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Time Share Evolution - Vacation ClubsDate: 20/10/2009
Article source: www.bangkokpost.com
Vacation-clubs: The Evolution of time share
Vacation clubs, or time shares as they are known in Asia, were born out of the computer industry when IBM, in the early days of large computers, sold use of the computer in allocated times to universities, research foundations, hospitals and other institutions that could not then afford computers but needed to use their capabilities.
The first marketing of time shares is said to have been done by an enterprising French hotelier in the French Alps who launched the slogan: "No need to rent the room, buy the hotel - it's cheaper."
But Americans really took time share to heart in the 1970s when the Cold War between Russia and America made travel expensive, forcing a change in holiday habits.
The industry has evolved from those early computer time shares into private aircraft, yachts and, eventually, into hotel-standard accommodation. The whole concept, from computers to hotels, makes perfect sense.
Consequently, time share spread rapidly in Europe with some of the biggest hotel names, such as Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, Disney, Ramada, Hilton and Sheraton getting into the business.
There are now more than 5,400 resorts in more than 100 countries with owners coming from more than 270 countries, 45% of which come from the US.
In Phuket, Laguna Holiday Club [LHC] is a leading company with 6,000 members, of whom 70% are Thai nationals, mainly from Bangkok.
The concept of acquiring a luxury holiday for families, in particular - where they have more space than is generally offered by most hotels - remains very attractive.
So what is the future for vacation clubs in Asia, including Thailand? We have come a long way from the early days where property developers and construction companies built vacation clubs for a quick profit and not the long-term benefit of members. Today, the emphasis is on taking a long-term view to ensure satisfied customers.
Of course, in such a big industry with so many variables, not every customer is going to be completely happy. We in the industry acknowledge this but, in Laguna Holiday Club's case, being part of a large, publicly owned company, we place great emphasis on transparency and adhering to the prescribed rules and regulations.
In the future we see a situation where the industry in Thailand, and around Southeast Asia if not already in place, is self-regulated through an industry body.
In this regard discussions have already been held to establish a Thailand-wide body that will enable the reputable industry players to impose strict standards that members must meet, and to work in conjunction with the relevant government authorities to ensure a high level of compliance and service.
This is a work in progress, but it will happen. LHC has held discussions with Resort Condominiums International (RCI) and Interval International (II), two respected global vacation club organisations, about forming an industry body. In the meantime, companies such as LHC work closely with the Thailand Office of Consumer Protection [OCP] with which we have an open and frank relationship.
Reputable vacation club owners have nothing to fear from consumer organisations. Indeed, we believe the OCP is an essential ingredient in ensuring the industry maintains standards and that redress is available where required. Self-regulation remains the best way of maintaining standards - indeed credibility - for any industry and the vacation club industry in Thailand and Asia is no exception.
In Europe and the US there are strong self-regulating organisations. Both continents have undergone an extensive revamping of the rules and regulations governing vacation clubs that has led to fewer outlets as the not-so-scrupulous ones fall by the wayside. This can only be a good trend that we in Asia should follow.
So this is the present and the immediate future for the vacation club industry in Thailand and Asia.
Looking out over the next few years we see the industry evolving even further into an integrated time share global industry where it will be possible that points earned by members will be interchangeable and redeemable with other industries such as airlines, hire cars, cruising, hotel units and even camping. There will be no specific boundaries.
In theory, members would be able to use points to book accommodation at a five star resort one year, and go camping in a camper van the next. There will, if this scheme becomes reality, literally, be a gigantic pot of points for members to use across all these, and other, related industries. We foresee a time when a global governing body will be established to administer this integrated system.
In fact, this integration is already taking place in the US and Europe on a large scale as well as in parts of Asia. But so far all of the various industries mentioned have not been interlocked into one giant global network. The key conduit in all of this would most probably be the points earned by vacation club members.
For Thailand and Asia, such a prospect can only bring benefits. Asia remains the world's fastest-growing economic region with more and more citizens of countries such as India and China, who previously were restricted in their travel and ability to invest, are leading the way. Asia also possesses some of the world's most desirable destinations, with Phuket and Thailand among them.
The challenge now is to continue the evolvement of the vacation club industry into this global village in a seamless and productive way.
Gerard J.L.M. van Paassen is assistant vice-president of Laguna Holiday Club at the Laguna Resorts & Hotels complex in Phuket.