You are cordially invited to attend the wedding of timeshare ownership and its future
This article, written by Jason Tremblay, was previously published in The Resort Trades and is reprinted here with permission of the publisher. Before you read the article, consider this, “Did you grow up with a computer in your home or in your classroom?” If the answer is “No” then you may need to reconsider how many of today and tomorrow’s timeshare owners have had computers seamlessly integrated into their lives since childhood… you may also want to reconsider if the paths you have offered to timeshare ownership in the past are relevant to today’s potential buyers.
Timeshare Ownership: You are cordially invited to attend the wedding of timeshare and its future
At ARDA World 2013, you had the opportunity to hear keynote speaker Don Tapscott discussing the impact of information technology on today’s business world. His theories, outlined in his books, “Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything,” and “Macrowikinomics: New Solutions for a Connected Planet,” put forth innovative and inevitable ideas about doors that are opening (and others that are closing) as information technology, the Internet and the World Wide Web redefine almost everything about how we interact with the world around us.
Yet if you read Tapscott’s books, Growing Up Digital: “The Rise of the Net Generation” (1999) and “Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World” (2008) you will recognize that the real concern is not how the Internet is changing our lives, but how it has already changed the lives of a new generation.
The Net Generation (a term coined by Tapscott) currently ranges in age from 16 to 30-plus, perhaps older as the last age group of American consumers to grow up without access to computers in their classrooms is now over 40 years old. As Tapscott points out, “… the Net Generation has arrived.” The handwriting on the wall appears digitally via an app from your smart phone and clearly points out that, for the vacation ownership industry, the Net Generation is our future, our present, and our only hope.
What makes the Net Generation distinctive
Baby Boomers have been such a large and vocal group for so long it’s almost difficult for many of us in business to think about marketing and selling vacation ownership products to other types of consumers. But if we’ve learned anything from recent presidential elections it should be that young America is a force to acknowledge, creating change from the workplace to the marketplace.
While many of us speak of technology as if it is a “thing” with which we interact, for the Net Generation technology is seamless and invisible. Describing it as being “like the air” for the Net Gen, Tapscott says it is no more a marvel than is a refrigerator or a television.
But here’s one key difference: we watch television passively, while the generation that has grown up with the Internet is never passive in their online experience. Instead, they are searching, seeking, reading, writing, curating, authenticating, collaborating, organizing, and even strategizing. As Tapscott points out, “They do not just observe; they participate.”
Whether we attempt to sell timeshare, vacation club memberships, timeshare exchange memberships, or any other related vacation ownership and vacation rental product or service, we have to recognize that with each passing year, our target market will become less and less willing to “be sold to.”
Consumers who have either grown up with information technology or who have embraced it and integrated it into their lives, will not sit through sales presentations and they will be inherently skeptical of mini vacations as a sales tool.
Tapscott identifies eight characteristics that he says differentiate the Net Generation from Boomers, and if he’s correct, they are all attributes that come into play in the process of selling vacation ownership products. These eight characteristics are:
- Expects freedom of choice
- Wants customized products, solutions, and lifestyles
- Are natural collaborators, who enjoy a conversation, not a lecture
- Will scrutinize you and your organization
- Insists on integrity
- Wants to have fun in all things, including work and school (and timesharing!)
- Sees speed as normal
- Accepts innovation as a part of life (and therefore, probably expects innovation as part of timeshare ownership)
I now pronounce you owner and timeshare … you may kiss the bride!
As of this past Valentine’s Day, according to Doug Brockwell, a contributor for yahoo.com, 17 percent of people meet their spouse online. In 2012, 40 million people used online dating, and the Internet is now the second-most popular way for dating couples to connect, surpassed only by introductions from friends. If 40 million people are willing to search for a life companion online, why would any of us think that consumers would be hesitant to research, select and then rent or buy timeshare over the internet?
But what will it actually take to get a new breed of consumer down the aisle with vacation ownership?
The answer lies in the eight ways that the Net Gens are distinctive from previous timeshare buyers. No matter how we package it, none of us will be able to sell today’s vacation ownership products (as they currently exist) to the next wave of buyers. Instead, timeshare will have to become:
- Extremely flexible
- Customizable to suit distinctive vacationing needs and preferences
- A product designed based on feedback from those who will actually be utilizing it, such as Ikea and Marriott have done in partnering on the new Moxy Hotel chain being built in Europe to target the younger market
- Extremely transparent, capable of withstanding scrutiny
- Integrity-based on all levels including sales, marketing, and resales options
- Fun to own, but also fun to shop for and buy, and if not fun to resell, at least not painful to resell
- Prepared to change as quickly and as often as its new, younger owners will expect it to change
- Innovative in concept, design and service
Perhaps it wasn’t the economy, stupid
During former President Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential campaign, political strategist James Carville posted a sign on Clinton’s Little Rock campaign headquarters that included the phrase, “the economy, stupid.” The statement was intended to help keep campaign messaging on track but it seeped into the media and took on a life of its own.
Since 2008, the vacation ownership industry has responded, “the economy,” whenever queried about declining sales of timeshare ownerships. Possibly, we have used the wrong word. If it turns out the answer should have been, “the Internet,” then we can celebrate the revelation.
While a faltering global economy is a monumental challenge to overcome, one industry’s miscue in responding to a shifting paradigm in consumer profiles is completely within our grasp to rectify. The timeshare industry is rich with far too many bright and clever strategists to be anything but smart about its direction for the future.
The Timeshare Authority expresses its sincere appreciation to The Resort Trades for permission to publish this article. You will find this full article, and other news from the timeshare ownership industry in each issue of The Resort Trades, available online and in print. We would also like to thank ARDA for bringing Donald Tapscott to the 2013 ARDA World event, where the vacation ownership industry learns, shares, networks and advances the future of timeshare ownership.
For more answers to your questions about timeshare ownership, read this page about buying timeshares.