Coast still too far away for US timeshare owners

THE Gold Coast might be the most desired destination for US timeshare owners, but the reality is that very few visitors arrive on our shores from the recession-stricken States.

Not because of cost so much, but distance. The real emerging markets in the industry are Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Dubai, according to Group RCI president Geoff Ballotti.

“Australia is the most romantic destination to the US, but it’s so far away and even my mother has not been yet,” says the US-based Ballotti, during a recent Timeshare and Holiday Ownership Council (ATHOC) conference on the Coast.

RCI dominates 40 per cent of the Australian timeshare market and is reaping rewards as data suggests that occupancy rates on the Gold Coast are around 95 per cent. Mariner Shores at Kirra is one of the group’s best performers.

“While tourism overall has seen a decline in these recent economic times, timeshare occupancy rates remain strong, with almost 95 per cent occupancy at Gold Coast timeshare resorts. This is compared to domestic hotel room occupancy levels around 74 per cent,” says Ballotti.

“The thing that hit me hardest was how much stronger the Australian economy is than in the US.”

Ballotti says the challenge ahead is lack of product and while in Australia, he met with local developers to discuss potential projects.

“There is incredible demand for Australia from the timeshare industry, we need more product,” says Ballotti.

The family demographic and Baby Boomers are the traditional key drivers, but that is shifting as Gen X and Y seek to continue the family holiday tradition. There are more than 150,000 member families in the Asia Pacific region .

“Timeshare owners whose children have grown up in those timeshare resorts continue the tradition, but the most logical buyer is the owner that wants more timeshare,” says Ballotti.

According to ATHOC general manager Laura Younger, Australia is experiencing a resurgence of holiday ownership and is the second fastest growing tourism industry in the country.

“The growth of holiday ownership in Australia is second only to cruises and the Gold Coast is a major regional hotspot,” says Younger.

“The economic significance of Gold Coast timeshare is a direct and indirect output of $318.3 million a year for the local economy.”

Around 164,000 inbound international passengers conducted availability searches for Australian exchanges last year, according to RCI.

Most recently, RCI announced the addition of Wyndham Vacation Resorts Asia Pacific Sydney and Seven Mile Beach, Tasmania, to its network through the affiliation of the WorldMark South Pacific Club.

New marketing platforms via social networking has served the industry well and the ‘hard-sell’ culture of the past has now been replaced with slick online campaigns and blogs with high resolution pictures from members.

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