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The Travel Column 2003-4-3

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We are pleased to bring you The Travel Column, written fortnightly for "The Trinidad Guardian"


The timeshare industry is booming, according to Resort Condominiums International (RCI), the world’s leading global provider of timeshare products and services. Within the US, sales volumes are up nearly 17% per year since 1995, and global sales climb 9% annually. Timesharing may well be the fastest-growing segment of the global travel and tourism industry. It’s is an excellent way of enjoying quality holidays, as more than three million families around the world can testify, but there are still too many traps and pitfalls for the unwary, and these can turn the prospective dream into a nightmare. Timeshare is good news, and with care at the buying stage, it’s a most satisfactory way of holidaying.

What is Timeshare?

Timeshare is the right to spend a holiday in your "own" villa or apartment for a week for a given number of years. You may be able to swap holiday destinations and times with other people into timeshare resorts worldwide, and with over 5,300 from which to choose, it a pretty good way to see the world. Your period of "ownership" can be just a few years, or it can be for perpetuity, depending on the law of the country. Almost all timeshares are self-catering, and the weeks can usually be resold, gifted or passed on to your children, or anyone else. Most timeshare owners join an exchange organization (such as RCI) for a fee, allowing them to go to another resort, anywhere in the world, in exchange for their week. And, owners can rent out their week or take up a rental of a week at another resort. Owners also pay a Management Fee to maintain the apartment and facilities, and they generally treat "their" apartment with much greater care than a renter might, so furniture and fittings are to a higher standard than is usually found in other self-catering accommodations.

Timeshare comes in many shapes and sizes; the purchase of a fixed week at a specific resort still remains the most common, but there are many variations such as floating weeks, floating resorts, and points clubs. Timeshare gets called a lot of other names as well; Vacation Share, Holiday Share, Multi-ownership, but they all mean exactly the same thing.

For many, the purchase of a timeshare is the nearest that they will get to owning a country cottage or a Mediterranean villa, but without the attendant problems of security, cleaning, etc. Meeting the same friends each year; knowing that the leisure facilities and accommodation are kept in good condition; not having to worry about finding your way there, etc. Others see it as a way of seeing the world – using an exchange organization – in the knowledge that the foreign resort will be to a similar standard to their own resort.

Hard Sell, Soft Sell.

Many of you who have vacationed may be very familiar with the ‘freebies’ offered by a timeshare resort; either a lunch, dinner, extra hotel night, island tours etc. in exchange for an appointment to view the resort. Timeshare is a complex subject and a reasonable length of time is needed to understand the resort, and the exchange system. So whether it’s a "hard" or "soft" cell, if you’re interested, expect a presentation of at least one hour. Your tout may have promised "only 90 minutes" and 4 hours later you could still be locked into a "hard" sell, with someone trying to bully you into saying yes to a purchase. "The last week left" or "prices go up tomorrow" or even "everyone else buys, what’s wrong with you, can’t you afford it?" are popular techniques. 19 people walk away for every 1 purchase, so this hard sell incurs enormous marketing costs, resulting in a highly inflated purchase price offer. The "soft" cell is much more cost-effective and respectful of buyers. Reputable developers do not need to rely on scams to persuade people to buy, the product will sell itself and the price will be clearly reasonable. A presentation is still needed to explain the timeshare process, but no one is pressured into buying. The sales pitch will be more like "if you want to go away and think about it, that’s alright; just call when you have made up your mind".

New scams are being invented every day, so if you’re really interested in purchasing timeshare be sure to visit a website like There’s a wealth of information here, offering guidance for the first time buyers and also for existing owners who are not entirely immune from the cheats. You’ll find everything from a list of current scams, a detailed explanation of the exchange system, to hidden ownership problems.

Fast Facts.

bulletThe US leads in the number of timeshare resorts with nearly 1,600; Florida is the most popular state, with more than 360 resorts.
bulletWorldwide, more than 5,300 resorts offer timesharing in over 90 countries. Leading regions outside the US include Mexico, Spain and the Caribbean.
bulletThe median income of a US timeshare owner is about US$74,000, with a median age of 54

Timeshare Tips.

bulletTimeshare is usually bought by couples whilst on holiday, in a relaxed mood and their natural defenses are down.
bulletTime is usually sold by highly skilled operators, often posing as ‘market researchers’ or ‘leisure consultants’, who may never use the word ‘timeshare’.
bulletBe on your guard at all times; do not rely on the law of the country to rescue you from your moment of weakness. Recovering a paid deposit or proving fraud can be enormously expensive and not guaranteed to succeed.
bulletIf in doubt, just walk away. Then, if the thought of owning a timeshare still appeals to you, join the growing band of owners who buy privately from a reputable timeshare exchange company.

Timeshare is an excellent product, but best bought after careful consideration and with the intention of keeping it for a number of years.


Melanie Waddell, Director
April 3, 2003


Previous Travel Columns

bulletThe Travel Column 2003-3-13
bulletThe Travel Column 2003-2-27
bulletThe Travel Column 2003-2-13
bulletThe Travel Column 2003-1-30
bulletThe Travel Column 2003-1-16
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-11-28
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-11-14
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-10-31
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-10-17
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-10-3
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-9-19
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-9-5
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-8-22
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-8-8
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-7-25
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-7-11
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-6-27

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