2016 TATOC Conference Highlights: Positive RDO News
There was much good news for TATOC delegates from the European industry trade body, Resort Development Organisation (RDO) at the Annual Conference. In his address, Paul Gardner-Bougaard, CEO of RDO, told delegates that some big brands, such as Marriott, have been welcomed back into RDO membership and that reported issues in the industry were “diminishing, year on year”.
Annual timeshare sales were hitting €500 million, and there are now 40,000 people employed in the timeshare industry, Gardner-Bougaard said, with timeshare owners spending an average of €1,000 to €1,200 per week while on holiday and so proving to be greatly valued tourists in terms of their economic impact.
A resounding testament to the post-EU Directive industry is the fact that the recent European Commissioners’ review of the 2011 Timeshare Directive found that there was no need to introduce any amendments or changes to the legislation governing timeshare in Europe. Gardner-Bougaard attributed this success to the Timeshare Task Force, which is a body bringing RDO and the industry together to work with national fraud investigation agencies and which, he advised delegates, had taken on 150 cases of fraud in the last year.
“The Task Force is a successful lobbyist, as it is viewed as a disinterested third party,” said Gardner-Bougaard. It has brought three successful cases to the courts in the last year, with three more under review, as well as working with the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to investigate the theft and illegal use of data from resort developers.
Delegates heard that RDO has launched an aggressive social media campaign – #RDODigital – to better engage with the general public and raise awareness of the positives of the timeshare holiday lifestyle. “Our strategy is to PR timeshare as a fantastic holiday choice,” he said. “We want to shout about the great experiences and its family-friendly model. The industry is pooling its resources, PR materials, and expertise in a united effort to drive better consumer engagement. TATOC officers are on the working group, as well as many from RDO member resorts and the exchange companies. I want to appeal to our resorts to support our latest digital campaign – #timesharetuesday.”
Other RDO initiatives included:
• The addition of a new consumer section to the www.rdo.org timeshare release
• Working with government bodies in Berlin, Madrid and Helsinki to educate graduates about the industry
• Joining the UK sharing economy trade body, SEUK, to work with a younger generation of consumer who appreciate the value of sharing high-value assets, as opposed to owning them
• Joining the Tourism Alliance in the UK to give the industry visibility among UK government bodies.
The issue of the surrender of unwanted timeshare was, according to Gardner-Bougaard, “still the elephant in the room”, although it “was being dealt with by the RDO Code of Conduct”. The RDO Code of Conduct now stipulates that timeshare owners must be released from any in perpetuity or long-term contracts, without charge as long as maintenance fees are paid to date of surrender, in the following circumstances:
• Death of an owner in sole or joint ownerships, with estate beneficiaries no longer being obliged to take the timeshare contract over
• Declaration of bankruptcy of an owner
• Long-term illness of either the sole or a joint owner that prevents them from travelling for the foreseeable future
• Surrender at any time, with the agreement of the RDO member, with payment of a maintenance fee not to exceed the sum of three years’ fees.
Assuring his TATOC audience, which comprised resort developers and timeshare owners, that RDO was doing all it could as a trade body, Gardner-Bougaard closed by saying: “We are now working with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to introduce a sales accreditation and licensing procedure to address the sales issues which have been on going. We have two developers who have said they would be happy to participate in the pilot scheme when we get the licence, which should be early next year.
“We know developers want sales and we are doing as much as we can to support them. We are working with ARDA to produce a new AIF worldwide industry study which should be available in August this year; we are seeing growth and increasing acceptance of the sharing economy with the introduction of fresh new products; and we saw sales to the value of €500 million last year. We are in a good place.”