For Timeshares and US Economy: Tourism is Not a Luxury Anymore

Sell My Timeshare NOW article in The Resort Trades
Sell My Timeshare NOW article in The Resort Trades, June 2012

The following article was published in the June issue of The Resort Trades, and is reprinted here with its permission.

For Timeshares and US Economy: Tourism is Not a Luxury Anymore

by Jason Tremblay

After too many years of hearing that the world is on ‘staycation,’ cutting back on travel and bypassing the family vacation, this spring’s U.N. World Trade Organization announcement on tourism brought the welcome news that more than one billion people will cross international borders as tourists in 2012.

Think about it, a billion tourists, staying overnight, spending money, and forming opinions about where and how they will vacation and spend their tourism dollars in the future. No day travelers are included in this count, only those visitors who spend at least one night on foreign soil are counted. Likewise, no cruise ship passengers are included. The one billion traveler projection is a hard number of real tourists and is expected to be reached by early this fall.

As Taleb Rifai, Secretary General of the UNWTO explains, “Tourism is not a luxury anymore.” More and more people are building international travel into even the tightest budgets. The idea of global tourism as a life essential rather than a luxury expenditure is a true indicator of significant cultural shifts in the way people think about travel. With television and the internet making foreign cultures familiar to us, ‘foreign’ no longer feels so foreign; our curiosity is sparked to learn more, and international travel has become as much about personal growth as it has about vacation holidays.

Imagine this; one out of every seven men, women or children on the planet will travel to another country this year. So, where are we all going?

France, the United States and China top the list of most popular destinations for international visitors, with the greatest percentage of all travelers, some 55 percent, coming from Europe. In the same way that more and more tourists see international travel as a necessity of life, business people, political leaders, and global economists are coming to understand that international tourism is also an indisputable necessity for economies at all levels. Tourism is no longer a luxury in the family budget nor has it ever been a revenue source that global economies have the ‘luxury’ of overlooking.

The Power of Tourism in Dollars and Cents

In 2012, travel and tourism contributed two trillion dollars to the Gross National Product in the U.S., which is larger than the contribution of the chemical industry and has more than twice the economic impact of automotive manufacturing. Factoring in direct, indirect and induced impact on the Gross Domestic Product, travel and tourism contributed more than six trillion dollars to the global GDP and sustained 255 million jobs, that is, one in every twelve jobs worldwide.

Tourism has tremendous potential to restore global and local economies. At the same time, it promotes cultural heritage and understanding and generates jobs for workers at all levels of skill and education. But if international tourism is the driving force it appears to be, are we in the timeshare and vacation ownership industries doing all we can to nurture and support its growth? What is your business leaving on the table that could be different if you made a few simple changes to better serve your international client?

Start with your website—your storefront to the worldwide marketplace—and consider the following questions:

  • Does your content use English succinctly? The jargon that sounds conversational to the majority of your website visitors may be confusing to those for whom English is a second language or who do not speak Americanized English.
  • If you offer webpage content language conversion, make sure that someone who is proficient in that language reviews the results your conversion program yields as such programs do not always produce reliable, coherent text.
  • Do you make time zone and money conversions easy for your clients?
  • Does your website include quotes or endorsements about your company from international contributors?
  • Do the online forms on your website function even if your international visitor can’t fill in all of the required blanks created for your U.S. website visitor?
  • Are your sales and marketing campaigns sensitive to major religious or national holidays from countries other than the U.S.?

Look at your customer service …

  • Do you offer customer service that is convenient for consumers in all time zones or do your foreign clients have to get out of bed to interact with you?
  • Toll free phone numbers seem like a way to accommodate your clients, but many toll free numbers do not work for international callers. Offer alternative phone numbers that can be reached when calling from abroad.
  • Do you have personnel available to respond to your marketplace in languages other than English? You can’t cover all languages but even small companies can strive to have a few employees who speak French, Spanish or other widely spoken language.

Pay attention to your global presence …

  • Does someone in your company make comments on blogs and other online media from publications outside the U.S., when the topic is appropriate?
  • Are you building working relationships with industry peers in other countries, taking advantage of globally focused industry events, such as ARDA World?
  • And perhaps the most challenging question for all of us, are you proactively advocating for legislation and guidelines that encourage and support international tourism?

Under fire recently by tourism officials worldwide is the decision by India’s Airport Economic Regulatory Authority to increase airport charges by 346 percent; the European Union’s imposition of a Carbon Emission Tax; and the United States’ tough visa rules for tourists that many claim has cost the U.S. $600 billion and half a million jobs in lost international tourism over the last decade.

Through the efforts of a public-private partnership, the U.S. is taking steps to change the slow and often convoluted process of visa approval for tourists from certain countries—a process that came about primarily in response to post 9-11 concerns regarding homeland security, and has commenced a marketing campaign directed at international tourists. It’s a first-ever advertising campaign to market the United States as a tourist destination and was launched this spring in Canada, the United Kingdom and Japan with plans to expand to Brazil and South Korea in upcoming weeks. Under the name, “Brand USA,” the efforts of this consortium have drawn support from some in the timeshare industry, but have not become a campaign that vacation ownership has united behind in all the ways it could.

The U.S.A. is a destination that a new, emerging middle class from countries around the globe is anxious to visit. Once they arrive, they will all need accommodations. The timeshare industry doesn’t have the luxury of overlooking this market.