By Jeff Weir, RedWeek.com's Chief Correspondent
Welcome to the Big Easy!
Not sure how many people own timeshares in Louisiana, nor how many timeshare owners live in Louisiana, but RedWeek can guarantee you that several thousand timeshare people --- developers, CEOs, staffers, realtors, resale companies, lawyers, litigators and title experts, PR consultants, escrow agents, HOA managers, regulators, financial planners, software developers and the salt of the earth of timeshare --- sales people! --- are all gathered here in New Orleans for ARDA World, the annual "ain't life grand?" timeshare convention hosted by the American Resort Development Association. ARDA's very capable folks spend most of their time lobbying lawmakers and regulators to make the world a safer place for timeshares (and, frequently, consumers), but once a week, every year, they take time to reconvene the faithful and celebrate the industry. And on the last night of the convention, they give awards to dozens of people who have distinguished themselves over the past year. We'd call the hardware "ARDA-OSCARS".
That's this week in New Orleans. Let the Timeshare Mardi Gras begin. The real one came and passed in February.
The event is happening at a huge Hyatt right next door to the Louisiana Superdome. Every single staffer we've talked has first-person stories, they swear, about surviving Katrina's downtown flooding. Area looks great now. All rebuilt. No water.
The "ain't life grand?" quote is from the award-winning 1967 movie, Bonnie and Clyde. Clyde (Warren Beatty) uttered those fateful words before he and his bank-robbing girlfriend (Faye Dunaway), were gunned down by a battalion of cops in the Deep South in the 1930's. Not sure what the exact parallels are to timeshare, since the industry's overall economy is improving, sales are up 6 percent and owner approval ratings still hover at 83 percent. But this is pretty close to the Deep South, and it is New Orleans, which is a city very well-known as a place where anything is possible.
This four-day ARDA marathon, running early to late every day, will provide timeshare executives (and wannabes) with about two weeks of information on all timeshare subjects, including how to reinvent sales to capture new customers, to closing down a legacy resort that is running on fumes (and delinquencies). There will be some keynote presentations from business celebrities expert at motivating next-gen sales people, meet-and-greet networking events for the passing of business cards, as well as several after-hours entertainments for people on expense accounts. But the meat of the event is seminar after seminar on real business issues, such as: the fundamentals of timeshare, re-imagining the sales process, state and federal legislative and regulatory issues, ARDA-ROC's agenda for owners/consumers, managing HOA boards, using technology to reach new travelers, etc.
These are real subjects that would spark the synapses of many timeshare owners, if they were here. But they are not, which underscores a curious irony. ARDA hosts a fancy convention annually for members of the development community, which seems to hold all of the money, profit and cards in timeshare. BUT NO ONE, not NOBODY, hosts an annual educational convention for the 10 million or so timeshare owners in the United States --- and these are the people who paid all the money to the developers in the first place. Moreover, rank and file owners are, in general, the very people who need the most education about what they own, how to use it and, some day, how to get rid of it. Failing that last option, they also need to know what their legal remedies are if things go bad.
These are the kinds of issues, and services, that RedWeek attempts to address every day for owners who want to rent or sell their timeshares. Since ~60 percent of our 2.3 million+ subscribers are NOT timeshare owners, we're also intent on providing usable information that potential owners can use to do research on resorts, rentals, resales, and reputable news information about the industry.
That's what THIS blog is all about. And that's also why we are here, holed up in New Orleans for a few days, avoiding the melodious temptations of Bourbon Street so we can arm owners with useful information.
We do have one piece of maybe useful news for folks who have read our prior posts about Diamond Resorts. Ex-senior VP Frank Goeckel, most recently mentioned in this space as Missing in Action from Diamond Resorts, is back in action at ARDA. While others kept speculating about Frank, we just found him at a hotel restaurant, dining with friends. Fit as a fiddle, far as we could tell.
Now, if you know of any good timeshares to check out in New Orleans, let us know!
Your comments appreciated. We'll be back with more updates soon...