Westgate Resorts Furloghs Working Class 1 Week After COVID-19 Shutdown

Westgate Resorts Furloghs Working Class 1 Week After COVID-19 Shutdown

For months now, vacation owners have been waiting for answers regarding their timeshare contracts. In the meantime, resorts have been more concerned with promoting their losses. It’s almost as if they’re looking for pity because an unexpected event altered their fortunes. The thing is, many businesses experience unforeseen circumstances that hinder their cash flow. The ability to retain customers is key during this time. So when the biggest news story out of Westgate Resorts is that they had to furlough working class employees – or “people who were not needed” – it seemed a little odd. What about loyal vacation owners?

If you weren’t already aware, the timeshare industry generates billions of dollars per year. Westgate is actually one of the nation’s largest privately held firms. Anyone keen in business knows that hiring and training can be one of the biggest bottom line expenses. So, burning bridges with employees and staffing agencies after one week of being shut down seems a little drastic. At the same time, maybe it’s not that big of a deal. Maybe timeshare companies are simply proceeding to deflect vacation owner concerns by promoting that “we’re all in this together.”

Let us not forget that many timeshare owners have lost their paid vacation this year. Some have even been told that they didn’t cancel far enough in advance. So their paid week was voided. It’s obvious that there is some confusion and concern here. So why aren’t resorts addressing this or offering any type of reassurance? What happens when a majority of owners refuse to adhere to their contractual obligation? If this actually transpires, what will Westgate Resorts do to deflect the blame

Westgate President Appears to be Deflecting Responsibility.

A few months ago, the resort’s current president, founder and CEO, David Siegel, had this to say about their latest decisions. “Our resorts are shut down, so we had to [furlough.] But we are trying to get money from the government to bring them back.” But according to the Orlando Business Journal, Siegel mentioned “the coronavirus impact on travel” as the primary reason for layoffs

So, did Westgate need to let go of “non-essential employees” because they were losing too much money or because the government hasn’t helped them enough? Another published article stated that Westgate did, in fact, receive coronavirus relief money from the federal government. Supposedly, they’ve pursued travel bloggers to promote their resorts with these funds. It appears that Westgate has some explaining to do.

Is Westgate Really Doing What’s Best?

Siegel added even more context by saying, “If you are not renting rooms, you don’t need people to clean rooms. If you are not running the spas, you don’t need technicians.” In other words, it could be said that these positions aren’t valued by the chain. With that being said, how is Westgate preparing to reopen? 

What are they going to do to ensure COVID-19 doesn’t spread in their hotels and condos? Are vacation owners safe? Since most of Westgate’s furloughs affected resort operations (housekeeping and daily guest services), it seems as though they’re not actually preparing for anything. In the meantime, owners are beginning to feel trapped in their agreements!

Was an Essential-Worker Furlough Necessary?

When asked, Siegel wasn’t even sure how many of his employees were affected. He was adamant that it wasn’t his fault, in our opinion it appears there is zero sense of compassion for the workers. A yearning for justification is evident. Even though he praised the federal government for “providing additional unemployment benefits to all Americans,” his statements don’t appear to be aligning with the resort’s actions. Apparently, taxpayers are supposed to care for essential Westgate employees during closings – Even though the company made $1.3 billion dollars in 2018. 

Are timeshare companies punishing their employees and owners for the government’s travel ban? Are these types of strategies really what they seem? Even though Westgate says they’re just doing their “part to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus” – it sure is creating a lot of devastation for lower income families. According to the Orlando Business Journal, Westgate is said to have over 5K local workers and around 7,600 across the world. 

Many of the workers in the timeshare industry have been left reeling ever since the layoffs – along with a number of timeshare owners facing hardship. At the end of the day, did Westgate Resorts really have to furlough working class employees to save the business? Or are they simply trying to keep margins as high as they can through a global pandemic? If you were to ask us, there’s a bigger story here.

Hyatt Residence Club Publishes Statement on COVID-19.

Hyatt Residence Club Publishes Statement on COVID-19.

As our country’s lockdown progresses, more timeshare companies are publishing news releases to speak on the impact of the Coronavirus. No matter who we’ve covered over the past few weeks, all resorts seem to be singing the same tune. The Hyatt Residence Club is the latest conglomerate to promote patience and appears to be pointing blame at the government for induced inconveniences. In the meantime, vacation owners are waiting in limbo for answers on how they’re to use their expensive interval in the future. 

Even though the purchase may not have been a burden in the past, it most certainly can be viewed that way today. Millions of people are jobless and grounded and it’s only a matter of time before those experiencing hardship speak out. Expecting them to wait on something they’ve spent a lot of money on isn’t exactly realistic. But for whatever reason, timeshare companies continue insisting that owners should stop worrying and focus on “what’s most important right now.” 

How Hyatt Residence Club is Following Suit.

Keep in mind, the above quote comes directly from a recent COVID-19 statement made by Hyatt Residence Club. Apparently, the obvious cost of ownership isn’t worth considering right now. It’s almost as if buyers are supposed to accept that the perpetual agreement they signed gives them no choice but to adhere. While it’s nearly impossible to speak on all timeshare contracts, we do find it hard to believe that most are binding during a global travel ban and resort closings. So why is there no wiggle room here?

When you take the time to assess the strategies behind the timeshare industry, you’ll quickly realize that decisions rarely benefit timeshare owners. Whether it be an increase in maintenance fees or unexpected assessment charges, resorts clearly have an agenda: To make a lot of money. Vacation ownership is one of the easiest ways for them to guarantee income. Binding contracts always allow them to spread out costs or losses so their obligations remain low.

Timeshare Companies Want to Avoid Complaints.

To resorts, vacation ownership only becomes a hindrance when a majority of buyers complain. This is why they usually downplay disappointment or concern and blame other factors for the poor experience. Hyatt’s opening statement regarding COVID-19 clearly avoids the financial strain their agreements could be causing. 

It says, “We understand you have a lot on your mind. You’re facing unprecedented disruptions to your day-to-day life — and your vacations.” Instead of acknowledging that the customer’s primary concern is the cost of ownership (and no return), they’d rather distract and deflect. The intent of this introduction is to establish a sense of understanding or empathy and is followed up by an attempt to garner trust.

“We are here to help, with the most current information on reservation flexibility.” But if you really read between the lines here, information is the only guarantee. It seems like Hyatt Residence Club believes this is all they owe timeshare owners. Their promise is to provide up-to-date information regarding the “Novel COVID Virus.” Nothing in the publication actually communicates a plan to aid their primary customer with relief, rewards, benefits or any type of restitution. They simply ask for patience.

Are Hyatt Cancellation Policies Really Altered?

While the response is quite vague, Hyatt Residence Club did mention adjustments to their cancellation policy* (see below). This is something other resorts have yet to address. Truth be told, many timeshare owners have been penalized for untimely reservation cancellations while quarantined – waiving their right to use the property in 2020. Although it’s refreshing to see an olive branch being extended for those stuck at home, we’re still not sure what this actually entails (as a login is required). 

What’s Really Important to Hyatt Residence Club?

No matter what Hyatt thinks, telling timeshare owners to “pause now [and] play later” probably won’t sit too well with most. Even though resorts are losing money, those that were looking forward to a vacation (that they already paid for) can’t be too happy. But if you’re a Hyatt Residence Club owner, the resort only wants you to focus on, “taking care of yourself and those closest to you,” right now. 

But what if you need to get out of a timeshare in order to do so? What if the financial burden isn’t allowing you to focus on important things – like your family? These are all questions owners shouldn’t have to ask. Listen, nobody thought a global lockdown would last this long, but buyers shouldn’t be forced to foot the bill.

How Long Will Timeshare Owners Wait For Answers?

At the end of the day, timeshare companies are fully aware of the hindrance their perpetual agreements cause. Unfortunately, it seems as though most are content with blaming the outbreak, government, CDC, W.H.O. and the timeshare owners themselves for the current hardship they may be enduring

The longer they’re able to buy themselves time and keep owners in limbo, the better the outcome will be – for them. It’s why their salutations include stuff like “we’re in this together,” when it’s not even close. In the meantime, Hyatt Residence Club (and the timeshare industry as a whole) could easily debunk this with adequate updates that actually address the current concerns of many timeshare owners. We’ve heard from plenty over the past few months.

Maybe ARDA could even take the time to shed light on anything that timeshare owners would find valuable. After all, they claim to represent more than 1.5 million timeshare owners. Since vacation owners pay them a fee alongside maintenance costs, it would seem they’d be inclined to keep owners informed. It can’t be easy to make payments if you’re struggling financially from COVID-19.

What Should Owners Ask and What Can They Do?

Many questions remain unanswered. Will Hyatt Residence Club reimburse the annual dues of those that couldn’t use their timeshare? Will they free up the inventory that’s sold to Expedia and Priceline for their owners? Or will they continue to profit off the general public, making it even more difficult to find availability? How are they ensuring the timeshare offers a safe environment when an approved cure for COVID-19 doesn’t exist? 

While we wait for the industry to respond accordingly, we urge vacation owners to publicly share any information that might help somebody else. If you’re a Hyatt Residence Club member and you’re not sure “what your vacations are about” anymore than we’re always available for a free consultation.

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Marriott Timeshare Owner Says COVID-19 Pandemic Has Him Trapped.

Marriott Timeshare Owner Says COVID-19 Pandemic Has Him Trapped.

In the beginning stages of the Coronavirus outbreak, Americans weren’t too worried by the idea of a pandemic. Mixed signals from the media, governments and health organizations didn’t help. Once New York was bombarded with new cases, people started to take notice. In the meantime, timeshares have been buying themselves time while ignoring the concern of vacation owners. But resorts can’t expect their highest paying customers to wait in silence much longer.

Are Vacation Owners Starting to Lose Patience? 

One Marriott timeshare owner is already seeking help online. By the end of March, he became so fed up with the way the hotel chain was managing his timeshare that he posted a “rant” on The Business Traveler to let out some steam. Although his opening statement included an apology for publishing a personal topic in a business forum, he felt as though his issue with Marriott was similar to other threads. 

Several users on the site had already complained about the issues they were having with “airlines and hotel groups” during the Coronavirus outbreak. So the Marriott timeshare owner wanted to see if there was anyone else out there experiencing similar inconveniences. In his post, he did a good job painting a picture of his disappointment after years of loyalty. 

Apparently, he and his wife have spent tens of thousands of dollars on “several timeshare-like arrangements with the Marriott Group in Phuket.” Over the years they’ve also been required to pay thousands of dollars towards annual maintenance fees on multiple contracts. They each have one in their name and own another jointly. It’s obvious why he mentions these things right off the bat. No Marriott timeshare owner should have to pay this much money for something they can’t use.

The Marriott Timeshare Owner’s Story.

After making an Easter reservation at their home resort in Phuket several months in advance, the couple was eventually notified that they wouldn’t be able to use their timeshare week. The “quarantine requirements imposed by Thailand” made it “impossible.” According to the Marriott timeshare owner, they tried for weeks to move their interval to September without prevail. 

Not only did Marriott refuse their owner’s request and deny restitution, but they advised them to pay for an exchange company – in order to try to use it. But this concerned the author of the post. He knew that paying more and hoping for the best would probably have the same outcome. “They have lost so much goodwill over this,” he said. “We can’t get a refund because we already own the week.. they are just expecting us to pay an additional fee with no guarantee of getting anything in return, or forfeit our week.” 

Sounds like a sweet deal. They can’t be the only Marriott timeshare owner experiencing this right now. Sadly, many probably took the bait and now wish they hadn’t. It’s safe to say many more will give it a shot too. So what are they to do if this worsens their situation? Will timeshare companies provide refunds for contractual travel purchases that occur during a pandemic? It’s hard to tell, but this Marriott timeshare owner is definitely disappointed.  

Will Timeshare Inconveniences Ever Be Resolved? 

The author went on to say, “One would have thought that in these circumstances Marriott Vacation Club would show a bit of flexibility. We have been members for many years and only want to move our booking to another week later this year when, we hope, travel restrictions have been relaxed,” he said. All he wants to do is reschedule his vacation in confidence. He’s not even looking to cancel the timeshare contract but the response from Marriott may cause him to second-guessing his loyalty.

If these types of emotions are felt by satisfied timeshare owners then how do those that despise the Marriott interval feel? Timeshare companies extending a helping hand during the pandemic has got to be the hope of millions of timeshare owners right now. At the same time, how will the industry handle so many inconveniences and will complaints be properly addressed? 

Either way, the true colors of timeshare companies are beginning to shine through. The author closes out his rant with a dash of disgust and subtle plea for help. “The idiocy of this is that if we forfeit the week, they lose the revenue they would have earned if we were in the resort. The stupidity of this situation just infuriates me,” he said. “They are ultimately losing potential revenue and pissing off a loyal customer. What is the sense of that?”

His guess is as good as ours but it probably has a lot to do with money.

Diamond Resorts Updates Timeshare Owners During Viral Disease Outbreak.

Diamond Resorts Updates Timeshare Owners During Viral Disease Outbreak.

For more than a month, the entire country has been patiently waiting for the Coronavirus to run its course. As more time passes, restlessness increases. While it may be difficult to know what the aftermath of the pandemic will bring for timeshare owners, it’s safe to say resorts are hoping things return to normal sooner than later. The longer paid travelers are forced to stay home, the more likely they’ll be looking for some sort of restitution. But will they get it?

At this point in time, it’s hard to tell what will transpire down the road. A majority of timeshare resorts have been rather quiet during this international lockdown. Even those that have spoke on the pandemic have been rather vague regarding timeshare ownership. Diamond Resorts is the latest conglomerate to offer a COVID-19 update. 

COVID-19 Update From Diamond Resorts.

The written statement on their website opened up by highlighting their current Coronavirus efforts. Diamond’s resorts “around the world” are stating they are housing “medical personnel and first responders” as they provide attention to those with the viral disease. They also took the time to comfort staff and team members while the doors are closed by publishing a link to a note from their CEO

While it’s good to know that the company is aiding those in need, it’s interesting that they made sure to start with their contributions. But it’s not surprising. Most good sales organizations know how to create trustworthiness in order to buy time. If you’ve ever taken the time to assess the art of the timeshare presentation, or the sales process in general, you’ll see that all pitches begin with a focus on credibility.

So What Should Diamond Timeshare Owners Think?

Although the information Diamond provides is valuable, highlighting closings and links to CDC articles, it doesn’t exactly reassure their highest paying customers. The update concludes with an eerie reminder of the way timeshare companies persuade timeshare owners to remain under contract. They long to be trusted as it buys them time. It says. “At Diamond Resorts, we take pride in providing exceptional vacation experiences to everyone. Our teams are available to answer any questions. Thank you for your trust and support, and we look forward to welcoming you home soon.” 

Nothing in the timeshare industry’s history books tells us they’re going to look to accommodate their owner’s inconveniences. COVID-19 updates from the industry such as this one doesn’t exactly encourage us to believe otherwise either. If you take the time to read the entirety of the statement, it goes on to explain how the resort plans to invest in “frequency and enhanced cleanings,” training courses on sanitation and an influx in disinfectant products.

It’s great they’re taking extra precautions but who’s paying for these things? Would timeshare owners see this as a benefit if they were to be held responsible for the added expense? While Diamond Resorts may be doing good by hosting the heroes of the pandemic, could the costs turn into maintenance fees or a special assessment? Is the resort hoping their genuine hospitality will discourage timeshare owners from complaining if they have to pay for something they don’t get to use? 

It’s not for us to say, but it is concerning to see all of these timeshare companies sidestepping the disadvantages vacations owners will eventually face. Thousands of people have already had to cancel their plans. How will an influx in bookings play out when the economy reopens? Who will gain precedent? While Diamond’s COVID-19 update did provide temporary “reservation options,” it’s still unclear how it will all play out. 

Diamond Timeshare Owners Will Just Have to Wait.

Today, the travel industry is experiencing a boat load of losses. For the average person, it’s hard to even wrap your head around the number of transactions that used to occur on a daily basis. Diamond makes it very clear throughout their article that government officials and health organizations are forcing them to shut their doors. A blockage of international travel is a problem for them as well.  But there are also thousands of helpless timeshare owners out there that simply can’t afford the purchase any longer. Let’s hope Diamond sees this as well.

Bluegreen Vacations Downsized Sales Staff Amid Coronavirus Disease

Bluegreen Vacations Downsized Sales Staff Amid Coronavirus Disease

No matter where you’re surfing online, it’s nearly impossible to avoid any type of news about the coronavirus disease. Some people want stay at home orders in place while others demand that the government reopen the economy. While a few businesses may be thriving during the pandemic, many industries are losing millions of dollars daily. If you’ve read any of our recent articles, then you know the timeshare industry is “uniquely positioned” here. So when we heard Bluegreen Vacations downsized sales staff, we weren’t surprised.

You see, the primary expense of a timeshare company is the sale itself. Millions of dollars are poured into advertisements, telemarketing, presentations, partnerships and commissions every year. Since they can’t sell weekly intervals right now, it’s easy for them to cut ties with expendable assets. Many aren’t aware of the sales tactics used, but it’s easy for the industry to replace and incentivise hungry salesmen. 

Here is the statement from Alan B Levan, Bluegreen Vacations’ President, CEO and Chairman. “We remain committed to our owners and the future of Bluegreen and are taking these difficult necessary measures, which will adversely impact our associates and our business, only after careful consideration of the challenges we face and with a view to protecting the long-term best interests of our associates, owners and our company. We look forward to the end of this global crisis and the reestablishment of our full business operations.”

Will Laying Off Sales Staff Really Hurt Bluegreen?

At the end of the day, the prominent resort chain still hasn’t specifically communicated a plan to aid vacation owners during this economic crisis. Because of this, we have to assume that payment obligations will resume. But don’t worry, the resort has a plan to ensure they don’t go under during this pandemic. While you, as a timeshare owner, might struggle tremendously, the resort will be available for use once the economy reopens. 

Levan went on to say they’ve been forced to shut down transfer programs at Choice Hotels amongst other things. “The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented event in the United States and globally, and the domino effect has directly impacted Bluegreen’s sales and operations,” he said. According to other press releases, the Florida-based conglomerate (NYSE: BXG) has also closed most sales kiosks in retail centers like Cabelas and Bass Pro Shops.

When you think about it, is the downsizing of timeshare sales staff really a bad thing? Many buyers credit misleading sales practices for their grief. Levan makes it pretty clear what Bluegreen’s goal is. They want to end the loss for everyone and eventually reestablish their hard working sales teams. So should vacation owners anticipate enduring some loss too? 

Bluegreen Vacations experienced an increase in timeshare sales through February (16.5%) and are now in a “unique position” to collect payments while eliminating their biggest cost.

Bluegreen Still Needs to Answer Some Questions.

What happens if new buyers – those that just took out a huge, perpetual loan on February 26th – are now unable to pay? Will there be any rule changes or temporary exceptions for those that have yet to use the property? Over the next few months, will Bluegreen count on timeshare payments and maintenance fees to sustain? Is a future vacation what struggling Americans should be striving for right now? While Bluegreen does an admirable job seeking sorrow for their losses, they’re not exactly suffering like most operations.

Either way, there are at least 220K Bluegreen owners out there (2019 data) that may not be able to use or afford the sneaky-expensive-product during a hardship. This isn’t even including those that signed up in the last 6 months. In comparison, Bluegreen is said to have just under 6K total employees, 3,300 of which are sales teams. Just because Bluegreen Vacations downsized sales staff doesn’t mean they’re hurting. On March 19th, they drew down $60 million out of a $125 million revolving credit facility and had $240 million cash on hand by March 30

Although the travel industry is at a stand still, Bluegreen Vacations – like others – has set themselves up nicely to endure a recession. This is what makes the timeshare sales model so concerning. No matter what happens to the resort, country or destination; the industry can always lean on their owners. That contract you signed almost always keeps it that way. If you’re concerned about your future as a timeshare owner, we’d be more than happy to listen.

Hilton Buying Back Stock Shares Amidst the COVID-19 Crisis.

Hilton Buying Back Stock Shares Amidst the COVID-19 Crisis.

Ever since the Coronavirus began wreaking havoc on Americans and the U.S. economy, timeshare owners have been patiently awaiting resolve from the resort. If you’ve been following along in recent weeks, we’ve been rather critical of the industry’s lack of action in the midst of a pandemic. Mostly because of the direct inconvenience it’s caused for those that were eager to vacation this year. Some people just bought the timeshare and are now facing quite a bit of unknown. 

While timeshare resorts scramble to sustain, many owners are struggling to pay for their permanent residences. What happens when fractional owners don’t get to use their interval in 2020? Will they be compensated for the loss or incur some of the burden from the resort’s profit losses? Will they be forced to pay either way? Although it’s hard to tell, Hilton finally broke the industry’s silence by providing a little insight on what they’ve been preparing for. 

Hilton Plans to Overcome the COVID-19 Pandemic.

When a company that counts on millions of shareholders steps to the microphone to address the COVID-19 crisis, you’d think their primary focus would be to comfort the hand that feeds them. But by the looks of it, Hilton seems to be more interested in reassuring those that rely on the timeshare industry for significant earnings. While it may seem like their “plan” to buy back company shares will benefit vacation owners, it has nothing to do with them. We mention this because several owners have already assumed this to be true. 

This is why researching online information is so important. In actuality, Hilton is processing company buy-backs in the form of stocks to keep their company stable and strong during this pandemic. It’s setting them up to recover nicely if the ban is lifted soon. Purchasing intervals back from timeshare owners to relieve them during the COVID-19 crisis isn’t the end goal here. 

Even if it was, you have to understand timeshare companies aren’t just going to bail out buyers because they can’t afford the purchase anymore. What makes the entire situation intriguing is the simple fact the travel industry is already lobbying Congress and the White House for $250 billion in federal aid – of taxpayer money. A few weeks ago, Hilton purported that they’d already set aside $200 million to buy back shares amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. But what does this actually mean?

Hilton Advocates Attempt to Explain Their Plan.

“While the situation is rapidly evolving, we continue to believe in the resiliency of our business over time, which we have witnessed during prior periods of volatility,” said Hilton spokeswoman, Lauren George. “We believe we can continue to prudently and opportunistically return excess capital to shareholders.” But what can timeshare owners expect when the risky business of the timeshare hasn’t always benefitted them? Why aren’t timeshare companies considering them?

One of the lobbyists for Hilton, The American Resort Development Association (ARDA), doesn’t believe the COVID-19 crisis is impacting timeshare owners. President and CEO, Jason Gamel says a majority of timeshare owners “drive to their resorts, rather than fly.” In other words, the numbers of those that are affected by the pandemic aren’t high enough to be considered. Due to perpetual contracts, timeshares can’t expect too much of a loss here. Gamel went on to say, “We’re kind of uniquely positioned.”

What to Make of Hilton Buying Back Timeshare Stocks.

So it seems as though Hilton’s plan is to continue collecting contractual payments and annual fees from timeshare owners while they wait on the federal government’s decision to reimburse them for bolstering their business. Since resorts haven’t directly addressed vacation owner’s concerns, we have to assume the same rules still apply. Hilton’s ability to bill for binding agreements during the COVID-19 crisis must be comforting. We just wish they’d actually consider those keeping the lights on.

Hilton Grand Vacations Inc. in Orlando is one of the most profitable conglomerates in the world. Although they’ve seen a 60% drop in share prices over the last month, they still made $216 million in 2019. Lauren George says, “[Hilton] has an ample cash cushion to ride out the COVID-19 crisis.” At the end of the day, they’re banking on a travel resurgence once the market reopens. At this point, timeshare owners will probably be more than eager to use what they’ve paid for. 

After a month of isolation, it’s safe to say all of us will want to seek out some sort of vacation. Because of this, it might be harder than most timeshare owners think to use their property. By the looks of it, Hilton seems to be more focused on their recovery and a high demand for retail bookings could be rather tempting. So, we’ll keep an eye on how they continue to “evolve” along the way.

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