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.