Leaders VOIC Optimism

A It's difficult to find a discouraging word whenever a group of timeshare executives get together. Such was the case at last month's Vacation Ownership Investment Conference (VOIC) as more than 750 vacation ownership and hotel industry developers packed the Peabody Orlando to discuss prospects for the booming timeshare business.

One tradition of the nine-year-old conference is a general session panel of industry leaders. And, as usual, this year's group of CEOs professed unqualified optimism for the industry, even as other segments of the real estate industry face uncertainties.

“I don't expect much fall-out from it,” said Island One Resorts CEO Deb Linden of the recent meltdown in the subprime mortgage market. “Intially, we saw a little spike in (loan) delinquencies but that's over. Timesharing is very resilient with fewer peaks and valleys than other real estate types.”

John Burlingame, executive vice president of Hyatt Vacation Ownership, believes history is on the side of the industry. “The development of a timeshare project usually extends over more than one real estate cycle, so we've always had to sell and operate through good times and bad,” he said. “People in our industry have even sold through recessions with not much trouble.”

The panelists credited demographics, including the growing affluence and time availability of Baby Boomers, as a major boon to vacation ownership. “This business was much more difficult 15 years ago than it is today,” said Stephen Cloobeck, chairman and CEO of Las Vegas-based Diamond Resorts. “Timesharing is a much more desirable product today for a lot more people.”

And, as Hyatt's Burlingame added, Boomers have fueled the rise in the market for fractionals, which are an appealing alternative to second-home ownership.

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