VIEWS AND INTERVIEWS
Talking to Mr B.S. Rathor, Chairman of AIRDA
B.S. Rathor is the Chairman & Principal Advisor at AIRDA. An Honours Graduate in Electrical Engineering from IIT Kharagpur, B.S. Rathor joined AIRDA after his retirement from Ford India, where he was Vice President. Earlier, he has held senior executive positions in English Electric & GEC Alstom.
Our interview with him was unusual, because he had to wear two hats to answer these questions. The hat of an end-consumer, and the hat of Chairman at AIRDA.
Q: How long have you been a timeshare member?
A: I’ve been holding timeshare memberships for more than 20 years now. Looking back, I must thank a friend of mine who introduced me to timeshare. He called me one day and said, “Check this out, this is something you will enjoy for many years.”
Those days, timeshare was just making its mark and was not a very well understood concept. I must say that I didn’t get into too much detail – I was happy to buy into a long-term plan that assured me hassle-free holidays year after year.
Having said that, I have over the years discovered the many wonderful pleasures of a timeshare membership for the family and the circle of friends we holiday with.
Q: Who do you normally go with on timeshare holidays?
A: When the children were small, the whole family holidayed together. Now my children have families of their own and have different holiday calendars; but we do try and plan well ahead to holiday together, at least once in the year. If the children can’t come with us, we holiday with friends.
Though timeshare gives families the convenience of holidaying together, the options are wide open for young couples, even individuals looking for varied holiday experiences. Today the basket of holiday activities is wide, varied, diversified and innovative – which clears the deck for just about anybody.
I must add here that timeshare plans span all customer segments - even middle class segments for whom the benefit of an affordable, inflation-proof package is very, very attractive.
Q: Would you have holidayed as much, without timeshare?
A: Let me think. Without my timeshare membership I don’t think I would have either planned a regular holiday, or gone on a vacation that often. Not with all the hassles of arrangements and bookings that need to be done, just to organize a room.
If I were to book a modest 3-star room for a week, I would pay anything from 35 to 45 thousand for basic accommodation – leaving that much less to spend on other holiday essentials.
Planned holidays without the pressures of room rents are an attractive proposition. You can plan regular holidays and make time for yourself and the family.
Q: What do you think has changed over the years?
A:There’s a sea change in the profile of products and services provided by committed timeshare organizations. I must say that things are now better planned in terms of service and delivery. There are options for people of all age groups and the quality of service is on par with the best in the hospitality industry, with international benchmarking.
Over the years, holiday options have become diversified with some very different and varied holiday backdrops – beachfronts, mountainsides, plantations, wildlife sanctuaries, inner healing and ayurveda locations.
Another thing that has changed is the ability to exchange your plan. Timeshare customers with a home resort and an RCI affiliation have an open calendar and a wide range of options – in over 3000 RCI affiliated resorts all over the world.
Q: What do think of kitchenettes vs attractive F&B packages?
A: Earlier, when timeshare was first launched, the big attraction was to be able to do your cooking on a holiday. This was seen as a big plus, to be always attached to a loving wife or mother’s apron strings. So the typical format had a well equipped kitchenette and a mini-store on the premises to make things convenient.
Over the years, timeshare resort owners have seen a great opportunity in offering attractive F&B packages with 2-meal and 3-meal formats specially planned for the whole family. Some of these packages include lavish buffets with a wide spread.
Timeshare customers too, have made the shift from wanting to cook, to not being tied to chores and cooking on a holiday. Today over 90% of timeshare holiday goers choose to eat at the restaurants. Of course, the kitchenette is always useful for the multiple cups of chai you might need, or a quick omelette for breakfast.
Q: What happens, when you take off the AIRDA hat and wear
a consumer’s hat?
A: 20 years ago, I didn’t realize that I would one day be heading the organization that is so much a part of this industry. AIRDA is the guiding hand and industry beacon for all its member resorts.
I now use my experience over the years as an end customer to also look at things from a facility user’s point of view. I also share my insights and experiences with AIRDA’s member community in terms of constructive feedback.
These days, a lot is being done by timeshare promoters to raise the bar and make the holiday experience more attractive. Resorts are continuously trying to improve their basket of services and raise delivery standards, to make customers come back for more. The timeshare concept is all about sustained relationships and repeat holidays.
Finally, here’s a
Finally, here’s a link to a presentation on our approach to timeshare customers: