Timeshare Insights, The face in the mirror: 3 ways to change it

The Resort Trades March 2012 Jason Tremblay
The Resort Trades March 2012

The following excerpt is from the March 2012 issue of The Resort Trades. It is reprinted here with permission from The Resort Trades. We encourage you to read this timely article  in the print edition of the magazine or online at: http://www.resorttrades.com/articles.php?showMag=Resort&act=view&id=874

Despite over 700 highly visible storefronts, a business presence in each of the 50 states, and a massive online identity, Barnes & Noble Inc. is walking a precarious line. Well aware that after they and other bookselling giants edged out mom and pop bookstores, many of those same companies, including B. Dalton and Borders, fell at the feet of an even greater giant. Barnes & Noble understands it is part of an industry undergoing massive change. As Amazon.com redefines the way consumers shop for books (and many other products), the disruptive technologies behind print-on-demand and e-book readers are concomitantly exploding the foundations of the publishing and bookselling industries.

Barnes & Noble may still be communicating to consumers that it is a chain of bookstores, but CEO William J. Lynch Jr. recognizes the fatal flaw in his company perceiving itself in this way. Instead, he describes Barnes & Noble as a technology company. Operating from much the same mindset as does Barnes & Noble, the Darden Corporation, creator of such iconic restaurant names as Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, The Capital Grille, and Seasons 52, may tell the world it is in the restaurant business, but in fact, communicates internally that it is in the “brand building” business.

Given these insights, regardless of your niche in the timeshare, vacation ownership or fractional industry, you have to pause and question: “What business are we really in?”

In its January 2011 article, “Reinvent Your Business Before It’s Too Late,” The Harvard Business Review explains, “Sooner or later, all businesses, even the most successful, run out of room to grow. Faced with this unpleasant reality, they are compelled to reinvent themselves periodically. The ability to pull off this difficult feat – to jump from the maturity stage of one business to the growth stage of the next – is what separates high performers from those whose time at the top is all too brief.”

Timesharing hasn’t outgrown its market in the traditional sense; in fact, it’s barely even tapped its potential market base. Nevertheless, it has become root bound, attempting to thrive in a container too confining to serve the needs of today’s vacation marketplace. Consider that when a church reaches the point that 70 percent of its pew space is occupied on Sunday morning, the membership of that church stops growing, despite the fact it could still easily accommodate another 30 percent in its congregation without stressing its facilities or infrastructure.

Even scarier is the fact that a business that stalls in its growth faces a 90 percent likelihood it will never fully recover. Of those that partially recover, roughly two-thirds wind up acquired, seized or forced into bankruptcy. Now imagine timeshare confronted with both the need to grow and the need to reinvent its offerings in the face of changing and disruptive technology.

The face in the mirror

Over the years, our industry has tried calling our product timeshare, vacation ownership and variations of names that have included the words interval, club, or holiday. All of this has been an effort to put a fresh face on a misunderstood product. Yet maybe it has never been the consumer who misunderstood the product; maybe it is the timeshare industry wrestling with our own identity crisis.

Right now, we may only be comfortable with the idea of a few well-placed injections to relax the more obvious wrinkles that over time have crept into the timeshare business. But if we are going to see a robust and vital face looking back at us in the mirror, then we are likely to need more significant change.

3 strategies for reinvention

1. Serve emotions first, function second. Vacation products sell and rent primarily because of how consumers anticipate the vacation will make them feel. Apple’s technology products are not the only ones to offer their functions and features; many times, they are not even the best products. But they afford a measure of product confidence and “feel-good cool” that attracts and keeps loyal consumers.

2. Give away as much as you possibly can. Share your knowledge, strategies and ideas, because doing so builds a stronger, more stable industry and in this fast-changing world, knowledge you hoard becomes rapidly outdated and of limited value anyway. To your consumers, giving of your product inasmuch as you can, and your quality customer care boundlessly always grows your business and enhances the perception of timesharing.

3. Open your mind to unexpected resources and partnerships. The next great thing will not come from where the last one did. What did not make sense for your business 15 years, or even 15 minutes ago, may be your ideal solution for the future. Stay open to possibilities.

ARDA World: It’s only the beginning

While the annual ARDA Convention always attracts industry leaders from around the world, this year’s conference was reinvented to more fully embrace global participation. The American Resort Development Association 2012 Convention, ARDA World, opens new doors, bringing with it exciting potential for growth and change.

With the release of ARDA International Foundation’s first global timeshare study in more than a dozen years, the timeshare industry gains timely, informative data to help it adapt, change, rebrand and even reinvent timeshare for today’s marketplace, starting with the way the industry perceives itself.

ARDA has recognized and stepped up to its role in affording timesharing the tools and platforms it needs to facilitate amazing transformation. Now it is up to all of us to put those tools to work building a vibrant growth industry that serves consumers with the products they seek via the channels they are already using.