adding to our overall revenue. Moreover, the projected spends towards F&B and holiday activities by these customers would definitely be higher considering their higher disposable income.” The company is also expanding its horizons in terms of resort development, with locations such as Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Mauritius all under review. Ramanathan says the move might sound ambitious, but it’s very much evolution rather than revolution – and as with Mahindra, input from RCI’s Business Development team has played a key role in the company’s thinking. “Indian nationals have started travelling to international destinations where the travel time is less.

The synergy with Thomas Cook will enable us to reach out to its customers and explore opportunities to expand vacation ownership in India. At the same time we can offer Thomas Cook customers access to a wide spectrum of destinations and experiences at Sterling – RAMESH RAMANATHAN, Sterling



E-asy: The importance of connectivity As the booking process within the timeshare and the wider travel industry becomes increasingly online oriented, EGAN WILD, an RCI member for seven years, shares why and online connectivity is becoming more important to him. I’M RELATIVELY NEW TO timeshare, so learning how to make my membership work for me as quickly as possible is important so that we can start enjoying it. We didn’t want the hassle of owning a second home, which is why we bought a week of timeshare in Cyprus. When it came to booking our first RCI exchange holiday the year before last, I was concerned as to whether we would have the same quality experience that we were used to. My concern was unfounded, as we chose Tenerife, staying at the Hollywood Mirage, and it was one of our best holidays. Though I don’t use the internet every day, I am using it more, initially in the workplace and now increasingly for personal use. Even in the relatively short time I have been using to research holidays and to book, I’ve been impressed with the time it has saved me. is simple to use and offers a faster and more personalised holiday search experience than going through the Call Centre. The fact that I can look and book at my leisure without any pressure to make a quick decision puts me in control of the transaction which is important to me. Like many people today, I don’t want to be sold to – I want the buying decision to be mine, especially when it is something as important

34 Q 1 /Q 2 2 01 6

as deciding how to spend my spare time with family and friends. The transaction process is also made easier on, making it much more likely that I will deposit my week and get into the holiday planning stage sooner than I normally would – which is better for the RCI exchange system and also helps me to get my preferred exchanges. Depositing your week can be done in just minutes on Site navigation is very intuitive and I’m finding it easier to use each time I log on. This year we are looking to exchange into Madeira and, appreciating the ease with which I can manage my holiday bookings online, we are now planning our exchange much further ahead than we used to. It is fun to be able to look at our many different options, and we know we are giving ourselves the best opportunity of getting the exchange holiday we want. I browse on the site because availability changes on a daily basis, plus the site is regularly updated with new member benefits, offers and such. I don’t want to be left behind and so appreciate the immediacy of in giving me 24/7 access to the latest RCI updates on how to use my membership to its full potential, as well as putting me in the driving seat of my own account management.

E G A N W I L D, RCI member, enjoying an RCI exchange holiday with family.







RCI® Resort Showcase propels your resort into the spotlight – putting it in front of more than 3.7 million RCI members. The statistics speak for themselves: RCI members are up to 63% more likely to book a resort featured on RCI TV.

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RCI Ventures Magazine Q1/Q2 2016  
RCI Ventures Magazine Q1/Q2 2016