By Judy Kenninger, RRP

The 17th annual Shared Ownership Investment Conference held from September 30 to October 2 at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, opened with a new addition: a half-day session conducted in Spanish and Portuguese focusing on opportunities in Mexico, and Central and South America. With more than 500 delegates from 36 countries, international topics received their due, while other sessions provided the latest industry research in North America along with insights from experts on topics ranging from data security to resort management.

“We were delighted to see so much enthusiasm about the new Latin America program. The energy at the sessions and the engagement of attendees clearly shows a great deal of interest in this region,” noted David Gilbert, president of Interval International, conference founder and patron sponsor. “This is an exciting time to be in shared ownership; everyone is looking for ways to capitalize on the opportunities ahead.”
The Latin America programming featured guest speaker Álvaro Rattinger, author of New Game, New Rules, Marketing Vanguard, who outlined the latest trends in social media and online marketing. Leaders from Plaza Hotéis & Resorts shared their experience entering the timeshare industry in 2014. “I really liked that one of the first presentations was about a new entrant to the industry from Brazil,” said Sergio Carmi, project director at Mantra Group, which recently opened Mussulo Resort by Mantra, on Brazil’s northeastern coast. “I have no doubt that timesharing in South America, and specifically Brazil, is poised for growth.”

Juan Luis Londoño, general manager of the tourism division of Constructora Bolivar S.A., agreed. “We have been in the industry for 20 years and will continue developing shared ownership properties to take advantage of the great opportunities in the market.” Londoño also noted, “In Latin America, we have always followed the U.S. timeshare industry’s development and used it as a reference. However, since there are many differences between these markets, it’s very valuable to learn about other developers’ experiences in different countries throughout the region.”

For new industry entrants, the Shared Ownership Boot Camp featured experts on the basics of the business, potential profit centers within a timeshare business model, and how mixed-use can complement a hotel operation and increase return on investment.

As always, attendees came away with a host of data on travel and timesharing. In addition to receiving copies of the latest industry research (valued at more than $1,300), they also heard from Peter Yesawich, vice chairman of MMGY Global. He shared results from his proprietary 2015 Portrait of American Travelers, one of the most closely watched barometers of emerging travel trends. Among the nuggets: Although timeshare developers tend to focus on families, couples actually drive more travel demand. Also, 33 percent of Millennials expect to take more vacation time this year, and seven out of 10 are more likely to try new things while on vacation. Perhaps most important, 1.7 million Americans say they are interested in purchasing a shared-ownership product in the next two years. The “State of the Industry” session included researchers from STR Analytics and Leger, along with Howard Nusbaum, president of the American Resort Development Association. International attendees found value here, too. “Nusbaum’s presentation on ARDA research was important because it provides a benchmark for our industry,” Carmi said. “It allows us to compare and set objectives for the future.”

Another conference session, “The Caribbean: A Global Destination,” offered an overview of the region’s favorable conditions for developers and hoteliers looking to diversify their product offerings. Among the statistics shared by panelists: The Caribbean set a record with 26.3 million visitors in 2014, a 5.3 percent increase over the previous year, and tourists spent $29.2 billion, also a record.

Keynote speaker David Stillman, a renowned generational expert and a best-selling author of The M-Factor: How the Millennial Generation is Rocking the Workplace, revealed insights on generational attributes and how they might impact the timeshare industry. “From attitudes about loyalty and spending to staying on the cutting edge, each generation has unique traits,” the BridgeWorks co-founder explained. “It’s important to understand how to tailor communications more effectively to meet their needs.” This was a theme throughout the conference as speakers at multiple sessions provided insights, including that adult Millennials often still travel with their parents. This generational closeness may be a result of the “helicopter parenting” for which Baby Boomer parents are famous, Stillman said. It follows, he added, that families with children are more likely to include them in vacation planning and teens may even research potential travel destinations.

“High-Tech Sales” also drew a huge crowd as the speakers highlighted strategies for turning the next generation of prospects into owners. One of the key takeaways was that 50 percent of Millennials say that the quality of a travel website affects their desire to purchase. Even with an early time slot on the last day, “Share the Good News: Media Expert Roundtable” drew an enthusiastic response as attendees “tweeted” many of the facts and figures they heard. Among them: Media experts say trusted influencers effectively reach target audiences and get greater response than paid spokespeople. One of the panelists emphasized that “to win trust in today’s world, you have to put all the information out there.”

Always one of the conference’s most popular sessions, “Meet the Leaders” offered insights from the industry’s top executives, on the evolution and future of shared ownership. Panelists included John Burlingame, president of Hyatt Vacation Ownership; Ivan Chavez, executive vice president of Grupo Vidanta; David Gilbert; and David Siegel, president and CEO of Westgate Resorts. “I appreciate hearing the viewpoints of industry colleagues. Sometimes their opinions confirm yours, sometimes they challenge, but the perspectives of others in our business are always interesting,” Burlingame said.

Produced and sponsored by Interval International, the conference provides a forum to educate attendees about trends and opportunities and explore various shared ownership business models. Since 1998, these events have been providing attendees in Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, Middle East, North and South America, and Asia with valuable industry knowledge on topics from financing, marketing and development to conversions, mixed-use resorts, and government regulations. This year’s program again proved that the Shared Ownership Investment Conference is a “must attend” event for timeshare professionals, so add next year’s date, October 25 − 27, 2016, at the Eden Roc Resort Miami Beach, to your calendar now.

About the Author
Judy Kenninger, RRP, heads Kenninger Communications, a provider of complete creative services to the shared-ownership industry. She has been covering vacation real estate for nearly two decades. Her email is