Embrace social media, timeshare industry urged

Adding value also vital

Orlando, Florida – Social media represents a paradigm shift in the timeshare industry.

If the sector does not embrace this new speed of communications, it could be left behind, said Sterling Stoudenmire of Island One.

Mr. Stoudenmire was speaking during a panel discussion at the Shared Ownership Investment Conference in Orlando, Florida. He said that margins were narrow, so there was a need to be more efficient and improve margins on existing customers as well as looking for new customers and additional markets.

Online reputation management was important, he noted.

John Ruble of Marriott Vacations Worldwide added that “nothing [was] immune when you have to get down to good operating margins”. He urged delegates to be smart with valuing and marketing. The customer is better educated than ever before and peer-group feedback and personal recommendation went a long way.

Manage the risk

Todd Fasanella, chief executive officer of Quorum Federal, Credit Union’s Vacation Ownership Funding Company, noted that a timeshare company was made up of sales, finance and resort management. He said that there was a need to manage risks; banks were wanting to shorten commitment periods in the existing climate, for example.

Mr. Fasanella suggested that business development things to consider included noting where the customer wanted to go; how to grow business – would an additional location help; offering new experiences through a points system, such as whitewater rafting as an example.

Adding value through capital-light elements, such as better service could create excitement without having to have development in the pipeline.

The message from the panel was that constant review of finances, margins and the experience was more important than ever before. In terms of sales staff, keeping them happy and retaining them was vital as was isolating them so they did not feel the pain of “necessary cost-cutting”. Creating a varied product was important, but also retooling may have implications for decades to come so the right moves had to be made.

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