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  • Business-to-consumer (B2C): Our writers specialize in travel, vacation ownership, golf course equipment and maintenance, and RVing.
  • B2B materials: Let us create content that will help you sell products and services
  • Affordable pricing:  our work is customized to reflect your brand and produce results.
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*Directed by experienced writer Sharon Scott Wilson (shown above).

Contact Marla@TheTrades.com or call (931) 484-8819.

ARDA – Streamlined and Ready for Business

After-shocks from the COVID pandemic prompted a reassessment and realignment for most businesses. The trade association for the resort industry, ARDA (the American Resort Development Association), is no different. The evidence was seen in almost every aspect of the 2021 Fall Conference held in early November. Attendance was drastically reduced as compared to former years. Certainly, businesses operating in this sector are much fewer as consolidation of resorts and economic stressors reduce opportunities. The reduced audience was no doubt also due, in part, to the reduced number of committee meetings and events.

Toned-down, but not tone-deaf

ARDA key objectives have been laid out clearly in the past: The primary focus of the organization is advocacy – both for ARDA developer members and for individual timeshare owners represented by ARDA-ROC (ARDA’s Resort Owners Coalition). ARDA President Jason Gamel has assured us that ARDA’s financials are strong and the association’s volunteer leadership focused. We learned last spring that the ARDA Resort Owners Coalition (ARDA-ROC) consisted of 1.6 million timeshare owners whose interests were being addressed in 14 states. The ARDA International Foundation (AIF) continues to perform highly valued research.

Last year Orange Lake Resorts/HICV President & CEO Tom Nelson discussed how ARDA would be taking the lead in positive messaging. “We’ve allowed small voices to represent the industry,” he said. Since then, ARDA has launched an extremely promising initiative — #LoveMyTimeshare – which encourages satisfied owners to speak to why the industry has an 80-plus percent satisfaction rate.

So don’t let a reduced showing fool you. Our industry continues to improvise and pivot. It has always been peopled by the most inventive and creative entrepreneurial minds in the country. And, under Gamel’s direction along with an exceptional team, ARDA continues to evolve and align right along with its membership.

Back to Normal, First or Last?

During the ARDA Fall Conference, keynote speaker Jon Last, founder and president of Sports and Leisure Research Group and lead researcher on the “Back to Normal Barometer” which tracks consumer opinion. Last’s company is a full-service marketing research consultancy that supports leading brands in sports marketing, travel, media and leisure categories as well as a host of golf, travel and consumer product company clients.

He discussed our current situation through a series of charts, was expressed in his November 3, 2021, article entitled, “Golf, Inc. 2021 Palm Springs – What’s the Word?”, found online at sportsandleisureresearch.com/the-last-word: “According to SLRG, as of October 15, 2021, 69% of us are either working from home or splitting time between home and workplace. Only 31% regularly go to their designated workplace. This should serve golf well, as long as it lasts. That said, inflation is an obstacle to travel and the purchase of consumer items and could most definitely impact golf habits. SLRG studies show that nearly 2/3 of respondents perceive inflation as much greater now than in 2019, before the pandemic. Golfers are showing resiliency with more than a third (38%) predicting that people will return to spending freely on luxuries in 2021 and 52% expressing that they are better off now than 4 years ago.” While he was specifically addressing the golfing industry, his message was echoed to the resort industry attendees the following day.

Radical Curiosity, or the Value of Inquisitiveness

Seth Goldenberg, founder of Curiosity & Company, immediately engaged his listeners to consider how a question-based leadership practice such as used at Apple Stores and the Oprah Winfrey Network could help reimagine our industry. Author of the book, Radical Curiosity: Questioning Commonly Held Beliefs to Imagine Better Futures, Goldenberg is an entrepreneur and thought leader working at the intersection of design, business, and culture.

Goldenberg explains, “Radical curiosity is a practice of questioning commonly held beliefs to imagine flourishing futures. What that means to me is that we have to question the very root of things—not just, as you suggest, a childish or youthful curiosity, where there’s a kind of unintentional wandering and, oh, what does this do? A sensory kind of curiosity. This is a much more intentional, advanced practice, in which we have to question now more than ever a set of assumptions around the human condition. What is health? What is happiness? What is a relationship? What is gender? All these core ideas that were maybe commonly held wisdom for the past several centuries are experiencing such significant flux that radical curiosity is a kind of inquiry and investigation to look at the roots and the histories of these concepts, understand how contemporary society is evolving, and update our common wisdom in order to imagine a very different future.”

“As the founder and CEO of Epic Decade, a design studio propelling cultural change, Seth has worked with more than 50 of the Fortune 500 companies, leading non-profit organizations, and regional governments such as Apple, American Express, Boston University, and the State of Rhode Island to envision future business models and rethink our social systems. The studio is highly regarded for its IDEAS Salons, custom-designed exclusive retreats and conferences that invite leaders to ask the most essential questions of our time. Their salon leadership community includes more than 3,000 Nobel Prize winners, senators and executives from organizations like Apple, Google, Disney, Oprah Winfrey Network, Pfizer, Harvard University, Kaiser Permanente, the Department of Defense and more.”

It would appear that the current state of affairs in our industry is prime for IDEA salons, as well. ARDA is an apt leader in this respect when you consider the #LoveMyTimeshare campaign. Bumper stickers, anyone?

Sharon Scott Wilson, RRP, is Publisher of Resort Trades, Resort Trades Weekly, and produces a weekly webinar series –the Trades Lunch Bunch.  ​ Subscribe to Resort Trades Weekly, https://resorttrades.com/emagazine/  and to our channel “Resort Trades” on YouTube.

A Message About Resilience

Today the challenges presented by COVID-19 and its attending issues are even more severe than anything we’ve faced before, threatening as it does, not only our lives, but our livelihood.

At times like these, I like to remember what my grandmother always said, “This, too, shall pass.” Born in the late 1800s, she lived through WWI, the Spanish flu, WWII, and the Great Depression. Not to be cavalier about the current situation, but what could have been more severe than tallying the 75 million souls who died on all sides during World War II? Thankfully, it appears that today’s leaders in medicine, as well as in the private and public sectors, are acting quickly and decisively to curtail the spike of the spread of Coronavirus, as well as the economic fallout it has threatened…as quickly as they can I believe.

We came across a very informative explanation of the nature of the Coronavirus from a physician with access to experts at Johns Hopkins University. The Trades has not verified the facts and does not have any expertise in this field, however, we thought the material to be of interest:

* The virus is not a living organism, but a protein molecule (DNA) covered by a protective layer of lipid (fat), which, when absorbed by the cells of the ocular, nasal or buccal mucosa, changes their genetic code. (mutation) and convert them into aggressor and multiplier cells.

* Since the virus is not a living organism but a protein molecule, it is not killed, but decays on its own. The disintegration time depends on the temperature, humidity and type of material where it lies.

* The virus is very fragile; the only thing that protects it is a thin outer layer of fat. That is why any soap or detergent is the best remedy, because the foam CUTS the FAT (that is why you have to rub so much: for 20 seconds or more, to make a lot of foam).

By dissolving the fat layer, the protein molecule disperses and breaks down on its own.

* HEAT melts fat; this is why it is so good to use water above 77 degrees Fahrenheit for washing hands, clothes and everything. In addition, hot water makes more foam and that makes it even more useful.

* Alcohol or any mixture with alcohol over 65% DISSOLVES ANY FAT, especially the external lipid layer of the virus.

* Any mix with 1 part bleach and 5 parts water directly dissolves the protein, breaks it down from the inside.

* Oxygenated water helps long after soap, alcohol and chlorine, because peroxide dissolves the virus protein, but you have to use it pure and it hurts your skin.

* NO BACTERICIDE OR ANTIBIOTIC SERVES. The virus is not a living organism like bacteria; antibodies cannot kill what is not alive.

* NEVER shake used or unused clothing, sheets or cloth. While it is glued to a porous surface, it is very inert and disintegrates only after three hours on fabric and porous surfaces, four on copper and wood, 24 on cardboard, 42 on metal, and 72 hours on plastic. But if you shake it or use a feather duster, the virus molecules float in the air for up to 3 hours, and can lodge in your nose.

* The virus molecules remain very stable in external cold, or artificial as air conditioners in houses and cars. They also need moisture to stay stable, and especially darkness. Therefore, dehumidified, dry, warm and bright environments will degrade it faster.

* UV LIGHT on any object that may contain it breaks down the virus protein. For example, to disinfect and reuse a mask is perfect. Be careful, it also breaks down collagen (which is protein) in the skin.

* The virus CANNOT go through healthy skin.

* Vinegar is NOT useful because it does not break down the protective layer of fat.

* NO SPIRITS, NOR VODKA, serve. The strongest vodka is 40% alcohol, and you need 65%. [Darn!]

* LISTERINE IF IT SERVES! It is 65% alcohol.

* The more confined the space, the more concentration of the virus there can be. The more open or naturally ventilated, the less.

* You have to wash your hands before and after touching mucosa, food, locks, knobs, switches, remote control, cell phone, watches, computers, desks, TV, etc.; and when using the bathroom.  You have to moisturize dry hands from so much washing, because the molecules can hide in the micro cracks…the thicker the moisturizer, the better.  Also keep your NAILS SHORT so that the virus does not hide there.

Cathy Backus photo

Resort Trades Says, “We Are Huge Cathy Backus Fans!”

As many of my readers know, I am the publisher of Resort Trades, as well as ResortTrades.com, and Resort Trades Weekly (our award-winning B2B eNewsletter distributed to resort and vacation industry executives). All of us at The Trades Publishing Company admire and love our friend Cathy Backus, the founder and president of the philanthropy, Send Me On Vacation (SMOV).

When we learned Cathy had taken early retirement from the travel insurance company, Vacation Guard, we were eager to speak with her about joining our team. I am super-excited to announce that when I made the offer during the recent ARDA World convention in Orlando, she accepted the position of Associate Editor for The Trades!

A highly respected travel and tourism industry professional, Cathy became a Certified Travel Counselor in the ‘80s when she worked for Club Med. After leaving the company, she began working with resort developers and managers as a supplier of owners’ insurance products.

During this time, Cathy watched as her best friend grappled with emotional and economic challenges on her way back to health and serenity after twice combatting breast cancer. Cathy was moved to see her friend virtually left adrift after her ordeal. When she saw how much her friend needed a break from the day-to-day realities, Cathy crafted a plan to reach out to her contacts in the travel and timeshare industry to donate unused inventory to send survivors on a much-needed vacation. Inspired by her friend’s tenacity, and aided by her husband and “partner in giving” Gene Backus, Send Me On Vacation (SMOV) was granted 501 (c)(3) status after filing in 2011.

Send Me On Vacation is an all-volunteer organization and raises funds for survivors to become thrivers through events such as galas, a High Tea, and an annual poker tournament held prior to the annual ARDA World convention. Each time an event is held, SMOV sends local survivors from that state away for exotic vacations. This concept allows the charity to support the communities which are supporting their state’s survivors. The organization brings together travel industry professionals to contribute resort accommodations, airlines, cruises, entertainment, and dollars to change the lives of breast cancer survivors “one vacation at a time.”

For years, Resort Trades has gladly supported SMOV, as well as Christel House, with monthly, donated advertising space for the purpose of soliciting support for these fine organizations. We are honored beyond measure to be able to have Cathy join our editorial team. For more than ten years we have witnessed her abundant energy and talent as she writes compelling articles each month about the courage and fortitude of survivors as they overcome the challenges of picking up the pieces of their lives.”

“While philanthropy will be her principle ‘beat,’ she is being given free reign and is at liberty to cover any other topic of interest,” says Resort Trades Founder & CEO Tim Wilson. “We are simply delighted to have on-board such a gifted, energetic, and charismatic person.”

Could what you don’t know about SEO hurt your resort?

Recently, SharonINK, was acquired by The Trades Publishing Company, From now on THE TRADES INK will be utilizing our Content Marketing capabilities with our parent company’s array of media, which includes two of everything: Two magazines, two websites, two eNewsletters, and two social media programs.

Our first client represented a resort’s marketing department and led us on a merry chase when they refused to recognize that managing their SEO would be their primary tool. We don’t claim to have all the answers but we do recognize that the very first thing an individual does when planning a vacation is to start making plans using Google.

Once upon a time and long, long ago, you researched your trip to Disney World by going to your local AAA office and asking them to customize a set of maps and destination information, called a “TripTik.” And as far as that once-in-a-lifetime vacation in Honolulu, you would write the visitor’s bureau and wait for them to send brochures. Today, the first thing someone does when planning a vacation is turn to Google. If our new client was to be responsible for attracting leads to visit his property, he needed to place a high priority on getting his property on Page One of a Google search. In the case of this resort, our first priority was to chisel out a list of keywords and make plans for a sound SEO strategy.

Maybe, like me, you’re not a SEO professional. But tremble as we might, we know the buck stops here. We need to be aware of some common misconceptions about how Google’s algorithm works and learn all we can about how to make it work for us. Whether or not you’re doing the actual hands-on work, or entrust these activities to an expert, understanding the world’s most prominent search engine is just about the most vital thing you can do to make sure you lead that race to the top of the ranks.

In the case of our new client, we offered to assist them in reviewing their online strategy and help their webmasters improve their ranking on Google. The first step would be to identify their optimal keywords. Gone are the ‘90s when you could cram keywords into a page of copy. These days, keyword stuffing’s about as passé as spats and suspenders. Various Google updates since those early days have introduced penalties for trying to beat the system.

Today, Google algorithms are looking for 1) authority in the form of your site’s overall strength in the market; 2) trustworthiness, as in hosting high quality content and backlinks from reliable sources; and 3) the relevance of your site to your product and your users.

According to SEO 2019: Learn Search Engine Optimization with Smart Internet Marketing Strategies, by Adam Clarke, Search Metrics (https://www.searchmetrics.com/glossary/google-keyword-planner) provides the following short list of the top Google ranking factors:

  1. Overall content relevance
  2. Click-through rate
  3. Time-on-site
  4. Bounce rate (lower is better)
  5. HTTPS – security certificate installed on the site
  6. Font size in main content area (larger is better)
  7. Number of images
  8. Number of internal links
  9. Total social media activity
  10. Number of backlinks

These factors are from a study released in 2016. After its release, it was announced that Search Metrics would no longer publish their rankings whitepapers. But odds are good that the above factors remain in effect with the notable addition of mobile support. In fact, we’re constantly hearing about more emphasis being placed on the need for sites to be mobile-friendly.

The Internet and Your Resort’s Marketing Mix

Prospective customers are learning about the world around them through the Internet every day, whether consciously or otherwise. Your challenge is to educate them about the value of your resort and how it will benefit them.

As we discussed, the foundation of an online strategy begins with effective list of keywords. Buying a Google Ad campaign is the easiest way to access the data behind its search box, which enables you to use their Keyword Planner tool.

Next on your to-do list would be to ensure your site is readable to Google’s spiders through on-page SEO. Among other tactics, this entails using search engine-friendly URLs. Your URLs should accurately reflect the content of your page. Next, make sure your site’s easy to navigate. “For an additional SEO boost, include links to pages you want visible to search engines and visitors on the home page,” adds Clarke.

If your site loads like you’re waiting for a red light to turn green, this could hamper your search engine results. Plus, beware of duplicate content that might cause you to be penalized. Other tricks of the trade include controlling your site’s snippets, building backlinks, and maintaining an active and consistent social media campaign.

Content and Your Online Success

In her book, in her book, Own Your Niche: Hype-Free Internet Marketing Tactics to Establish Authority in Your Field and Promote Your Service-Based Business, Stephanie Chandler notes that the number one tactic to build your audience and establish your authority online is to produce a lot of content. “This includes writing on blogs. And today you have to not only have your own blog – so that you can publish whatever you want, whenever you want to – but you must also guest post on other blogs.”

A first step is to begin by producing and distributing content: press releases, feature-length articles, and blog posts. It may be that your local chamber has additional tools at your disposal, especially if you are a member. One of our clients, located in Tennessee, has access to that state’s tourism site, https://www.tnvacation.com, for example. The client’s sales team can use the site in various ways, such as helping visitors plan their vacation and promising free tickets to events.  

How about having your satisfied customers tell their story through personal testimonials in the form of Case Studies to use as articles and blog posts. Once these are posted on your own blog site, they can be offered to prominent (and not-so-prominent) travel bloggers to use as free content. Don’t forget about curating content for your blogging and micro-blogging from other sources.

Build media relationships. Put together a proprietary database of media contacts for your local media as well as media in your target markets. An extension of this effort would be to build backlinks to publications’ and organizations’ websites and connect with editors and publishers through LinkedIn. Using a media CRM such as Cision comes with a $2,000-plus price tag, but is great if you can swing it.

Learn from competitors. Utilize Google Alerts and other means to track online activity of your competitors. Chandler writes, “You don’t have to contact competitors to learn from them.” She recommends reviewing their on- and off-line materials, studying their services, and paying attention to how they promote themselves.

“Pay attention to where they advertise and what kind of media coverage they have received.”  She mentions that being aware of your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses will also help you respond to any questions you might get from prospective clients.

Social Media. “Many of the independent studies on Google’s ranking algorithm show a large correlation with high-ranking pages having strong social media activity,” says Clarke. “While the official stance from Google is that they do not directly use social signals in their algorithm, the SEO community pretty much agrees it is certainly a factor in achieving rankings.”

Blogging and Other Secrets

As I wrote in my May 2018 Resort Trades article, “4 Reasons Why Blogging is Still Relevant” (https://resorttrades.com/4-reasons-why-blogging-is-still-relevant), blogging helps you 1) optimize your website, 2) connect with the right customers and connect more frequently, 3) maintain archived content that continues to work for you, and 4) connect with customers.

Remember to focus on quality, not just volume. In my September 2018 Resort Trades article, “Online Lead Generation: Pipe Dream or Full Pipeline?,” I discuss ideal article lengths by referring to an article in Forbes written by John Rampton in 2016 (forbes.com/sites/johnrampton/2016/05/05/7-seo-trends-every-small-business-needs-to-know). Rampton says, “Searchmetrics, for instance, found that the top 10 pages contained an average of 1,285 words. serpIQ, on the other hand, has found 1,500 words to be a good target length.”

Another article suggests the number may eventually change as more readers sign on with mobile devices. According to a post by snapagency.com, (snapagency.com/blog/posts-2018-whats-best-length-seo), “In the past couple years, the best post length for SEO was around 2,000 words. Longer blog posts ranked better, but evidence also seems to suggest that readers don’t typically want to read posts this long.”

The Be-All/End-All

“One of the most powerful on-page SEO strategies is adding more unique, fresh content to your site,” observes Clarke. “If you consistently add new pages to your site, you are going to receive more traffic. In fact, not only can you increase your traffic, you can receive an exponential traffic increase as you publish more content.

“It’s a no-brainer when you think about it. This is why blogs, publishing, and news-type sites consistently get good results in search engines. More contact means more rankings, more visitors, and more sales.”

Finally, a word about quality: If you’re planning to handle the creation and distribution of content, yourself, you may wish to reconsider. Are you going to be able to produce and distribute quality materials consistently? You may well have the intellectual capacity to research, write, post and follow through with the various tasks to optimize your blogging activities. But, before tossing a new, and fairly weighty, additional burden into your in-basket, make sure you have the time to make it a priority. Otherwise, you may be better off outsourcing your company’s online content production.

Sharon Scott Wilson is Publisher of Resort Trades and Golf Course Trades magazines.  Her firm, SharonINK – providing clients with B2B and B2C content – recently became a subsidiary of The Trades Publishing Company and is now called SharonINK/THE TRADES.

SharonINK Joins The Trades Publishing Company

By Sharon Scott Wilson

Jack Richardson at The Trades Publishing Company gave me a call in 1993 to ask if I would begin writing a monthly column for its publication Resort Trades. I had met Jack and his boss, Trades Owner/Publisher Tim Wilson, in 1989 while I worked for ARDA (or, ARRDA at that time). Jack passed away several years later; Tim and I continue to remember him fondly.

After I established my PR and content marketing company, SharonINK in 2006, I continued to write for The Trades. Tim and I married in 2013 and in 2017 Tim asked me to take over as publisher of The Trades’ two publications, Resort Trades and Golf Course Trades. Resort Trades’ audience consists of vacation providers, including timeshare resorts, travel companies, membership clubs, and rental companies. Readers of Golf Course Trades are course owners, operators, and superintendents interested in staying current with their industry.

With the advent of digital media, both titles began to explore the opportunities inherent with the ability to offer a full marketing mix. Because The Trades can now offer a multi-channel approach to help vendors use both the power of print and the reach of the Internet to promote their products, it made sense to add another feature – Content Marketing – to the company toolbox. Engrossed as I was by my duties as publisher and media director for Tim’s housing development, I decided to fold the writing and promotional services from SharonINK into The Trades as THE TRADES INK with its access to a fine team of writers, copy editors, graphic designers, and digital experts.

Perhaps the most significant initiative of THE TRADES is our investment in search engine optimization (SEO). We recently promoted Carrie Vandever to the position of Digital Media Manager. She will be in charge of managing and leading content for the company’s various digital assets including ResortTrades.com, the Resort Trades Weekly eNewsletter, GolfCourseTrades.com, the Golf Course Trades Supplier Directory, the Golf Course Trades Weekly eNewsletter, and all social media platforms. She will also provide leadership in directing the development of The Trades’ search engine optimization (SEO) activities.

The Trades’ SEO Initiative

At our home headquarters, we have been passing around a game-changing book by Will Coombe entitled, 3 Months to No. 1. Resort marketing and human resource professionals who excel at ranking at the top of Google searches are finding the effort to learn this craft extremely useful.

Coombe appropriately bills his masterpiece as “the ‘no-nonsense’ SEO playbook for getting your website found on Google.” Besides recommending it wholeheartedly to our readers, we’ve made the book — particularly his step-by-step, week-by-week “SEO Blueprint and Checklist” — our new corporate user’s manual.

The reason we’re giving this so much of our attention should be evident: We want to serve our readers, to give them enough value that they’ll keep coming back. As they continue to review our material, we receive our reward — higher Google ratings. And as Resort Trades receives higher ratings, so do our advertisers…. Win-win!

I don’t know why it took me so long to fully appreciate the value of SEO; to ‘get it.’ But since I’ve been through my Great Awakening, I’ve taken on the mantle of evangelist. I find myself talking about it to everyone I know!

 My message is perhaps being preached to the choir: In online marketing — whether you’re appealing as a vendor to professionals in the resort/vacation/resort rental business, or you are marketing a resort product to consumers, for example — you can compete virtually with any competitor. It’s just a matter of appearing higher on a Google SERP (search engine results page) than others.

When resort marketers or vendors become complacent and feel their reputation is well established and they are being followed by loyal customers: Bang! Along comes a disruptive interloper. And these days, more often than not, the obtrusive intruder grabs your customer’s attention by appearing above you on a SERP!

Try This at Home:

First Step: Keyword Research. You’ll want to use Google’s Keyword Planner Tool whether or not you are buying an ad. It’s free, but you have to work around a pretty persistent series of landing pages insisting you sign up for an advertising campaign. Visit Joshua Hardwick’s blog post https://ahrefs.com/blog/google-keyword-planner/ for a step-by-step guide to avoid the expense. Another really helpful site is Neil Patel’s blog, https://neilpatel.com/ubersuggest/

How important is Content Marketing? It is 100 percent, absolutely, totally vital. There is a delicately balanced mixture of art and science involved in pleasing the Google algorithm deities and one of the major offerings you must present at its unholy altar (no offense, Google…just trying to make a point) is a consistent, intelligent, and keyword-clever volume of content.

If perhaps you’re wondering where to start, my advice is simple: study the blogs and books coming from the most notable SEO gurus and, meanwhile, start building a volume of work in the form of blogs and posts.

Just a few tips:

  • Be likeable; show you’re human. People buy from those they know, like and trust.
  • Create a sense of belonging. Resorts are often very good at making their guests feel they are part of an exclusive group. Wine and dine them, woo them like a lover.
  • Use storytelling whenever possible. Your blogs, your collateral and your social media will be most effective when you tell a story featuring people. Storytelling is the most compelling promotional tool you have.
  • Use events whenever possible. Ask a car salesman or a realtor. They will tell you that the words “Grand Opening” or “Super Sales Event” draws a crowd, even though the prices and offerings are the same on a non-event day.
  • Being different is better than being better (unless you get weird). Here’s where having a sizable volume of good, solid content can set you apart.
  • Focus on leads, not sales.

Blog Away, Oh Pilgrim!

How do you build content? Blog! Here are some more tips:

  • Pay careful attention to writing attention-grabbing headlines in your blog and social media posts. The best headlines create surprise, ask a question or create curiosity.
  • Use your keywords in headlines and the text whenever possible. Use pictures everywhere. Pictures and videos with people telling their own stories, your story…any story…are hot these days.
  • If you’re studying this post, you are probably a perfectionist seeking to produce highly researched and well-written materials. While it is important to create as grammatically correct and accurate posts, try to not procrastinate. Experts say, get it out there..
  • We didn’t have a chance to discuss cross linking in this post; I guess that’s worth a post all by itself. All of your online efforts are intended to drive traffic to your website.

It has been suggested you should add a landing page to every URL.I confess to be behind the times when it comes to adding these to my own sites. (Do as I say; not as I do!) Offer some special information in exchange for contact information. People are accustomed to being asked to give something to get something. But provide a landing page as an option for viewers to fill out, whether it’s gated or open.

All in all, remember that SEO is a lifestyle change, not a diet. Make it your marketing priority and don’t assume you will ever catch up totally with All Knowledge. Things are happening too quickly out there; just do your best. And good luck!

Sharon Scott Wilson is Publisher and Managing Partner at The Trades Publishing Company, a media and digital content marketing company located in Crossville, Tennessee. The Trades produces multi-media channels supporting resort and rental marketing professionals, golf course owners and superintendents, and a niche community of luxury homes with attached, fully-enclosed RV garages. GardensRV.com; ResortTrades.com; GolfCourseTrades.com.

Timeshare Exit Companies Under Fire

The timeshare industry and companies that help you exit your timeshare are at war, according to a MSN.com 50-second video: http://a.msn.com/01/en-us/BBRsPMn?ocid=se. According to freelance writer and longtime resort industry veteran Sharon Scott Wilson, “Timeshare exit companies have popped up everywhere, it seems. Many of them attempt to mislead consumers who have entered into legally binding real estate agreements by persuading them to essentially lie. Often these companies advise consumers to make claims that they were misled in the sales process and, in so doing, they are told they may then refuse to meet their mortgage and annual homeowner fee obligations.”

“While the legal system needs to protect individuals who have legitimate complaints, it does not condone fraudulent claims,’” she added. “Before attending a timeshare presentation, I would advise people to do some research. One informative resource is BayTreeSolutions.com, a timeshare resort resale provider. (By way of full disclosure, Bay Tree Solutions is a client of mine and the company’s CEO, Doug Milbrath, is one of what I would call ‘the good guys.’)

“In addition, I recommend reading Lisa Ann Schreier’s Timeshare Vacations for Dummies, which I have found to have plenty of good information. You can also visit VacationBetter.org, a consumer-oriented website managed by the American Resort Development Industry.”

About Sharon Scott Wilson

Wilson writes print/online content for blog posts, feature-length articles, and social media. She is experienced in planning and implementation of online marketing strategy, and is a prolific business writer. Her timeshare industry-focused B2B articles have appeared on numerous occasions in Resort Trades, DEVELOPMENTS (ARDA’s magazine) and other media.  Sharon is Publisher of Resort Trades and Golf Course Trades magazines.  Her PR and marketing firm, SharonINK, recently became a subsidiary of The Trades Publishing Company.

Media Contact: Sharon Scott Wilson, RRP;  SharonINK.com; 310-923-1269

Think Like an Egyptian

By Sharon Scott Wilson, RRP

In his best-selling book, Making Ideas Happen, Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality, Scott Belsky writes, “Ideas don’t happen because they are great – or by accident. The misconception that great ideas inevitably lead to success has prevailed for too long. Whether you have the perfect solution for an everyday problem or a bold new concept for a creative masterpiece, you must transform vision into reality. Far from being some stroke of creative genius, this capacity to make ideas happen can be developed by anyone. [Emphasis added.] You just need to modify your organizational habits, engage a broader community, and develop your leadership capability.

Just think about that for a second. Anybody – you, your kid, your best friend – anyone can make ideas happen. Belsky says, “Everything in life should be approached as a project. Every project can be broken down into just three things: Action Steps, Backburner Items, and References.” This is how the Egyptians built the pyramids, one brick at a time. Surely Leonardo da Vinci had more ideas than one person could possibly handle; but by taking action, he produced some of the finest art the world has ever seen.

My friend and a loyal Resort Trades supporter, Kevin Mattoni, gets things done. I remember when he first came to us and spoke of his new business, C.A.R.S. I first met Kevin in 1992; I believe it was in Sarasota. He was a partner with Sharon and Richard Cunningham, founders of Cunningham Property Management. Today, he is managing partner of the company. At that time, Kevin was responsible for finding an answer for the financial needs of a number of timeshare resorts that had been impacted by the S&L fallout in the late ‘80s. The original developers of the resorts had defaulted on their acquisition construction loans, the banks were now the owner, and the banks were not willing to fund the resort’s operational expenses. The properties and all the deeded owners were in jeopardy. Kevin needed to immediately generate income to remain open.

ACTION STEPS: As Kevin tells it, “Everything started with organizing the inventory to implement rentals, then sales, then all the legal work to inevitably sell out the inventory. Because we had no funding, we needed to rely on our industry contacts for advice, advertising, marketing, everything.” The result is all the Cunningham managed resorts are operating today, continually receive the highest ratings, and are financially viable.

The next challenge Mattoni took on while managing The Cunningham Family of Companies and their asset recovery division was how to gain industry recognition and obtain executed agreements from resorts in several states to efficiently and economically resolve their delinquent intervals by using non-judicial foreclosure. The launch of Cunningham Asset Recovery Service (C.A.R.S.) was the result.

ACTION STEPS: When Kevin had the idea for C.A.R.S. his goal was to make the entire process easy for the client. He based his service on utilizing the software that resorts were already using, an accounts receivable program. Kevin developed an easy program to track the status of every existing and potential client. “I don’t have the best memory and didn’t want our success to depend on that. Working with management software already in place and then bringing in what was needed for tracking, sending emails, surveys, it allowed me to stay organized.” The result is that C.A.R.S. is one of the leaders in providing these services to associations, developers, and lenders. “This was all accomplished within 3 years”

It wasn’t a miracle that produced the Mona Lisa, raised the pyramids, or established C.A.R.S. As Mattoni says “To turn dreams into reality, we need to work and live with a focus on efficient action, getting something accomplished every day as if our livelihood depended on it.

Sharon Scott Wilson is publisher of Resort Trades and Golf Course Trades magazines.  Her firm, SharonINK – providing clients with B2B and B2C content – recently became a subsidiary of The Trades Publishing Company.

George H.W. Bush & Anthony Bourdain: Lessons Learned

By Sharon Scott Wilson

The recent passing of Anthony Bourdain and George H.W. Bush affected me deeply. I am still not over Bourdain who hosted the hit television commentary series on CNN, “Parts Unknown” and committed suicide in June. After news of President Bush’s passing, I found myself weeping almost every day. I wept not only for Bush, but for Bourdain, as well…and, most likely for my own mortality.

It seemed to me that each of these men had such exceptional qualities; they each had a quiet dignity. I am holding onto a sense of regret that I had not better appreciated them while they lived.

Yes, I’m sure that Bourdain had his moments when he terrorized his staff and tortured his loved ones. I remember hearing him refer to himself as an a**hole. One of his crew said of him, “Sure, he was a d*ck; but, he was our d*ck.”

Although I did not vote for him, President Bush appealed to me as being a dignified, idealistic gentleman. He may have appeared to have been almost too milk-toast to survive in the rough waters of American politics…or, any communal gathering for that matter. (Take any homeowner association as an example of political rancor and discordance, for example.) Of course, I have lately come to learn that self- restraint takes more strength of character than hot-headedness, vitriol, and sharp-shooting remarks.

One of the lessons I wish to learn from them both is how to truly connect with people. Take Bourdain, for instance. He touched people. He had genuine respect for and interest in those who, like himself, overcame great odds. Bush was famous for writing personal notes and letters to perhaps thousands of individuals.

We read in littlebaomay’s comments to Bourdain on Instagram: “Happy to be touched by you in what you stand for and what you pursue. To know that you were going to shoot our restaurant, felt like winning a lottery or a dream manifested. To meet you and to instantly know you are exactly how I thought you would be. A hero exploring the truth through food and travel. You beat the harsh hours of being a chef. You beat the heroine. You beat the cocaine. You made a life of yourself inspiring millions, living a dream life with truth that not many know how to live….” She writes further about the curse of depression, which was Bourdain’s final blow; his invincible challenge. At last she writes, “Love him and celebrate him. Remember him for his work but also spend time to read and learn more about depression because we can still share awareness in protecting those around us. Thank you @anthonybourdain.”

We get a more direct life lesson from President Bush: “Tell the truth. Don’t blame people. Be strong. Do your best. Try hard. Forgive. Stay the course.” (Courtesy of #WebNerds on Instagram.) The Washington Post wrote, “In 1988, Mr. Bush gave a list of the qualities he most cherished to Peggy Noonan, who wrote his speech accepting that year’s Republican presidential nomination. They were: ‘family, kids, grandkids, love, decency, honor, pride, tolerance, hope, kindness, loyalty, freedom, caring, heart, faith, service to country, fair (fair play), strength, healing, excellence.’”

Two very different men and, yet, vivid reminders that each of us will leave a legacy. For what will you be remembered, do you think? I hope to be remembered for having Bourdain’s insatiable curiosity and creativity, joined with a love for people. Plus, I would love to be known today, even while still alive, for any and all of the qualities listed Bush listed for Peggy Noonan but chiefly for tolerance, hope, kindness, and loyalty.

For whatever qualities we wish to be remembered, we need to exercise them every day. As the Bible says in Proverbs 23, verse 7, “As a man thinks in his heart, so he is.”

Photo Credit: (c) 2013 Sharon Scott Wilson; Autumn, from "The Door Series."

 

Bluegreen Vacations stocks jump

Bluegreen Vacations made the news last week: “The Motley Fool” ran an interesting article on November 27, 2018, “Why Spirit Airlines, Bluegreen Vacations, and StoneCo Jumped Today.” As you might imagine, it was all thanks to clever stock moves. Here’s what they said, “Bluegreen Vacations saw its stock climb 17% in the wake of the decision of its board of directors to implement a share repurchase program. The vacation ownership specialist and resort manager said that it would buy back as much as 3 million shares, paying no more than $35 million toward repurchases. With the company already 90% owned by BBX Capital, the limited float means that the 3 million share authorization represents more than 40% of outstanding shares held by the public. Interest among investors in companies specializing in timeshares and other vacation real estate has been solid lately. However, with the share price jumping so far, Bluegreen might choose not to make any repurchases under the program unless the stock falls back.”

The Lore and Allure of the Smokies

(Originally published October 30, 2018, at https://www.baytreesolutions.com/blog/2018/10/31/the-lore-and-allure-of-the-smokies.)

They call it “Rocky Top” for a reason; early settlers struggled to find a patch of arable ground in the Tennessee Smoky Mountain region of the Appalachians. Still, after the discovery of the Cumberland Gap in 1750 and at the end of the French and Indian War in 1763, a few rugged settlers scrubbed out a hard-knock living here. A visit to Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and the surrounding areas elicits visions of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone-like pioneers, clad in coonskin hats and buckskin clothing, shouldering a long rifle and powder horn and accompanied by rugged-looking long-skirted women or Cherokee brides.

The region’s history is just part of the allure drawing vacationers year-round to drive east on the I-40 from Knoxville, turn south on Route 441 (or, as the natives call it, ‘the Parkway’), passing Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg on their way to visit one of America’s oldest and most storied national parks, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

If you take the trip, as you leave the Interstate you’ll find yourself in Sevierville. This is an excellent halfway point between Knoxville with its small-city feel and the park, which occupies 244,000 acres of Tennessee and 276,000 acres of North Carolina. This totals 520,000 acres, which equates to over 800 square miles. The Smokies are the most-visited national park in the United States, but you’d never know it as you have over 800 miles of hiking trails to choose from, including 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail.

Take a look at the Wyndham Smoky Mountains while you’re there. This resort is loaded with amenities; there are two of everything! There are two outdoor swimming pools, two indoor swimming pools, two outdoor children’s pools, two outdoor hot tubs, two exercise equipment areas, two miniature golf areas, two playgrounds, and two dry saunas. (You might need at least one of these saunas to help you wind down after all that exercise!) You might find it difficult to peel yourself away for a visit to the national park, but it will be worth it!

The park opened in 1934 and still has no entry fee. There are miles and miles of trails for every stroller or full-on hiker which lead you through the verdant forest, past trickling brooks and streams, and up to views of gushing waterfalls. For the full outdoor experience there’s whitewater rafting, river tubing, and fly fishing. In the winter months, downhill skiing can be enjoyed for a short season at Ober Gatlinburg.

Route 441, or the Parkway, is the Smokies’ main street leading southward from I-40 toward the national park. Once you’re past Sevierville, you’ll come to the mountain town of Pigeon Forge. Here you’ll find country singer Dolly Parton’s Appalachian-themed Dollywood, consisting of a theme park with thrilling rides and an adjoining water park. There’s a museum of Dolly’s costumes and memorabilia and, on occasion, one of her relatives might just drop by. There are comedy and country music shows, including the not-to-be-missed Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede.

The Lodges at the Great Smoky Mountains are located in Pigeon Forge and would also make a lovely choice for your resort home. Each picturesque one-to-three-bedroom cabin or mountain lodge provides you with that wilderness feel, but with a luxurious touch. After a day of hiking, shopping, or entertainment, you can curl up in front of a crackling fire with a glass of wine, whip up dinner in your fully equipped kitchen (yes, there’s a dishwasher!), and have a nice long soak in your copper tub.

Driving along the Parkway you’ll see the Old Mill, a restaurant and shopping complex built around a 19th-century gristmill, and the Titanic Museum Attraction, a re-creation of the luxury ocean liner that sank on its maiden voyage in 1912. Other attractions include Parrot Mountain & Gardens, in which you can get up close and personal with the colorful creatures and lush foliage.

The division between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg is hardly discernable, except Gatlinburg – with its narrower passageways and chockablock boutique shops – has an almost Old World charm to it. The local chamber of commerce provides an app for your mobile device and an online visitor’s guide to help you plan your fun. While you’re in town, families with small children might wish to set aside an entire day for a visit to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. There, kids of all ages can ‘meet’ the penguins, watch an African penguin create a work of art in the Penguin Painting Experience; touch a horseshoe crab or stingray; or step onto a moving 340-foot-long glide path winding through an underwater tunnel as you view sea turtles, sharks, and moray eels.

For beautiful mountaintop views, a visit to the Holiday Inn Vacation Smoky Mountains Resort is in order. This resort offers one-, two-, and three-bedroom villas — all with fully equipped kitchens, washers and dryers, and a furnished patio or balcony. Guests typically compliment it with accolades such as ‘wonderful’ and ‘beautiful.’ You can’t beat it for location; it’s smack-dab in the middle of Gatlinburg. After a day of wandering the streets in town, you can just imagine enjoying a hot toddy in front of the huge outdoor fireplace in the evening or a long soak in a luxurious hot tub.

The Parkway leads directly through the heart of the Smokies. One detour you’ll want to make once you get to the park is to visit the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, which celebrates the cultural heritage of East Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountain region. The center features gallery exhibits, educational programs, demonstrations, and festivals leading visitors through a historic journey. Neighborhood model train aficionados, members of the Maryville Model Railroad Club, have launched a new holiday tradition exhibiting the Smoky Junction Model Train Exhibit on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through January 6th. Visitors will enjoy a multi-themed model railroad experience at the Heritage Center featuring a Townsend/Walland landscape, a garden scale train, and a winter wonderland.

Probably one of the best draws of the area is affordability. You can enjoy many of the same amusements and entertainment venues as are offered in Vegas or Orlando for much, much less! Adult tickets for the Dixie Stampede, for example, start around only $55.00.  This includes a pre-dinner music concert; a tasty three-course meal; and an amazing show featuring trick horseback riding, music, and comedy. Dinner was so delicious that our unusually finicky two children, ages four and seven, actually ate it all with relish!

Plus, in the Smokies region, you typically won’t have long lines for rides, at restaurants, or to see a show. The weather in winter is typically cool, but mild. Last year, for example, the high temperatures in December averaged in the mid-50s with very few rainy days. Temperatures in summer can reach the lower 90s, but in the fall and spring, they are just about perfect, of course. You have the cool breezes flowing through the mountain passes which keep the temperatures consistently in the high 70s. Give a vacation in the Smokies a try and you just might find – like so many others – there’s no better place for a vacation.

(Originally published October 30, 2018, at https://www.baytreesolutions.com/blog/2018/10/31/the-lore-and-allure-of-the-smokies.)