Timeshares on the rise

According to a United States’ survey, timeshares are becoming increasingly popular among Americans, something that is borne out by local timeshare properties on Grand Cayman.

Morritts Tortuga Club

Guests check in at Morritts Tortuga Club, which is based on 100 per cent timeshares. A US survey found that timeshares are growing in popularily among Americans, who make up a significant portion of the Cayman market. Photo: File

Fully 14 per cent of active leisure travellers in America are now interested in purchasing timeshares according to the Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell/Yankelovich partners 2006 National Leisure Travel Monitor.

‘This represents a four-point increase over the percentage recorded in 2005, and translates into a potential market of 9.2 million households on a national basis,’ said a press release.

Chairman of the Board of Morritt’s Tortuga Club Ltd., Morritt’s Grand Resort Ltd. and Morritt Properties (Cayman) Ltd. Steve Minotakis said timeshares are certainly on the rise. Morritt’s Tortuga has been in existence since 1989. It is based on 100 per cent timeshares.

‘We are very excited for the future. We see the trend of timeshares continuing if not increasing,’ he said.

‘There is value in Morritts and in Grand Cayman,’ he said, explaining that owning a timeshare becomes a family event and a tradition that can be passed onto the next generation. The Morritt’s Resorts are exclusively timeshares.

‘Sales are actively growing for a number of reasons,’ he said.

‘Timeshares are more popular now and people know what they are and the value that they offer.’

Hurricane Ivan gave the developers an opportunity to improve the wooden structure at Morritts Tortuga, he said.

Morritts Tortuga consists of 120 units, with an addition of up to 80 units being built. It originally had 177 units.

Morritts Grand Resort has 40 units operational. In another five to seven years this will be extended to 65 or 70 units.

Eventually there will be about 265 units between the two resorts.

Of the 160 units on stream between the two Morritt’s properties, they are between 70 per cent and 75 per cent sold to membership.

Mr. Minotakis asserts that the very fact that Morritts Tortuga is in re-development phase is an indication that it is not only building a better product for its clients, but of adding on extra units for future clients for which they have seen a need.

Typically 80 per cent to 85 per cent of owners are US citizens.

Pre-construction sales are getting more brisk as construction progresses with Morritts Tortuga, he said. Meanwhile the resort continues to look for a timely insurance settlement.

Initially, the under-insured Indies Suites cast a dark shadow over timeshares on Grand Cayman, he believes, but most people will realise that not all companies are like that, he said, explaining that Morritt’s has adequate insurance, a board of directors, regular business meetings and actively strives to keep its clients happy.

Tom McCallum of the Reef Resort agrees that timeshares are indeed becoming increasingly popular. Making up part of the resort are 30 two-bedroom condos dedicated to timeshares – they are 70 per cent sold out on average during the year.

The Reef Resort also offers varied investment options, from individual weeks, through quarter shares, to whole ownership options and will have 83 condos in all when development is finished.

Timeshare owners at the resort can come and use their share, rent it through the resort, or exchange it through an international exchange network.

The Reef consists of a mix of studio suites, one and two bedroom luxury condominiums.

Mr. McCallum said that if guests like to return to a resort, while the cost of hotel rooms go up every year in line with inflation, buying a timeshare allows the buyer to lock in the cost, with only maintenance payments going up in line with inflation.

Reef Resort timeshare owners get a special deal, in that when the contract ends, in 2050, the property will be put on the open market when the owners will get 80 per cent of the proceeds.

Timeshares are more a lifestyle than real estate decision for buyers, he asserted.

At the Grand Caymanian Resort, Stephen Taylor, one of the owners of the marketing company contracted by the resort, Back to Cayman Ltd., said 99 per cent of its timeshare membership is US based.

‘The market continues to grow and grow as word gets out about the value in timeshares,’ he said.

What had been negative in the past has now become a stable product in which people’s confidence has grown. There is also much more familiarity with timeshares now, he said.

Between membership and members’ friends the resort is pretty full most of the time, along with some other guests.

The resort consists of 40 two-bed units for which a section can be locked off to make a studio bedroom and a one-bed apartment.

In the next couple of years it is hoped to break ground for the next phase (a mirror image of the first), something that is testament to the demand for the more or less exclusively timeshare property.

Membership in the first phase is over 50 per cent sold out. When this reaches 75 per cent work will begin on Phase Two. If there is availability on rooms they can be rented out at a nightly rate also.

In the five years the resort has been open the curve in sales has been rising faster in more recent years, said Mr. Taylor.

Although sales are still very good, the number of tourists coming here affects the resort, as it means there are not as many to show around the property, but as numbers pick up it should bring things back to pre-Ivan levels, he said.

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