It would be safe to say that almost every industry has a “Trade Body”, a “club” if you like, usually set up by the industry itself and designed to show the industry in the best light possible and promote quality to their customers. Well, that is the theory, when it comes to timeshare it is a completely different story, Around the world there are “Trade Bodies” representing their industry in their region, and all seem to follow one particular model. That model is the American Resorts Development Association, ARDA.
As you would expect in Anglo-US relations, ARDAs closest ally is the Resorts Development Organisation, RDO, Headquartered in the UK and representing what is left of the timeshare industry in Europe. But more on them in a separate article.
When you enter the ARDA website, you are greeted with a “Banner” proudly proclaiming “A commitment to excellence in timeshare”. Excellence for who, the industry or the consumer?
This statement is repeated as you scroll the home page under the heading “OUR VALUES” with the link “Learn About Us”.
As you scroll further down the home page you will find another statement headed “OUR WORK”, “We are the voice of the timeshare community”. What community, the industry or the members?
The last bold statement you will come to will be “Join a community of vacation ownership leaders”. Well, we know who that is really aimed at.
So, who is ARDA?
Clicking on the first link, you will be taken to the ARDA “About Us” page, it is here they “explain” who they are and what they do. The page begins with this opening paragraph:
ARDA is the face of vacation ownership.
“Based in Washington, D.C., the American Resort Development Association (ARDA) is the trade association for the timeshare industry. ARDA’s membership comprises over 350 companies (both privately held firms and publicly traded corporations). ARDA’s active, engaged members have extensive experience in shared ownership interests in leisure real estate.”
So, we know they are “situated” at the seat of legislative power, the Capital of the United States of America. Not surprising really, after all, if you want to influence, it’s better to be at the centre of things. The RDO did hastily set up an office in Brussels when Timeshare was on the EU legislative agenda.
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?
Under the statement “We are the voice of the timeshare community” you will find the link “See Our Advocacy Work”. This is where you will get to the real “nitty gritty” of what ARDA does.
Straight away you are greeted with a statement which is bold and indicates they will take “no prisoners”, “ARDA’s formidable advocacy arm promotes and defends the vacation ownership industry at the local, state, federal and international levels.”
Using the word “Formidable” should set your alarm bells ringing.
After the statement is the opening paragraph:
“From state houses to Capitol Hill, ARDA educates policymakers and forges relationships so that the industry is properly recognized as a key sector of the hospitality industry.”
It actually reads like a statement a teenager would make about “educating their parents” that they are not “properly recognised”. Joking aside, it is a statement which clearly tells us that what they want they will get.
The paragraph continues with:
“ARDA’s advocacy work has succeeded in bringing about favorable legislation at home and abroad regarding timeshare laws; subdivided land regulations; sales and marketing regulations; real estate and property management licensing; sales, property, and occupancy taxes; consumer protection regulations and other fundamental issues for the vacation ownership industry.”
Firstly, who are they referring to when they say “Favourable”, is it themselves and their members or is it the consumer?
We also very much doubt if ARDA was “instrumental” in any of the EU laws or even the Spanish Timeshare Laws, which are very much in favour of the consumer. The industry in Europe through greed, ignored those laws and has now suffered the consequences, a totally discredited and defunct industry.
The rest of the page has links to the following subjects:
The first section gives a potted history of ARDA and opens with this statement:
“For decades, ARDA has advocated for sensible regulation that promotes and protects our segment of the hospitality industry, while putting into place strong pillars of consumer protection — including things like financial assurances, escrow for purchasers funds, state-vetted public offering statement/budgets and rescission periods.”
Well, we can’t argue with that sentiment, it is what AIT and thousands of consumers have been asking for over the years. Fundamentally there is nothing wrong with timeshare, it suits its purpose for some, we agree there should be sensible regulation that protects consumers from malpractice but does not stifle trade.
The problem is that is not in fact the case, the stories we have published over the years are a testament to those malpractices by ARDA’s own members. Those stories are also only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, 2 thirds of which are submerged and unseen.
Coming to An Evolving Product, they do acknowledge that timeshare was an “unregulated” industry, well, no one really knew what it was at the time, we still don’t.
The most important section by far has to be “Establishing an Ethical Foundation”, with a link to the ARDA Code of Ethics, the section in full reads:
“ARDA members approved the Model Timeshare Act in 1983, establishing a foundation of credibility for the industry. From there, ARDA has been able to work with legislators and regulators on issues that affect both developers and consumers.”
“Later in the 1980s, ARDA established the timeshare industry’s Code of Ethics, which serves as the industry statement on ethical sales practices. Every ARDA member must agree to abide by this code as a condition of membership.”
Wonderful words, except for the last sentence, “Every ARDA member must agree to abide by this code as a condition of membership.”
Our question on behalf of timeshare owners who have fallen prey to “member developers” breaching those “Codes of Ethics” is, what has ARDA done to stop them from doing so?
I remember being told by someone many years ago, “Don’t judge a society by its laws, judge them by how they abide by them.” Wise words, especially in this instance.
Bypassing the next two sections we come to the “Legislative Policy Council”.
This appears to be a fairly new initiative judging from the opening statement:
“The changing landscape of both the timeshare industry and the legislative and regulatory arena have created the opportunity for ARDA to build on its history of leadership and success in advocacy with a new platform suited to the current atmosphere: the Legislative Policy Council (LPC).”
It is followed by a brief statement on what it is and ends with an invitation to join, subject to certain conditions, obviously.
There is then a list of current LPC Member Companies
|ARDA Resort Owners Coalition (ARDA-ROC)||Founder
|Bluegreen Vacations Corporation||Founder|
|Disney Vacation Club||Founder|
|Hilton Grand Vacations Inc.||Founder|
|Holiday Inn Club Vacations||Founder|
|Marriott Vacations Worldwide Corporation||Founder|
|Travel + Leisure Co.||Founder|
|Grand Pacific Resorts||Advisor – Three States|
|Somerpointe Resorts||Advisor – Three States|
|Starpoint Resort Group Inc.||Advisor – Three States|
|The Berkley Group Inc.||Advisor – Three States|
|Great Eastern Resort Corporation||Advisor – Single State – Virginia|
|Vacatia||Advisor – Single State – Virginia|
There is however a fee to join, provided you do meet the “criteria”, the cost can be seen in the following PDF, and depends on what level of membership you want. We must admit there are a few dubious characters in there.
The last two are the link to the ARDA-ROC description, basically claiming they represent Owners/Members, debatable. The last link is to introduce the “Advocacy Team” with the usual photographs and who they are.
There is much more to explore on the ARDA website, most of it is repetitive and boastful, but the truth to what they represent is there, you just have to look for it. They call it reading between the lines, it is not what they say, it is what they don’t say.
This was brought home by a History Professor when I was doing a study of the Balfour Declaration of 1917. In this declaration, the British promised to create a Jewish homeland, but they also promised a free Arab state, that placated both sides, after all there was a war raging in the region.
The professor told me to “read between” the lines, well, it did promise those things, but it didn’t say how, but it did clearly point out it was going to be under their administration. In other words, we are having it for ourselves, and you can be “independent” under our flag.
A simple explanation I know, but he was right, it is what the document didn’t say, which was the seed of the conflict and is continuing today.
ARDA is a trade body which lobbies for its member’s interests, full stop.
Only last week we published a link to the ARDA Skift article.
Read it, read between the lines, and use your own knowledge and experiences of timeshare, you will start to see the truth behind the propaganda. AIT will be publishing our take on this as a follow-up article on ARDA, I wonder if you will see the same anomalies or point out some new ones?