Can Timeshares Provide Both the Lean Back and the Lean Forward Experience?

The Resort Trades, news for timeshares and the vacation ownership industry.
The Resort Trades, news for timeshares and the vacation ownership industry.

The following article appeared in The Resort Trades— your source for news on timeshares and the vacation ownership industry.  You will find the article on The Resort Trades website and it print in the June issue. The Timeshare Authority blog thanks The Resort Trades for permission to reprint the article here.

Can Timeshares Provide Both the Lean Back and the Lean Forward Experience?

by Jason Tremblay

The timeshare industry has long believed that hotels are its primary competition for the vacationer’s dollar, with privately owned or rented vacation homes as a distant second. But change is in the works; change that is rooted in generational shift and fed by Internet technology.

Today’s timeshares – and perhaps more importantly, tomorrow’s timeshares – will compete with companies and services that may not even be on your radar yet as competitors. P2P (peer-to-peer) travel accommodations are growing in popularity and market position.

With consumer confidence in government, big business, and the economy low and distrust of these institutions high, the door is wide open for vacation experiences that feel different, authentic, and enable the consumer to bypass the megacorporations and deal with an individual.

Names you know, such as HomeAway with more than 700,000 vacation home rentals in its inventory, and Couchsurfing with its 5 million members, are becoming more and more visible and disruptive.

At the same time, names you may have never heard before, including Airbnb, with 300,000 vacation rental listings and Wimdu at half that size but growing, are only two of the many contenders out there that are ready, willing, and able to steal clients away from timeshare.

What P2P services lack in resort-style amenities and brand recognition, they make up for in qualities such as authenticity, price and the potential to offer a fresh experience. As Vipin Goyal, co-founder and CEO of SideTour, an online marketplace for experiences that help you explore major cities, explains, “P2P travel is not for people who want to lean back, it’s a lean-forward experience.”

Depending upon your level of tech-sophistication and perhaps your age, you may see technology as a tool you utilize to your benefit. But if you have grown up with technology integrated into your life, you don’t see technology as a tool; you probably don’t see it at all.

For a large and growing portion of today’s adult population, technology is little different from the air we breathe. It’s not a “thing” we harness; it is an assimilated, cohesive part of our world.

Crowdsourcing and P2P lending quietly and effectively are encroaching on banking, loan companies, and traditional forms of funding, startup, and debt relief in a playing field where the lines between personal finance and business finance are increasingly blurred.

Last month, Amazon bought a $125-million stake from investors in the P2Pcredit site, Lending Club, which Forbes Magazines describes as a website that “cuts out banks by matching lenders with borrowers, offering a better spread between interest and savings rates.”

The music industry could not thwart or contain P2P sharing of music, just as the publishing industry could not stop the dramatic change created by self-publishing, eBook reader devices, and print-on-demand technology. Thinking you can beat this new-world way of doing business is a self-destructive strategy. What did the music industry gain by suing individual high school and college students for downloading songs?

The timeshare industry need not try to fight the trend toward the P2P business model. Peer-2-peer models reflect the changing culture. In a survey of more than 1,000 U.S. and British adults, 17 percent of respondents over the age of 48 said they would likely use a service that allows them to rent a space, such as an apartment, home, or a room in a home for vacation or travel purposes.

Move to the age group 35 to 47, and that percentage more than doubles, while among the under age 34 group of adults taking the survey, the number hits 46 percent. And why wouldn’t it, when you realize that across the board, in all age groups, 55 percent of adults surveyed said they would put their trust in “an individual over a big corporation any day.”

The timeshare business model has room to change. The incorporation of technology platforms into services has to stop being a “gadget” for some owners and renters and seamlessly become part of the air all owners and renters breathe. Timeshares have to stop selling to people and start making offers so compelling and products so flexible and affordable that people can’t help but choose vacation ownership and timeshare rentals. Above all else, we have to slay the timeshare resale dragon so it stops tormenting current owners and lurking in the shadows to taunt prospective buyers.

Marriott Hotels is already partnering with the P2P workspace sharing platform LiquidSpace to offer conference and meeting rooms in Marriott properties across the country. For the Marriott corporation, the endeavor expands opportunities to benefit from the use of space that is otherwise underutilized.

Peggy Roe, Marriott Hotels vice president of global operations services says, “As we have done work with customers, associates and planners, [the meeting space] is not an industry that has experienced a lot of innovation…Hotels really haven’t touched the meeting space as an industry.”

With a strategy of space-on-demand, 36 Marriott properties now are being offered through the LiquidSpace platform to test the option of last-minute work or meeting space as a desirable alternative to meeting in your hotel room, the hotel lobby or the restaurant.

Some spaces are even offered at no cost. It’s not rocket science, but it does offer a way for one hotel brand to partner with a P2P platform and in so doing, extend its services and make itself more flexible and more responsive to its clients.

Despite growing consumer interest in P2P offerings, timeshare doesn’t have to turn itself into a clone. Vacation ownership needs only to acknowledge the P2P model as a valid and credible way of serving clients, to live in harmony with it and to learn from it as is applicable in a changing marketplace.

In one regard, the P2P timeshare model already exists; it’s called by-owner timeshare resale and rental. Instead of trying to squelch it, the timeshare industry needs to help validate it.

Peer-2-peer accommodations will only compete with timeshares to the degree the shared ownership industry is willing to permit. In the end, the novelty of staying in a stranger’s home is always counterbalanced by the “what ifs.” What if the place I rent doesn’t look like the photo or match the description? What if I am staying in a private rental and I need assistance in the form of maintenance, security or other services? What if this peer takes my money and I get nothing in return?

Timeshare can play to its strengths. Consistency of service and quality accommodations augmented by desirable resort amenities are hard to compete against. If the timeshare industry steps up its game with easier online booking, greater Internet visibility, more customizable experiences and added services that are unique and distinctive, then the concept of vacation ownership and rental is reinvented.

And why would we ever shy away from reinventing ourselves with the best of the old and the most exciting of the new? Yes, timeshares can provide both the lean back and the lean forward experience!