Monday, January 26, 2015

Those Enticing, Enchanting Timeshare Tour Incentives

This article is by guest author Helen Sabin. Helen's take on timeshare incentives is very clever, but keep in mind that salespeople are very good at their jobs and caution is recommended if you decide to give her methods a try!

Free! Free! Free! In order to market or sell timeshare points or weeks, resorts offer "incentives" to entice tourists, guests of a resort, or timeshare owners to come and take a tour. To the owners of the resort, these promotions are called "marketing". To those receiving the offers, it may be a bribe or sales pitch. Either way, it can be to your benefit to accept these incentives for the amount of time you spend on a tour.  Here's why...

Promotions Are Money in Your Pocket

Promotions are advertising. Rather than stick an ad into a local paper, resorts will hire promotion salespeople to reach out and bring in potential buyers. For example, in Mazatlan, Mexico, visitors were once offered a minimum of $300 to take tours of seven new resorts. 

If you had taken advantage of the $300 offers, you could have earned up to $2,100 if you opted to join the tour every morning. Free breakfasts were also included, saving you some additional expense. Some of the breakfasts were lavish while others were just coffee and rolls - either way, you benefit.  The free meal leaves a bit of extra money in your pocket and $2,100 would more than pay for a vacation for seven days.  

Instead of ignoring these "offers", or thinking that a resort is going to "take advantage of" or do a high-pressure sell, you might actually like what you see on a tour and if you do decide to purchase, you will have a place you really like to visit when on vacation. 

In some cases, the incentives will help pay for or allow you to do something special you could not otherwise afford. Mrs. John Grosso of Colorado used her promotion money to buy silver necklaces for her sisters for their birthdays. Jack Gregory of Georgia used the money to buy a straw hat that he could roll up and stick in his suitcase without worrying about crushing it. His wife, Jackie, bought herself two dresses, three shawls and a necklace in the El Central bazaar in Mazatlan. And a young man who wouldn't give this writer his name used his entire $300 to buy an extra piece of luggage to take home two bottles of tequila and canned potato chips to share with his fraternity brothers. 

Remember, instead of feeling pressured to buy, all you have to do is say no, then stick to it! Say goodbye, collect your money and enjoy the time you spent learning about a resort into which you might exchange some time in the future.  

Being Street Wise

Of course, you must be careful.  If anyone asks for money or a credit card upfront, do not give it and walk away.  These are scams and you should never give your credit card number or ID to anyone.  Remember… if it is too good to be true, watch out. Typically, if approached on the street, be careful.   If you agree to take a tour, do not give the "salesperson" your driver’s licenses or credit cards.  If they say it is only to make sure you show up, still do not agree. All you have to do is say you will be at a certain place to be picked up and transported to the new resort then double check with your resort's concierge to make sure the new resort is not a scam. The hotels usually have a list of resorts that are selling timeshares and can provide some assurance that the resort offer is legitimate.  

Typical tours include a breakfast or lunch and involve meeting a salesperson who will take you around the new resort and point out features. Be wary - if the resort is advertised as "new", make sure it is. Mold on the outside of the windows as you ride up in an elevator indicate that it is a refurbishment of an older building. Spaulding or "crumbling" concrete on the walls can also speak to the age of the building, as does rusted piping on the outside of the building.

Make note of these "defects" and at then end of the tour point them out to the salesperson. You probably will be politely ushered out and given the $300 with no objection or anger that you didn’t buy. While the salesperson may be upset that you didn’t purchase, you walk out with an extra $300 in your pocket. And after all…that should be the objective of you accepting a tour invitation. You are merely accepting an invitation and helping resorts use their advertising dollar as they designed.


Helen Sabin is a timeshare traveler and RedWeek member from Colorado Springs, Colorado. She and her husband attended seven tours in three weeks in Mazatlan Mexico and earned enough to pay for their vacation.  

Monday, January 19, 2015

RedWeek Reaches Out to Manhattan Club Owners

If you follow news in the timeshare industry, there's little doubt that you've heard of the Manhattan Club lawsuit. The case came to life in 2011, the crux of issue being that owners were unable to book reservations despite their ownership status. Banded together in a class-action lawsuit, owners alleges that the New York City-based timeshare deliberately oversold ownership and then went on to rent the remaining indeustry to travelers through its rental program. The Manhattan Club denies the accusations, holding that the risks of ownership were disclosed and it's clearly stated that owners might not be able to obtain the weeks they want. Additionally, The Manhattan Club states their rental program is beneficial to owners as it keeps maintenance fees down.

Since it's advent in 2011, word of the lawsuit has spread like wildfire and and continues to spark discussion among owners. In July of 2014, New York's Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed his own suit and obtained a court order that blocked any new sales at The Manhattan Club and prevented foreclosures against owners who refused to pay maintenance fees. The case even dipped into mainstream news in November on CNBC's "Power Lunch" program. Both events only added more fuel to the fire, and the heated discussion around the issue reached fevered levels. 

It's now 2015 and only time will tell what becomes of the lawsuit. RedWeek is committed to informing owners as the case progresses - penning several in-depth articles surrounding the subject and keeping an updated report thread where owners can get quick, easy to read coverage on the subject without the legalese. Now, RedWeek is asking owners to get involved. Since The Manhattan Club will not disclose an ownership list, we're seeking to compile a record of all owners so we can keep them in the loop with the newest updates on the case, including forum updates and our findings from the Attorney General's, the resort itself and owner groups. Even if you're not an owner, you can still opt in to receive the latest news.

Whether you're an owner, know an owner or are just interested in the lawsuit and what it means for the timeshare industry, we encourage you to help share the Owner's Page so we can reach every owner! If you're looking for even more ways to get involved, check out the Yahoo! discussion group (open to owners only) as well as the Disgruntled Manhattan Club Owners' page on Facebook (request an invite to join). And of course, feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments or on our Facebook page!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Is Travel to Mexico Safe?

With international travel, safety should always be at the forefront of your mind. Mexico is a favorite destination of many vacationers for it's beaches and exotic flair, but it's also gained as reputation as a very dangerous country where organized criminal groups run rampant. Many of Mexico's resort and tourist destinations can seem entirely safe - but are they?

The U.S. Department of State recently issued a Mexico travel warning that aims to inform travelers about high-risk areas of the country. While U.S. citizens have been the targets of violent crime such as robbery, kidnapping and carjacking, there is no evidence to suggest that U.S. citizens are targeted solely by their nationality. Rather,  many individuals are reported to be caught in the crossfire or used as leverage as criminal groups vie for control of the most lucrative drug trafficking routes. Bystanders have been caught in the middle of gunfights in seemingly safe locations such as restaurants or clubs in broad daylight, and tourists traveling by car have had their cars stolen to create roadblocks intended to bar law enforcement from responding to criminal activity.

Thankfully, many resort areas and tourist destinations have been deemed safe by U.S. Department of State and see much lower rates of the drug-related crime that plagues the border and central routes. Even so, it's still recommended to exercise caution in some major travel destinations. Caution is advised in the states of Aguascalientes, Baja California, Baja California Sur (Cabo San Lucas remains fairly safe, however), Chihuahua, Durango, Estado de Mexico, Morelos, Nuevo Leon, San Luis Potosi, Veracruz and Zacatava. 

Certain states represent an even greater risk, and it's recommended that all travel is deferred in the states of Coahuila, Colima, Guerrero (Acapulco, Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo are relatively safe, but should only be accessed by air or cruise ship and visitors are highly advised to remain in tourist areas), Jalisco, Michoacan, Nayarit, Sinaloa (Mazatlan is marginally safer but caution is advised and visitors are cautioned to remain in Zona Dorada and the historic town center, and to only enter via air), Sonora and Tamaulipas. As stated, some select tourist areas remain fairly secure, but it's important that travelers do not enter by road.

Finally, there are no advisories in effect for Campeche, Chiapas, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Mexico City, Oaxaca, Puebla, Querataro, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Tlaxcala and Yucatan. This indicates that reports of crime in these states is relatively low.

Mexico can still absolutely remain a fantastic vacation destination, but it never hurts to exercise a bit of extra caution even if your trip is confined to an area with no advisory. When traveling, it's best to lower your profile and minimize signs of wealth, such as expensive jewelry, watches or cameras. Try to remain within your particular destination and stick to tourist and resort areas for maximum safety. Travel by air and cruise ship directly to a tourist/resort area is the absolute safest, and traveling by car is highly discouraged - especially if you're crossing the border yourself. If you do rent a car or bring your own car, try to minimize your profile in vehicle as well. Large and dark vehicles are most often targeted by carjackers, as are luxury cars. 

What's been your experience with traveling to Mexico? What areas have you visited and do you feel safe? Does the U.S. Department of State's travel warning influence your future plans at all?

Monday, January 05, 2015

The Best Time to Buy DVC Points on Resale?

We already know that owner resales are a fantastic way to save on timeshare ownership, especially if you're looking at the larger vacation clubs like Disney Vacation Club (DVC). If you're really looking to maximize your "bang for the buck", however, you might also be asking when to buy. For a long time, there was no data on the subject - merely conjecture. Just recently, however, Fidelity conducted an analysis to determine the average sales prices of DVC resales by each month. To obtain their data, Fidelity analyzed over 3,000 DVC transactions spanning the years of 2010 to 2013. All the sales occurred through Fidelity's own resale division, and market changes like inflation are not accounted for.

graph reveals their findings. Over the course of the year, the number of sales starts off slow in January, begins to escalate in March before peaking in June and holding steady through the summer months. September sees a sharp decline in sales, a small rise in October, another drop in November and December sales rise just a bit before the cycle repeats. Summer clearly sees the most successful sales, but interestingly this is not when prices per point are the lowest.

February sees the absolute lowest prices at just an average of $58.86 per point, lending credence to the commonly-held idea that many owners will drop their prices around maintenance fee season, hoping for a quick sale. From there, prices steadily rise before peaking in September and leveling off through the autumn months and up to January where they fall begins again. Even so, the prices aren't terribly varied - we never see more than a $2.68 difference per point. While enough to make a marked difference on a large resale, it isn't likely to break the bank if you're planning on purchasing anyway.

Taking a look at the resorts sold is also quite telling. Anyone who frequents DVC resorts will know that Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort and Disney's Old Key West Resort often have quite a bit of availability, save for peak holiday weeks. This is also represented in the graph - Saratoga Springs and Old Key West each occupy a very large chunk of total sales, followed by Disney's BoardWalk Villas. Disney's Vero Beach Resort, Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort and Villas at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel represent the lowest number of sales. This may be partly due to their smaller amount of villas when compared with the larger Orlando properties partly as well as their respective locations experiencing lower crowds and demand when compared to Orlando. The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Aulani saw so few resales they were not represented in the graph.

Can the data revealed by Fidelity be applied to other major point-based vacation clubs? It's unlikely - converted Marriott points are reverted to their deeded weeks upon sale, and Diamond (DRI) points are tough to analyze due to the Collections system. One must also keep in mind that traditionally Orlando is traditionally a summer destination when families can vacation. Per month sales and point prices might vary wildly in areas with different high seasons - think a ski resort where high season might be December or January!

Check out the full analysis on Fidelity's blog for a more in-depth look at the data, and share your thoughts in the comments!