Hawaii Timeshares

The chairman of the Maui County Commission, Riki Hokama, is being quoted as trying to put a cap on Maui timeshare growth. According to the Maui News, Hokama has introduced to the county council a draft resolution to limit the number of Maui timeshare units to 2,200.

So here’s the first problem: not only does Maui have 1,974 timeshare units already, but there are hundreds more in development or almost ready to open.

Hokama’s rationale for the resolution, which he introduced to the council without discussion, says that hotel vacationers spend more than twice as much money as Maui timeshare users.

His criticisms include the allegations that timeshare companies pay workers low wages and also that Maui needs hotel rooms in order to accommodate a growing market of convention groups, educators and local families.

Does this make sense to you?

Sunterra Resorts Ka'anapali Beach Club

Donalyn Dela Cruz, the executive director of the Hawaii chapter of the national timeshare trade group says they don’t understand why timeshares have been targeted. She points out that timeshare owners have an investment in their Hawaii timeshare and on average, stay longer in Maui than do hotel guests.

The Council Chair’s statement that hotel tourists spend more money than do timeshare guests is generally unclear and hard to follow. Does he mean that timeshare owners spend less per day on their actual accommodations than do hotel guests? If so, he’s probably correct in that regard, because timeshare owners have locked-in tomorrow’s vacations at today’s prices. But as Ms Dela Cruz so accurately points out, many Hawaii timeshare vacationers extend their stays and enjoy longer vacations than do visitors who stay in hotels. And this fact is borne out by the research prepared for the American Resort Development Association (ARDA), which shows that occupancy rates for timeshares averaged 80.9 percent in 2006, but only 63.4 percent for hotels during the same period.

Maui timeshare owners may in fact, spend less money dining in restaurants than do hotel guests, because the kitchens and dining areas found in most timeshares makes in-suite dining so convenient. But whether a traveler has $500 or $5000 set aside for vacation money, if he or she spends less on food, there is simply more money to spend on other vacation pleasures from surfboard rental to souvenirs to pina coladas.

If you have been to Hawaii, you know that the cost of living there is substantial. Employees won’t work for timeshare resorts if they can earn more money doing the same job in a hotel. Hawaii timeshares have no choice but to remain competitive with hotels for employee salaries and benefits. And with so many timeshares today either owned or managed by hotel companies, you know that they are not making it a practice to underpay employees within their vacation ownership divisions, while appropriately paying their hotel employees.

In fact, the Maui News article includes the following information from Ann Baran, whose company provides the management for Maui Schooner Resort in Kiheai. Baran told the Maui News that even though the resort has only 58 units, it still pumps almost $4 million into the economy annually through taxes and tourist dollars. More importantly, she pointed out that the timeshare employs 23 people and has a payroll of almost $800,000, which averages out to almost $35,000 annually, per employee in salary or salary plus benefits.

Sands of Kahana Vacation Club

ARDA released a report in February of this year showing that timeshares “returned back to local economies…an estimated $62 billion in spending; 565,300 jobs; over $21 billion in salaries and wages; and more than $8 billion in tax revenue.”

I have heard local lawmakers in other areas occasionally argue the same points that Hokama raises and I have to say, I never understand it and I always wonder what’s really behind it…

Timeshare resorts seem to make an easy target when politicians or concerned citizens want to speak out against development and what they perceive as too much growth, noise, and construction in their hometowns. Mr. Hokama is a second-generation public servant in Maui and perhaps his interest is genuinely in preserving Hawaii as he remembers it.

But timeshare developments are too often singled out as a culprit, when in fact, they are no more responsible for the changing looks and demographics of an area than are residential condos, hotels, motels, and any other businesses that cater to tourists.

When politicians want to slow development in areas they represent, they should say exactly that and prepare themselves for the outcry by those in their constituencies who depend on growth and development for their livelihoods. But play fair when you address measures to cap growth and don’t just pick on timeshare resorts!