In conversation with Lisa Ann Schreier
Lisa Ann Schreier is the driving force behind The Timeshare Crusader – a blog dedicated to helping consumers through the myriad of confusing information, as well as working with forward-thinking organizations to be a catalyst for positive change. She is the creative force behind International Timeshare Appreciation Day, held on November 1st every year.
Author of two best-selling books, Surviving A Timeshare Presentation – Confessions From The Sales Table and Timeshare Vacations For Dummies, she also co-authored the college-level textbook, An Introduction To Vacation Ownership Management.
In this interview, Lisa talks to us about the road ahead for timeshare – with thoughts about three areas that she is always concerned about –industry revival, boosting customer confidence, and playing fair with a sense of ethics and ownership. (We must keep in mind here that her frame of reference is the U.S. timeshare market.)
What are your broad definitions for the organized sector in the timeshare industry? Do you have an industry classification?
Great question. The timeshare product now includes clubs, and other similar businesses (in our markets) that were decidedly NOT timeshare even 10 years ago. Call me a purist, or even an old timer, but to me the definition of timeshare remains the difference between owning and renting vacation accommodations.
Travel clubs don’t fit into that definition in my opinion, as nothing other than a membership, much like a health club membership is being purchased.
What are the prime benefits (from your point of view) of a timeshare plan?
Again, looking at this from someone who entered the industry way back in 1999, my thoughts have changed. We may need to re-examine long term tenures because these days most consumers don’t have long term goals in mind – especially in the Covid scenario. One of the things that has accelerated in the past few years is the desire for “NOW” and timeshare needs to look at that aspect closely.
I think that most people purchase a timeshare with the intent of both using it at their home resort and trading it through RCI, II or another exchange company - whether internal or external. And when that happens, the vacation experience should not be different from what the salesperson said or in many cases, what the consumer wants to believe. Sadly, too many people still think that they’ll be able to get two weeks at the end of December in Hawaii if they purchase two weeks in February in Alabama.
I’m not certain that the idea of going on vacation or even being in the same vacation spot as others is important to consumers. Frankly, more travelers, at least younger and American prospects, increasingly want urban spaces where they have access to ‘their thing.’ (This is another aspect timeshare marketers need to keep in mind.)
In the end, the advantage to timeshare is a committed membership – and it still means something. Unfortunately, the industry has not been able to use that in any PR or advertising strategy. I have a great slogan for the timeshare industry which I’d be happy to share with them, provided I’m paid accordingly! (Laughs.)
Has the Covid 19 pandemic reset some buttons in terms of scope, operations and revenues?
Yes, but to a lesser extent than I thought it would. I thought that this would be a perfect opportunity to get away from crowded sales centers with the salesperson two feet away from the consumer across a little round table.
I think that most resorts had to incur higher cleaning and sanitation costs, but just like hotels (in our markets) these costs were passed in to consumers either through raising purchase prices or maintenance fees.
What threats do you see in the distant horizon, when it comes to industry consolidation?
The two biggest threats are in terms of customer acquisition. By some accounts, 50% of sales (in our markets) are to existing owners. That’s simply not sustainable for a long time. To attract new owners, the marketing and sales paradigm must change and (also the fact, as I mentioned previously) the value proposition must be restored. Same old, same old must change. There’s just one constraint that I have in the development of the story line – our status reviews and observations could be constructive – more in terms of measures to take, rather than fault-lines observed. This approach might help me process the feature internally.
I must add here that this narrative is largely based on my experience in the timeshare markets of the United States – I would love to hear from industry professionals in India about similar, or parallel scenarios. Or developments that could be totally unique to the Indian market.
All images used are courtesy of Lisa Ann Schreier.
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