Timeshare: 2012 Means the Need for More Cowbell

The following article appears in this month’s issue of The Resort Trades and is republished here with their permission.  We hope you will also read it online or in their print publication.

Timeshare: 2012 means the need for more cowbell

By Jason Tremblay

Presuming that the prognostications for a year 2012 doomsday are in error, there is still much about the upcoming year that promises to be remarkable, even watershed in its impact on all our lives.

Here in the U.S., in 2012, we will elect (or re-elect) a president and for a while, we will discuss it daily – hourly. Other changes will happen that we will pay much less attention to because change has become so normal that we only notice if the changing stops. The IRS, the USGA, and the NCAA will all tinker with their rules and regulations, Apple will introduce yet another version of the iPhone, and Facebook will change a little or a lot, and most likely will change both a little AND a lot.

But what will the year 2012 mean to the timeshare industry? What will change in timeshare and vacation ownership sales, resales, and rentals?

The truth is, these are the wrong questions to ask. The better, more insightful questions are:

• What will 2012 bring for current timeshare owners that will make buying, owning, renting, and selling timeshare an easier, more flexible and more trustworthy process?

• And the far tougher question to answer; how do we get there from here, creating an owner-centric product and industry?

Timeshares: we are already behind

Much of the timeshare industry is just getting used to the idea that consumers buy and rent timeshare online. In 2011, online response to retail promotions (for all types of retail sales, not exclusively timeshare and vacation accommodations) increased by 33 percent over 2010. Consumer spending for online purchases in the first three quarters of 2011 was up 13 percent over the same period in the previous year. This translates to nearly $125 billion and that number does not include the seasonally strong sales of November and December 2011.

Just as many timeshare developers and others have finally come to grasp that search engines define user experience, 2012 will hit with the revelation that timeshare consumers, as Internet users, now define the search engine experience.

For a nanosecond in the timeline of Internet experience, businesses realized that content was king and were able to go for it. And just as we’ve all become vaguely comfortable with blogging, videoing, and otherwise creating Internet content, we are being presented with the reality that content creation has become secondary to content curation. We have become what Steven Rosenbaum, founder and CEO of magnify.net, describes as a “curation nation” where those who can quantify, parse, and categorize the surging data stream of content are fast becoming the definers of what succeeds and what fails in business today.

Pursued by data

Where once we went in search of data, data now searches for us. Social media brings a stream – a torrent – of information that follows us from our computers to our tablets to our phones, television sets, and automobiles. If you haven’t recently been through the appliance section at your local big box store, you may be surprised to learn that today’s refrigerators not only deliver ice and water to the door, but a touch screen data center with Internet access as well. Information now pursues us and remarkably, we like it that way.

In the past year, mobile Internet searches have quadrupled, and for many items, one in seven searches is now made from a mobile device. Users of smart phones have now downloaded apps nearly 11 billion times and the demand for mobile apps is not expected to peak until sometime in 2013 – that is unless nuances unfold to create even more demand for even more apps, which is of course entirely likely.

Set fire to the rulebook

The timeshare industry can be like other groups that strive to write and incessantly refine rulebooks by which to guide, govern and control their members/users and marketplaces. If we stick with that path, we will become annoying, misunderstood, and outdated. And if you troll around in public perception, listening to how often and how brutally timeshares and timeshare sales are the butt of some pretty pathetic jokes, then you may even come to the conclusion that the industry, as it stands, is already annoying, misunderstood, and outdated in the minds of many.

We have to step down as conductors. The world is changing almost faster than we can process the change. Timeshares are a truly great product, challenged only by questionable marketing and sales models.
Consumers are going to define how vacation ownership is used and enjoyed. Current owners and future buyers and renters will dictate the product, its terms, how we market it to them and even how it is bought, rented or sold.

We have to stop orchestrating. The bell is already tolling; this is the reality of business in the year 2012. Let’s embrace and respond to a new tune. Timeshares need more cowbell and the marketplace is playing our song.