Throughout our recent history, the way the average holidaymaker has taken holidays has evolved interestingly. Foreign holidays, once the preserve of the Upper Classes, have become available to all. Once, our annual trip to the seaside was the norm; then in the 60s, early package holidays started to become popular. These allowed an incredulous public access to “exotic places” such as Benidorm and Magaluf. As these became more and more popular, with the masses accessing Europe and the Canaries on a regular basis, another system of holidays entered the scene: timeshare. Originating in France, timeshare then spread to the rest of Europe, the US, and subsequently the rest of the World, the US being the biggest consumer to date. Whilst perhaps through its undisputedly tarnished reputation, timeshare has been less popular in recent years, there has been what one might call a strong “response” from the hotel industry to address its understandable market share loss through the once popular, but now some would say outmoded, timeshare system.
In this article, we examine why this is, and indeed: has the hotel industry taken over from timeshare and recuperated its former leading position in the hospitality business?
In order to establish this, we must first examine the market, then how it has evolved, and indeed how, and if, the hotel industry has regained its position as market leader, and what options are available to today’s consumer.
Original timeshare was exactly that: a share of time. Customers purchased a fixed week in a fixed unit on a timeshare resort. They paid accordingly as to the time of year they bought, low Winter weeks being the cheapest, and peak Summer or School Holiday weeks being the most expensive. Size of unit also pertained to the price, with a studio being the cheapest and so on. One can still purchase fixed weeks at places such as the Marriot’s Marbella Beach Club in Spain, and some customers love them, and continue to do so. The benefits being that one is guaranteed a holiday every year at the same place and the same time, just paying annual maintenance fees.
However, people wanted more flexibility, so the points system emerged. Pioneered by the likes of Diamond Resorts and Club La Costa, this remains a popular system to date.
Slightly murkier water was kicked up with various other schemes, however as these have become so complicated, they are fading into obscurity. At the end of the day, however you dressed it up, it was still timeshare.
Where are we today though? How can we move on? To do this, one must look at the demographic, and what people want: flexibility, reliability and trustworthiness. This is the undeniably the trump card of the hotel industry. For years, timeshare has been battling against the most common complaint of its customers: they can’t get what they want when they want it, and in fact, it’s cheaper and easier to book through the Tour Operators than their own, inflexible and often obtuse timeshare systems.
After more than a decade of serious analysis and research, and a massive loss of market share, the hotel industry decided to fight back in a big way, creating what appears to be an innovative solution: Hotel Real Estate Periods.
Through this, big players like Global Great Hotels or Mundial Club, serious Tour Operators and hotel chains in their own right, have successfully combined the benefits of the Travel Agency, the Tour Operator, Timeshare, Condo Hotels, Vacation Clubs, the traditional Holiday Home and the ever popular “Buy-To-Let”. They have taken the best elements from all the existing schemes, and put them together in one, very well thought out and sophisticated product.
The New Perspective: Return on Investment
One can easily see that, of course, the timeshare companies are trying to tap into what their customers want. There are literally millions of investment schemes out there, most of which we are bombarded with daily. So why not create your own? And they’ve done exactly that: from “Keys” Ownership with Seasons to “Fractional” Ownership with Club la Costa, timeshare customers are being offered new options. However, this still doesn’t negate the inflexibility of the purely timeshare system, offering a poor, if any, return on investment.
We therefore go back to our earlier findings that timeshare owners often find themselves back at the Tour Operators’ websites, purely because their timeshare systems are simply too inflexible to fulfil their needs. So they effectively end up spending double.
Whilst the unsatisfied timeshare owners are forced back to traditional options, we must also return to the hotel industry: Are they changing the game? Can we really have a Hotel based product with a solid investment option attached?
It seems we can.
The big players such as Global Great have come up with a truly innovative product. In fact, through companies such as this, the clients are able to rent out their Real Estate Periods, earning up to a 10% return on their investment. In addition, they are able to take advantage of other profitable programmes which enable them to get extra income.
The beauty of this product lies in the fact that all this is in addition to their annual holidays which they can get at no extra cost in any hotel within the chain, or anywhere else in the world at significantly discounted rates through the Tour Operator division.
The consumer has a choice, and again, in a critical and certainly vocal on-line World, investors in Real Estate Periods do indeed seem to be getting what they want: in a culture where we simply never have enough time, they have their own dedicated Travel Agent to do all their bookings for them, safe in the knowledge that they are with one of the biggest Tour Operators, so in the best position for discounts and best price deals. They can literally have anything they want from short breaks to hotels, apartments, cruises, villas, tours, the list goes on.
Investors also have their own dedicated Real Estate Agent who handles all their Rentals and Referrals for them , plus they have their own Concierge service.
It seems that the hotel industry has not only identified this gap in the market but is sweeping up and attracting customers who are now leaving their timeshares, holiday homes, buy-to-lets, fractionals, Condo hotels for a more flexible system and a much wiser investment.
So, to return to our hypothesis: has the hotel industry regained its position at the top of the holiday market?