Conference 2012

Emily Collins
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TATOC's executive chairman Harry Taylor called it "simply the best conference yet". And many delegates and speakers agree.
A detailed report of the conference is available to read in the Sharetime magazine summer issue.

Below is a short summary of what happened.

“Simply the best TATOC conference yet.” This was the verdict of the Timeshare Association’s executive chairman Harry Taylor. From the feedback received so far, he is not alone in believing the TATOC 2012 conference was a great success.

Over 140 delegates representing the industry and timeshare consumers attended the conference, which took place over the weekend of March 9-11 at the Park Royal Hotel, Stretton near Warrington UK.

The event, which is unique in bringing industry professionals and consumers together, encouraged delegates to address the conference’s theme: meeting the challenges facing the industry but also look developing a the positive future.

“It was a pleasure to see developers and management companies bringing owner representatives from their resort committees to the conference to meet fellow committee representatives to hear their experiences and learn more about the industry in general,” Taylor added.

The conference began with a detailed summary of TATOC’s activities over the past twelve months by board member Geoff Chapman.
Focusing on the TATOC helpline, Chapman told delegates that two thirds of all calls and emails to the helpline are general enquiries while the remaining third are more in depth enquiries. From these, just 10% are complaints against the legitimate timeshare industry.

Statistics from the helpline show that the new European Directive implemented in many European countries a year ago has had a positive impact. Unfortunately, the rogues and scammers have moved on to bogus legal firms and ‘take-over’ companies and these continue to cause problems to owners.

Lisa Ann Schreier’s light-hearted view of the situation in the U.S. made it clear that there are some stark similarities with the U.K. and European markets. Her presentation entitled ‘Timeshare is not rocket science’ addressed her belief that in the next seven years, timeshare will be very different.

Lisa, known by many as the Timeshare Crusader, identified five keys areas of change: the product will no longer be for life with shorter term ownerships; consumers will be able to buy online; there will be greater product diversification; in the U.S. the product will no longer be deeded ownership and finally there will be huge changes in gifting and tour incentives. TATOC will be looking with interest at what happens across the pond.

Simon Jackson from Macdonald Resorts gave an open and honest presentation on the need for a comprehensive exit strategy. Jackson began by sharing some interesting statistics with delegates. There are over 300,000 weeks on the re-sale market, less than 10,000 re-sale weeks are sold each year and children are unwilling to take over their parents’ ownership.  “Resorts know that there is a problem but don’t know how to deal with it,” he explained.

He briefed delegates on Macdonald’s plans for an exit programme for their owners. A recent survey has confirmed the importance of this strategy with a high percentage of owners looking to sell their weeks in the next five to ten years.

The development of the exit strategy has been a consultative process that has taken over five years to complete with Macdonald Resorts working with their resort’s committees and owners. While there have been wide constitutional changes, Jackson conceded that success would be possible only if there is compromise by all parties.

Professor Dimitrios Buhalis from Bournemouth University provided an energetic keynote speech on how new technology is changing hospitality. In 1995 the arrival of the Internet changed everything and the evolution of social media has brought new challenges for resorts. “We are now closer to the ones far away, and less to close to the ones nearest to us;” he told delegates.

Future owners have access to smart phones, iPad/tablet computers and laptops making it easy to share views and photos with friends rather than directly with resorts. He stressed the importance that committees address this when handling complaints, looking for new buyers or encouraging the children of owners to continue with their membership. Resorts used to be able to hide things but with the rise of social media, this is simply no longer possible and has to be managed.  

“Professor Buhalis explained to delegates that social media and new technology is a tool and we all need to learn how to use it or it will do us serious long term harm,” said Harry Taylor. While some delegates questioned the need for resorts to have a social media policy, Buhalis showed the impact of a social media strategy on creating strong relationships with consumers.

Susan Crook from Diamond Resorts gave an interesting and informative guided tour of the legal landscape. Detailing the different bodies involved in legislation, Susan explained how resorts are “not alone” and that the effects of legislation have not been as bad as anticipated. Indeed, at Diamond Resorts, it has actually been of help to the sales and marketing teams providing both a guideline and a structure to the sale process.

Diamond Resort’s Suzana Gomercic reminded resort committees that they are in the hospitality business and to make sure they meet the new demands of a well-travelled and experienced holidaymaker. In the past, owners were satisfied with much less but their children and especially grandchildren, have greater expectations.

With over fifteen years’ resort management experience Suzana explained that older resorts have to invest in new technology and amenities from Wi-Fi throughout the resort to iPod docking stations and flat screen televisions in the apartments. Whilst the committee may not use this technology themselves, new buyers and the children of owners definitely expect it from their holiday accommodation.

“Suzana emphasised the importance that committees work with professional management and not to micro manage,” added Harry Taylor.
The first day of the conference culminated with the industry panel. Moderated by Robin Mills, the panel included Dimitris Manikis, Simon Jackson, Linda Freer, Stuart Lamont, Phil Watson, Janice Anderson Pearne and Paul Mattimoe.

The panel tackled questions including why they attended the TATOC conference, where the industry will be in ten years and who is responsible for educating owners to make sure that the ownership experience lives up to the promises. It was clear delegates who represented their committees were looking for clear solutions to their problems and issues.

“To have a panel of top industry professionals debating at a timeshare consumer conference was a world first. Scheduled to last one hour it went on for over 90 minutes with a frank exchange of views on the challenges facing us all and possible solutions. It was encouraging having owners working together in a positive and constructive way,” added Taylor.

Christel House gave the final presentation of the conference. TATOC delegates had raised over £2,170 at the gala evening’s raffle and Vivienne Noyes Thomas from the charity with Fred Crouch (TATOC) and Diana Aitchison (Nexus Leisure) told delegates about the good work being done by the charity.
Harry Taylor summarised the conference: “The conference theme ‘meeting the challenge’ says it all. In my opinion the 2012 TATOC conference was the best ever both in attendance and debate.

Delegates from all sections of the industry and timeshare owners recognised the need to work together to achieve the aims of: ensuring members, who can no longer use their timeshare, can leave; making sure owners can continue to enjoy their holidays while keeping fees under control; replacing members quickly with the introduction of new ownership packages aimed at younger families and ensuring that existing owners can modify their
ownership as age and circumstances change.

"Let us hope that we all have the commitment to move forward and change the challenges into achievements.”

Pictures courtesy of RCI Europe

Further images are available from our conference media partners, LiveShareTravel.

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