You Can’t Zoom a Vacation: A Q&A with ARDA CEO Jason Gamel

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We’re thrilled that leisure and business travel is picking up again after a very long year of staying home. With vaccines being broadly distributed, the American Resort Development Association (ARDA) and its members are gearing up for a fantastic 2021 based on huge pent-up demand. Over spring break, many resorts already were full, based on allowances under COVID restrictions.

We recently caught up with ARDA President & CEO Jason Gamel, who gave us a preview of trends we’ll hear more about at ARDA’s June 6-10 conference, “Timeshare Together”, at the JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes. (CDC pandemic guidelines at the time will be followed).

Q.Which operational changes created during the pandemic are here to stay?

Jason:  There are a number of changes that resort managers and operators have made during the past year to meet the needs of doing business remotely. One major change has been with remote HOA governance, which is likely here to stay. People will come to expect it. They see it at their workplace, and they want to see it with their association life. Submitting your proxy online and watching your HOA annual meeting from home is convenient and efficient. Give me my virtual work life and my virtual association life so I can get back to my in-person vacation life. You can Zoom a meeting, but you can’t Zoom a vacation.

When you are at the resort, you’ll find better and stronger broadband connections, and you’ll continue to see digital, touchless check-in. Owners love it. You may also see resorts continuing to require reservations for access to some amenities, such as the pool. An added benefit to requiring reservations is that it helps owners and exchange guests organize their trips. Extra health-related sanitary precautions will likely continue, too.

Q.How is digital communication playing a role in keeping owners informed?

Jason:  The industry is highly focused upon communication efforts, particularly through digital channels. Developers, associations and management companies need to communicate about billing and payments, general updates, health regulations as well as sales and marketing content. What you communicate, how meaningful it is and how frequently you do so will determine whether your digital communication rises to the top and gets the attention it deserves.

Q.The properties made changes to their operations during the pandemic, but did owners make some discoveries, too?

Jason:  The pandemic helped amplify why a timeshare is such a phenomenal vacation option for families. The generous size of the units, the spaciousness of the resorts themselves and the fact you have a kitchen so people who want to eat in more often can spend time with family around the dinner table. That’s such a key part of vacationing – the experience of spending time with friends and family sharing a meal. Then, factor in that many destinations can be reached within a day’s drive. Yes, owners are absolutely re-discovering the simple pleasures and reminded of the inherent value of their ownership during these different times.

Q.Any other hot topics we’ll be talking about next month in Orlando?

Jason. Yes, the social media campaign. I am extremely proud that ARDA has launched this campaign, which is currently in a pilot program. Did you know that 87% of families are “satisfied or better” with their timeshare? That’s nearly 10 million satisfied customers as reported by our ARDA International Foundation.

We want to harness the power of owners and their love for this product. We have now given owners a platform where they can express what they like about their timeshare. We also are aggregating information on vacation ownership so people can easily access what’s already out there, such as stories from travel writers. It’s refreshing and shows how people naturally interact with content. We already have seen incredible engagement on social media, and the community continues to grow.

Thank you, Jason, for giving us a detailed preview of the spring conference.

Planning to go? Us, too. Nordis executives, who will be in attendance, are excited to be a conference sponsor this year. We have a dedicated meeting space and hope to spend time with you with there.

Click here if you would like to schedule a time to meet.


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