Orange Lake’s Holiday Inn Club Vacations Becoming Timeshare Giant

Consolidation seems to be the order of the day in the timeshare industry, with many small and independent resorts being acquired by a few key players. For the past 30 years, Orange Lake Resorts was known predominately for its popular flagship property near Orlando, Florida; the brainchild of Holiday Inn founder Kemmons Wilson. With the ambitious launch of the Holiday Inn Club Vacations brand in 2008, Orange Lake set out to become a timeshare industry giant.

So far, Orange Lake’s new vacation club concept seems to be a resounding success: Holiday Inn Club Vacations has re-branded existing Orange Lake properties in Orlando, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Panama City. Additionally, the Club has acquired resorts in Gatlinburg, Myrtle Beach, Las Vegas, and Galveston. I’ve always been a fan of  resorts that offer an “internal exchange” program – allowing owners to exchange directly through the developer, rather than through third-party exchange companies at an added cost. With the number of Holiday Inn Club Vacations timeshare resorts now available (plus more on the way), owners can plausibly take most of their vacations without paying an exchange fee.

A key feature of Holiday Inn Club Vacations ownership is its new “internal points system,” which functions similarly to the popular Wyndham Vacations Resorts points system. Owners can even opt to use their points at Holiday Inn hotels, and other Intercontinental properties that are not vacation ownership resorts. While I expect the new points system to become quite popular, there may be some hurdles for owners of existing resorts acquired by the club: Owners at Galveston on the Gulf Resort originally purchased points through Escapes! Vacations internal points system, some Sunset Cove Marco Island owners bought Hilton Grand Vacations Club points, while owners at the Smoky Mountain Resort bought RCI points. Over time these disparate points systems will have to be reconciled, either through upgrades or conversion, in order for the Club to reach its full potential… And, according to owners I’ve spoken to, this process is already well under way.

With the growth of Orange Lake’s Holiday Inn Club Vacations there is a lot to be excited about – especially for industry watchers like myself who are happy to see another heavy-weight competitor emerge in an industry that was getting a little too consolidated!

1 comment November 13th, 2012

Timeshare & The TSA – Vacation Ownership in the No-Fly Zone

Apparently, now not even Rep. Ron Paul can fly without being accused of being a terrorist, and being subjected to the depredations of the TSA. It’s no wonder, then, that more and more American timeshare owners won’t fly to their vacation destinations. This can be costly for those who own timeshares far from home, and are forced to exchange their week every year for closer drive-to vacations. Some owners have even asked me whether it may be advantageous to sell their distant timeshare and buy a resale within driving distance, while others feel being abused by the TSA is a small price to pay for safe travel to spend a week in their luxurious timeshare property. Here are the top 3 reasons I won’t fly with my family:

  1. Airports Have Become Prisons – Perhaps it is a reflection of the somewhat puritanical nature of Americans that no one wants to admit they’ve seen the inside of a jail. But, whether for an “incident” in college or an unpaid speeding ticket, many of us have been through central booking. When you arrive at jail: You have to remove your shoes and belt. Your pockets must be emptied into a tray. You have to produce identification. You must submit to a pat-down by someone wearing rubber gloves. By the time you’ve been processed into the holding area, your mental state is one psychologists refer to as total compliance. Clearly, the entire process of flying in America (post 9/11) is the psychological equivalent of being incarcerated – only voluntary; a post-modern Stockholm syndrome! Perhaps we should re-classify “frequent fliers” as “repeat offenders.”
  2. Your Wife and Kids May be Molested While You Watch – As a man, it’s hard to say which is worse: Having to watch impotently while your wife gets groped by a TSA goon, or watching your kid cry while she wonders why Daddy won’t make the mean man stop touching her. I’ll take a pass on both, thank you. Visiting Scottsdale just isn’t that important.
  3. The Moral Hazard – Not long ago I found myself waiting in a TSA line, standing behind a scruffy young man whose black clothes smelled of clove cigarettes. He was carrying an old backpack stuffed with video game gear. As we approached the metal detector, this young man was pulled to the side and made to unload his backpack and submit to all manner of secondary screenings, while I was permitted to pass through undisturbed. In that moment, I found myself actually happy to see this kid getting hassled instead of me… When that moment passed, I was overcome with guilt; guilt over not speaking up for this innocent young fellow whose only “crime” was looking a little different and loving video games. It’s this hazard, this moral hazard of hoping someone else gets picked off the queue, and of looking the other way while fellow Americans are mistreated, that poses the biggest risk to our humanity. As the German citizens of the 1930’s found, the slope from freedom to fascism is indeed a slippery one.

Given that both candidates for President in 2012 support continuing the TSA, it’s a safe bet that its assault on Americans’ civil liberties will continue, at least for a while. For timeshare owners that share my concerns about flying, selling a timeshare that can’t be easily driven to is probably a sound idea.

Recently, a neighbor of mine here in Atlanta decided to list her Napa Valley timeshare for sale, and perhaps consider a resale in the nearby Hilton Head Island area. The good news for her, and anyone in her position, is that today’s resale market is not only full of great deals, but bustling with activity like never before. With sophisticated new internet platforms for buying and selling timeshare resales, both buyers and sellers are increasingly choosing the resale market… And, if enough of us choose not to fly with our families, financial pressure on the airlines may eventually end the TSA, making the skies friendly for Americans once again.

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2 comments August 30th, 2012

Timeshare in the News: The Good and The Bad

During the last week, timeshare resale related stories have appeared in the news twice – which is actually a lot for a niche industry! Additionally, both stories relate to previous posts here at Helptimeshare.com:

The Good

Back in May, I pointed out the threat posed to timeshare owners by timeshare recovery companies. Yesterday this issue was highlighted in an article by Diane Lade of the Sun Sentinel. In it, she states that the “Florida Attorney General has received more than 600 complaints in the past 12 months” regarding recovery companies. While it’s great to see these fraudulent entities receiving some attention from the media and regulators, I have to wonder how many thousands of timeshare owners have been victimized in the four months since I originally reported on the problem. Lade goes on to point out that some timeshare resale companies have “closed down but then reopened as a timeshare recovery business” – an astute observation echoing my post describing a recovery company as “a failed timeshare resale company.”

According to Lade, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services regulators are hard-at-work investigating “about 20 timeshare recovery businesses.” Hopefully, these efforts will protect timeshare owners from being conned out of their hard-earned money. …and Kudos to Lade and the Sun Sentinel for calling attention to this phenomenon!

The Bad

On September 3rd, an article by Jon Burnstein (also of the Sun Sentinel), provided some follow-up information on the ongoing timeshare fraud saga of Timeshare Mega Media. In what the FTC has called a “naked fraud,” Timeshare Mega Media contacted timeshare owners claiming “we have a buyer for your timeshare.” According to Burnstein, the operation collected an “estimated $5 million in less than a year,” before closing their doors in May 2010. Not to sound like a broken record, but HelpTimeshare.com reported on the “It’s Already Sold” scam back in February of 2010.  Apparently, our warning went unheeded by some 10,000+ consumers in Florida alone… More to the point of why I consider this a ‘bad’ story, Burnstein repeatedly refers to Timeshare Mega Media as a “timeshare resale company.” He goes on to refer to the timeshare resale industry as “fraud-riddled,” and states that “many of the unscrupulous resale companies operate the same way.” I suggest that, for anyone in the media, using this sort of language is, at best, irresponsible: Timeshare Mega Media was clearly anything but a timeshare resale company. According to Burnstein’s own article the company was no more than a criminal front, operated not by timeshare industry professionals but by felons and associates of major crime families.

Please, call them “fake” timeshare resale companies or something, but a distinction needs to be drawn by the media between criminals and timeshare resale companies. There is nothing to suggest Timeshare Mega Media, or its affiliates, had any connection whatsoever to the actual timeshare resale industry. No one in the press refers to the Swiss Watch Industry as “fraud-riddled,” though fake Rolex watches are still a-dime-a-dozen throughout the U.S.

4 comments September 7th, 2011

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