“The joint TATOC and RDO seminar was only meant to be for one year. But we’re back as there is still much to discuss.”
So said Harry Taylor, TATOC executive chairman, as he welcomed guests to the second joint industry and consumer event.
Geoff Chapman, TATOC director, set the scene with a summary of TATOC’s recent activities including its involvement in the review of the European timeshare directive. A report is expected later this year.
“We believe it will recommend a mix of amendments, better use of regulations and working with consumers and the industry.”
There has been considerable interest in exit strategies from consumers, media and government.
“Any strategy must be carefully managed with a clear policy, criteria and conditions. Of course the answer to exit is entrance, but we know it is not just that simple.”
Chapman told delegates how TATOC had been reported to the Citizens Advice Bureau. However, rather than damaging the relationship, it had been re-affirmed.
The TATOC team is also working with Trading Standards to achieve clarification on the current regulations in the European directive.
“TATOC often gets stick for sleeping with the industry,” began Paul Gardner Bougaard, from the Resort Development Organisation (RDO).
“Yet those who criticise do not understand the relationship and why the two bodies need to work together”.
Over the past twelve months, TATOC and the RDO have worked closely on bogus claims companies, exit strategies and the enforcement of the directive.
The TATOC Consumer Helpline with the Timeshare Task Force have enjoyed success against some of the leading scam companies.
“But while we have success it is proving very hard to get the authorities to act mainly because of the cost of prosecution”.
Eugene Miskelly, from the RDO’s Legislative Council, told delegates how the organisation was tackling bogus claims companies.
Owners are hoodwinked into expensive court cases or buying new non-timeshare products, while the original ownership is never transferred.
“Don’t panic or be bullied by them and push back with as much information as possible. Be polite but also pedantic and demand copies of the evidence,” he advised delegates.
He suggested resorts ask themselves if there was a grain of truth to the claim and could they make it easier for owners to exit their contracts.
“It might be time to introduce a more flexible solution which will help owners and stop them turning to the claims firms in the first place. It will certainly pull the rug out from under the claims companies.”
Flagship’s Jackie Murphy spoke on promoting the positive side of timeshare and bringing the focus back to holidays.
Murphy explained how the holiday environment had changed. People no longer just want accommodation - they were looking for experiences.
With the growth of the new sharing economy, it was time for the RDO and the industry to get behind a new campaign promoting timeshare.
Introducing the new campaign - Time To Share - Murphy explained the aim was to counter the negativity towards timeshare and build a movement that promotes the positives.
“We will focus on the importance of holidays to the well being of families and show how timeshare’s inherent characteristics are perfect for today’s family.”
The plan is to create a visual brand that spans multi-generations and media. It will create content covering video to blogging, galvanising developers and owners to get involved.
Tony Rhodes, from Club Olympus in Tenerife, explained how a mature resort must adapt to survive.
After intensive sales in the early days with 75-100 new owners per week, things changed as the resort matured.
“Owners loved the resort but due to personal circumstances sometimes had to sell. We set up a re-sale service but failed and many owners were fleeced by third party re-sale agents.”
A ´lightbulb´ moment led to the development of a new programme for owners who had hit financial problems.
The result was happy owners who could still enjoy their timeshare when circumstances changed - and a drop in re-sale scams.
Other changes were re-configuring units to meet the demands of owners, reducing the size of the club and taking advantage of rental opportunities.
“We have reduced the size of the club by two thirds but now have a nucleus of happy owners and a successful rental business.”