In the beginning stages of the Coronavirus outbreak, very few timeshare resorts had much to say. But once travel restrictions were implemented, timeshares acted swiftly to cut costs and seek pity. Even the way Marriott Worldwide Vacations addresses COVID-19 seems vague. Some vacation owners aren’t able to keep up with payments while awaiting resolve. Thousands of others have already missed their opportunity to travel this year and the number is growing every day.
So will major hotel chains, like Marriott’s operation in Orlando, say more to reassure their highest paying customers? In past articles, we’ve discussed how prominent resorts like to ignore customer complaints while blaming the exit industry for satisfaction ratings. So are they following a similar strategy and avoiding truth by stating irrelevant facts? It’s hard to believe that any of Orlando’s Marriott vacation owners enjoyed reading a COVID-19 update that made no mention of them.
A Common Theme by Timeshares Continues.
How can timeshare companies expect these people to be patient, loyal and trusting when their financial losses aren’t even considered? Instead, Stephen Weisz, the CEO of Marriott Vacations Worldwide, seems to be more focused on his losses. During a recent conference call he described the decisions he’s been forced to make as “some of the most difficult and heartbreaking of my career.”
Aside from laying off employees (and offering furloughs), Marriott announced they were shutting down sales centers due to the colossal decline of business in March. Employee 401(k)’s, reductions in capital investments, repurchase suspensions and frozen “new hire” salaries are also mentioned in Marriott Vacations Worldwide’s COVID-19 addressal. But it doesn’t say anything about helping vacation owners that lost their income in the middle of a pandemic.
While closings were initially planned to end in the third week of April, they’ve been extended thanks to heightened tensions and the fear of the unknown. In the meantime, timeshare fees and mortgages will only get resorts so far. “We certainly don’t know how long the changes will last,” said Weisz. But despite the uncertainty, he believes his business model will enable them to ”operate the business at close to cash flow-neutral.”
What Happens If Things Get Worse?
If travel bans extend through the summer, things could get interesting. Especially since timeshare owners haven’t exactly been offered any type of financial assistance from a trillion dollar industry that’s unable to follow through with their product. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Weisz has offered to take a pay cut of 50% of his salary in an attempt to balance the scales. But will $500K be enough when he purportedly made over $7 million total after bonuses and stock options were taken into consideration in 2018?
While many vacation owners are grieving a time in history that includes race riots and deadly disease, timeshare companies are pressing on. Marriott Vacations Worldwide still plans on moving into a new building in Orlando by the end of 2020. From here it seems as if they’re looking forward to reopening their sales centers with a strong focus on new acquisition.
Since their statement, Orlando’s Marriott Worldwide Vacations has been pretty focused on replenishing their losses. It appears we will have to wait and see if they offer assistance for vacation owners. Whether it be through a forbearance period, refund, discount or any other form of relief. If things turn for the worse, hopefully buyers will receive the consideration they deserve.