When you talk with as many happy and satisfied timeshare owners as I do in my work on RCI's member magazines, it is beyond frustrating to see so much negativity in the media around buying timeshare. RCI has 3.8 million timeshare owning members worldwide and, as our member surveys have consistently revealed, the vast majority of our members love their timeshare.
I must have one of the best jobs a person could have. It is a joy! And why is that, you might ask...
As the editor of RCI's member magazine, Endless Vacation, I regularly call up our members to invite them to share their top timeshare exchange tips and holiday stories with their fellow members in our magazine. Since we at RCI are dedicated to sending our member families off on wonderful holidays that will become treasured memories in the years to come, it makes me genuinely happy to hear, first hand from our members, how much their timeshare ownership has enriched their lives.
Sad to say, experience in public relations some years back taught me that many media platforms aren't interested in running happy timeshare headlines; as with much in our world today, the media has what I consider to be an unhealthy obsession with all that is doom and gloom.
I am pleased to tell you that there is more good news about timeshare out there than you'd ever imagine. I've just been surfing the internet myself and have selected a number of what I would term 'myths' about buying and using timeshare.
It is true that many timeshare owners are of the older generation - but that's because this holiday product has been around for nearly half a century and many owners bought their timeshares 30 or so years ago, and have enjoyed a lifetime of holidays - with many still enjoying them, either as couples now their children have flown the nest, or as multi-generational holidaying families treating their grandchildren to a sunny getaway.
We are now seeing younger couples with small children buying timeshare, attracted by the shorter term ownerships of between three and ten years which are now available. Timeshare is a perfect fit with the younger generation who are not as hung up on owning a holiday or second home outright, as their parents were. Today's buyers don't want the financial outlay and upkeep of a wholly-owned holiday home and are happy to share such properties, being part of the 'sharing economy' as it is known today - and which timeshare pioneered nearly 50 years ago.
Timeshare accommodation is ideal for families, offering lots of space and privacy for a family group, together with all the comforts of home and fabulous self-catering kitchen and dining facilities for when the children are too tired to eat out at a restaurant again. Timeshare accommodation ranges from studio apartments to three- and four-bedroom accommodation. It is, more often than not, set in prime locations close to beaches, lakes, towns and many tourist attractions. But, should you want a day relaxing around your apartment, most timeshare resorts have many restaurants, bars, pools, wellness and spa treatment areas, children's play areas and crèches - all on resort, so staying in can be just as much fun as venturing out!
Donna Merrick, Timeshare Owner and RCI Member
"Space on holiday is very valuable to us, as I think it is to most families. I didn't want to have the whole family all in one bedroom. With timeshare ownership I have never had to do this, because even when exchanging, my membership enabled me to access two- or three-bedroom apartments. I often bring my Mum on holiday with us."
Timeshare is not an expensive way to holiday when you consider that you are paying for a number of years of holidays upfront. You are also buying those years of future holidays at today's prices, so safeguarding your holiday costs against inflation. Importantly, you must compare apples with apples, as they say. It's not a fair comparison to take the cost of one standard hotel family room with a pull out child bed for just one holiday week, and compare that against the purchase price of a three-bedroom timeshare apartment with full kitchen, bathroom, balcony or terrace, set in a resort with many fabulous amenities - which can be used every year or exchanged for many more different holidays around the world for five, ten, twenty years ahead, depending on the duration of ownership purchased. Though if costed out over a period of 20 years of holidaying - a period of use that many timeshare owners buy into - even a standard hotel room compared to a timeshare purchase would begin to look like poor value for money!
Renting a three-bedroom family apartment of commensurate quality to a timeshare apartment can cost you as much as £1,000 a week - possibly more in peak season. It is possible to buy a timeshare week that will give you a week's holiday, year in year out, for many years to come for the cost of that one-off holiday rental week. Certainly, the owners I speak with believe buying a timeshare to be good value. Below are just a couple of many such testimonials I receive.
Philip Hakim, Timeshare Owner and RCI Member, on taking his wife and three young daughters on his first RCI Exchange Holiday to Lapland at Christmas, using the timeshare he bought last year.
"We knew this was to be an extraordinary holiday so we decided to do as much as possible while in Lapland. Besides, we saved more than £1,000 on accommodation rental costs. What a terrific holiday we had."
Donna Merrick, Timeshare Owner and RCI Member
"It's hard not to compare our holidays to those of other families, especially in terms of cost. For instance, both my family and a friend's visited Greece, staying in apartments of comparable quality and size. However, while they paid around £4,000 for accommodation alone, we paid only £650, which included our yearly maintenance fee. Getting accommodation of equal quality for the same price on the high street just isn't possible."
Wrong - so wrong! The majority of our members I talk with share the most amazing stories of world travels with their families, which they all say would never have been posssible without exchanging their timeshare.
Once you have bought timeshare - one or several weeks, as you choose - you have so much choice in the way you can use your timeshare if you are a member of a company such as RCI, which enables you to swap your owned weeks for other stays across the world in lots of different holiday locations and resorts.
The majority of our members are more than happy with timeshare exchange as a way to holiday. An RCI member survey told us that 47 per cent of European members have been exchanging their timeshare with RCI for 10 years or more, while 77 per cent of our members said they would recommend timeshare and RCI membership to their family and friends.
As an RCI member, you have more than 4,300 resorts to choose from across 110 countries at this present time. Get yourself a cup of tea or glass of wine and click on the 'View RCI Resort Directory' button below, and take some time to explore the world of RCI. Type in the countries of your choice in the 'Browse' box to see the incredible variety and quality of the resorts you might be staying in. Use the 'Search Filter' on the left-hand side of the screen to explore RCI Exchange Holiday options by looking for the great activities you look forward to enjoying while away on holiday. Be inspired to step outside your comfort zone and do the things you love while giving yourself the opportunity to discover a new destination and see a little more of the world - at any time of the year you choose.
Mrs Hidvegine Toth Erzsebet, RCI Member for 24 years, who wrote in to tell us that she and her family had done more than 40 RCI Exchange Holiday swaps during the time she has owned timeshare and been a member of RCI.
"Since joining RCI we have never looked back, travelling to places we never dreamed of visiting - and we have always been satisfied with the high standard of resorts. Thank you RCI for providing us with lots of lovely memories and unforgettable holidays!"
For the most part, you can get the exchange holidays you want, particularly if you are prepared to plan your holiday in advance - which most people would do in any case if it was to be a really special holiday with a particular hotel or resort in mind. You must also be realistic about the allocated trading power or points value of the timeshare you bought against the weeks' trading power or points values of the timeshare and week you are looking to exchange into - you will need to trade within your allowance, up to the value allocated to your ownership.
Many people who know they are buying timeshare to open up a world of travel experiences and plan to exchange will spend a little more on a more expensive timeshare so that they can get to all the places they dream of visiting. In some instances, at different stages of ownership, some members like to 'trade down' and use a more expensive timeshare week with a high trading power to split into several separate weeks' holiday of less trading power value, so they 'trade' a more upscale accommodation and resort week for more time away. This option is especially popular with families whose children are grown up and, as a couple, they no longer need the larger higher value apartment but prefer to take more holiday weeks away by trading down. Owners gift their timeshare weeks away to their grown-up children, who go on to use their parents' timeshare with young families of their own.
To help our members get the holidays they want, and deserve, there are lots of tips about maximising trading power available in the Help Library on RCI.com, as well as in our magazines. We encourage our members to deposit their weeks as early as possible, for example, to ensure they get the best possible trading power; or to place an Ongoing Search because our programme is dynamic and the units available in the system change by the hour, day and week, and a search will send an alert as soon as a match is available. To be sure nothing is wasted, RCI lets its members combine their trading power, save and borrow points, which means with a little thought and planning, our members can get to go to resorts in destinations which are of a higher trading power or points value than they have on their annual ownership account. Some members who really do want to stretch their holiday horizons with their timeshare and RCI membership even exchange for cruise holidays...
Maria Musgrove-Wethey, RCI Member for 25 years and owner of four weeks of timeshare, talking about how, as a business owner and a mother, her timeshare is key to making her take time out to relax with her family.
"Having these weeks each year helps commit me to taking time off, otherwise it would be easy to put holidays off. I have never actually been to my home resort, having bought timeshare simply to be an RCI member, and be able to make exchanges. Today, I won't hear a word said against timeshare. I believe it's all about knowing the system. If you make a good purchasing decision and deposit quickly to get the maximum benefit, you open up a whole world of adventure."
If you stop to cost out the expense of owning a holiday apartment or villa outright, especially one with a swimming pool and gardens, you'd probably find it makes buying a timeshare and paying an annual maintenance fee extremely good value. It is the cost of both buying a holiday home and funding its upkeep which gave rise to timeshare as a cheaper way of having your own place in the sun all those years back. It is the same thinking that has seen the burgeoning of other leisure property sharing services such as Love Home Swap - now a member of the RCI family - and Airbnb. Timeshare resort developers had the idea first and timeshare owners were the first to benefit!
But, back to maintenance fees... They vary, depending on the size and scale of the resort, plus the level of on-resort facilities to service, such as swimming pools and gardens. Generally, maintenance fees start at £300 per annum, rising commensurately for resorts offering a higher accommodation and amenity specification. So, what can we compare those fees with to assess whether we think the fee levy is justified or not? Take the repair bills on your own home. I've just had two very expensive years keeping my own home in good repair - £4,500 for a new boiler and £3,000 for new soffits and facias. And let's not even start counting the cost of the new oven and washing machine I have had to buy in the last few months. If I owned a second home, or holiday home, I would face similar maintenance expenses on that property over the years. Fortunately, and this is where the value of timeshare as a holiday home comes in, the repair and maintenance costs of a timeshare are shared between a number of owners, which has to be less expensive and less painstaking than having to find a boiler repair man for your property, in a country where you very likely don't speak the language and are only there two to four weeks of the year...
I also get to talk with our resort developers and management companies in my work with RCI and I've discovered that those maintenance fees are kept in a 'sinking fund' by the majority of resort operators. Managing the fees in this way ensures that there are funds to cover the daily running expenses (management, compliance with health and safety regulations, admin staff, cleaners, gardeners, pool cleaners etc); replace the soft furnishings and kitchen equipment on a three- or five-year rotation, as well as having the big bucks in the bank for the really big-hitting maintenance jobs such as installing new water heating systems, electric wiring, new pool areas, kitchens and bathrooms in all the units, new guest areas. Owners turn up for their holidays expecting their resort to look refreshed, clean, and ready to go. It doesn't just happen... It takes an army of staff and significant financial commitment to keep a resort and all its guest areas up-to-date and being a place you'd want to spend your precious down time.
Let me share some recent examples of resort refurbishments carried out by RCI-affiliated resorts. Last year Crown Resorts at Club Marbella in Spain (2404) completed a refurbishment programme of its resort and apartments costing €17 million. An upgrade of 145 apartments at Club Las Calas on Lanzarote (1448) cost €2 million. The list goes on. If you left your holiday home in Tenerife for 12 months, untended, no gardener, no pool cleaner, nobody to clean the apartment or tend to a leaky water pipe - how much of your time away would you spend cleaning and making good before you could actually start enjoying a holiday?
If you have read this blog to this point, I hope that you can see for yourself from the longevity of RCI memberships and the testimonials from members, how ridiculous it is to condemn the whole business of timeshare as a scam. As with all consumer products, unfortunately there are those who will take advantage of unsuspecting people and scam them. Vulnerability to fraud is not exclusive to timeshare, but has been prevalent across all businesses since time began, hence the age-old warning - caveat emptor or let the buyer beware...
Timeshare is actually regulated by one of the most robust pieces of consumer protection legislation of any consumer product. The EU Timeshare Directive is designed to protect the timeshare buyer and it is important to know that this makes the taking of any deposit money illegal and it also gives the buyer a 14-day cooling off period after signing the sales contract, during which time the buyer can walk away without having to pay a penny to anyone. You can't say that about many - if any - other consumer products.
Whether you are buying or selling a timeshare, apply the common sense rules you would to the purchase of a car or any expensive product. Always take your time and resist impulse buying and the hard sell, investigate the company you are buying from, talk to advisors and get an independent lawyer to check out your contract. If you search on the internet you will find much good advice and you can always turn to the Resort Development Organisation (RDO) which is the European governing body for timeshare which has imposed a Code of Ethics for its resort members to work by. Visit http://rdo.org/timeshare-help-advice/ to learn more, and for advice as to who the scammers are.
RCI has been offering timeshare owners a holiday exchange service since 1974 and many of the resorts affiliated to RCI have been in the timeshare business for 40 years or more. There are now more than 4,300 resorts affiliated to RCI, including some big brand names such as Hilton and Disney. Timeshare has proven itself to be an established business and the people within it are experienced professionals who have invested significantly in the build and operation of their resorts, and are rightly very proud of the guest experience they offer. Together with RDO and other agencies, many resort developers have also invested resource in uniting to help fight the fraud that is damaging their reputations and have enjoyed considerable success in closing down scam operators and making it so difficult for them to operate scams in the timeshare market that they will move onto pastures new.
When you buy a timeshare, you are buying the right to use that holiday property for a given period of time, each year, for a set period of use or 'ownership'. Timeshare is buying a number of years of holiday upfront. Timeshare has never been, and should never be sold as, an investment. When you buy timeshare you should be clear on the use rights and term of 'ownership' and, importantly, you should not expect to be able to sell it for the same or more than you paid for it.
Timeshare - or shared-holiday ownership as it is becoming known - is sold today on shorter term memberships, giving the buyer access to their 'home' resort and week purchased, with the right to swap it for others around the world, for a specified term of membership or ownership that may be as little as three years. Many sales now are termed 'memberships' rather than ownerships, to give better clarification as to the basis of the transaction.
Back in the day when it was 'the thing' to own a holiday home, many bought into in-perpetuity or 30-year contracts. If those timeshares have been used regularly to give a lifetime of family holidays, they have probably paid for themselves. What is changing in the world of timeshare is that increasing numbers of resort management companies are taking unwanted timeshares back, trusted resale companies which are recognised by RDO are offering sales and rental services to help. The business is now listening to those who bought on a long-term contract basis and may not want to pass it on to their children, and they are investigating the ways in which they can help those owners to release their timeshare, while safeguarding the level of fees needed on an annual basis to maintain the resort for the many other owners who still want to holiday there each year.
Timeshare or shared-holiday ownership is the preferred way to holiday for millions of people around the world. With the introduction of greater flexibility and choice when it comes to the different types of memberships and ownerships on offer today, there is a way to holiday to suit everyone.
If you already own timeshare and didn't realise that the exchange and holiday swap options were open to you, you can start your wider world adventures now by joining RCI in just a few simple steps. Click on the button below to start your journey...
Find out just how far you can travel with RCI membership by clicking on the button below to browse the RCI Directory of Resorts, complete with member reviews.