The Next 50 Years of Vacation Ownership Innovation: Put Customers First and Embrace Change

Vacation ownership innovation past, present and future dominated the recent ARDA World annual conference, especially during the interactive forum “Celebrating 50 Forward – Innovators and Influencers,” sponsored by Nordis Technologies.

Our expert panelists from Marriott Vacations Worldwide, Wyndham Destinations, Holiday Inn Club Vacations and Oracle offered important perspectives on success and failure over the past few decades while pointing the way forward. Like last year’s vacation owner journey forum sponsored by Nordis, our session this year was filled to capacity with more than 150 paid attendees.

As ARDA celebrates its 50th anniversary and looks to the future, one thing is imminently clear: Vacation ownership is in a really enviable position.

After all, our industry originated the concept of the sharing economy, which has become so popular. It’s also enjoyed eight straight years of growth, according to the 2018 State of the Vacation Timeshare Industry. It’s set for more growth, too: 86% of timeshare owners are planning to spend as much or more time on their next vacation and 84% planning to spend just as much or more money.

Listen to customers

Our interactive forum focused on ways to keep that momentum. Two themes emerged: Putting the customer first and embracing change.

To put customers first, one panelist said she brings a placard every time she meets with senior executives and places it in an empty chair to make sure the customer’s perspective is a consideration when decisions are made. Another said her company uses an idea depot committee, where ideas from employees and customers are regularly reviewed.

Embrace change

As for embracing change, timeshare has a pretty good track record, including adapting to the digital revolution in all aspects of marketing, sales, billing and payments. Also, moving from offering a fixed week or using the same unit each year to adopting a flexible point system that opens up extensive travel locations and opportunities for owners.

But both areas face more change to stay relevant to owners. With a revolutionary shift to online and subscription sales in many industries, the timeshare industry must adapt, too, perhaps rethinking the lifetime ownership model.

Similarly, the effectiveness of 1-to-1 sales will likely produce a diminishing rate of return. It reminds me of what is happening with vehicle sales. While most car and truck buyers continue to go to a dealer and negotiate with a sales person, that industry is slowly but surely moving to online sales, bundled leases (with maintenance and insurance included) and shorter-term commitments and vehicle access flexibility.

Our panelists reminded us that we can’t be afraid to change even if it means disrupting primary, profitable revenue streams. Otherwise, we could find ourselves like Sears, which lost the battle to Home Depot, Target and Amazon, or Blockbuster, which gave way to Netflix.  Both saw change coming but were unwilling or unable to adapt their model and failed as a result.

Salute to ARDA leadership past and future

No discussion of vacation ownership innovation would be complete without acknowledging Howard Nusbaum, who has retired as CEO and president of ARDA after nearly 20 years and a job well done. Howard handed over the baton during ARDA World 2019 to Jason Gamel, who comes to ARDA with 20 years of experience in the timeshare and hospitality industry including a past stint as ARDA’s VP of Legislative Affairs. ARDA Chairman Mark Wang of Hilton Grand Vacations also turned over the chairman’s role to Robert Spottswood of Spottswood Companies, a true independent developer with a long history of success and leadership.

I know and admire all of these executives, who have contributed enormously to advancing the vacation ownership industry. Best wishes to Howard and Mark and congratulations to Jason and Robert. I look forward to working with you!

About the Author

Bryan joined Nordis Technologies in 2016 to manage and grow the company’s already-large vacation ownership client base. He also is responsible for business development and market expansion in the healthcare and financial services markets. Before joining Nordis, Bryan spent more than 21 years with Interval International, a leading global provider of vacation ownership services. Bryan graduated from Northwestern University with a bachelor of science in political science. 

Bryan Ten Broek
Vice President – Business Development