Last week our article “ARDA Report, How Research and Advocacy Are Transforming Today’s Timeshare Experience: Is it what it seems?” was our “interpretation” of the article run by Skift in conjunction with ARDA.
Skift is a News website for the travel industry, on their About page https://skift.com/about/ you are greeted by these words
“Skift is about transformation – that shift into the future of travel – and we are the information and intelligence brand at the center of it”
This is followed by an introduction as to who they are and what they do:
This is Skift
Skift (verb) – origin: Nordic languages – meaning: Shift; transformation.
As the daily homepage for the world’s largest industry, we are the leading news source for travel executives. We’ve proven ourselves as the information and intelligence brand at the center of it all, monitoring the ever-evolving transformation into the future of travel.
Every day, our award-winning team of journalists provides pivotal media insights on key travel sectors – with marketers, strategists and technologists top of mind. In doing so, we decipher and define global travel trends through a combination of news, research, conferences, exclusive interviews, strategic sector-focused newsletters, and more.
We are the leading travel news outlet – on a journey to better understand the world’s largest industry.
From this, we can assume they are independent and carry out research and help to “write” the articles on behalf of clients in this case ARDA. Obviously, even though they may be independent of ARDA, it will be ARDA paying the cash and setting the parameters of the survey. After all, you do what the client is paying you for.
On that note, we continue our look at the report with the next section
How Research Powers Advocacy
It is true that research is a powerful tool, but that research has to be balanced, not “made up” with spurious figures and rhetoric, which this short section certainly is.
This paragraph begins with a statement that in addition to “demographic trends”, ARDA uses data to tell “stories” on how timeshare “supports” local economies. Isn’t this true of any place with “hospitality” as one of its main economic factors, that is certainly the case in Spain’s Costa’s or any “tourist” spot in the world, not just “TIMESHARE RESORTS”.
Again, they use figures of “average spends” by a party of four followed by a figure of the “total” off-site spending going into billions of dollars, and that’s it, the only other reference to this is the AIF, yes you have it, the ARDA International Foundation.
Where are the independent figures or links to them?
Well, the only answer we are given is this statement once again from Mr Gamel:
“Owners are traveling, occupancy numbers are high, and they’re spending in local communities,” Gamel said. “It’s clear that timeshare has contributed in a significant way to the travel industry’s recovery.”
The paragraph goes on to say that it is this type of research which helps ARDA to build “case studies” to “fight on behalf of developers and owners for reform in areas like tax regulation.” Notice how it is the Developers first, could it be that it was an afterthought of the author to add owners for balance?
Now this is where it does get confusing, Mr Gamel then states:
“We have extensive data points about how much owners pay in real-estate property taxes,”
But timeshare is not property or real estate, or is it, let us remind you of one paragraph from Timeshare Trade Bodies: ARDA
The last part of the paragraph was a little confusing, “members have extensive experience in shared ownership interests in leisure real estate”. The reason I find it confusing is what they mean by “Real Estate”, in the last statement Mr Gamel did say that although, “We’re sold and look like real estate, but we act like hospitality, so timeshare is in a unique position that requires a lot of education,” are you still confused?
Mr Gamel said in the Skift report:
“They end up paying for local services like schools, even though they don’t use those services the way full-time residents use them.”
What is confusing is the local tax, yes we know they will not be using local services like schools, they only go there on holiday, surely the “local taxes” are part and parcel of the resort’s responsibilities and not the once-a-year owner?
These would cover things like refuse collection, policing and any other functions, do hotels which also have self-catering facilities or rented villas have their customers pay these?
The answer has yet to be found, is timeshare a holiday product or a purchase in property come real estate?
Advocacy: Influencing the Regulatory Landscape
We now have our first introduction to ARDA-ROC, an organisation established by ARDA itself in the 1990s. In their own words, they claim the Resort Owners’ Coalition is:
“to harness the voices of timeshare owners and finance political activities to safeguard them from unfair and restrictive regulations.”
Here Mr Gamel seems to focus on renting out your timeshare, but again his comments are confusing, or are they deliberately made so?
The second paragraph in full is
“In recent years, laws designed to keep homeowners from turning their properties into vacation rentals have had an adverse effect on timeshare owners. Regulatory fights about short-term rentals have cropped up in communities like Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where a lack of affordable housing is pushing people who work in the city’s ski resorts and hotels to live an hour or two outside of town.”
We have covered the subject of renting your timeshare in several articles, but we are not able to see the link between “affordable housing” for workers and renting out a timeshare.
Their argument on workers being “forced out” to find affordable housing is not confined to timeshare, but it is a huge factor in any area that is classified as “tourist”. Even in Spain, workers can be travelling for a couple of hours to get to work because they cannot afford housing nearer, it is a “tourist resort”, property prices will always be high. We should also factor in that the majority of “hospitality” workers will only be on a “minimum wage”.
Shaping the Timeshare Experience
Well, there is not much I can say about this section other than it’s the usual rhetoric we have come to know and love, so in their own words:
“Over the past decade, with ARDA’s research and advocacy efforts paving the way, these larger hospitality brands have been able to reinvent the timeshare industry, adding point-based products that offer greater flexibility and exclusive experiences that appeal to a new generation of owners.”
“Even the process of purchasing timeshare products has been updated for this changing demographic, reflecting the fact that over half of today’s timeshare owners are Gen Z or Millennials.”
“Purchase documents used to come in a big binder of papers that was a foot thick in some states,” Gamel said. “But younger consumers expect everything in electronic form, so we worked with regulatory agencies to allow for digital delivery of documents.”
“It all ties back to enabling greater flexibility, an increasingly important need for all travelers in this age of travel evolution and fragmentation.”
If you believe that you will believe anything.
As a last word, we must give credit to the writer of the Skift article, they were tasked to present the report commissioned by ARDA, with their “facts/data”, and in the best possible light. Not an easy task when it is your paymasters calling the tune, so if you ever want to write about the “TRUTH” of timeshare, AIT will happily publish it, just don’t expect to get paid, no one here does.