Category Archives: Association News

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, 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.”

Gardens RV Village to Exhibit at Several FMCA Expos

The Gardens RV Village — a community of luxury homes exclusively developed for RV owners — plans to exhibit at various expos being presented by the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA). This year will mark the 100th such expo to be presented by the association. Below is the announcement of upcoming events.

FMCA Announces Expos

FMCA has booked locations for its 2019 conventions.
This summer, FMCA will visit CAM-PLEX Multi-Event Facilities
July 18 through 21 for its 98th convention.

Cincinnati, OH – June 2018 / Newsmaker Alert / Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA), a Cincinnati-based international association for RV owners, has announced the dates and locations for its conventions in 2019.

FMCA will be making a return visit to a popular venue for the association’s 99th International Convention and RV Expo – the Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter in Perry, Georgia. The March 13 through 16, 2019, gathering will mark the 11th convention FMCA has hosted at this middle Georgia facility, which FMCA leaders describe as tailor-made for an FMCA event.

“We haven’t hosted a convention at the same venue two years in a row since the early days of FMCA. So, this is a bit of a departure from the norm, but Perry is such a fantastic facility and meets our needs so well that we have decided to go back there next year. Meanwhile, we’ll be exploring other potential locations for future winter/spring events,” FMCA national president Jon Walker said.

The location of the Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter, just off Interstate 75, and the usual timing of the gathering, as many snowbirds are heading back home, play a role in the success the association has with events held at this facility. A number of the group’s largest events have taken place there, most recently in March 2018.

“The staff at the fairgrounds are great to work with,” noted FMCA executive director Chris Smith. “And the facility has made substantial improvements over the years to help accommodate FMCA events, including adding roadways and drainage in RV parking areas. Not only that, but the community rolls out the red carpet to welcome FMCA families. So, we’re looking forward to being in Perry again next year,” he said.

Summer 2019 will find FMCA members in the “Magic City” – Minot, North Dakota. RVers will gather at the North Dakota State Fairgrounds August 14 through 17, 2019, to celebrate a milestone in the association’s history – FMCA’s 100th International Convention and RV Expo.

“FMCA has hosted conventions at the North Dakota State Fairgrounds three times in the past, most recently in 2005; so, this will be a long overdue return visit,” said FMCA events director Doug Uhlenbrock. “Minot offers a small-town feel with big-town amenities and attractions and will make a great destination for this special celebration of FMCA’s 100th convention.”

Registration for the Perry, Georgia, convention will begin on September 12, 2018; registration for the Minot, North Dakota, convention will begin on February 13, 2019.

RVers need not wait until 2019 to join the fun. Registrations currently are being accepted for FMCA’s 98th International Convention and RV Expo, set to take place July 18 through 21, 2018, at CAM-PLEX Multi-Event Facilities in Gillette, Wyoming. Various registration options are offered.

FMCA international conventions include an RV Expo that showcases the latest RV models, as well as booths filled with RV-related accessories, components, and supplies, plus companies offering services RVers need and want.

When they aren’t shopping, attendees can take part in seminars about topics ranging from RV driving and towing tips to microwave-convection cooking and satellite television for RVs. Approximately 100 different sessions are held, so plenty of educational opportunities present themselves. A variety of entertainment options are offered as well.

To learn more about FMCA events, visit or call 513-474-3622 or 800-543-3622.

About Family Motor Coach Association
Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) is an international organization for families who own and enjoy the use of self-contained recreation vehicles (RVs). The association maintains its national headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, and currently has more than 75,000 active member families. FMCA offers its members a number of benefits, including a subscription to its monthly magazine; a medical emergency and travel assistance program valued at $105 per family; a tire purchasing program; group rates on a roadside assistance program and on RV and auto insurance; and discounted rates for RV tours and caravans. Perhaps the most important benefit of FMCA membership is the camaraderie and friendships that develop among people enjoying the common interest of RV travel. The organization can be reached at 513-474-3622 or 800-543-3622 and on the web at

Media Contact:
Pamela Kay
Director of Communications, Publishing
800-543-3622 ext. 234 or 513-474-3622

Our Future in the Timeshare Industry: Only the Paranoid Survive

Tradition dictates that each ARDA World convention presents a “Meet the Leaders” session during which prominent developers provide an ‘in-the-trenches’ view of the state of the industry. This year attendees heard from Maurizio Bisicky, COO of Anantara Vacation Club (headquartered in Thailand); Michael Flaskey, CEO of Diamond Resorts [and a frequent contributor to Resort Trades, by the way]; Jon Fredricks, President & CEO of Welk Resorts and Tom Nelson, President & CEO of Holiday Inn Club Vacations.

The session moderator, ARDA President and CEO Howard Nusbaum, led a frank discussion about topics ranging from what is the most pressing legal and regulatory concern in the industry today, to how is the consolidation trend affecting the industry. In answer to the former, the replies were unanimous: Fredricks had coined an acronym for the thorny issue of cancellation/lawyer/relief company issue, “GOOYTs” for “Get Out of Your Timeshare” activity. The entire room appeared to groan in agreement. Nelson observed that the constant barrage of aggressive ads from lawyers, wannabe lawyers and other sharks offering to help hapless owners was upsetting to the public and, particularly, to owners who were being prompted to question their purchase. Flaskey admitted to seeing a dramatically rising incidence of default. ARDA is certainly seeking answers, but while the GOOYT activity is mean-spirited and, in the opinion of resort shareholders, unethical, it may be that it skates too close to the outskirts of the law to be successfully challenged.

Consumer Protection: Fair & Balanced?

Nusbaum observed that the consumer protection laws affecting sales and marketing practices are continuously being changed over the years and he wondered if the group found them reasonably balanced or running a little off-kilter.

The panel agreed with Tom Nelson who said he felt they were more balanced than ever since there has historically been so much pressure over the years for timeshare developers to ensure consumers are well informed. Nelson said Holiday Inn’s policy is to have buyers review and sign off on each of 20 points of an owner clarification document. Fredricks mentioned that Welk Resorts’ policy is to videotape closings if owners agree, which is becoming a common practice.

In Asia, a handful of developers feared the introduction of unfair consumer protection. In response,  Maurizio Bisicky said, the group launched a trades association in the region that will function like a ‘mini-ARDA,’ as he put it. The idea is to help control the introduction of legislation in the various jurisdictions through educating regulators rather than risking overly aggressive action.

Industry Shrink From the Survivor’s Viewpoint

Consolidation remained a hot topic again at this year’s convention, as it has previously. Where once there were dozens of independent developers, now there are much fewer, said Howard. Is it good for the industry? Mike, Tom and Jon see the trend as being positive when larger, more financially stable developers acquire smaller, possibly under-collateralized, resorts and add services, including refurbishment, management and prospective buyers.

Resort Trades advertisers have found it to be a challenge. On the one hand, resorts with better bottom lines can now refurbish, expand and enhance their services, which means increased purchasing. On the other side of the coin, many have found that their old standby contacts have disappeared or been reassigned. As one senior Marriott executive observed, you typically still have a number of decision-makers at the various properties. However, she observed, now you frequently have personnel changing their roles and the manager with whom a vendor previously worked may no longer be the supplier’s most appropriate connection. In our advertising sales calls, we are finding that the most successful advertisers are the ones who consistently appear in each month’s issue. They’ve found it’s no longer healthy to rely on their current book of business. “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive,” said the late Andrew Grove, former CEO of Intel.

The Paranoid Are Watchful

Paranoia is what prompted the early American Land Development Association, supporting retail land developers, to morph into the American Resort Development Association. The early timeshare developers recognized the need to protect the nascent industry from scammers and miscreants. They also were early adopters of research, conducting studies to track consumer interests, financial performance and regional variances.

It’s healthy paranoia that calls for the AIF (the ARDA International Foundation) to conduct and advance industry research. Research is a tool to wave in front of authorities when they question whether or not to tax our business model, for example. Or, in Maurizio’s case, an irrefutable resource to prove the industry’s value in emerging markets.

The financial and demographic data from the Foundation’s research is what tells developers what their consumers want and which expenditures are worth the investment. Research is the tool that helped Welk Resorts determine it could sell luxury villas with private pools to well-heeled owners who desired and could afford exclusivity. It’s what made Fredricks recognize the value of hiring a Chief Fun Officer and provide activities such as the ability to create your very own superhero.

Research helped guide Diamond to earn an 89 percent satisfaction rate through personalized customer service. Studying customer preferences helped lead them to begin presenting concerts featuring acclaimed artists, such as country singer Cole Swindell. “Our decisions are rooted in data-driven analyses,” says Mike Flaskey. “Psychographics has affected the company’s sales volume to achieve $374 million in vacation ownership interests.”

AIF’s research has helped the industry respond to the public’s call for flexibility with points, short-term ownership products and short-term stays. Research helped Anantara discover that “three point two nights is the magic number.”

Continuous Disruption; Continuous Growth

In her May 2018 Developments article, “The Evolution of Timesharing: Four Decades of Amazing Growth,” Marge Lennon said, “In the early timeshare years, the current buzzword ‘disrupter’ (think Amazon, Uber) had yet to become popular. But timesharing clearly was a disrupter to the vacation home and hotel industry. It made the dream of owning a vacation home financially possible–albeit for only a week–without the hassles of maintenance. After families began vacationing in two-bedroom luxury condominiums, the ‘plain-Jane’ hotel room lost its luster, thus impacting the hotel industry as well.

Initially, the hotel industry had considered timesharing a fad that would soon pass, but the ‘fad’ soon morphed into a transforming trend. In less than two decades, the timeshare industry sustained double-digit growth–unparalleled by other industry sectors for this period of time, bringing together the real estate, travel and hospitality industries in a combination that ultimately revolutionized American’s vacation habits.”

What we see nowadays in the industry are a handful of publicly owned and private developers still investing in new resort projects.  More and more, creative travel companies are selling prepaid vacations without the encumbrance of a deeded interest, not timeshare. The industry continues to morph and change.

What About My Future?

If you’re a professional working in this industry, you’re probably asking yourself, “What about me?” I’d urge you to take heart if things appear to be tumultuous to you right now. We are, indeed, in a state of flux. It seems our industry has been threatened time and again throughout the past 40-to-50 years and, yet, smart people find solutions. Creative answers are found.

People will always need vacations. Just like we need music, art, theater – we need joy in our lives; people need to feed their souls. After all, things that bring us joy are why we work so hard.

This industry always seems to be able to offer creative solutions. Where there’s a need on the part of the consumer, there will be those among us who perceive of this need and create a solution. We’ll just need to change our model. We’ll have to become the Uber or Lyft as compared to the taxi. We’ll need to be the horseless carriage, the electric light bulb, the cell phone.


ARDA World 2018 – Must-See Sessions

The first not-to-be-missed event taking place during the ARDA World 2018 May 6-10 convention at Caesars Palace isn’t necessarily instructional, but it’s for a good cause: It’s the 5th Annual TrackResults Poker Tournament supporting the cancer-survivor organization, Send Me On Vacation. The extravaganza’s adventure, jocularity, and camaraderie begin at 8:00 pm in the South Point Casino and continue to 11:30 pm (and if legend holds true, far beyond). So click HERE to register.

This year’s annual convention has several educational sessions that I think will be of particular interest to resort operators and managers. Below, I’ve listed some that caught my eye. But first, I want to address resort team members who plan on attending ARDA World, directly.

Please, please visit the ARDA Marketplace and thank the vendors for their support of the Association. With the consolidation of resort developers into just a few companies, our suppliers need you to give them a shot at your business. And if you use a supplier or vendor who tells you, “I don’t need to show up with an exhibit,” CHASTISE them! They are taking your business for granted. They are showing you disrespect by not helping support your continuing education.

The same can be said of advertising in Resort Trades magazine. This is a free-to-you publication supported only by advertising. The publication strives to print the most relevant and timely resort management-oriented information. And, in truth, the Resort Trades team works to give you a monthly magazine (namely, twelve times a year) that is by you and for you almost as a labor of love. As their advertising base shrinks, so does their viability. So, if you want to see this specialized publication survive, tell advertisers “I saw you in The Trades.” And tell your suppliers you would expect them to support your education and the well-being of your company by being an advertising partner. Here’s a link to Resort Trades’ media kit.

Now, For My List of ‘Compulsory’ Sessions

Monday is devoted principally to committee meetings and a two-part “Fundamentals of Timeshare.” The day’s general session officially kicks off the convention and is to be headlined by keynote speaker Robert Stevenson. Robert is a global speaker, best-selling author, and an expert at building a high-performance culture, improving efficiency and accelerating growth. Sponsored by RCI, the session is from 3:30 pm until 5:00 pm (perilously close to Happy Hour!).

Scheduled for Tuesday:

9:00 am – 10:15 am, Twitter Alert: Trump and Timeshare. The current administration brings both opportunities and potential challenges. One fact is sure – things are changing! Hear a panel of experts discuss changes to legislation, tax codes and labor laws. Moderator: Sandra “Sam” DePoy, ARDA-ROC. Speakers: Blair Larkins, Bockorny Group; John Lehrer, Baker & Hostetler LLP; Steven Suflas, Ballard Spahr LLP.

Unfortunately, a time conflict exists for another 9:00 am – 10:15 am session that appeals to most resort professionals: “Modern Going Mobile.” Today’s customers initiate more transactions through mobile devices than traditional websites. A mobile experience is expected. Attendees will discuss resort apps, mobile security and more with industry experts. Moderator: Barbie LaMothe, Hilton Grand Vacations Inc. Speakers: Federico Beyer, Royal Resorts; Oskar Diaz de Leon, Welk Resorts; Tom Meyer, Hilton Grand Vacations Inc.

There are a number of interesting sessions taking place concurrently in the 1:30 pm – 2:45 pm slot. Among them are “#MeToo and My Corporate Culture.” How has the #MeToo movement affected corporate cultures within the timeshare industry? Find out as experts discuss what challenges exist, what changes have been made, and what you can do next. Moderator: Barbara Wilcox, Holiday Inn Club Vacations. Speakers: Amy Bellman, Fidelity National Timeshare; Jonathan Canger, Marriott Vacations Worldwide Corp.; Tracy Ward, Welk Resorts.

Also being discussed during this time period are “Optimal Fishing Holes: Guest Feedback” and “To Russia, With Love: Hacking Alert.” The latter session promises to discuss ways to protect your data and prevent hacking.

From 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm, one particularly interesting session for those companies developing alternative products or operating internationally is “Rethinking Finance: Resales, International and Beyond.” Explore the challenges in financing for international projects in places like South America or the Carribean, and for non-traditional projects such as resales, travel clubs or RVs. Moderator: Bill Ryczek, Colebrook Financial Company, LLC. Speakers: Debbie Ely, Vacation Club Loans; Scott Preston, Preston Arza LLP; Chris Hughes, Monterey Financial Services.

Schedule conflicts for this hour will once again be a problem as who wants to miss “Legal Hot Topics at Home and Abroad,” “Your Members are Talking…Are You Listening” (yes, another look at social media) or “Inspect What You Expect: Quality Assurance for Employee Programs”?

Scheduled for Wednesday:

Wednesday, May 9, has us up and at ’em at 8:45 am – 9:45 am with “The kNOws” of Communicating with Customers and Prospects.” Dive into the legal considerations related to communicating with prospects and customers. Discussion points will include new spam laws, privacy issues, TCPA and FDCPA updates. Moderator: Luke Smith, Taylor English Duma LLP. Speakers: Ed Chansky, Greenberg Traurig, LLP; Ron Naves, Welk Resorts; Jenny Perkins, Ballard Spahr LLP; Stratis Pridgeon, Wyndham Vacation Ownership

Conflicting time-wise with this session is” Safety First, Even on Vacation.” We hear stories daily of theft, fraud and terror threats affecting travelers. Learn to develop and implement a preparedness plan and ensure the safety and security of owners, guests, and team members. Moderator: Tony Mendez, MasterCorp. Speakers: David Brown, Grand Pacific Resorts; Duane Finley, Bluegreen Vacations Corporation

But if you should miss this one, perhaps you can catch up later from 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm at the “Disaster Preparedness Forum.” When disaster strikes, it’s crucial to know how to react on the ground as well as in the public eye. Join us for a critically important and timely forum where a panel of industry professionals will share their real-life knowledge and experience. Topics will include dealing with the immediate and long-term effects of disasters, communicating with both the press and with guests, and managing displaced owners. After the panel, table leaders will facilitate breakout discussion groups for further engagement opportunities. We encourage you to come – you can never be too prepared. Moderator: Stephanie Sobeck, Marriott Vacations Worldwide Corp. Speakers: Kelly Brady-Snyder, Grand Pacific Resorts; Stephen Escher – Diamond Resorts; Erin Pagán – Hilton Grand Vacations Inc.

Prior to the forum, Rob Webb, Baker & Hostetler LLP moderates a 1:30 pm – 2:45 pm panel on “Timeshare Relief.” Exit and relief companies are a huge challenge in today’s timeshare resale market. What is the industry’s response, especially on the scam front, and what are exit alternatives for consumers? Speakers: Maria Kalber, Diamond Resorts; Wes Kogelman,; Cullen Williams, Holiday Inn Club Vacations. This one will be standing room only, so come early.

Of particular interest to resorts dealing with HOA Boards will be the 3:00-4:15 pm session, “Who’s on Board? How do resorts find qualified owners who are willing serve on the Board of Directors? Come learn the best practices of recruitment, application processing, onboarding and educating new Board Members. Moderator: Dale Goodman, GoodManagement. Speakers: Tye Deyo, Vistana Signature Experiences; Kim Fries, Bluegreen Vacations Corporation; Jan Samson, Vacation Resorts International.

See ya’ in Vegas, Baby!

I’m not usually the type to casually call people “baby,” but perhaps the thought of a fun week in Vegas brings it out in me. I’ll be wandering around the Exhibit Hall, most likely. So, please be sure to say hi if we see one another at ARDA World 2018.



Resort Operators/Managers: Share This!

The Value of Vacation

ARDA posted the following blog on its web site, and is encouraging resorts to spread the word. This is not copyrighted material; ARDA prepared it for your use. So, use away! The site also has infographics that might be useful in promoting sales/resales.

How do you place a value on vacation?

Do you measure a vacation’s value by finding a good deal on airfare? Getting a chance to relax? Spending precious time with your loved ones? Chances are, it means different things to different people. Over the last decade there have been numerous studies conducted to measure the value of vacation. The good news is that the research has found vacations are good for you – that taking regular time away has positive effects on health, wellness, job performance, relationships and lifestyle.

The bad news is that millions of Americans each year choose to ignore the evidence. Last year, 169 million Americans did not take all of their earned vacations days last year!

In a new infographic from the American Resort Development Association (ARDA), taking time to get away has important health and lifestyle benefits that, if neglected, can lead to negative consequences. Ever hear of burnout? Yes, research has found that people who don’t take time to reset their batteries are more likely to suffer from burnout. Everything from work performance, added stress, strained relationships and decreased mental stamina are among the many negative results from not taking time to get away from it all.

The timeshare industry and its owners say that in addition to the lasting health benefits, the pre-paid nature of ownership guarantees that you will vacation at least once a year and ensures you take future vacations. In fact, owners save $18,160 over 18 years of vacationing with timeshare, compared to an average hotel vacation over the same time period.

But the real value of taking regular time off with loved ones is the special memories it creates. How do you place a value on that?

What in the [Timeshare] World Are We Thinking?

[Excerpts of this post appear in the July 2015 edition of Resort Trades ( Below is the full article.]

Michael Szwajkowski photo

Szwajkowski, Executive Vice President, Capital One, voices optimism for 2015.

“With significant debt capital available in the bank and capital markets, we expect developers to move forward with financing their growth plans, and our Vacation Ownership Survey reflects that industry posture,” said Michael Szwajkowski, Executive Vice President, Capital One.

Financial holding company Capital One Financial Corporation ( conducted a survey of timeshare professionals on emerging trends and industry insights at the recent ARDA World 2015 conference in Orlando. Szwajkowki’s observation followed findings like these:

• 33 percent of those surveyed cited construction and development lending as most important for the industry, nearly triple the 12 percent response in last year’s survey.
• 30 of respondents expect the trend of renovation and modernization of existing properties to gain the most momentum in 2015, markedly down from last year’s 51 percent response.
• 50 percent of industry professionals expect points-based structures to generate the most interest in the next year, followed by travel club memberships (32 percent).

This was music to Capital One’s ears and it’s music to ours, too. These survey results lend credibility to our former supposition that there was an increase in optimism at ARDA World this year. Many timeshare industry professionals expect sharply increased demand for construction loans in the coming year. Last year, working capital loans were pretty much topping the list of ‘must-haves.’ This year they were cited as most important by only 27 percent of respondents, a decrease of more than 40 percent from the prior year. This would seem to indicate that resorts are more and more operating in the black, at least those resorts able to afford the ticket price to attend the convention. The bank reported 94 percent expected consumer interest to be stronger or on par with the past year, while 6 percent anticipate a decline. (Wouldn’t it be interesting to question the 6 percent?)

Thirty percent of respondents expect the trend of renovation and modernization of existing properties to gain the most momentum in 2015, markedly down from last year’s 51 percent response. This is of particular interest as our industry grapples with maturing resorts slipping further into decline. On the other hand, it could be that many of last year’s respondents achieved their funding goals and financing has become more readily available.

“The timeshare market appears to be getting stronger in the United States and abroad,” said Jim Casey, Senior Vice President, Capital One. “Capital One is well-positioned to work with developers to take advantage of consumer confidence in the industry.”

To which we would only add, “Hear, hear!”

ARDA Then And Now

In 1989 on my first day of work as membership director at the American Resort Development Association ARDA (then called ARRDA for the inclusion of the word, residential), my boss, Cynthia Huheey, and then-president Tom Franks began to explain “timeshare” to me. It was a business about which I was unfamiliar and, in fact, what little I had heard was not very positive. Over the next few years ARDA  and its volunteer officers and board of directors faced down challenges: There were a number of crooked marketers selling ‘vaporware,’ plus one of the biggest scandals occurred in California when a company called Glen Ivy sold the same inventory to multiple customers.

For the most part it was an energy-charged, positive period encouraging creativity among entrepreneurial developers, marketers and exchange companies. Marketers were in their element: sending direct mail, opening off-premises sales booths in high-traffic tourist areas and employing contests to gather names and phone numbers. And of course there were those who sought to hoodwink the crowd.  It was the Wild West and ARDA served as posse for the straight-shooters by denying membership to unethical players.

With limited consumer protection in place at the time, Tom, Cynthia and our highly respected legislative affairs person Stephany Madsen helped lobby larger developers and marketers to self-police the industry to shut down miscreants. As I remember it, ARDA did it all with a team of less than ten people. We each did the work of two or three. (Today, ARDA has approximately 30 employees.)

A tribute to ARDA’s success was the entrance into the market by publicly-held hoteliers including Disney, Hilton, Marriott and Hyatt and with them, the decade of consolidation. The new millennium witnessed the growth of large companies becoming public and performing asset-backed securitizations. These larger developers provided a clearer field of play for smaller, independent developers and with them, brought greater security for a handful of specialty lenders. Interestingly, the recent recession separated the wheat from the chaff, both among developers and lenders. Resort operators with sound marketing practices who set higher credit score standards and their lenders were the victors.

These days ARDA continues to face down threats, most of them in the form of governmental groups looking to double-tax timeshare owners. Typically, owners hold an interest in real estate that is often held in a trust in exchange for vacation points, which can be put to use for greater flexibility when they don’t wish to visit their “home resort.” One of ARDA’s never failing duties is to explain to bureaucrats that owners pay property taxes and should therefore be exempt from transit occupancy taxes charged to hotel guests.

When I left ARDA’s employ in 1992, there were approximately 800 corporate members – just about the same number as today. The majority – approximately 80 percent – of ARDA’s corporate members are suppliers and vendors if one includes resale, exchange and management companies in addition to those who provide everything from finance, marketing and legal services to mattresses and outdoor furniture. In essence the value ARDA provides to its members comes from participation in the annual spring convention and the fall conference. Attendees come to discuss deals, find new business or, simply, to remind one another they are still viable.

Amazingly, the ARDA events continue to witness the nascence of creative new ideas, such as new pay-for-service arrangements whereby established developers provide sales and marketing services for resorts no longer in development. If you could time-travel to past ARDA conventions, the attire of the attendees would indicate where you were on the timeline: Gold chains and white bucks signified the late 80s/early 90s’ mavericks; three-piece designer suits befitted the heyday of the late 90s until shortly before the recession. These days, ‘resort casual’ signifies a more self-assured, confident group intent on making sound business decisions, rather than an impression.

With the economic crisis now in the rear-view mirror, today’s attendees most likely will continue with a no-nonsense approach by bringing thoughtful, inventive ideas that innovate new ways to promote the vacation lifestyle. It would be unfair not to mention the ARDA team’s innate sense of dedication to improving the lives of their members and member resorts’ customers. There are more than 2,000 trade associations operating in the Washington, DC area. It’s doubtful that many of them share this level of commitment.