From Aha to Kerching
September 17th saw the European timeshare industry (plus a number of delegates from the USA, including ARDA) gathered at the Don Carlos Hotel and Spa, in Marbella, Spain, in gloriously warm weather – a welcome escape for those of us who had journeyed down from a stormy and windswept UK. Conference working group members were as ever, seriously concerned as to whether we could produce an event that exceeded the standard reached in London last year at RDO 5.

We need not have been so worried. From Michael Jackson’s (the other one) opening, which so accurately reflected the theme for this year of “Embracing Change” and taught us how not to over-complicate things, to resist the negativity in our thinking and identify what is important to our businesses. Memorable also for the response – when asked whether he thought his children would buy timeshare he replied, “they would rather nail their heads to a burning building…” a message that would come back for us to consider as the conference progressed.

“ Good, Bad and avoid turning Ugly” was the first time RDO had asked 3 timeshare owners to take the stage and talk about their experiences as owners. From the delegates’ point of view, this was a sobering and enlightening experience. The conference heard from an owner who at one time had owned 11 timeshare weeks in total – but was now reducing this number as she is a sprightly 80 something. We also heard from a mother who had a young child with physical difficulties, that prevented her booking her exchanges early, which presented her with problems of late availability and finally from Martin, whose family have not exactly had a trouble-free experience with their timeshare, but nonetheless could still be enthusiastic and positive about the product they owned. Whilst it may have come as no surprise to delegates that the issues they raised as owners were the ones we knew were a problem – escalating maintenance fees, over-promising on sales and difficulties obtaining exchange, the one that probably caused as much concern and was not one often heard was the huge variation in quality of resorts on exchange, and in fact it was the poor quality of an exchange resort that had sent Martin and his family to buy a penthouse week at Anfi the very day they arrived at one such poor quality resort on Gran Canaria – a resort he remains enthusiastic about to this day. It was a sobering session and I think reminded all of us of some of the key issues the industry faces at this time.

The age demographic of timeshare owners and the need to reach out to new generations was high on the agenda and there was a great session moderated by DRI’s Steve Dow, bringing together two millennials employed by First Names Group and DRI respectively. They were able to give us all an insight into what motivated them and how the industry should be looking at this generation in
terms of future timeshare owners and would they be timeshare owners?

There were a number of other sessions there hasn’t the space to mention here, from Debbie Wosskow’s exposition on the rise of the Sharing Economy in the UK to Richard Newman’s “Walk the Talk” on how your body language affects your business. All this and an in-depth analysis from Club la Costa’s Eugene Miskelly on the recent Spanish Supreme Court Rulings, left delegates with an over-flowing basket of “ take aways” from the sessions.

I should mention one other session and that was Guy Browning’s, opener on Day 2 this year, with a session entitled “Aha to Kerching,” undoubtedly since the advent of RDO1, this was the most entertaining presentation we have had – and there has been some stiff competition over the past 6 years.

My thanks to all those who attended and of course for the organizing team, our moderator – Robin Mills and the sponsors. My commiserations to those who didn’t or couldn’t make it – you missed 2 great days and of course the social events and weather were both just right. Put London 13 to 15th September 2016 in your diary now in order not to be disappointed!