RCI Ventures North America and Canada Q1 2015

Page 1

T H E B U S I N E S S O F VAC AT I O N Q1 2015


Marine Chronometer Manufacture Manufacture chronometer movement with Silicium technology. Self-winding. Water-resistant to 100 m. 18 ct rose gold case. Available also on leather strap or gold bracelet.

F O R A C ATA L O G , C A L L 5 6 1 - 9 8 8 - 8 6 0 0 O R E M A I L : U S A 1 1 4 @ U LY S S E - N A R D I N . C O M W W W . U LY S S E - N A R D I N . C O M



06 By the Numbers The transforming traveler

08 Events Calendar Industry events around the world

08 Travel Trends Opportunities in eastern Europe; a new—and younger—generation of owners

20 Canada’s Next Chapter The world’s second-largest country is poised for growth INNOVATION

24 Technology & Marketing The power of being helpful

28 Industry Solutions RCI® Connect; RCI® Resort Showcase packages


10 Changing Attitudes What industry leaders are doing to educate the world about the benefits of vacation ownership

34 Après-ski Appeal The Cliff Club

38 International Expansion Fairmont Heritage Place

42 Southern Charm Amber Vacation Club

46 RCI® Affiliated Resort News

ON THE COVER This issue’s theme: the changing face of travel in 2015. ON THIS PAGE The Palm, a Fairmont Heritage Place resort in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Recent RCI affiliated resorts and reports from the field

52 A Final Thought 2015 financial forecast


30 Making Waves TravelSmart VIP Vacations

16 Flying High Blaine Liljenquist, CEO of Plantation Resort

Enjoy RCI Ventures® magazine on your iPad®* when you download the RCI Ventures® magazine app for iPad® free at the iTunes® App Store. *R CI Ventures magazine is an independent publication and has not been authorized, sponsored or otherwise approved by Apple Inc. iPad and iTunes are registered trademarks of Apple Inc.

Senior Vice President: Philip S. Brojan. Publisher: Brian Bruno. Associate Publisher: Emily Sadlock. Contributing Editor: Helen Foster. Advisory Board Chair: Fiona Downing. Advisory Board: Jeff Parker, Kris Jamtaas, Kelly Deardorff, Eugenio Macouzet, Bob McGrath, Todd Menendez, Robert Stolt, Debbie Wunder. Managing Editor: Gaetano Pollice. Senior Editor: Bree Sposato. Assistant Editor: Jessen O’Brien. Contributing Editors: Catharine Fleury, Dave Johnston. Copy Editors: Michael Luther, Amy Lynn Tonsits. Senior Art Director: Ash Oat. Contributing Art Director: Jim Maximowicz. Junior Visual Designer: Jenna Grady. Photography Editor: Pamela A. Pasco. Assistant Photo Editors: Jenna Kaplan, Kasandra Torres. Editorial Intern: Angela Huynh. Senior Producer: Jessica Perrin. Account Director: Mitchell Wexler. Account Supervisor: Shrivika Ramaswamy. Chief Executive Officer: Kirk Cheyfitz. Chief Creative Officer: Rob Rasmussen. Vice President, Narrative: Charles Coxe. For all subscription and advertising queries, please contact rciventuresna@rci.com. No part of this magazine may be reproduced without written permission from RCI. RCI Ventures® magazine publishes opinions of many knowledgeable individuals. These opinions are not a substitute for legal, accounting or other professional advice. The views and conclusions expressed in RCI Ventures® magazine are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of RCI nor of its parent or affiliates. The information contained in this publication has been obtained from sources the proprietors believe to be correct. However, no legal liability can be accepted for any errors. RCI Ventures is a registered trademark of RCI, LLC. © 2015 RCI, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Printed in U.S.A. 9998 North Michigan Road, Carmel, IN 46032

2 Q1 2015




Finding Success in Change As travelers continue to transform, more opportunities for growth appear.



of our 40th anniversary, an opportunity to appreciate the magnitude of the successes we’ve achieved together—as well as that we as an industry have a track record of not simply responding to the needs of our owners and guests, but actively anticipating them. And if one thing was certain in the past 40 years, it was that the needs of owners and guests are constantly changing. As we developed this issue of RCI Ventures® magazine, change quickly emerged as the dominant theme. In all its incarnations, change encompasses the demographics of our current owners as well as the next generation of owners, their attitudes toward and motivations for traveling, and the platforms on which our industry continues to promote the many benefits of the vacation ownership experience and educate prospects. How we address these changes defines our strategy at RCI. We’ve always made it a priority to invest in resources that can help ensure that you, our affiliates, have access to cutting-edge solutions and the competitive edge that those solutions inherently provide for expanding your business. Change also describes how our industry connects to the next generation of owners and tells our story to the world. Industry leaders are proactively promoting the benefits of timeshare in new, inventive ways and in many channels. But what hasn’t changed is the undeniable appeal of the timeshare product. Its fundamental benefits are constant: access to shared space, comfortable surroundings and important, valuable time with family and friends. Understanding the current motivations and preferences of travelers is paramount. In this issue we illustrate the vacation likes and dislikes of travelers on a broad demographic spectrum, thus demonstrating how to customize our industry’s messaging to attract prospects from a variety of generations to the sales table (By the Numbers, page 6). There’s been a sea change in owner demographics, with younger owners now comprising 30 percent of the industry’s new-owner base, according to the 2014 ARDA International Foundation (AIF) Shared Vacation Ownership Study (detailed on page 9). The devices available to consumers, and the myriad ways consumers use technology and the Internet in making purchasing decisions, are also changing. Just as the PC gave way

to the laptop and cell phones, the use of tablets and mobile devices by our customers has risen swiftly, a shift that has, equally as rapidly, changed how we can best communicate with them. In our Technology & Marketing story, on page 24, we share content-based social media strategies designed to maximize the online conversation with prospects. When you truly know your customer, you can give them helpful, pertinent information when they can use it best—and fulfill needs they may not even have realized they had. RCI® affiliates, of course, are on the front lines and witnessing firsthand how the vacation preferences of their owners have changed. In this issue there is plenty of evidence that the industry is rising to the occasion and tailoring services in response. In Canada, for example, Skyline Vacation Club provides both year-round outdoor recreation and urban-based activities at its four resorts in Ontario, catering specifically to a changing demographic of Canadian owners who now desire access to the best of both worlds. In Mexico and the Caribbean, TravelSmart VIP Vacations, which was created to complement the portfolio of Sunwing Travel Group, has the unique ability to offer its expanding ownership base a specialized suite of travel products and services. And Rick Houston, general manager of operations for Fairmont Heritage Place, describes the dual benefit of change for owners, as well as resorts, this way: “By continuing to add value to our owner benefit programs, we are constantly enhancing our owners’ experiences and creating a competitive advantage.” Just as change is inevitable, so too is our ability, as an industry, to continue to evolve, enhance and promote the resort-vacation experience, to the benefit of us all.

Gordon Gurnik President, RCI


An exit that generates


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The RCI® Custom Incentives & Benefits Platform empowers you to promote your full range of travel and leisure benefits: Tour premiums • First-day incentives • Trial and exit programs The end result is an easy-to-use custom-branded experience that helps build credibility, to turn prospective buyers into owners.

RECOVER COSTS Improve close rates and engage prospective owners from the start, all while driving down operational expenses. FLEXIBILITY Package a wide range of benefits and put your brand at the forefront. Feature your existing offerings while also leveraging RCI’s global network. BREADTH OF DESTINATIONS Encourage prospects to return to your resort, while also enticing them with inventory from thousands of resorts around the world. SAVINGS CREDITS* Engage your customers with savings credits they can spend immediately in RCI’s vast shopping network.

To learn more, visit www.RCIAffiliates.com/CustomIncentives

*Savings Credits are provided by a third party provider under agreement with RCI. RCI and related marks are registered trademarks and/or service marks in the United States and internationally. © 2014 Resort Rental, LLC. All rights reserved. Printed in the U.S.A.










The ever-changing American traveler plans to spend more money on vacations and take longer trips, positive signs for both the industry and the economy at large, according to MMGY Global’s 2014 Portrait of American Travelers®. “People’s likelihood, propensity and willingness to travel have turned much more quickly than the economy and, to a certain extent, have led the upturn,” MMGY Global vice president of insights Steve Cohen says. The study has examined the habits of active American leisure travelers for the last 24 years, providing substantial longitudinal data and insight into ongoing trends.


Vacation Motivations


G E N -X ’ E R S %


M AT U R E S %




16% 14%

Play a sport


30% 26% 23%

28% 20%

Pursue a hobby


46% 43%



Experience new cuisines


Pursue a wellness program




56% 51%

Enhance relationships

54% 53% 51%

Experience different cultures

61% 58% 56%



57% 54%

6 Q1 2015


Several top motivators for travel among younger generations can be grouped under the desire to interact with different cultures. “They want to go explore and experience new things,” Cohen says.





The Transforming Traveler

Key Attractions “The top reason millennials and X’ers travel is for an activity,” Cohen says. “It’s not about simply lying on a beach. They are interested in going hiking, climbing or skiing.” Even in cities the main appeal for these two groups is the variety of activities available. Matures, in comparison, were more likely to travel to visit friends and family. CITY


62% Millennials 52% X’ers 42% Boomers 37% Matures

35% Millennials 25% X’ers 23% Boomers 17% Matures

16% Millennials 21% X’ers 10% Boomers 7% Matures

Internet & Devices







S R ’E X










“One of the key findings here is that other generational groups besides millennials post their photos on social media sites to make friends and family jealous,” Cohen says. “We believe that number and the percentage of people who say they use social media to share their vacation experience is understated.”

Posted travel-related pictures/videos online


Went online to seek/review information about a destination or travel service provider



Wrote/ commented/ posted travelrelated content online


9 in 10 millennial travelers used the Internet to get information about travel service providers for at least one trip last year—surpassing

Generation X’ers (82%), boomers (81%) and matures (77%).

I like using social media to share a record of my travel experiences.

51% Millennials 30% X’ers 19% Boomers 9% Matures 44% Millennials 27% X’ers 13% Boomers 8% Matures

I show my vacation photos on social media sites like Facebook to make my friends/family jealous. FOUR GENERATIONS, AS DEFINED BY MMGY GLOBAL: GENERATION


AGE IN 2014



















To purchase the full report, 2014 Portrait of American Travelers® by MMGY Global, go to mmgyglobal.com. RCI VENTURES 7






Conferences, seminars, expos, summits, workshops, exhibitions, forums, symposiums, conventions, events and meetings you should know about.


JANUARY 14–15 HIFI (Hotel Investment Forum India) Gurgaon, Haryana, India hifi-india.com JANUARY 22–25 EMITT (East Mediterranean International Tourism and Travel Exhibition) Istanbul, Turkey emittistanbul.com JANUARY 26–28 ALIS (The Americas Lodging Investment Summit) Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. alisconference.com


JANUARY 28–30 Caribbean Travel Marketplace San Juan, Puerto Rico caribbeanhotelandtourism.com JANUARY 28–FEBRUARY 1 FITUR (International Tourism Trade Fair) Madrid, Spain ifema.es/fitur_06 FEBRUARY 11 Leisure Real Estate Summit London, England leisurerealestatesummit.com MARCH 2–4 IHIF (International Hotel Investment Forum) Berlin, Germany berlinconference.com MARCH 4–8 ITB (Internationale Tourismus-Börse) Berlin Berlin, Germany itb-berlin.de/en



What’s Happening

MARCH 6–8 GITF (Guangzhou International Travel Fair) Guangzhou, China www.gitf.com.cn/en/index.html MARCH 6–8 TATOC (The Association for Timeshare Owners Committees) Warrington, Cheshire, United Kingdom tatoc.co.uk MARCH 10–13 MIPIM (Marché International des Professionnels de l’Immobilier)— The World’s Property Market Cannes, France mipim.com

8 Q1 2015






Europe’s Newest Frontier Developers are making a play for timeshare’s latest burgeoning market: eastern Europe. With competitive prices, strikingly beautiful cities rich in history, unspoiled nature and proximity to the rest of Europe, eastern European countries have the kind of magical allure that other parts of the continent offered several decades ago. So it’s no surprise that these locales are in rising demand by foreign travelers, says Vassilis Themelidis, RCI’s European regional director of business development. “We are experiencing increasing interest from eastern European developers to enter the vacation ownership market and offer products domestically and to international travelers,” Themelidis says. In Turkey, for example, two recent 2014 resort affiliations with RCI—Premium Vacation Club 5* Hotel Istanbul and Elysium Vacation Club Taksim—reflect Istanbul’s growing popularity among tourists and a belief in the improving safety of traveling to the country’s western provinces. But new growth opportunities are not limited to the city that so famously straddles east and west: Over the past two years, RCI has affiliated 18 resorts in Turkey and recorded remarkable growth in terms of new members’ joining RCI, doubling its Turkish member base.

Themelidis points to another opportunity, in Croatia. The appeal of Croatia, long considered a modern country, was augmented in 2013 when it joined the European Union. As the construction of holiday villas reaches a saturation point and traditional source markets experience turb­ ulence, developers are seeking alt­er­natives. In response, vacation ownership in Croatia is poised to grow (RCI already has affiliated resorts here, along the Adriatic Sea). And in nearby Serbia, two RCI affiliated resorts can be found in the mountains of Zlatibor. So far sales take place mostly in the domestic market and neighboring Bulgaria and Romania. Not only is eastern Europe itself attractive to international visitors, but the region also con­tinues to be an important source market for other European countries with moreestablished timeshare programs, particularly Spain, the Canary Islands and Greece. This member base hails from Russia, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, among other countries, and has only grown over the past 10 to 15 years, Themelidis says. “They’re eager for lifestyle and value for their money,” he says. “And they’re replacing timeshare purchasers who traditionally come from the United Kingdom and Scandinavian countries.” All around, new opportunities abound.


1 20

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Have Youth, Will Travel








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90% of millennials had




13% 2014

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timeshares in the

39, compared with 51 for all


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getting younger. The average age

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Sales are up, with millennials—adults under the age of 35—composing 30 percent of the new-owner base, according to the 2014 ARDA Inter­ national Foundation (AIF) Shared Vacation Ownership Study. One reason younger owners are a valuable segment for the industry is that they are more likely than other owners to be affluent: Seventy-two percent of new owners are employed full-time, and the median household income for new owners is $94,800, compared with $89,500 for all owners. New owners in general are purchasing interests with a value of almost $20,000. They are also likely to make additional purchases after their initial investment in vacation ownership. “We’re breaking through to a new generation that has more disposable income, values long-term vacation savings and understands the benefits of shared use,” says Howard Nusbaum, president and CEO of ARDA. “We’ve at last gotten past the economic downturn, and we’re selling more profitably than before.” What’s most exciting about the millennial segment is their potential to expand the industry even further in the future. Fifty-one percent of new

owners have children under the age of 18 residing at home, the Shared Vacation Ownership Study found. Consequently, they are likely to purchase more over time as their families continue to grow. “These are youthful, family-oriented consumers with increasing income who want to see the world,” Nusbaum says. Millennials, with and without families, are committed to traveling. As Nusbaum says, “Younger people consider experience to be far more important than objects, and we have an experiential product.” Younger owners also have a different approach to the purchasing process that is influencing other consumers and leading to a more positive experience. “Transparency, co-creation and authenticity: These are what motivate millennials,” Nusbaum says. “Our sales process needs to be more of an interactive dialogue in which the consumer can ask the questions and control the process.” Because they thoroughly research the product beforehand, 95 percent of millennials report that they are extremely or very satisfied with the overall experience of purchasing a timeshare. As for why millennials are purchasing, a major draw is the ability to convert to other types of vacations. “The product is already pretty flexible, and it’s going to become even more chameleon-like,” Nusbaum says.




For years the vacation ownership industry has targeted younger owners— and now that persistence is paying off.




51% 43%



58% 34%

Week 2014

2012 47%


BASE 2014 (n 2012 =1,722) (n=1 ,002)





n Incide nce* n Share **

Week 2012


Point s 2014

Point s 2012



fracti onal/ 2014 PRC


interaction with vacation ownership

45% stayed at the timeshare where they purchased as a guest of the owner.

33% stayed through a rental.

Three of the top reasons millennials purchase a timeshare:

27% To save on future vacation costs

“Timeshare is morphing into vacation currency so that families can use their interest to take a cruise or transfer to a hotel and have a different kind of experience. Points are helpful because they allow people to experience timeshare their way, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all type of product.” These changes are only the beginning. “We are a lot smarter than before,” Nusbaum says. “We’ve opened our minds to realizing that timeshare is not one specific thing but rather a solution for people who want to vacation better. I truly believe that the golden days of vacation ownership are ahead of us.”

27% The overall flexibility of the

These are youthful, family-oriented consumers with increasing income who want to see the world.


20% Affordable financial terms


*Sourc 10% e: **Withi U.S. Censu n PRC within the “Incid s Bureau USA 2012 the U.S ence Quick ***Wit of ow . Facts hin nershi (2013) contr the “Pr p” cha od . rt, the sum acts of a uct typ e” to mo numb giv ****Sh ers rep re tha en produ chart, inc are ide n 100 ct typ resent %. e. Ind nce of tim will equof timesh the ove ividual esh al 100 are ow rall per owner are ow ner %, ho centag s can nershi wever ship ref e of p is own the per ers to the timesh contr the per centag are ow per cen acts across tage of e sha centage nershi res fea of multip the tim p am ong tured all contr esh le pro the po act may duct are ow not sums that eac ner pulati types, on of so inc populati exactly h produ house idence on tha OW ct due holds NE R’S percen t owns to rou type rep RE PO nding resent tages one or s. Th RT : . by pro more e sum SH AR duct of sha ED VA type res for will CA TIO each N OW produ NE RS ct typ HI P e 20 14 ED ITI ON

some form of

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fracti on 2012 al

What did you think of the 2014 ARDA AIF Shared Vacation Ownership Study? Share your thoughts and email us at rciventuresna@rci.com.

Source: 2014 AIF Shared Vacation Ownership Study

—HOWARD NUSBAUM, president and CEO, ARDA


n One n Two n Three n Four


s e d u t i t t A g n i g Chan

ing to reach h c a o r el app w— ltichann u m , right no e — iv t g c in a o o r gap ey’re d hip. what th are takin s ’s r e e r owners d e a n H . le io s t y t a r c t c e s Indu ts of va d prosp e benefi ners an h w t o t u o t o out ld ab the wor e t a c u d to e SSE BY J E

10 Q1 2015



Here’s what they ha d to



In a constantly chan ging media landscap e, the public is bomba rded by mixed mes sages about vacation owne rship. But the indust ry is pulling together an d taking control of its story by clarifying m isperceptions, deve loping strategies for encour aging engagement and connecting better to the next generation of owners. To learn mor e, RCI Ventures® mag azine assembled a panel of industry professi onals: Gregory Crist, chai rman and CEO of th e National Timeshare Owners Association (NTOA); Peter Roth, vice president of m arketing and communications at the American Res ort Development Assoc iation (ARDA); and Phil Brojan, senior vi ce president of glob al marketing for RCI. Th ey shared their thou ghts on the path forward and discussed how they’re talking to owners an d prospects on a va riety of platforms to shin e a brighter light on the timeshare product.

V: How would you say vacation ownership is currently depicted by the media and perceived by the public?


GC: Owners and prospects appear to be bombarded with endless noise in the media about timeshare resales. We have to continue to educate the press and help them learn how to differentiate secondary-market problems from those in the timeshare industry. Media engagement is something we are currently working on, which should lessen the reported negatives about the industry and improve the overall perception of vacation ownership. Today developers are certainly more conscious of reputation management. Some have implemented public relations programs, which is improving awareness of their own brands. PB: The largest misperceptions are about the flexibility of the product, the satisfaction rate that owners enjoy and the very nature of timeshare accommodations. These impressions persist because we haven’t yet solved how to unite and educate the masses in a memorable way. We’re beginning to take more control of our reputation as an industry, however. We’re starting conversations and creating product and industry advocates who get our message across in a post-advertising world. RCI has implemented a robust social-media strategy for listening to what the world has to say about our industry, as well as an accompanying engagement plan for educating owners and prospects. We’ve also made a tremendous investment in content, media and promotion to help spread the word about vacation ownership. PR: We’re doing a good job of putting out tactical stories and responding to questions from the media. We really need to understand what those misperceptions are and what drives them, however, and conduct solid market research so we can focus in on owner and prospect behavior. Then we can develop a comprehensive strategy for shifting how people view timeshare and moving the industry forward. By that I don’t only mean getting rid of

the negative. I also mean leveraging the positive. We have an 84 percent owner satisfaction rate; any industry would be proud of that number. If we do our job right, most of our time should be spent championing the positive. V: What is your organization doing to promote the benefits of the timeshare product to prospects? GC: At the NTOA we help owners sort fact from fiction. We’re on the front line, promoting the timeshare experience as a fun, affordable way to vacation and encouraging owners to use their leisure time to the fullest. Communicating with and educating owners is our top priority. We recently partnered with several companies and industry professionals to help us design an educational series that addresses every facet of the ownership cycle: purchase, exchange, rental and resale. We’re rolling this program out to our members via our web portal and through four live workshops held across the United States that can be replayed on our website. We also spend a lot of time working with media, elected officials and regulatory agencies to give them a better perspective on the various issues that affect timeshare owners. In the future we hope to share some of the consumer feedback we receive from our ASKNTOA owner assistance program [a resource through which owners can share their thoughts and request help]. PB: In the past year alone, RCI has conducted a major sweepstakes and aired advertisements on national cable television to educate consumers about timeshare. We also created a satellite media tour that coincided with the ARDA World convention in April 2014. It was picked up and covered by various media outlets across the country. In addition, RCI’s senior vice president of business development and operations, Fiona Downing, appeared on the Lifetime network’s weekday morning show The Balancing Act to discuss the benefits of timeshare. The episode aired four times throughout June and July to a national audience

om fiction. fr ct fa rt so s er n w o p el h At the NTOA we meshare ti e th g n ti o m ro p e, lin t n We’re on the fro to vacation. ay w le ab rd o aff , n fu a as experience irm — GREGORY CRIST, cha

12 Q1 2015

an and CEO, NTOA


PR: All our initiatives help build the reputation of the industry in some direct or indirect way. Recently, we relaunched ARDA’s consumer-facing website, VacationBetter.org. We envision it as an educational tool that anyone in the industry can send to new, current and prospective customers. We’ve intentionally kept sales out of the site; there’s no branding for our developers or partners. Twitter’s actually been our primary source of traffic, and social media has allowed us to reach out not only to the timeshare industry but also to the vacation and lifestyle communities. We’re joining bigger conversations with consumers who might otherwise never have considered a timeshare. Through a soft educational process, we find people who are close to our demographic profile and move them to consideration status. From there it’s up to the developers and people who are selling and servicing the product to make the conversion. Our job is to prepare them for the conversion. V: How can others in the industry help change misperceptions and encourage engagement? PB: Get involved! Many brands are focused on outbound publishing via social channels but are not as quick to listen, service and respond. RCI has a turnkey reputationmanagement and online-listening service that enables companies to take control of their online reputations: the Timeshare Online Listening Center. Two things make

In addition to fulfilling his role at the NTOA, Crist serves on the board of directors of the Canadian Resort Development Association.

POSITIVE PROMOTION Above, from top: RCI’s Fiona Downing (right) discussed timeshare with Julie Moran (left) on an ­installment of Lifetime’s The Balancing Act; the RCI Timeshare Online Listening Center (TOLC) helps companies take control of their digital reputations. Below: The ASK-NTOA owner assistance program and the NTOA’s owner bill of rights help promote transparency and build trust.

Peter Roth Vice president of marketing and communications, ARDA Roth oversees ARDA’s communications, including branding, digital, publications and public-relations initiatives.

Philip S. Brojan Senior vice president, global marketing, RCI Brojan is responsible for RCI’s marketing strategy, including member activation, retention, e-commerce and social media.



Gregory Crist Chairman and CEO, National Timeshare Owners Association

of 78 percent female viewers and 59 percent the next generation of owners, between the ages of 18 and 44.

as well as about the relationship they maintain with their developer, association or management company. The NTOA’s best practices suggest that owners remain informed and educated as resort programs and policies change over many years of ownership, and our proposed owner bill of rights is another strong body of language designed to build trust and show transparency.


PR: People engage, interact and purchase based on trust, so the industry as a whole needs to become more transparent. You always want to have a conversation with consumers rather than have them come to you with questions about something they learned without you. So become part of the conversation. We think VacationBetter.org in particular gives the industry insight into how to converse with people and why education is better than the hard sell. CONVERSATION STARTER VacationBetter.org, created by ARDA, is a consumer-facing resource designed to educate new, current and prospective customers.

TOLC unique. First, we use human analysts to verify proper sentiment and topic coding of online discussions. Natural-languages-processing algorithms found in onlinelistening tools often miscode conversations. Second, our enterprise-level listening technology allows us to review tremendous amounts of social data, pull in and categorize daily conversations on social channels and deliver insights to our clients in an easy and digestible manner. We’re continually impressed with how our clients use TOLC. One used the service to orchestrate the launch of its branded social media presence. It was able to maintain its excellent online reputation while increasing the chatter surrounding the brand 50 percent every month! Today it remains one of the top-performing TOLC clients. GC: Listen to your owners. They will tell you everything you want to know if they think you care about them. Owners have shared with us how important it is for them to be confident about their long-term ownership program

V: How can the industry reach the next generation of timeshare owners? GC: There are millions of owners who enjoy their timeshare experience right now, but behind them is a generation of potential owners who show an aversion to long-term commitments. It’s important to understand that millennials value choice at this stage in their lives. Early indications from our own Timeshare Ownership Study show that these new consumers would be attracted to diverse timeshare product offerings, such as a non-deeded product with a three-, five- or 10-year commitment tailored to different vacationing lifestyles. Millennials would also be open to a hybrid product under a good-better-best upgrade program that can be adjusted along with owners as they mature, have families and settle down.

ating re c d n a s n io t a rs onve We’re starting c o get our h w s te a c o v d a ustry product and ind world. g in is rt e v d a t s in a po message across al esident of glob , senior vice pr AN OJ BR L HI P —

14 Q1 2015

marketing, RCI

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PR: We’re actually well positioned with millennials. They get the concept. They would already rather buy 1 percent of a product and share it with other people if that’s all they’re going to use. So we just need to fine-tune the product to their comfort level. Really, millennials are only the tip of the iceberg; every generation now has to be marketed to with a very different collaborative, two-way sales process. Sometimes lifestyle is a better indicator. A millennial with a three-year-old is a lot like a baby boomer with a three-year-old but nothing at all like a single millennial without kids. PB: Tomorrow’s owners are vastly different from our past prospects in how they think of vacation and value, the way they make decisions and what flexibility means to them. Affiliates need to reshape their product by de-accentuating the commitment required to become a timeshare owner and promoting aspects that already mesh well with this generation, like the fact that vacation ownership is based on shared use and comes with tremendous flexibility. For instance, this past summer we had a lot of success with RCI’s Win Your Dream Vacation Sweepstakes, an interactive contest with a heavy viral component and a robust integrated-media strategy behind it. Registrants received bonus entries when they engaged in various activities related to learning about vacation ownership, such as answering trivia questions that dispelled timeshare myths. This high level of social engagement created a large amount of positive chatter for the industry. More than 7.5 million impressions came through the branded hashtag used during the promotion period on Twitter. V: What improvements do you see in the future? PR: At ARDA we’re working to provide an “air cover” of facts to drive engagement and move the industry forward.

REACHING OUT The RCI® Win Your Dream Vacation Sweepstakes received more than 7.5 million impressions last year; media outlets across the country picked up RCI’s satellite media tour, which coincided with last April’s ARDA convention.

RC I : 4 0 T H A N N I V E R SA RY S W E E P S TA K E S


I see future initiatives having a major impact on interaction and building trust through reputation. PB: Over the next two years we’ll see dramatic improvements in content creation and distribution, particularly in employing user-generated content. We’ll become better storytellers as an industry, and that will help us get our message across in a way that is understood better by the next generation of owners. GC: There are larger and more diverse hospitality companies in timeshare today than there were just 10 years ago. These conglomerates have raised the bar by focusing on reputation management for some time now. We hope that the payoff or social currency for early adopters in the industry will make it compelling for others to follow.


Even if the challenge


seems insurmountable, you have to push forward.

FLYING Blaine Liljenquist founded Surfside Beach’s Plantation Resort 37 years ago with nearly nothing. Now it has more than 500 condos and 300 employees and a legacy of delivering joy to tens of thousands of visiting families every year. Here the CEO reflects on a 47-year career that has soared (at times literally). B Y B R E E S P O S AT O PHOTOG R APHY BY CH RISTOPH E R SHAN E

16 Q1 2015






of December 22, 2011, Blaine Liljenquist was piloting his Nanchang CJ6-A Chinese Communist Air Force fighter plane 3,000 feet above Surfside Beach, South Carolina, with his son-in-law as a passenger when the engine blew up. Undaunted, Liljenquist navigated a deadstick landing on the beach below. Thanks to his quick thinking, the plane made it down safely and no one was harmed. It was among the more intense moments Liljenquist had come through since earning his commercial pilot’s license, in the early 1970s. It was also the kind of experience that might easily deter one from flying again; but the emergency maneuver came naturally to the Vietnam veteran, Purple Heart recipient and CEO of South Carolina’s Plantation Resort. “In the face of adversity, the option of quitting simply doesn’t exist,” Liljenquist says. “Even if the challenge seems insurmountable, you have to push forward.” It is a lesson he first learned in 1968 as a youthful lieutenant in command of a Marine Corps rifle platoon in Vietnam, and it has served him well time and again. He left the Corps in 1971, but the Utah law school he hoped to attend was so flooded with applications that he did not get a spot. What to do? Start a business. Liljenquist began selling gemstone jewelry in Washington, D.C., with the help of his three younger brothers. What effectively started out as a stand on M Street at Wisconsin Avenue branched into successful businesses. But the 1973 oil crisis hurt Liljenquist’s operation, so he went his own way. He sold recreational lots in Virginia initially and then timeshares at Cedar Village at Beech Mountain, in North Carolina; and at Myrtle Beach’s Golden Sands Beach Club. In 1978 Liljenquist was offered the position of broker in charge of Deerfield Realty, in Surfside Beach, South Carolina. He sold golf-course lots but soon identified another opportunity: Many people were more interested in

18 Q1 2015

a place to rent for a week or two while they golfed. “We went to the owners of the golf-course lots and recommended they start building and renting townhouses,” Liljenquist says. “That would have been small game for these heavy hitters, so they agreed to sell and subordinate some of the land to me so I could get started.” From there things took off. Liljenquist created his own construction company and built 180 townhomes across Deerfield Plantation. Many owners wanted to use them as vacation homes and rent them out when they weren’t in residence, so a vacation rental program was established: the origins of Plantation Resort. Liljenquist’s company created a new condo development all of whose units would be part of Plantation Resort’s short-term vacation rental program. So in 1987, Liljenquist tapped his timeshare sales experience and constructed one timeshare building as an experiment. The venture paid off handsomely. Soon 315 timeshare condos were built and sold. A 16,000-square-foot indoor pool and activity and fitness centers were constructed. Later a 4,600-square-foot heated outdoor pool—the largest in Myrtle Beach at the time—was added, along with a maintenance building and sales office. The latest addition is a 300-foot lazy river and splash deck per the requests of owners and guests. “The program was immensely successful,” Liljenquist says. “The infrastructure was there: check-in, checkout, accounting, human resources, housekeeping, landscaping. We found that it made more sense to sell people a timeshare week rather than a condo. So we started selling timeshares exclusively.” The resort has many standout features. Its robust activities roster and high standards earned it RCI Gold Crown Resort® Award status, which it maintains. The 20-acre property consists of 517 condos, 300 of which are timeshare. Of the latter,

190 are purpose-built units and 110 were purchased from private owners and converted to timeshare. Thirty-eight of the remaining 217 units have been bought and are being leased as vacation rentals or long-term. They will be converted to timeshare when the resort needs the inventory. The balance are privately owned and may be purchased if the owners put them up for sale. Making family his top priority has enriched Liljenquist’s career. His line of work has enabled him to bring his wife and five daughters on memorable vacations everywhere from London to Hawaii—trips they couldn’t have afforded to take when the kids were young if not for his work in the industry. Moreover, he explains, it is “incredibly satisfying to give tens of thousands of families the same kinds of opportunities each year.” This belief is reflected in Plantation Resort’s motto: “Vacations are essential to life. Make them great.” Plantation Resort’s 26-year affiliation with RCI augments the vacation opportunities afforded its owners. “We receive letters and emails from our owners, who have exchanged into resorts all over the world,” Liljenquist says. Keeping these owners happy is fundamental to his mission. Liljenquist’s secret? “Under-promise and over-deliver. When the owner’s expectations are met or exceeded, everyone is happy.” Asked how to maintain this high degree of satisfaction, Liljenquist points to the details: It’s important to have a friendly, helpful staff and well-kept and clean units in which everything is in working order. “Whatever a guest has been promised, they should receive 100 percent or more,” he says, “and any issue that might crop up should be resolved instantaneously by polite staff.” This year the resort will streamline its reservation system, making the front desk and check-in process even more efficient for guests. A winning formula starts with the resort’s DNA. Plantation Resort’s 300-plus staff members, Liljenquist says, are “treated with courtesy and

REACHING NEW HEIGHTS Opposite, from top: Liljenquist greets a guest at Plantation Resort (one of his favorite parts of the job); Liljenquist with his Nanchang CJ6-A Chinese Communist Air Force fighter plane; a view of the resort, located in Surfside Beach, South Carolina, less than four miles south of Myrtle Beach.

We’re in an industry that brings real joy into people’s lives.



respect and given a clear mission statement, know exactly what’s expected of them and have their performance measured.” To further those ends, the resort is upgrading its employee education program. Instead of providing one-off training, Plantation Resort will move the process online so that new and existing employees can log in and take training modules, track their progress, and pose and receive answers to questions. And with an eye to the future, the resort cultivates leadership by supporting people who are capable of stepping into management roles. It’s little surprise, then, that Plantation Resort has low turnover. “Many of our people have been here 15 to 30 years,” Liljenquist says. “In the seventies the first person I hired, Rodney Brown, was only a week out of college, and his desk was a door supported by two saw horses because we truly started with nothing. Today he’s the president of Plantation Resort.” It’s a joy to come to work, Liljenquist says, and talk to employees, owners and RCI exchange families. “Recently I was speaking with an employee who said that he loves it here because he gets to live and work in a destination

other people save up all year to come to for a week or two,” he says. “We’re in an industry that brings real joy into people’s lives.” Next on Liljenquist’s agenda is finding creative ways to engage prospects. To that end Plantation Resort is offering more marketing tours and has embraced social media, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and, most recently, Pinterest, says Dave Nelson, executive vice president of Plantation Resort and Liljenquist’s son-in-law. There are plans to create a YouTube channel for the resort to showcase exclusive videos. Liljenquist is also focused on selling its remaining inventory and expanding to other locations in the Myrtle Beach area. Asked about his vision for the industry’s future, Liljenquist responds with the characteristic determination that has defined his career thus far. “A large percentage of people in the United States would greatly benefit from vacation ownership,” he explains. “We’ve just scratched the surface.”



Canoeing at Vermilion Lakes, in Banff. Opposite, from top: An aerial view of Vancouver, in British Columbia; horseback riding in Lake Louise.

CANADA’S NEXT CHAPTER The world’s second-largest country demands attention. With an ever-larger pool of prospects ready to visit and a focus on innovation, Canada is poised to capitalize on its most powerful asset: a diverse natural landscape that caters to vacationers of all kinds. B Y B R E E S P O S AT O

20 Q1 2015


16.6 million tourists (2013)

150,000 new airline seats, resulting in increased air capacity (2013)

24% increase in visitors aged 24 and under

3.9% predicted growth in tourism’s contribution to GDP in 2014 Sources: World Travel & Tourism report; CTC 2013 Annual Report

mountains, pristine beaches, oldgrowth forests: Canada is naturally spectacular. More and more the country is redefining its cities as sophisticated and cosmopolitan while staying true to its roots. Add to that its stability, easy-to-grasp currency and accessibility from major U.S. hubs and you’ve got a vacation destination with irresistible appeal. It’s an exciting time for travel in Canada. Active trips—hiking, biking, golf—have always been a draw. Winter skiing tops the list, thanks to worldclass spots, like British Columbia’s Whistler; Alberta’s Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise areas; and MontTremblant and Mont Sainte-Anne, both in Quebec. But the country is undergoing changes that are expanding the scope of vacations. “Most compelling for today’s prime timeshare prospects— younger families—are urban-based resorts that offer outdoor activities and culinary experiences as well as culture and the arts,” says Jon Zwickel, president and CEO of the Canadian Resort Development Association. Major cities, such as Vancouver,

Victoria and Toronto, which are largely insulated from seasonality, allow access to nature without requiring one to explore it. Currently exchange opportunities are limited, but they are increasingly popular. “There’s opportunity here,” RCI vice president of business development Bob McGrath says. “The cost of visiting these places has skyrocketed, so inventory access for timeshare owners and club members should be a sales catalyst.” Skyline Vacation Club, which just celebrated its first anniversary, has capitalized on this rising demand. Skyline offers four strategic locations: in Toronto, the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Pantages Hotel and Spa; and north of the city, Horseshoe Valley Resort and Deerhurst Resort, which

offer golf and ski programs. With a portfolio geared to year-round recreation and urban-based activities, plus a user-friendly points system, the club is positioned for growth. Indeed, the potential for development in Canada is notable. Despite a global economy in low gear, the country saw 16.6 million tourists in 2013, up 2 percent over the year before, driven largely by more visits from Asia. Core higher-volume, stable markets to Canada include Australia, France, Germany and the U.K., while emerging markets include Brazil, India and China. And in 2013 the Canadian government announced a $42 million package to improve global visa services; the stimulus is expected to fuel this market. Also driving growth


RUGGED snowcapped


is increased air capacity. In 2013 Canada added more than 150,000 seats, to serve mostly China, France and Mexico. These new visitors are spending more and are younger, the Canadian Tourism Commission reports: Visitors aged 24 and under surged 24 percent. All told, this is a promising recipe for timeshare in Canada, where the industry already has a solid, if limited, foundation. RCI established a presence in the country in 1979 with the affiliation of the Harbour Inn & Resort Club, in Ontario. Today there are more than 100 RCI® affiliated resorts in Canada, most of them in British Columbia and Ontario. (See “Timeshare Hot Spots,” on page 23, for the full breakdown.) But obstacles unique to the Canadian market have slowed morerecent growth. One is the reception of timeshare by key Canadian stakeholders, Zwickel says. It can be difficult to find investors who have a firm enough grasp of the product to make a significant financial commitment; and cumbersome legislation, McGrath says, tends to lump timeshare with

A large segment of today’s market prefers not to own in perpetuity. This group wants the vacation ownership product but also wants an end date to the program. —MICHAEL SNEYD, CEO, Skyline Vacation Club

other real estate products. As a result, taking the time to educate these stakeholders is crucial. According to McGrath, strict privacy laws, recent anti-spam legislation and other restrictive marketing requirements also pose challenges. At Skyline those challenges mainly affect efforts to get prospects to the sales table. “With the National Do Not Call List, and the new email privacy laws enacted in Canada,” Skyline CEO Michael Sneyd says, “it is more difficult to reach and properly message potential buyers.” Other obstacles, McGrath says, are developers’ reliance on existing customer upgrade and reload sales, as opposed to expanding first-generation sales,

and the aging infrastructure of existing resorts. But efforts are being made to turn things around. “Developers are trying to maintain their base of duespaying members through challenging C A N A DA AT A GLANCE times and retool their marketing strategies,” McGrath says. “RCI continues Predicted growth in to develop innovative products and international travelers services to assist new Canadian develto Canada in 2014: opers getting into the market as well as support our existing clients’ sales and marketing efforts.” There’s plenty of evidence that Expected growth encourages optimism too. Canada in business-travel fared very well during the recession, spending in Canada in fact, because of its banking system. in 2014: Travel is now a priority after being deferred for years, Zwickel says, and



WIDE APPEAL Deerhurst Resort, an iconic getaway in Muskoka, in central Ontario. Opposite: Lions Gate Bridge, in Vancouver, in British Columbia.

Forecasted increase in jobs generated by travel and tourism in 2014:

3% Increase in travelers from China in 2013:

24.2%, spending

$603.2m Sources: World Travel & Tourism report; CTC 2013 Annual Report

1 2 3

a large portion of the population has income to spend on vacation ownership. Regarding development, Zwickel continues, there is great potential for existing developers to acquire quality inventory at low cost from self-managed properties that are getting older—those that may not have the manpower or expertise to do their own sales. Some of the most promising prospects can be younger families or adults under 35 who are looking for shorter-term flexibility and ease of use, McGrath says. Deeded ownership for life or leases of 30-plus years may no longer speak to these consumers, who are interested in having more options and flexibility at a lower cost. Timeshare is no longer a legacytype product and today must instead compete with TripAdvisor, Expedia and Travelocity as a travel option. And young families are becoming more aware of the benefits of timeshare over hotel rooms, McGrath says. Access to a full kitchen, washer and dryer, and several bedrooms and bathrooms is attractive. All this means that shorter-term (five- to 15-year) products may be more suited to the changing demographic, interests and lifestyles of the new timeshare buyer. Skyline Vacation Club is taking these lessons seriously. “A large segment of today’s market prefers not to own in perpetuity. This group wants the vacation ownership product but also wants an end date to the program,” Sneyd says. In response

Skyline offers a 50-year right-to-use and is developing a much shorterterm product. It’s an innovative approach designed to allow it to address several segments of the market. And management recently rolled out an option for families who want more than vacation ownership: At the time of purchase, a new membership may include a Skyline Communities Credit Option, which permits the member to use their vacation ownership purchase as credit toward the purchase of Skyline real estate opportunities; it has been well received. Skyline is just one example of the nimble Canadian developers that, Zwickel says, made it through the recession, are offering creative products and are responsive to the market. The forecast for the next five years is that the number of RCI affiliates and members who own in Canada will hold steady. Growth over the following five years is predicted. The future of Canadian shared ownership, McGrath says, is in continued consolidation and alliances among existing resorts, in vacation clubs’ selling a flexible-use product and in the potential reemergence of fractional ownership in destinations where second-home real estate prices are or have remained high. For the next generation of buyers, that means ease of use and of exchange and providing shorter-term commitments. And smarter products with a wider appeal can only enhance the country’s natural charisma— because Canada as a backdrop speaks for itself.


T I M E S H A R E H OT S P OT S Endless forests and coastlines, and up-and-coming cities with inventive food scenes: Canada’s diversity of vacation experiences is enormous. RCI is affiliated with more than 100 resorts in five regions. 1. British Columbia Snowcapped mountains, dramatic fjords and waters teeming with whales and sea lions are a hit with active types, while Vancouver’s buzzing neighborhoods add urban appeal to the region.

3. Manitoba Possessing a quieter appeal than its neighbor Ontario, the naturally striking province of Manitoba is largely composed of gently rolling fields of wildflowers interspersed with little towns.

2. Alberta Sprawling natural beauty is the draw here: Standout spots include Banff, Lake Louise, the badlands around Drumheller and the bisondotted lands of Waterton Lakes National Park.

4. Ontario Nearly 40 percent of Canada’s population lives here, and for good reason: The entertainment scene in Toronto rivals that of Montreal, and nature—there are 250,000 lakes—is never far away. 5. Quebec The province offers a distinctly European vibe, a flourishing art scene and fantastic ski resorts, Mont-Tremblant being the crown jewel of the Laurentian Mountains.







The Power of Being Helpful As consumers continue to change the ways they make purchases, it’s crucial for brands to be proactive in helping them throughout their decision-making process. What can you do to help close the sale? Provide them with useful and educational information—everywhere. BY J E SSE N O ’ B RIE N I L L U S T R AT I O N S B Y A L I S O N S E I F F E R

Today your prospects can easily tune out traditional marketing. But the good news is, there’s a better approach out there: “youtility.” “Youtility is massively useful free information that creates long-term trust and kinship between a company and its customers,” Jay Baer, author of Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is About Help Not Hype, explains. The even better news is, by sharing helpful personalized content—in every channel—brands can insert themselves into a customer’s purchasing process in way they may not have had the opportunity to before. Pairing the right content with the right channel at the right time in the purchasing process is key: It could mean the difference between a conversion—and an exit. Here are five ways “youtility” can help develop a loyal customer following for vacation ownership brands and build the foundation of a long-term relationship.

24 Q1 2015

The Digital 2015–2017 RCI® Directory of Affiliated Resorts IN BR IEF



Summer Vacation Because your vacation means the world to us ®


Family Reunion






DIR 15-17MM


The next generation of travel inspiration. Coming to tablets this winter.

RCI and related marks are registered trademarks and/or service marks in the United States and internationally. © 2015 RCI, LLC. All rights reserved. Printed in the U.S.A.


1 / Sell smarter Consumers can now research a product online and choose the brand that appeals most to them. When you provide them with helpful content and comprehensive information up-front, it will immediately differentiate your product— and ultimately help you close the sale later. “Consumers are very much in control of the messages to which they are exposed and the companies they choose to support,” Baer says. “The best way to break through is to create marketing that is so useful that people would pay for it if you asked them to do so.”


2 / Start helping Baer outlines three methods for building long-term relationships with customers by helping them. Self-serve information, in which they proactively answer questions; radical transparency, in which they are completely open with customers; and real-time relevancy, in which brands use location, circumstance, behavior and other information to provide consumers with the best resource at a given moment. “Create relevant mobile moments for customers based on where they are in their travel life cycle,” says Christine Ciccone, vice president of online marketing at RCI. “Leverage email, SMS and push notifications through geo-location capabilities or iBeacons tied to an app to reach customers with valuable information and foster loyalty.” For example, send a destination’s weather and transit information before an owner leaves for vacation. Later, when the owner arrives at his destination, provide details and reviews of local restaurants and activities.

3 / Be social Social media is a convenient way for consumers to reach brands with their questions. At the same time, social media allows brands to learn about customers by talking to them. “The best way to figure out how to be helpful is to have real interactions with your customers,” Baer says. “Insights don’t come from a spreadsheet; they come from a conversation.” The brands with the most social media success go beyond simply publishing outbound messages and actually interact with consumers. “Driving engagement requires a commitment to listen, foster dialogue and respond to feedback with specific actions,” Ciccone says.

26 Q1 2015

4 / See the big picture When brands first learn about “youtility,” Baer says, they often compartmentalize it as a subset of marketing instead of employ it as an overarching strategy. “Brands need to look at everything they do through the lens of the customer,” Ciccone adds. “All areas of the organization need to align to meet the customer’s needs.” For example, create a tiered loyalty program that consumers can gain access to only through social media and that can drive their behavior. When a fan tweets positively about your brand, Baer says, reward them with special content available only to social media advocates.

Jay Baer is the author of the New York Times best-selling book Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is About Help Not Hype and founder of the digital-marketing advisory firm Convince & Convert.

5 / Focus the message

Christine Ciccone is

“Micro content and video is taking off,” Baer says. “It’s not enough to just be useful; now you need to be useful in bite-sized chunks.” Think about how to make quick videos that are easily consumed and shared, even when a customer is traveling with just a smartphone. To shorten content, stay focused on what’s relevant to the message you’re trying to get across. And remember, Baer says, that ultimately social media is a tool and not an objective: “The goal is to be good at business because of social media. Measure business-level outcomes, not social media outcomes. You can’t pay your employees with re-tweets.”

RCI, leading digital

vice president of online marketing at strategy and increasing the transparency of members’ digital experiences.

Putting Help in Action RCI is working to be even more helpful to your owners with two new initiatives: the digital 2015–2017 RCI® Directory of Affiliated Resorts and RCI® Help.

The 2015–2017 RCI® Directory of Affiliated Resorts Goes Digital This February the free digital version of the 2015–2017 RCI® Directory of Affiliated Resorts will make its debut, and with it RCI® subscribing members will soon have access to a comprehensive vacation planning experience on their tablets. RCI Ventures® magazine spoke with Brian Bruno, publisher of the Directory as well as RCI Ventures® and Endless Vacation® magazines, about the upcoming launch and what it means for members as well as RCI® affiliated resorts.

V: How does the experience change? BB: Going digital opens up so many possibilities for how we can showcase nearly 4,500 affiliated resorts to our members. It’s as useful as it is beautiful, with a clean, modern design and intuitive interface. With just a few taps, members can immerse themselves in resorts around the world.

V: What’s next for the digital Directory? BB: Our launch in February is just the beginning. Once we lay the foundation, there’s plenty more to come throughout the year that will delight, and I think surprise, members and affiliates alike.

With the exciting launch of the new and improved RCI Help, a multichannel subscribing membership support center, RCI is providing members with comprehensive and consistent digital assistance. On Twitter members can receive support by tweeting @RCIHelp, and those with questions requiring in-depth responses may receive personal videos from the companion YouTube account. The videos will walk the customers through the answers step by step and also be a resource for members with similar questions. Jayson Smith, RCI’s director of digital marketing, shares the latest about the initiative.

What was the thinking behind the launch of RCI Help? Many of our members have long-standing relationships with the RCI Vacation Guides who work in our call centers, and this new experience in the digital space will provide a parallel experience.

What has member response been?

It’s quickly gaining traction with our members. We’re covering a variety of topics that resonate with different members in different ways: weather-related travel updates, direct Q&As, how-tos and more.

What is the RCI Help approach to Twitter?


@ Social Help, an enhanced service tier from RCI’s Timeshare Online Listening Center (TOLC) offering expanded services for social community management and response.

In addition to listening and responding to membership-specific questions, we’re using Twitter to take an active role in trending topics affecting vacationing as a whole as well as to assist consumers in their vacation decisions whenever possible.

What’s next for RCI Help?

We’re working hard to tightly integrate the existing RCI website with the RCI Help channels so our members know that assistance is always one click away.



V: Why did RCI create a digital version of the traditional print RCI Directory of Affiliated Resorts? BB: The Directory has been a reliable resource for our members for decades, showcasing the breadth and depth of our network of affiliated resorts. To better serve the evolving media preferences of our members, we wanted to complement this existing RCI member experience by translating it to the digital realm.

V: What about timeliness? BB: This platform enables us to provide more up-to-date information to our members to better aid them in planning their vacations.

RCI® Help: One Click Away


Streamline Your Systems Introducing RCI® Connect, a tool that can help maximize the performance of your property management system.



Thanks to the recent debut of the RCI® Connect platform, affiliated resorts now have in their arsenal another tool designed to help save time and money. “One of our core efforts at RCI is to help our affiliates lower the total operating cost of their resorts,” says Chris Parren, senior vice pres­­ ident of product development for RCI. “We developed the RCI Connect platform to eliminate redundant, time-wasting activities and to give our affiliates faster access to RCI transaction data.” RCI collaborated closely with several property management system (PMS) companies, including Resort Data Processing (RDP), Merlin and TimeShareWare. Most recently, RCI reached an agreement with timeshare software company SPI to join the RCI Connect platform. The ultimate result of their combined efforts? Increased operational efficiency and accuracy, which can lead to overall improve­ments in processes.

28 Q1 2015


Affiliated resorts can use RCI Connect to save time, help reduce errors and streamline their data importing by eliminating the manual entry of RCI-related transaction information. Resorts can directly accept certain day-to-day RCI business transactions, including inbound-guest lists, requests and verification of deposits for RCI Weeks® subscribing members, and Learn more about verification and updates of what RCI Connect can ownership data. do for you: Contact “This is a great your RCI Account opportunity for us to Executive today. continue to add value to the TimeShareWare products we offer our clients,” Mike Norton, director of customer relations for TimeShareWare, says. “We are excited to incorporate use of the RCI Connect platform and expand the benefits to the RCI affiliate process as part of our goal to continuously improve the business processes of our customers.”


R C I ® CO N N E C T AT A G L A N C E What it is: A web-based interface that directly accepts certain day-to-day transactional information from RCI What it includes: • Inbound data (RCI’s inbound information is loaded into your property management reservation system) • Ability to request and verify deposit data (for RCI Weeks® program only) • Ability to view, update and verify ownership data (for RCI Weeks® program only) Why choose it: • Saves time • Helps reduce errors • Streamlines processes • Eliminates the manual entry of RCI-related information • Timely information is available from a single source

R C I ® R E S O R T S H OWC A S E PAC K AG E O P T I O N S * A variety of packages can help ensure that the particular needs of your resort are met. Here’s an overview of just some of the items each package offers.


Superior Showcases • Millions of additional web views through RCI.com and YouTube • Optimized distribution channels to promote better search visibility and generate additional web traffic

First impressions matter, especially online, and are crucial to a successful integrated digital-marketing strategy. RCI Resort Showcase has always provided affiliates with dynamic, engaging and shareable videos of resorts through its powerful multi­media content. Now affiliates can choose from five new RCI Resort Showcase packages to best meet the needs of their specific resorts, whether that means growing rental traffic, getting owners more engaged or generating buzz about sales and marketing efforts. These packages and à la carte services have been optimized by RCI in response to affiliate feedback and to keep pace with changing consumer trends in onlinevideo viewing habits. What hasn’t changed, however, is the fundamental benefits of showcasing your resort on RCI® TV, one of the industry’s leading online television networks, which include:

• More flexibility, with five packages and seven à la carte services. • One-minute drill-down videos that communicate essential resort information to consumer audiences, who are increasingly accustomed to shorter videos. • Refreshes/reshoots of existing Platinum, Gold and Silver Packages. Ideal for resorts that have made brand or aesthetic changes since their first shoot, a refresh offers script rewriting, re-voicing, reediting and more.

• Lead generation through open-market channels • Increased RCI exchange and rental bookings

With so many customizable options, RCI Showcase can help ensure that the first online impress­ion your resort makes is a lasting one.

New enhancements of the RCI Resort Showcase packages include:

• Resort overview video with custom script and narration • Content plays on RCI® TV • RCI Presenter touchscreen wall tour Platinum Package: • Two to two-and-a-half days of HD filming with three-person crew • Resort overview video with custom script and narration • Content plays on RCI® TV • RCI Presenter touchscreen wall tour Gold Package: • Two to two-and-a-half days of HD filming with two-person crew • Resort overview music video • One-minute drill-down videos Bronze Plus Package: • One to one-and-a-half days of HD filming with two-person crew • Resort overview music video Bronze Package: • One to one-and-a-half days of HD filming with two-person crew • Ten still photos with touch-up • Custom rental video: 30-second version of music video with call to action For complete package descriptions, à la carte services and specific prices and to learn even more about the RCI Resort Showcase packages, contact your RCI Account Executive or visit RCIAffiliates.com. * Not all packages contain content inclusion on RCI TV.




Make a lasting impression with enhanced RCI® Resort Showcase packages.

Platinum Plus Package: • Three to three-and-a-half days of HD filming with three-person crew • One-minute drill-down videos


Making Waves


The latest innovation from the Sunwing Travel Group, TravelSmart VIP Vacations, is changing the game in Mexico and the Caribbean with its 360-degree approach to vacation exchange.

30 Q1 2015

LU I S L A R A Managing director TravelSmart VIP Vacations

TRAVELSMART VIP VACATIONS IS MAKING an impact in Mexico and the Caribbean. The club has grown rapidly since it launched, two years ago, to complement the Canadian-based Sunwing Travel Group portfolio, which includes an airline, tour operators in the United States and Canada and a transportation company. It now includes 12 resorts spanning the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Cuba and the Bahamas, and its two newest resorts, in Cancún, Mexico; and Saint Lucia, just opened their doors this past December. The club aims to generate a loyal member base as it aggressively expands. Although members can use SmartPoints to travel for one night or weekend, most stay seven nights. Members are mainly young families of four: adults between 40 and 50 years old with kids or teens. About 43.15 percent live in the United States, with Canadians following, at 29.22 percent. Other source markets are Latin America and the Caribbean (21.25 percent) and Europe (6.38 percent).

The numbers continue to paint a positive picture: Seventy percent of those who recently became members return to the resort where they purchased, 15 percent travel to another resort or destination within the club, and the remaining 15 percent tap the travel benefits offered by Sunwing or the Sunwing-owned tour operator, Vacation Express. In 2013 TravelSmart VIP Vacations affiliated with RCI with two properties, the Royalton Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic; and the Royalton White Sands, in Jamaica. The proposition, explains Luis Lara, managing director of TravelSmart VIP Vacations, is a strong one: “Our members have a one-stop solution with RCI. They can pay with their SmartPoints for their exchange without having to deposit a week, and reserve an RCI affiliated resort seamlessly. Once members have been with the club longer, we expect an increase in exchange.”


We provide outstanding services and always strive to exceed our members’ expectations. — LUIS LARA, managing director, TravelSmart VIP Vacations

Memories Grand Bahama, on Grand Bahama Island.



Trump card As part of Sunwing, TravelSmart is able to offer a uniquely sophisticated product. In addition to the club’s resorts, members have access to 800 properties via Sunwing and Vacation Express, exclusive airfare rates and hundreds of package options. This suite of benefits is a fundamental part of the plan to foster repeat guests as Sunwing Group expands its reach in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America. So far 15 percent of members (many of them Canadians, because of the total integration of travel services with Sunwing Airlines) have used these services, an encouraging figure given the relative youth of the club. The most popular perks, Lara says, are members-only lodging rates and packages at Sunwing, Vacation Express and Sunwing-owned tour operator Signature Vacations’ resorts, and discounted flights with Sunwing Airlines. Fine-tuned product “Each of our resorts has been developed with the target market in mind,” Lara says. “Guests can enjoy the local culture and cuisine, but they also have the option to indulge in what they would at home: steak houses, gourmet hamburgers; the Stanley Cup, the Super Bowl and the World

32 Q1 2015

SMART VACATIONS From left: Royalton White Sands, in Jamaica’s Montego Bay; Royalton Punta Cana, in Bávaro, in the Dominican Republic.

Cup, to name a few things.” All the scenic properties are equipped with the latest technology, plus restaurants and bars, pools, water parks, casinos, spas and room service. Differentiating each vacation experience is just as important. The club manages three all-inclusive brands: Royalton, Memories and CHIC. Royalton Resorts are designed for the sophisticated traveler. For example, the 1,200-room Royalton property in Cancún has 54 unit config­urations and three sections: Family, Diamond Club (with services such as personal butlers) and the adults-only, luxe Hideaway. Memories Resorts provide families with value and comfortable accommodations and facilities and include such acc­ess­ible activities as Splash World, a fun water park. CHIC is an adults-only resort that delivers a relaxing, romantic experience with personal service. “We are constantly improv­ing our club product with feedback from our members and steadily refining our sales and marketing processes and materials,” Lara says, “with a positive impact on our members’ satisfaction and our collection performance.” Power of personalization Service is a cornerstone of the TravelSmart experience. Regardless

of their membership level, all owners have free entry to the resort-based Diamond Club. That means access to exclusive lounges with premium drinks, dedicated concierge service, room upgrades, a pillow menu, late checkout and early check-in, discounted pricing of on-site products and services, and access to VIP beach areas. “Our VIP members receive special treatment at our airline, buses, excursions and resorts,” Lara says. “We provide outstanding services and always strive to exceed our members’ expectations.” Just the beginning Plenty of services are to come. “We have made a lot of progress since we started our first operation, in Bávaro, at an old resort that was about to be renovated,” Lara says. “At the moment we have sales operations in six resorts in four countries: Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, and Mexico. Four of those resorts have been completely renovated and expanded and the brand new one in Cancún and the one in Uvero Alto in the Dominican Republic just recently opened this past December.” Both these properties— the 1,200-room Royalton Riviera Cancún and the adults-only 323room-and-suite CHIC, in Uvero Alto— are generating excitement.











1 2



This spring TravelSmart will also kick off the renovation and expansion of luxury resorts on St. Lucia and in Negril, Jamaica. On beautiful St. Lucia, the 351-room Smugglers Cove Resort & Spa will offer seven pools (including an adults-only pool and a separate kids’ pool), a fitness center with modern equipment, five tennis courts, a kids’ club and a teens’ club, conference facilities and a spa and beauty center. And in Jamaica the to-be-renovated Grand Lido Negril will more than double, from 210 units to 450. The club has also analyzed acquisition opportunities on the Mexican Pacific Riviera (Puerto Vallarta and Playa del Carmen), in Central America (Costa Rica) and on other Caribbean islands (Aruba, St. Martin and Antigua). While expansion is the goal, quality is paramount. “Despite our young age,” Lara says, “we have very quickly reached industry performance standards in our sales operations, particularly in the Dominican Republic, based on one of the most sophisticated and flexible products in the market.”

T H E T R AV E L S M A R T PORTFOLIO 1. Royalton Punta Cana, Bávaro, Dominican Republic* 2. Memories Splash, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic* 3. CHIC, Resort & Spa, by Royalton, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic 4. Memories Varadero, Varadero, Cuba 5. Royalton Hicacos Varadero, Varadero, Cuba 6. Memories Caribe Beach, Cayo Coco, Cuba 7. Memories Flamenco Beach, Jardines del Rey, Caya Coco, Cuba G UADE LOU PE

8. Memories Paraiso Azul Beach, Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba 9. Royalton Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba 10. Royalton White Sands, Montego Bay, Jamaica*


11. Grand Lido Negril, Negril, Jamaica* 12. Memories Grand Bahama, Grand Bahama Island, Freeport, Bahamas* 13. Royalton Riviera Cancún, Cancún, Mexico



14. Smugglers Cove Resort & Spa, St. Lucia* INSIGHT



VA LU E -A D D S Under the Sunwing umbrella, TravelSmart offers members a suite of travel benefits including: • All-inclusive flight packages • All-inclusive cruise packages • Travel packages that include airfare, accommodations and car rental


* Depicts resorts affiliated with RCI.




Après-ski Appeal With stunning scenery and a proactive approach to surpassing owners’ expectations, The Cliff Club charms both in season and out. BY J E SSE N O ’ B RIE N I L L U S T R AT I O N B Y F R A N C E S C O B O N G I O R N I


Extending vacation flexibility While owners can explore Snowbird’s 2,500 acres or Salt Lake City, a 45-minute drive away, there’s as much to do indoors as on the mountains. In addition to 54 two-bedroom, three-bath luxury condominiums, The Cliff Club is home to the world-class Cliff Spa, several award-winning restaurants, cocktail lounges and an array of on-site shops. Those behind The Cliff Club believe in providing plenty of options, an attitude that has helped both the club’s exchange rate and its year-round bookings thrive. The Cliff Club has developed several programs that offer more choices for when to vacation. A split-week option allows owners to occupy their condominium during two separate periods within their ownership season: one reservation Friday to Monday, and another Monday to Friday. Bonus Time motivates owners to take extra vacations by letting them stay at The Cliff Club for half the advertised rate if they book 72 hours before arrival. The resort also runs special rates for summer owners that can be booked in advance, which lets owners take additional vacation time without waiting for the 72-hour window. Even the units themselves permit a flexible vacation experience. All are triple lockouts, so each condominium


snow falls over Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon and the property at the heart of the canyon: The Cliff Club. An inviting and elegant retreat among the glacier-sculpted Wasatch Mountains, the club is located within The Cliff Lodge at Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort. The area is famous for having the longest ski season in Utah, but a year-round appreciation of the environment, sensitivity to owners’ preferences and commitment to vacation flexibility are what has made The Cliff Club a success. The resort’s appeal extends to those besides local skiing enthusiasts. Owners are in all age groups and come from all over the world. Many have had memberships since the inception of the resort. Most winter-season owners occupy their weeks to ski, while off-season owners utilize more exchange time. Consistently providing good, friendly service that keeps this variety of owners coming back again and again is no small feat. In fact, it’s an order as tall as the mountains surrounding the club, and part of the shared mission statement of The Cliff Club and Snowbird: “Making Memories to Match Our Mountain.” The Cliff Club’s dedication to outstanding service has paid off: It has received the RCI Gold Crown Resort® Award continuously since 1996.



can be divided into three separate studios and accommodate a total of 10 guests. This alterability encourages guests to bring various combinations of family and friends to the resort so more people can discover The Cliff Club. Alternatively, owners can maximize their timeshare within the same one-week use by occupying one module and releasing another to an exchange company and the third to the Snowbird rental program. The range of options makes it easy to sample summer at The Cliff Club without committing to a full week of off-season ownership. Owners first Flexible offerings inspire year-round visits, but it’s The Cliff Club’s sensitivity to owners’ expectations that persuades them to return in every season. The resort’s leadership appreciates feedback from guests and monitors comments daily out of a conviction that staying in touch with their expectations is the key to making their experience a memorable one. Many of The Cliff Club’s repeat guests are RCI® subscribing members, so RCI comment-card reports are

36 Q1 2015

essential to gaining feedback and insight into what owners want. In the past few years people have been looking even harder for good value for their vacation dollars. The Cliff Club delivers that value by taking advantage of its connection to the larger resort complex of Snowbird. Owners receive discounts on restaurants and can attend Snowbird’s fun, free warm-weather programs, such as Family Flicks, every Friday night, and the Cool Air concert series, on Saturday. The Cliff Club has also created its own program of free and low-cost summer

SUN AND SNOW From top: A room at The Cliff Club; sunset at Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort. Opposite, clockwise from top left: A field of wildflowers in the Wasatch Mountains; a bull moose grazes in Utah; aspens in the mountains; skiing at Snowbird.

activities, including hiking, crafts and cooking classes, specifically for owners and exchange guests. Regular improvements further affirm The Cliff Club’s value. As part of a recent renovation of the kitchens in all the units, stainless steel app­liances and granite countertops were install­ed. Additional upgrades are on the way, including new beds and an improved wireless Internet system. Next year Snowbird will open a restaurant, retail and event space on top of 11,000-foot Hidden Peak, giving guests a 360-degree view of the Wasatch Mountains.



Reduced electricity consumption by

1,460,500 kilowatt hours per year with motor upgrades and controls for building heaters

Cut power consumption


by replacing energy-wasting incandescent bulbs and T12 fluorescent fixtures with new CFLs and premium T8s

Plants approximately


native species seedlings every summer as part of a re-vegetation effort with TreeUtah

Developed environmental education outreach programs including the Disabled Skier/ Wilderness Experiences, Barrier Free Nature Trail, Hawk Watch, Stargazer, Discover Your Forest, Jr. Ranger Program and Wildflower Festival




Protecting the planet The Cliff Club also shares the eco-friendly policies of Snowbird, which is dedicated to protecting its corner of the Rockies so future generations can create vacation memories. Snowbird has led numerous environmental projects, which include improving wildlife habitats and cleaning up the heavy metals contaminating the American Fork River. For its efforts Snowbird has received the National Ski Areas Association’s 2007 Golden Eagle award for overall environmental excellence, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Achievement award and the State of Utah’s 2007 Earth Day award. Snowbird has also implemented initiatives for making the resort complex more eco-friendly. Every building participates in a recycling program, and a plan for installing LED light sources in The Cliff Club is in the works. These efforts not only help preserve the mountains that draw in visitors but also often save money by making the resort more efficient. Snowbird’s cogeneration power facility, in The Cliff Lodge, produces 48 percent of the resort’s power in winter and 80 percent in summer. Exhaust from that plant is converted to steam, which is then piped throughout the resort to heat The Cliff Lodge’s rooms, pools, restaurants and meeting rooms. By protecting the environment and understanding its owners’ wishes, The Cliff Club gracefully fulfills the vision co-founder Dick Bass had for Snowbird when it was being built in 1970: “A year-round resort which respects and comple­ ments the beauty and inspiration of this natural setting.”


International Expansion


Fairmont Heritage Place is showing no signs of slowing down as it continues to add to a diverse roster of resorts.

38 Q1 2015

A view of Dubai’s skyline from Fairmont Heritage Place, The Palm.

R I C K H O U S TO N General manager, operations Fairmont Heritage Place




the locations of the properties he oversees for Fairmont Heritage Place as its general manager of operations, he responded with a very specific term: unrivaled destinations. As Fairmont Heritage Place has eight resorts spanning three continents, Houston’s description of its portfolio is anything but hyperbole. Its international presence is undeniable. At the Zimbali private residence, in South Africa, one has only to stroll the grounds to take in sweeping views of the Indian Ocean. The Palm resort property is located on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah, a man-made island in the shape of a palm tree, surrounded by upscale restaurants and boutiques. Perpetual North American favorites are also represented, including ski mecca Telluride, Colorado; and classic beach escape Acapulco, Mexico. The newest addition, Fairmont Heritage Place, Mayakoba, will open in Mexico’s Playa del Carmen later this spring. (For the full Fairmont Heritage Place portfolio, turn to page 40.) “All our properties are extremely unique in location, yet they are all unified with the service levels we offer to all owners,” Houston says. “Our resort teams focus on creating a memorable experience for every owner, and will tailor their stay to accomplish this goal.” An affiliate with The Registry Collection®, RCI’s luxury exchange program, since 2010, Fairmont Heritage Place has created a solid foundation on which to build since opening its first property, in 2003. “We visualized the material benefits that residential properties would contribute to both our hotels’ performance and the overall growth of the company,” Houston says. “Creating ownership opportunities in highly sought-after real estate markets added consistent incremental revenue streams to our hotel properties and a foundation for increm­ ental expansion of our portfolio.” In our conversation, Houston explained how Fairmont Heritage Place is aligned with the overall vision of its parent company, FRHI Hotels & Resorts, to continue to seek opportunities to be a global hospitality leader and offer best-in-class vacation experiences to owners.

T H E FA I R M O N T H E R I TAG E P L AC E P O R T F O L I O 1. United States Fairmont Heritage Place, El Corazon de Santa Fe Santa Fe, New Mexico, U.S.A. Fairmont Heritage Place, Franz Klammer Lodge Telluride, Colorado, U.S.A. Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghirardelli Square San Francisco, California, U.S.A. Fairmont Heritage Place, Inspiration Miramar Beach, Florida, U.S.A. 2. Mexico Fairmont Heritage Place, Acapulco Diamante Acapulco, Mexico Fairmont Heritage Place, Mayakoba Playa del Carmen, Mexico

1 4 2

3. South Africa Fairmont Heritage Place, Zimbali South Africa


4. United Arab Emirates Fairmont Heritage Place, The Palm Dubai, United Arab Emirates


V: The first Fairmont Heritage Place resort opened in Acapulco in 2003. How has the brand evolved in the subsequent decade? RH: While others have shied away from fractional ownership development opportunities, Fairmont Heritage Place continued expanding. Since our inception we have added approximately a property a year. Every new property is a significant milestone, as each possesses its own character based on its location. Being an industry forerunner has allowed us to learn from our experience and craft products that meet the needs of individual markets and ownership groups. Nurturing strong ownership relations provides us with happy owners who are our best salespeople. By continuing to add value to our owner benefit programs, we are constantly enhancing our owners’ experiences and creating a competitive advantage for FRHI Hotels & Resorts and our owners. V: Tell us about your owners. RH: We have a varied group of owners at our properties. Although the majority of our owners are retired couples who like to bring the extended family to their homes, we see young

40 Q1 2015

families as well. Our properties are based on a usage plan of seven-day [week-long] stays, and each has a slightly different fractional plan based on the specific needs of the location they’re in. We have properties where owners reserve three weeks a year and properties where owners reserve up to five weeks a year. V: How does your ownership vary with such diverse resort locations? RH: Several of our properties are composed of owners who live within driving distance of their fractional homes. For example, many owners at Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghirardelli Square live in the San Francisco Bay area, while our property in Dubai has an international mix of owners. V: What benefits does your loyalty program, the Fairmont President’s Club, provide for your owners? RH: As real estate owners, our Fairmont Heritage Place owners have been invited to join the exclusive “invitation only” level of our guest loyalty program, Fairmont President’s Club Circle Level. This distinction means that all our owners travel as VIPs to Fairmont, Swissôtel Hotels & Resorts and Raffles Hotels & Resorts

DIVERSE OPTIONS Opposite, from top: Poolside at Fairmont Heritage Place, Acapulco Diamante, in Acapulco, Mexico; Fairmont Heritage Place, Zimbali, in South Africa, lies alongside the Indian Ocean; Fairmont Heritage Place, Franz Klammer Lodge, in Telluride, Colorado, is a perennial ski destination.

around the world. Benefits our owners receive in the Club Circle Level include complimentary upgrades to the best available suite in the hotel (excluding the presidential suite), offers of preferred rates when trav­el­ing and the designation of VIP. Other in-hotel benefits are complimentary services, such as Wi-Fi, access to golf clubs, bicycles and more. V: Why did Fairmont Heritage Place affiliate with RCI’s The Registry Collection® program? RH: Our decision was based on several factors, one being that our ownership was clear that they wanted to have access to a large range of locations worldwide to exchange into. We were familiar with the scope and global reputation of The Registry Collection as the industry leader. Our affiliation has assisted in the sales process to all purchasers, and its flexibility of use and wonderful locations add value to new and existing owners. V: Nightly rentals are now available at certain properties. What are the advantages of a rental program? RH: Half our properties currently offer a rental program to owners. This decision is made property by property.

Of the properties participating with a rental program, we see the majority of owners using the property, with approximately 80 percent being owner usage and approximately 20 percent used by rental guests. A great advantage of the rental program is the ability of owners to offset their annual dues, giving them more flexibility and creat­ing added value. V: What are the most effective strategies for filling rental inventory in off-season months? RH: We see peak rental seasons at all our properties. For example, winter ski weeks in Telluride are extremely desirable, as is Holy Week at our property in Acapulco. Low-season months certainly require creativity and fresh ideas. We offer package escapes to locations, and we partner with exclusive travel agents who are familiar with our product and realize the value of traveling to a residential property, even in the off-season. This area of rental requires constant fine-tuning to achieve results.

RH: We are excited about our newest addition to the Fairmont Heritage Place portfolio, which is scheduled to open this spring: Fairmont Heritage Place, Mayakoba. It will be located in the heart of Mexico’s Riviera Maya as part of Mayakoba, one of the most prestigious resort developments in the Mexican Caribbean. This project will consist of ultra-luxurious, fully furnished three- and four-bedroom residences that provide unmatched service and amenities as well as access to a host of leisure and retail facilities. We also plan to continue expanding our portfolio in regions such as the Asia-Pacific and the Caribbean and throughout North America.

Fairmont Heritage Place is now in its 11th year of operation, and along with our constant growth we are also continuing to renew management and affiliation agreements throughout our portfolio. These renewals express our owners’ confidence in the brand and the value created for ownership by Fairmont Heritage Place. As a company we are excited for the future of fractional ownership and also to continue our relationship with The Registry Collection® program.

—RICK HOUSTON, General manager, operations, Fairmont Heritage Place




V: What’s next for Fairmont Heritage Place?



42 Q1 2015


Southern Charm Amber Vacation Club remains true to its core values and is prepared to take business to the next level. B Y B R E E S P O S AT O I L L U S T R AT I O N B Y K E L S E Y G A R R I T Y R I L E Y


L . N I CO L A S G R AY RRP, chief operating officer Amber Group, Inc.


Amber Vacation Club and Amber Resort Management, marks its 10th anniversary. At the forefront of this celebration are Amber Vacation Club’s five resorts—two in Florida, another three in Tennessee—which put their own spin on the kind of classic American escape that can feel so elusive these days. In Florida, Casa del Mar Resort fronts on soft-sand Ormond Beach, while Alhambra Villas, in Kissimmee, rise from 47,000 acres of countryside dotted with palmetto trees and sparkling lakes. Over in Tennessee, Sunrise Ridge Resort, where the group’s sales team is based, is nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. In Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Tree Tops Resort sits on the banks of the crystal-clear Roaring Fork Creek. Meanwhile Oakmont Resort is in close proximity of the heart of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and with that affords easy access to activities like a dinner theater and go-karts. Each property offers a roster of activities, everything from sailing and golfing to horseback riding and spa treatments. While most of Amber Vacation Club’s loyal guests come from the Midwest and the South, the resort group also attracts visitors from other parts of the world, says L. Nicolas Gray, RRP, chief operating officer of Amber Group, Inc. Most stay for an average of 4.5 days. Amber Vacation Club’s affiliation with RCI has been a boon, allowing guests to enjoy vacations closer to home and at nearly 4,500 resorts. The group’s resort occupancy consists mostly of owners who use the Amber Vacation Club points exchange program, and inbound RCI exchanges. The balance comes from rentals by owners and non-owners.


A M B E R VAC AT I O N C L U B AT A G L A N C E • Established in 1994 • Five resorts in Florida and Tennessee • Studios, one- and two-bedroom units, and cottages • All are RCI Points® affiliated resorts


• Enhances the owner experience with in-room amenities, from coffeemakers and dishwashers to TVs and DVD players

44 Q1 2015

Keeping things simple Amber Vacation Club is an internal exchange with a flexible points-based currency that is used in reserving single or several days. That in itself may not be unique, Gray explains, but the simplicity of its rules is. Except for guest reservations, there are no fees beyond the low annual member­ ship fee. That’s just one of the ways the club puts members first. “With a central reservation and customer service department, we believe that the vacation experience begins in the planning,” Gray says. “We endeavor to make the process as stress free as possible and have combined the two departments to ensure that should a problem arise, the same attendants are empowered to resolve any issues quickly and efficiently.” Beyond that, those who manage the club believe that the winning formula is straightforward: clean, well-maintained and well-appointed accommodations that highlight recreation options.

Creating a cycle of happiness The key to effective customer service—creating a realistic expectation at the point of sale and then delivering a product that meets or exceeds that expectation—may be a familiar one, Gray says. But it is a central creed of Amber Vacation Club. The club relies on two main member-facing communication tools: its website, ambervacations .com; and a biannual newsletter, “Club Talk.” To keep members happy, the club focuses on feedback, communication and follow-through when it comes to members’ comments. The club’s employees are thoroughly educated and provided with the tools necessary to enable them to support these strategies. Employees are just as much a priority for the club. Most important, the company leadership cultivates a positive work environment with an emphasis on education, empower­ ment and, of course, a good product. And while there are limits to what

SOUTHERN EXPOSURES Sunshine Ridge, in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains. Opposite, clockwise from top left: An aerial view of Casa del Mar, on Ormond Beach, Florida; the pool at Alhambra Villas, in Kissimmee, Florida; a mill in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee; the Daytona International Speedway, in Daytona Beach, Florida; a warm welcome at Alhambra Villas.

R E C R E AT I O N H I G H L I G H T S Here, a sample of the activities guests can enjoy at each Amber Vacation Club resort. IN TENNESSEE:

1. Tree Tops 3 poolside spas, access to nearby golf courses, horseback riding 2. Sunrise Ridge 3 pools, an indoor-outdoor spa and fireplaces

small companies can achieve in terms of economic benefits, Amber Vacation Club offers employees an excellent health insurance plan at only 25 percent of the premium cost. Not surprisingly, turnover at Amber Vacation Club is quite low. With five years of service behind him, Gray is still considered one of the newcomers. “We are fortunate to have little turnover throughout the company and at the resort level,” Gray says. Growing a legacy For some time Amber Vacation Club has not actively been in the sales business, so prospecting has not been a concern. During this time the club has not atrophied but actually grown. What’s more, unlike other legacy resorts, which may experience sizable inventory-related problems, the club has a relationship with a large, very active developer that, quarterly and at a preset purchase price, acquires any defaulted-on and foreclosed inventory. The

turnaround for the resale is typically less than a few months. That said, Amber Vacation Club recognizes the importance of refocusing its sales efforts to expand the club effectively. “Our best development opportunity exists at Sunrise Ridge,” Gray says, “with approximately 75 units remaining to be built to complete the resort.” In addition, the leadership seeks to increase the benefits of the club and add travel locations through affiliation and sales agreements. This expansion will be driven by demand, not geography. The next five years will be about growth through association sales, affiliation and property acquisition. But always with an eye to the things that matter most: “As a company,” Gray says, “we are proud to remain profitable and focused on our members and associations.”


2 3


4. Casa del Mar Nearby Daytona and its Speedway 5. Alhambra Villas Access to boating, sailing and waterskiing



ambervacations.com RCI VENTURES 45



3. Oakmont Resort Dining in downtown Pigeon Forge, go-karts, outlet shopping

R C I ® A F F I L I AT E D R E S O R T N E W S

Club Meliá at Palacio de Isora, in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. Below: The second annual Splash-N-Dash one-kilometer fun run sponsored by Silverleaf Resorts.


Meliá Hotels International Earns GreenLeaders Status TripAdvisor’s GreenLeaders has recognized 67 Meliá Hotels International properties in Europe. GreenLeaders honors hotels that meet TripAdvisor’s Sustainability Policy standards. It was developed through collaboration with national and international industry experts, such as those involved in the U.N. Environment Programme and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program. Silverleaf Resorts Raises Money for Christel House This past summer Silverleaf Resorts collected more than $33,000 in donations for Christel House, a charity that provides K–12 education for impoverished children. Silverleaf co-sponsored RCI’s Christel House Golf tourn­ament, in Branson, Missouri; hosted its own miniature-golf opens at various Silverleaf resorts; and held the second annual Silverleaf Splash-N-Dash one-kilometer fun run.

46 Q1 2015

Karma St. Martin’s, in England.

Karma Royal Group Enters UK Karma Royal Group has opened its first luxury resort in the United Kingdom. Karma St. Martin’s is the only hotel on the tiny island of St. Martin’s, off Cornwall, England. Thanks to the island’s microclimate, the resort’s 30 rooms are surrounded by subtropical plants usually found in Africa or southern Europe. This move follows Karma Royal Group’s recent acquisitions in Germany, Greece and France.

R E C E N T R C I ® A F F I L I AT E D R E S O R T S * RCI Weeks® program Akropol Termal Beypazari, Ankara, Turkey Astoria Boracay Aklan, Philippines Bellini Suites at Presidio, Lakefront Muntinlupa City, Philippines Casa Divina Oaxaca, Mexico

Corbett Wild Iris Spa And Resort Jim Corbett National Park, Nainital, Uttarakhand, India Crosswaters Ecolodge & Spa Guangdong, China Dreams Las Mareas Costa Rica by UVC Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Yu Papagayo Sardinal, Costa Rica

Modern Saraylar Avsallar, Antalya, Turkey

Zoëtry Villa Rolandi Isla Mujeres by UVC Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Red Mansion Shanghai, China Salinas Park Resort Salinópolis, Pará, Brazil Secrets Playa Mujeres Golf & Spa Resort by UVC Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, Mexico Shangri-La Tusifu Resort Shangri-La, Yunnan, China The Golden Tusk Jim Corbett National Park, Nainital, Uttarakhand, India The Residences at Lakeview Country Bodmin, England

Dreams Sands Cancun Resort & Spa by UVC Cancún, Quintana Roo, Mexico

TravelSmart Vacation Club/ Memories Grand Bahama Beach & Casino Resort Freeport, Bahamas

Elysium Vacation Club Taksim Istanbul, Turkey

Vistacay Hotel Cheonjiyeon Seogwipo, Jeju, South Korea

Grand Palladium Imbassai Resort & Spa Mata de São João, Brazil

Vistacay Hotel Seogwipo Seogwipo, Jeju, South Korea

Hotel Coco Beach Playas del Coco, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Xishuangbanna Resort Xishuangbanna, Yunnan, China

Hotel Decameron Los Delfines Isla San Andrés, Colombia

Yalova Thermal Palace Yalova, Turkey

Do you have news to share? Email it to rciventuresna @rci.com.

RCI Points® program Parliament House Resort Orlando, Florida, U.S.A.

The Registry Collection® program The Lodges at Kentisbury Grange Kentisbury, England

Club Meliá at Palacio Grand Palladium Imbassai de Isora &inSpa, Tenerife, Resort in Mata de Canary Islands, Spain. São João, Brazil.

* Due to space limitations and other considerations, this list might not include all resorts that have recently affiliated with RCI.



Chongqing Alexander Hotel Chongqing, China

Hotel Fiesta Siesta Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico


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2015 Financial Forecast Three years ago Capital One Bank’s commercial and specialty finance division created its Vacation Ownership Group. It was a crucial time: Having just weathered the brunt of the economic recession, the industry had proved its resilience and was ready to continue growing. “We believed that the industry would benefit from the participation of one of the largest banks in the country, which is also capable of delivering an expansive suite of products and services not commonly available,” executive vice president Michael Szwajkowski says. “The industry has benefited from the engagement of a committed, stable and significant new source of capital which works diligently with its clients to tailor essential financing solutions,” James Casey , senior vice president and managing director, adds. RCI Ventures® magazine spoke with Szwajkowski and Casey about what to expect in 2015. Here’s what you should know.

A move to modernize. JC: We believe that Capital One’s Vacation Ownership Survey at the ARDA World convention is a good barometer for the industry. Based on direct feedback from industry professionals, the 2014 edition found that the trend toward renovating and modernizing existing properties would gain the most momentum. That finding has been spot-on. An emphasis on affordability. JC: There’s an increasing interest in affordable developments, and that trend will continue.

52 Q1 2015

New growth opportunities. MS: The secondary resale market remains a concern, and there are also a limited number of new developers. It would be a positive sign for the industry to see new developers and increased new opportunities. Consumer confidence on the rise. JC: Consumer confidence in the timeshare industry appears quite strong, and we expect that to continue. The developers we finance and know well report that sales volume is improving year over year. The uptick in sales and receivables performance is a reasonable indicator that consumer confidence remains strong. A stronger future. MS: In 2015 the vacation ownership market will continue to grow, with more new developments and more interest in new construction. Developer liquidity and the outlook for timeshare receivables are both strong. We’re interested in hearing about new developments and new opportunities, and we would like to help those developers in any way we can.


A focus on flexibility and options. MS: Developers are expanding their hotel and club operations, adding products and developing more customer-focused flexibility. Years ago timeshare was sold in weeklong increments. The industry has evolved and become more flexible, with club-based programs assigning point values and allowing guests to stay at several resorts or break up those weeks. Those developers that made it through the financial crisis will continue to get stronger, add products and expand.





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