How Telecommunication and the Internet Revolutionized Timesharing

How Telecommunication and the Internet Revolutionized Timesharing

Fractional ownership has come a long way since the 1960’s. What was once seen as a revolutionary way to travel is now more commonly viewed as perpetually bad decision. While timeshare companies have been doing their best to address negative perception since the 1970’s, they haven’t been able to truly overcome the number of bad experiences travelers have had. Especially when consumers have given the hospitality giant every chance to redeem themselves. Just like any other major purchase decision that ends in disappointment, it’s hard for timeshare owners (past or current) to buy back into the product or service. It’s why so many want to get out of their agreement.

Disappointment and Disdain for Timeshare Owners

Throughout history, it has seemed like timeshare companies have continued to ignore the simple fact that buyer’s remorse (or regret) doesn’t only affect the individual. The customer experience eventually becomes an evergreen recommendation. A disappointed timeshare owner carries a lot more weight than a positive review. Early on, this wasn’t a major concern for resorts.

Prior to advancements in telecommunication, resorts didn’t have to worry too much about rapid word of mouth exchanges. They could keep negativity fairly contained while trekking forward with development. But as technology advanced, resorts were too busy chasing communicative opportunities to notice that timeshare owners began communicating their indifference.

Technology Became a Double Edged Sword for Timesharing

Like we’ve mentioned in previous articles, the lack of information about timesharing greatly benefitted the resort’s ability to close consumers on their concept for travel. The uninformed had no way of researching the product or skimming reviews in order to make an informed decision. In most cases, they couldn’t even phone a friend that knew anything about timeshare ownership.

The actuality of the experience was cloudy at best. Most stereotypes were combated with ongoing, promised improvements including credible hotel chain merges and rewards programs. But using intrigue to distract current and potential timeshare owners instead of improving the experience proved to be unsustainable. It was just a matter of time before that cat got out of the bag.

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When communicative innovation began, the timeshare industry viewed it as an opportunity instead of a hurdle. While they were busy expanding call centers and streamlining marketing for new acquisition, consumers were talking. It’s like they didn’t forecast the inevitable. When a business avoids listening to their customers while turning up the volume of their sales message, the end result is rarely favorable. Happy customers normally give glowing reviews when asked, but disgruntled buyers typically tell anyone who’s willing to listen. Misery loves company and timeshare owners that were taken advantage of began to voice a reason for skepticism.

With that being said, let’s take a look at some of these technological advancements that have altered the industry for good.

How Telecommunication Spread the Word of Timesharing

If you’ve looked into the history of timeshare ownership, you’ll see that the industry expanded quickly. The ability for investors and entrepreneurs to communicate about expansion opportunities over the phone was the main reason growth occurred so quickly. Striking up deals and uncovering destination travel was revolutionary for the hospitality industry. Places people hadn’t dreamed of visiting easily became a reality. What buyers didn’t realize was that timesharing wasn’t always what it was “said” to be.

Timeshare Cold Calling Tactics.

For a good part of history, resorts used one-way communication to describe the timeshare experience. Call centers focused solely on acquisition controlled the message by enlightening consumers on opportunities they’d never heard of. Because people thought they’d won something unique, they weren’t even cognizant of the sale. Although cold calling was first documented in 1873, call scripts and sales strategies over the past few decades have boosted the reach of sales organizations exponentially. .

What was typically done on a local level by small businesses was quickly implemented on a global scale for timeshare travel. Early on, people weren’t normally bombarded like we are today with telephone scams. This allowed cold calling to be initially effective for timeshare sales teams. Before spam calls were common, people were intrigued, more willing to listen and easily sold on something they weren’t privy to. Since the overall perception of timesharing was still vague, salesman took advantage of an innocent, gullible audience.

Timeshare Owners Can Communicate Too.

As knowledge of the unfavorable transaction spread and cold call tactics were exposed, people started talking. Instead of continuously waiting for customer service departments to right the ship, they began taking advantage of public phone directories to file complaints with government divisions and consumer rights programs. As laws and regulations started cracking down on timeshare sales schemes, the industry had to look towards other means to acquire fractional owners.

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Unlike yesteryear, persuading a consumer to buy a timeshare over the phone is nearly impossible today. While the initial call may be used to build rapport, additional measures are now needed to fully persuade targets. Because of this, sales presentations and tours have remained the main source of new acquisition for timeshares.

Over the last decade or so, timeshare companies have realized they have to find ways to get consumers to call them. Initially, direct mail marketing campaigns with enticing pitches aided their ability to do so. But as technology continued to evolve and with remorse still a concern, resorts knew the rise of the internet provided them with the best opportunity acquire new customers.

How the Internet Changed the Timeshare Industry for Good.

Today, you don’t necessarily have to sit through a timeshare sales pitch in person. Technology has given sales and hospitality organizations an advantage when interacting with consumers. Aside from participating in a live demo, you can also receive digital messages and virtual tours online. But it wasn’t always this easy. When the internet first came into fruition, email was a huge opportunity for resorts to get in front of prospective timeshare owners.

Email Gave Timeshares an Advantage

The same persuasive tactics that were being used over the phone and during events could now be typed into a personalized message used to target the millions of people online. Can you imagine receiving a “too good to be true” offer in your digital mailbox for the first time? We might balk at it today, but email was extremely powerful in the early 2000’s. Online discernment was basically nonexistent and many users were extremely gullible.

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The internet era brought a ton of value to timeshare companies but it also opened the door for digital fraud and predatory scams. This tainted the industry’s reputation even more. Over time, spam and phishing regulations cut down on misleading emails and fraudulent activity. But online decision-making was still minuscule. Although email scams still exist, consumers have become more aware of tactics and are less prone to engage with this form of communication.

Aside from new acquisition, emailed allowed resorts to also upsell current property owners while improving the way they managed retention. Despite sales tactics remaining the same, the added element helped them expand their reach while maximizing revenue streams. It even gave them a persuasive advantage when it came to targeting older generations that refused to educate themselves on the internet realm. Sadly, the online aging demographic is still a major target for sales organizations today.

The Benefit and Backfire of Additional Online Advancements 

Despite the emergence of text messaging in the early 2000’s, email has continued to be a strong form on communication. Nearly every form of verbal communication has been replaced with written messaging. You can now reach online users on social media and other platforms that typically require an email address to use. In turn, the ability for timeshare companies to collect and segment user data (emails, social media accounts, bookmarks, subscriptions, etc) has become extremely important. Once an entity has your email address, they can pretty much find you anywhere online with your digital footprint.

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Technological advancements in online marketing have given companies the ability to target, track and re-market consumers on multiple channels. When one message isn’t effective, they try another. When you hang up the phone, they can now email you. When you unsubscribe from an email list, agencies can (and in most cases will) sell your information to another entity with a different product or agenda. Once you show interest by attending a timeshare sales presentation (or by clicking your mouse) they’re going to do everything they can to close you. They’re very good at this by the way. Not only does this help them address the increased acquisition costs of presentations, but it allows them to maximize their initial efforts. Phone scripts and email campaigns have turned into engaging social media posts, video presentations and other forms of interactive media. Resorts have even paid famous influencers to promote their timeshares.

Timeshare Scams Lurk Everywhere Online

Besides strategic variation, the online scape also provides timeshare companies and predatory agencies with a unique ability to pivot when things go south. Even though online reviews and scam reports expose unethical practices, online businesses can easily rebrand their company and launch a new website in no time. With the internet still being considered a wild west of sorts, it’s been extremely difficult for consumer and government organizations to regulate the space. Online booking has also made it very easy for online entities to mislead and take advantage of oblivious internet users. This is why it’s so important that you research digital purchases before making them.

What Does the Future of the Timeshare Industry Look Like?

Despite the reputation of the timeshare industry being at an all time low, conglomerates have continued to find a way to make billions of dollars every year. With the rise of vacation rentals and other non-contractual options, one can assume the timeshare industry will eventually slow down. But it seems like people have been making that claim for quite some time now. No matter how bad morale gets, the industry always seems to find a way out. While a number of timeshare owners struggle to make the most of their purchase, the timeshare sales machine continues to trek on. Will the online voice of the consumer be enough to put an end to the perpetual agreement or will timesharing overcome? Only time will tell..

Are you a timeshare owner that’s frustrated with your current agreement? Would you like to discuss your options? We take pride in helping fractional owners exhaust all their options before discussing our timeshare cancellation service. If you’d like to know more, you can schedule a FREE consultation or submit a qualification form below.

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The Evolution of Timeshare Ownership Since 1980

The Evolution of Timeshare Ownership Since 1980

While you might be reading this to help you determine if a timeshare is worth it, some of you may want to know why your timeshare experience isn’t what it used to be. The industry has come a long way since its conception over 55 years ago and it’s very advantageous of you to pursue a better understanding of the perpetual purchase. Knowing what to expect from timeshare companies and how to make the most of your purchase is important. The evolution of timeshare ownership after 1980 played a big role in what owners face today.

The Reality of the Timeshare Industry

Although traveling options have evolved tremendously since the 1960’s, the purpose of timeshare ownership hasn’t really changed. What’s actually become more clear over time is the intent behind travel corporations and the resorts themselves. Instead of vying for consumer attention with convenience, timeshare companies have slowly shifted their focus towards the mass amounts of revenue within the travel industry. When you think about it, you can’t really blame them. You’d think most people wouldn’t make an impulse buy of this magnitude, but they do. It’s been rather simple for many of these companies to persuade their way into million-dollar market shares without much consideration for those driving the revenue.

Whether timeshare owners view the purchase as fruitful or not, they’re still under contract with an obligation to pay. Perpetual agreements have been extremely beneficial to resorts and have fueled the success of the multi-billion dollar industry today. In reality, any business with guaranteed monthly revenue would thrive. In our last article, we touched on the infant stages of timesharing and the massive expansion efforts that followed. So, let’s travel back to the 1980’s and see what happened once the rush of the industry was in full swing.

How Timeshare Ownership Evolved in the 1980’s.

As the industry exploded in the 1970’s, many timeshare owners started to realize availability wasn’t what they thought it would be. Because of this, they slowly began demanding a little more flexibility from resorts. This trend continued into the 1980’s when even more unfavorable solutions continued to put a bandaid on the problem. Although “The Two Bobs” pioneered a points system to reward their owners early on, not all timeshare companies followed suit into the 80’s. The revenue-focus of the 70’s eventually clouded the judgement of resorts. Taking care of their primary source of income wasn’t a priority like it was for the industry’s pioneers.

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During this decade, resorts also began to experience a growth in general travel inquiries. This was due to the exposure they received from timeshare travel. In comparison to fractional ownership, retail opportunities during peak seasons provided a much higher return for resorts. They realized they could hike up prices during peak seasons and divvy out the remaining weeks to their owners. Sales organizations (which is what most timeshares companies evolved into), are always going to focus on what drives the most revenue. Because of this, timeshare owners typically received the short end of the stick. But it didn’t mean timeshare companies stopped trying to appease fractional owners. The problem was, their efforts weren’t sustainable.

Fixed Systems Evolve into Limited Floating Systems

In order to find a balance, timeshare companies began promising owners a certain number of weeks throughout the year to choose from. A well-known example is the float system. This was created to give users options outside of the traditional fixed system. They could either use their purchased unit (villa) during their scheduled week or they could use a floating week during certain times of the year on a similar unit (number or rooms, size or location). A typical unit in the 80’s consisted of two bedrooms and two full baths with a maximum sleeping capacity for six to eight people.

While this was a step above what owners received before, the ineffectiveness of the resolution actually created more problems. Today, many timeshare owners still face availability concerns and incomparable lodging. We can’t imagine what it was like in the 1980’s. Because of limitations, many developers began expanding into urban markets to provide users with a variety of options. But like the previous decade, far too many were offering packages and plans that didn’t even exist yet – throwing yet another wrench into the timeshare owner experience.

The Beginning of Timeshare Sales Regulations

By the early 1980s, the tactics of development companies began to get out of hand. While this affected the global trade, the United States was one of the first countries to take a stand. Since many timeshare destinations were located in Florida, the state became concerned with unethical selling practices that were affecting their tourists. In turn, they passed a law in 1983 that imposed strict restrictions that only complying developers could meet.

While the main objective was to eliminate unethical practices in Florida, this moment in time could have single handedly saved the industry from collapsing altogether. Another important accomplishment of the 1980’s was the formulation of the ARDA. What started out as a small regulatory organization slowly turned into a conglomerate that regulated timeshare sales while attempting to maintain a certain level of ethics within the industry. Coupled with the entrance of major lodging companies, like Marriott in 1984, government regulations strongly influenced consumers in the 80’s. Although the negative perception wasn’t totally removed, these occurrences added extensive credibility to timeshare travel.

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How Timeshare Ownership Evolved in the 1990’s

Although timesharing stumbled into 1990, expansion continued. The main reason was because the industry proved it could dominate holiday travel. At the same time, regulations still weren’t able to slow down misleading sales tactics and the number of complaints by users. Rapid expansion made it difficult for the government to keep up and once again things got out of control. While some may say timeshare travel was far worse in the 90’s vs the 80’s, it’s hard to say. Timeshare ownership had grown to 4 million global users and over 2,300 shared resorts in the 90’s. The increase in consumer dissatisfaction might have simply been caused by the drastic increase in owners. Either way, something needed to be done to get things under control.

What’s interesting about the 80’s and 90’s is the industry’s strategy to overcome its flaws. Instead of addressing the problems fractional owners had, timeshare companies continued to distract their users with anticipative efforts. Not much has changed today. In order to paint the picture of a brighter future, major hotel brands continued to step onto the scene. While Marriott got their foot in the door first, Ramada, Four Seasons, Sheraton, Hilton, Radisson, Disney, Ritz-Carlton and Westin all pursued the potential of timesharing in the 90’s. As sales continued to skyrocket, the experience remained less-than-stellar.

Rapid Expansion Left the Government Reeling.

By 1990, the Office of Fair Trading launched its first investigation and report for the timeshare industry. To give you some perspective on how bad sales had gotten, it took the government almost a decade to organize and respond to the overwhelming number of unethical sales and false advertising complaints. While many people felt as though the government failed them, forecasting this type of epidemic was nearly impossible. Nonetheless, the basis of these investigations and reports helped formulate the Timeshare Act of 1992.

No matter how many laws passed in the 90’s, nothing slowed down the aggressive tactics of sales organizations until Europe banned upfront payments in 1998. Despite progress for consumer rights, nothing actually decreased the number of complaints timeshare owners filed. In the end, misleading tactics continued to prevail because regulations were ignored or manipulated by companies fueled by greed. Those with disdain for laws and regulations simply continued to prey on vulnerable fractional owners.

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The Evolved Timeshare Industry of the 2000’s.

Towards the end of the 90’s, industry concerns became further complicated when rental properties came into fruition. Online communication and email also made it even more difficult for regulations to keep up. At this point, anyone could take a stab at the travel market. Aside from unethical sales practices online (that had also never been seen before), timeshare owners were now being marketed improved opportunities for lower prices. If they were disgruntled before, this only added bitterness to their experience. This is when predatory agencies began preying on desperate, gullible fractional owners. The deceit of the industry enhanced sales but only added to the negative stigma of timeshare ownership.

After nearly 4 decades in motion, the timeshare industry was still experiencing the same problems that troubled it’s users from the get go. At this point, some consumers had been dealing with dissatisfaction for a long time. Others grew tired of their purchase and were ready to find a way to move on from their agreement. Since major hospitality organizations controlled the marketplace, there wasn’t much users could do to escape their unwanted timeshare contract. This changed (kind of) when resale opportunities emerged.

Resale Opportunities Provided Hope For Timeshare Owners

Timeshare companies initially discouraged resales for obvious reasons, but were forced to compete when secondary markets began offering relief. These independent resellers whom consisted of smaller, local real estate brokers, used traditional real estate techniques to resell timeshare contracts. The problem was, most buyers didn’t purchase their timeshare through real estate channels, rather resort marketing programs.

Because of this, these tactics rarely worked. Either way, resorts wanted to make sure their users weren’t being enticed by possibilities to get out of their contract. Again, sales organizations aren’t focused on refunds and eliminating residual income. They viewed resales as another opportunity to sell fractional owners on something else and the manipulation continued. There are plenty of resale, transfer and exchange tactics from the early 2000’s that are still used today.

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Could the Timeshare Industry be History Soon?

No matter what tactic resorts rolled out, they were never really able to slow down the rising number of frustrated timeshare owners. Instead of focusing on the consumer experience when they had the chance, they slowly started to lose their grip on the travel industry. By the mid 2000’s, timeshare companies became so concerned with trying to get their users to forget about the past that the future of the timeshare industry started looking slim.

Once the vacation rental revolution finally started gaining traction, timeshares couldn’t compete with their ability to deliver on a positive experience. As the media grew it’s reach and social media took over the internet, the deceit and unethical practices of the timeshare industry became a bigger topic of conversation.

Timeshare cancellation services also began helping fractional owners legally get rid of their contracts for good. Despite continued scams, the legitimacy of these services are now at an all-time high. As awareness continues to grow, a majority of consumers are making informed decisions on timeshare ownership. Today, nearly ⅔ of timeshare owners unwillingly pay their annual maintenance and assessment fees. One could say the perception is at an all-time low. If the trend continues then we could see a drastic change in the timeshare landscape by 2025.

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Aside from a number of improved travel options emerging, consumers are now able to research and purchase travel packages that best suit them. While the timeshare timeline has lasted almost 6 decades, it looks like it’s time for the industry to start sharing the wealth with platforms that value the user experience. They don’t really have a choice. But it’s safe to assume they’ll continue targeting uninformed consumers until the market completely dries up. The history of timeshare evolution doesn’t really show us otherwise.

If you’re frustrated with your timeshare contract..

and want to learn more about canceling your agreement, we’d love to schedule a free consultation with you to go over your options. If you’d like to skip the guidance and jump right into the qualification process, then you can fill out an eligibility form below.

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The History of Timeshare Ownership | Part 1: 1960’s and 70’s

The History of Timeshare Ownership | Part 1: 1960’s and 70’s

Over the last year, we’ve spent a lot of time speaking on the ins and outs of fractional ownership and how timeshare cancellation works. If you haven’t already noticed, we’re pretty passionate about helping people understand what a timeshare contract is and what getting out of one can entail. Far too many consumers say “yes” to timeshare ownership because they’re persuaded to be confident in a decision they know little about. They haven’t been exposed to anything other than the sale.

Since we live in a world overwhelmed by advertisements, it’s becoming harder for people to make their own purchase decisions. Because of this, being informed on timeshare ownership prior to attending a sales presentation can be a game changer. Not all timeshares are bad. There are plenty of owners enjoying their decision right now. But it’s because they took the time to fully understanding what they were buying before signing on the dotted line.

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The timeshare industry has come a long way since it first took off in the 1960’s. Although the industry still thrives today, their sales-centric model is slowly chipping away at their market share. Right to use contracts, vacation rentals and travel clubs have emerged as viable alternatives that allow people to avoid perpetual commitments.

As vacationing continues to evolve, the timeshare industry hasn’t necessarily become what it was initially set out to be. Familiarizing ourselves with the history of timeshare ownership helps us better understand what went wrong and why so many of today’s fractional owners are now wanting to get out of timeshare contracts for good. So let’s take a look at the very beginning of timeshare ownership.

Where Timeshares Began

Like most innovative concepts, the purpose of the timeshare hasn’t changed much over time. The need and greed was always there. Even before evolving into the multi-billion dollar global sales machine that it is today, a convenient and affordable getaway was the initial proposition.

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The First Ever Timeshare

The first ever timeshare came about in 1963 when a developer named Hapimag and his partner Dr. Guido Renggli constructed a 13-unit resort in Graubuenden, Switzerland after acquiring multiple resort properties in the area. They began selling right to use packages while pioneering the first points program and the very first timeshare rescission clause.

The First Hotel-Condominium Timeshare

In the meantime, Americans were developing their own variation on the island of Maui, Hawaii. The Hilton Hale Kaanapali broke ground in late October of 1965 and consisted of 6 buyers.  Greg Dillon, Conrad Hilton, Robert “Bob” Svoboda, Erik Jacobsen, Ed Hasting and Fritz Burns were the first to purchase a Hotel-Condominium Timeshare in the United States. Owned by Amfac, the property was located on a Pioneer Mill Plantation that covered 15,000 acres.

The First Timeshare Sales Strategy

Somewhere during the later half of the 1960’s (some say as early as 1964), Paul Doumier of the Société des Grands Travaux de Marseille development company was constructing his own timeshare concept for a ski resort in the French Alps. His firm, SuperDevoluy, was able to persuade travelers that buying a room at his resort was far cheaper than renting one. Doumier is an important figure to remember when it comes to the history of timeshares because his ad campaign is the framework for today’s sales presentations.

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The First Non-Hotel Condo Timeshare

At the tail end of the 60’s, Hawaii stepped backed onto the scene when Robert Burns and Bob Ringenburg began selling weekly intervals for leasehold condos on the island of Kaua`i. Shortly after, The Kaua`i Kailani became the first non-hotel condo timeshare sold in America. “The Two Bobs” went from pitching forty-year leases in the spring of 1969 to launching their own company. Determined to prove they valued their members, they were the first timeshare to roll out a flexible points system. After 40+ years in business, VI Resorts still stands by the slogan, “Flexibility is Key.”

Timeshare Transformations in the 1970’s.

Once the trend of the timeshare hit the marketplace, there were plenty of investors after a piece of the pie. Something that had never been done before quickly became revolutionary for travel. Places that people didn’t dream of being able to visit were now at their fingertips. To say the timeshare industry took off in the 1970’s would be an understatement. In the early history of timeshare ownership, bad experiences weren’t viewable like they are today. Reviews and scams didn’t taint perception and it was easy for consumers to see the purchase was worthwhile.

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As popularity grew, the revenue generated by the resorts provided timeshare companies with unique opportunities. Once success was had, expansion was inevitable. One of the biggest advancements of the industry was geographical expansion efforts. Anywhere in the world could now be turned into a vacation haven that locked buyers into lifelong commitments. All timeshare companies had to do was sell fractional ownerships. Keep in mind, the capabilities of marketing in the 70’s was nothing like it is today.

History of Timeshare Competition and a Sales Focus

Although some companies were content with where they were, other organizations emerged and exchange companies began to formulate. Since the industry was unregulated, competition emerged quickly in the timeshare industry. Exchange companies began to rise in power and dominate markets with their ability to spend. This decade saw ownership go from 45 to 350 buyers and resorts expanded from 10,000 to 200,000 properties.

While the 70’s is known for the growth in timeshare interest, it doesn’t mean the industry didn’t face it’s challenges. It was nearly impossible to predict and seamlessly address flaws or inconveniences that never existed before. Snags in the user experience started to evolve when when a U.S. tax ruling stalled the “right to use” concept.

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When money slowed down for resorts, they started abandoning their customer focus and began spending more time developing sales tactics to fill intervals. While quality lodging was offered throughout this period, the stigma of consumer ripoff and dissatisfaction clouded the appeal of all recreational properties in nearly every destination – even when perception was inaccurate. Developers also began taking advantage of blind consumers by offering travel packages that didn’t yet exist. As a result of dishonest activity, state lawmakers started considering extensive product registration and licensing for timeshare enterprises.

It took years to overcome some of the misleading tactics and much of the negative stigma remains today. If you ask people that were involved with the industry during this period of time, they’ll tell you that consumer skepticism began in the 70’s. Timesharing didn’t even reach it’s 10th birthday before people noticed greed taking over. The quick dollar started to become valued more than long term sustainability and customer loyalty. It’s a shame because many of the founding fathers proved it doesn’t have to be this way.

Timesharing Officially Became a Movement by the 1980’s.

At the same time, this era of timeshare history also brought a lot of progress towards a better system. Secondary lenders began financing receivable and small regional sellers established themselves. The first national timeshare conference was held, publications started garnering interest and the ARDA founded the Resort Timesharing Council. Many of the events and happenings surrounding the industry today originated during this timeframe. The first and today’s largest exchange company, RCI, got its start in the 70’s. Interval International also opened for business in this decade. These two companies are currently affiliated with 99% of the timeshare resorts in the U.S.

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A lot transpired during the first 17 years of timeshare history. New ideas, facilities, partnerships, merges and communities during this time in history revolutionized vacationing. As the travel industry continues to evolve today, one can’t help but wonder if timesharing will continue making billions long term. With more options geared towards the user experience, it’s hard to believe a sales approach will persevere. If the bad ends up outweighing the good, the timeshare could end up being history itself. It’ll be interesting to see where timeshare vacationing goes from here.

Get Your Questions Answered with VOC.

If you’re unhappy with your timeshare and would like to know what your options are, we’d be glad to review your situation during a free consultation. If you’re actually ready to cancel the contract and annual fees for good, you can always fill out one of our qualification forms below.
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