I am trying to avoid what I would call a “Unite moment” i.e I do not want to be accused of giving away the contents of an important industry meeting at the time it took place, so I have left a decent interval before talking about this particular one.
So “Momentous” may be a little hyperbolic a description as we foregathered in the MacDonald Hotel, on a wet Manchester morning in late May, but it was I think the first time I can recall that major RDO members, TATOC representatives (representing timeshare owners),non-RDO members operating in Europe (regrettably there are still a small number!), Resale, Trustee and Management companies, all met together to look at the future direction of the industry and the issues that trouble timeshare owners, with hardly a lawyer in sight ( well 2 actually but neither was there in any legal capacity).
I think the most striking fact about this meeting was the willingness, good humour, openness and flexibility with which this large and quite disparate group set about its task.
The key issues that came out of the meeting can loosely be defined as firstly, the need to co-ordinate, improve and invest in the image of timeshare – too often the nay-sayers had been left with an open goal when it came to negative PR because a co-ordinated and positive response had not been provided by the industry.
Secondly the need to educate owners as to the possibilities presented by their timeshare – too often owners did not realise the flexibility provided by their product and often the resale company would have to educate the owner just when he/she was trying to sell it, so that if they were successful, the sale would then be withdrawn and the owner would go away happy, a bit of a death-bed conversion as it were!
Exit routes for ageing owners came under close scrutiny and led to much discussion as various developer proposals were compared from points and other product variants down to the more traditional sale of weeks and the general industry move away from weeks being sold in perpetuity was generally approved of, as was a uniform set of fees for resales – proposed by an RDO Working Group in 2009, but shelved on the grounds that it could be considered anti-competitive by the EU Commission.
Ethical sales practices were discussed and various initiatives from different parts of the industry reviewed, with the meeting noting that RDO was looking into this area at the moment but with no firm plan as yet on the stocks.
Some other interesting proposals also came out of the discussions, such as the possibility of TATOC setting up a formal rescue packages for small owner-run ailing resorts, particularly in the UK, which it has started to do already and which RDO also does on an ad hoc basis normally through the trustees. The possibility of some more formal TATOC/RDO initiatives was discussed along with the possibility of some sort of joint membership of TATOC and RDO for such resorts.
At the end of the day, RDO left with a long list of tasks/objectives, mainly because it has already set up a working Group to look at these key issues and that group has now been enlarged to include TATOC’s representation and others from the group.
But yes, it was a momentous meeting for the industry, there was a determination to get the positive message out about timeshare, especially from existing owners and a willingness to tackle the issues that have long troubled the media and owners such as exit routes and resales. There is much work to be done, but if the enthusiasm with which the delegates set about these problems can be mirrored in the work to be done then there is currently a very positive spirit abroad in the industry.