ARDA Report, How Research and Advocacy Are Transforming Today’s Timeshare Experience: Is it what it seems? Part 1

Last Wednesday, we introduced ARDA, the American Resorts Development Association. It is the “Trade Body” of the US timeshare industry and was formed by that very industry to “watch over” their interests, nothing inherently wrong with that, many industries have trade bodies, but as we have so often seen in timeshare, it is the consumer who pays the price.

In our previous article we briefly explained their role in “Advocacy” and how they have influenced legislation in their favour, they explain it well themselves:

“ARDA’s formidable advocacy arm promotes and defends the vacation ownership industry at the local, state, federal and international levels.”

We also touched on the ARDA report published in conjunction with Skift titled: “How Research and Advocacy Are Transforming Today’s Timeshare Experience

The title page has this statement from ARDA:

“Through its extensive research and advocacy efforts, the American Resort Development Association (ARDA) has played a pivotal role in shaping today’s timeshare experience, enhancing its flexibility and accessibility while paving the way for a promising future.”

The opening paragraph seems to set the tone by asking a simple question, it focuses on what they term the “sharing economy”, with their examples being Airbnb, Uber Turo, crowdfunding and co-working. With a statement which is rather demeaning, “Often lauded for prioritizing flexibility, convenience and ease of use”, they ask their own question, “But how does the timeshare industry, widely acknowledged as the “original” sharing economy, stack up?”

A very good question that the article does not seem to address, but from our own “RESEARCH” we think that ARDA is trying to “Big” themselves up again, look how important we are. Judging by all the complaints we receive and all the posts on social media, they are way off the mark when it comes to “prioritizing flexibility, convenience and ease of use.”

Only recently one post commented about “upgrading” so that they can get a “longer booking window”, does that sound like flexibility, convenience or ease of use, or does it sound like “we want more of your money?

Having used various booking platforms, one thing I have found is how quick and easy, even at the last minute, it has been and how satisfied myself and family have been with the results. The other plus is I didn’t have to pay a fortune to become a member or have annual fees to pay. I think we can rule that category out of the equation.

For an example of how flexible these platforms are, AIT published an itinerary and cost for a two-week tour of three major Spanish Cities,

Moving past the second paragraph we find mention and link to the ARDA International Foundation, (AIF), this takes you to the ARDA website and from here you can access their “Research”, not really a lot to see unless you are into reading self-praise rather than facts.

We then come to our first Sub-heading, The Evolving Role of Research, it begins with this rather wonderful statement:

“We recognized early on that we needed to use data to tell the story of timeshare,” Gamel said. “Part of the challenge of telling that story is being a hospitality product that is also a real-estate product at its core.”

Rather telling really, the fact they need to use “data” to tell the story of timeshare, what story pray tell?

We all know “data or statistics” can be manipulated to suit any purpose, we see it all the time with politicians, why would ARDA be any different, that is beside the point, the data or statistics are usually the result of surveys. It is very easy to manipulate a survey, the participating audience, can be selected to increase say the more affluent. The questions asked are also very important, they can be formed to “prompt” the correct response, these surveys are all based on Psychological research over the years and some of the techniques are also used during interrogations.

So, I think we can forget that statement, but in the second part of the comment by Mr Gamel, regarding real estate being at its core, again we see this link to “real estate”, again we ask what real estate?

It seems that even ARDA is confused as to what timeshare is. If he is referring to the “hotels & resorts”, that is the same as the standard hotel industry, they are in the business of hospitality and their “real estate” is at their core, without it they wouldn’t be there. Or is he referring to the “sales agents pitch” about “owning a share in the property?” We leave you to answer that.

It then goes on to explain how they placed “importance” on “sizing” the industry against other products. This focused on the number of timeshare units to hotel rooms along with “other” points of data. This was used as the article states:

“This was very helpful in growing an understanding for financial analysts, banks, and local legislators, who generally did not have a comprehensive understanding of the product or the players involved.”

Do I smell a manipulation here?

This is probably answered by this part of the paragraph:

“Over the years, as larger brands helped professionalize the sector, ARDA’s research enabled the timeshare industry to expand its story to serve public relations and further advocacy efforts.”

The key words here are “professionalise”, “public relations” and “advocacy”.

Firstly, professionalise, that cannot be disputed, they are very professional at what they do, pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes, a very “slick operation”. This is shown in their “public relations” and “advocacy” work, with articles such as this report and not to forget the “influence” they hold over the legislators.

This section continues with how “data” has evolved from the “early days”, using the example of occupancy rates post-pandemic, claiming the “data“has been essential to support the story of timeshare’s resiliency and recovery”. This is according to the AIF State of the Industry Report, I should point out that if you want to download this report from the ARDA website, you must create an account first, even though it’s FREE!

From where I was sitting, I would suspect this “rush” for “occupancy” was actually because “timeshare owners” in many cases had to “use or lose” the weeks not taken. This was shown by the huge amount of activity on social media about not being able to book, extra charges being applied and not to forget they had already “paid” for it.

So not a very good comparison.

But in all fairness, the next paragraph does, I think, explain the above,

“Today, ARDA’s research helps our communications team tell a variety of stories that help shape current perceptions about the modern timeshare industry,” another quote from Mr Gamel.

Please Mr Gamel, what perceptions are these, trying to tell us that timeshare is clean?

The paragraph ends with the introduction of research showing “owners’ experiences” and the impact on local economies, and not to forget the “generational shift” ending with another statement from Mr Gamel:

“It all ties back to providing flexibility, convenience, and ease of use, and also the unique experiences that younger travelers want.” The link is to another Skift article.

Somehow, I don’t think Timeshare is what they are looking for.

Our article today just starts our own “analysis”, in part two we look at the next sections and try to see through the illusion that is ARDA.


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