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Time for Timeshare

Category: , Posted:28 Jul 2007 | 12:00 pm

Travel around the world and no matter where you land, be it North America, Europe or Asia, you'll find vacation ownership and timeshare being offered. Although timeshare in the past experienced some growing pains, it has grown into a significant property segment and is now a sophisticated and polished lifestyle investment offering.Having affiliations with global brands such as Disney, Starwood, Marriott and Hilton has proved effective in building credibility and establishing a growing customer base.

For those new to the term, vacation ownership essentially is shared ownership wherein a person buys a share in a furnished unit for a specified period of time, or more simply buys an ongoing interest in what is usually hotel-managed accommodation. While the period of usage varies, generally it is for a week a year for a set number of years. Attached to the sale are varying ownership and rights issues, depending on the project and affiliations.

Timeshare's core attraction is that it's cheaper than traditional real estate or property. In the past few years there has been a trend to appeal to a wider potential market by offering cheaper products. The trend has been to up-sell customers a more expensive product once they have realized the benefits of their initial purchase. While many buyers want to use their vacation time within a specific resort, through affiliations or exchange programs from providers such as RCI or Interval International, buyers can now take holidays around the world. This is one of the key benefits of this type of purchase, as it allows flexible usage terms.With the emergence of vacation ownership and holiday clubs this is now being expanded, in many cases within a hotel group's network of properties and also for redemption of leisure products, such as golf, airline tickets, rental cars and boats.

At Laguna Phuket, the concept was pioneered with the Allamanda Vacation Club, which over the years has evolved into the Laguna Vacation Club. The project recently opened a dedicated club facility, check-in and members area and now has expanded within Thailand and overseas with ownership of units in key destinations.The Marriott, with its Mai Khao Phuket Beach Club, has quickly established a quality benchmark by offering its exclusive facilities and has continued to expand over the past few years. One of its key selling points is the optional inclusion of Marriott Rewards, a leading international loyalty program.These two resorts are only the tip of the iceberg of what is generally accepted to be an industry on the upswing. An influx of new internationally-branded products is expected over the next few years.

As with any property or lifestyle purchase, buyers must read the fine print to fully understand exactly what's on offer and what are the added costs, as there is often a perception that it is just free holidays.

In most cases ongoing or annual maintenance fees are levied and these can be substantial. Many programs have points-based usage systems while others offer floating periods or fixed weeks. It's important to note that you may not be able to use the unit specifically when you want as timeshare usage might be subject to availability.

This is a major issue for overseas exchanges at some high-demand destinations such as Disneyworld, and there needs to be some flexibility in terms of one's holiday time or locations you want to visit. In the end you might not be able to visit where you want or when you want to go.In Thailand there are consumer guidelines that regulate the selling of these products and there is a system of recourse for consumer complaints.

Both timeshare and vacation ownership have come a long way from what was once regarded a bit skeptically by consumers has now been embraced by large international institutions and brands and become very big business. New products continue to be on offer, including residential clubs, fractional ownership, cruise lines, private yachts, airplanes and frequent flier programs. Lifestyle investment is a growing segment and looks set to become a byproduct of the worldwide property market and a permanent fixture on the real estate scene.

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