Are You In the Wellness Business?

You may have read our story in the Sept. 1 issue (pg. 28) showing that timeshare scores higher than any other segment of the hospitality industry in customer satisfaction. I found that revelation to be stunning, so I called my friend Howard Nusbaum, president of the American Resort Development Association, for an explanation.

While he is the chief cheerleader for the timeshare business, Howard always speaks the truth about his industry — both its successes and challenges. His responses on this topic produced lessons everyone in the tourism industry can learn and use.

“Unlike any other hospitality product, timeshare mirrors the way we live,” he says. “If a family takes a vacation and stays in hotel rooms, everyone must huddle around the bed to eat pizza for dinner and line up to get into the bathroom. The timeshare experience is just the opposite: It both enables families to spend quality time together and provides everyone with the personal space they need.”

His conclusion is that everyone — families especially — needs rejuvenation, and what's offered in a vacation ownership product contributes to individual and family health. “We're in the wellness business as much as we are in the vacation business,” he says.

Further proof of timeshare's success can be found in the numbers. Hawaii's tourism business has suffered in recent months due to lower airline capacity, rising airfares and general state of the economy. Yet, while occupancy at the islands' hotels was just 69 percent in the second quarter, timeshare resorts were nearly full, reporting average occupancies of 89 percent. Obviously, owners of timeshare currency have incentive to use it since it's prepaid. But the vacation ownership paradigm offers a number of important lessons for everyone in the hospitality industry.

First, of course, if you're a lodging developer it makes a lot of sense to explore mixed-use projects that may contain a timeshare or fractional element. Hotels, vacation ownership and other components of commercial real estate work well together for the benefit of all segments.

But even if traditional lodging is and always will be your bread and butter, you can take cues from other parts of the business. Whatever extra comforts, amenities or facilities you can add to your hotel, even if it's a roadside mom-and-pop, can pay dividends. Especially in these perilous times, consumers want to be pampered and made to feel welcome. Creating a lodging property that's a comfortable and safe cocoon for weary travelers should be a priority. Perhaps you need to think of yourself as also being in the wellness business.

Let's build a better magazine. Next year is a big one for me and for Lodging Hospitality. Both of us will celebrate our 60th birthdays and I'll mark my 35th year with the magazine. And while little can be done to improve me, that's not the case with the publication.

To mark LH's anniversary, we plan to launch a complete redesign and editorial overhaul starting with our January issue. I'd like you to help. Call me or send me an e-mail message at the number or address below and let me know what suggestions you have to help us produce a better product for you. I hope to hear from you because together we can build a better magazine.

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