Category Archives: Resort Trades

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.”

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 ( 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,, 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” (, 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 ( 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, (, “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, the Resort Trades Weekly eNewsletter,, 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 for a step-by-step guide to avoid the expense. Another really helpful site is Neil Patel’s blog,

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.;;

Timeshare Exit Companies Under Fire

The timeshare industry and companies that help you exit your timeshare are at war, according to a 50-second video: 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, 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, 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;; 310-923-1269

Holiday Inn Club Vacations Helps Give Kids The World $305,000

As Seen in

A full field of 160 golfers and celebrities teed it up for the Give Kids The World Celebrity Golf Classic on Monday, April 30 at The Golden Bear Club, a Jack Nicklaus signature course. Presented by Holiday Inn Club Vacations, the event raised a record $305,000 to benefit the Kissimmee, FL based Give Kids The World Village (GKTW). This year’s event was dedicated to keeping the memory and mission of philanthropist and GKTW Founder Henri Landwirth alive. Landwirth passed away on April 16.

The Central Florida nonprofit resort makes dreams come true by providing weeklong, cost-free vacations to children with critical illnesses and their families. GKTW relies on donations from partners, individuals and many volunteers to make magic, and give families time away from doctors and hospitals to just have fun.

Joining the players on the greens were 32 celebrities including professional golfers Richy Werenski, Robert Gamez, Skip Kendall and PGA tour coach Sean Foley; former professional baseball players Ray Lankford, Rickie Weeks and Wil Nieves; UCF Basketball Coach Johnny Dawkins and UCF Baseball Coach Greg Lovelady; former professional football players Ricky Nattiel, Terrence Barber, Kevin House and Jesse Solomon; Charlie Huhn, lead singer of Foghat and country singer/songwriters Rick Monroe and Rob West.

“Without the support of companies like Holiday Inn Club Vacations, our goal to never refuse a request from a deserving child and their family would not be possible,” said Pamela Landwirth, president & CEO of Give Kids The World Village. “We sincerely thank all sponsors, players and celebrities who came out and gave so generously of their time and treasures to help to create happiness and hope for our precious families. It was a beautiful day and a wonderful event. We are incredibly grateful.”

“As a board member of Give Kids The World I see the incredible impact this organization has on children and families. Our company has been a proud supporter of the mission of Give Kids The World since its inception,” commented Stacey Sutherland, vice president of corporate branding and communications for Orange Lake Resorts. “I am overwhelmed by the support from our community, our vendors, celebrities and volunteers that make this event happen. In just two years, we have raised more than $540,000 for the Village.”

The amount raised for GKTW came from local and national businesses and caring people living in the community through sponsorships, foursome fees, drawings, live and silent auctions. Prior to the tournament, a celebrity pairings party and concert with country music singers Rick Monroe, Rob West and Kenyon Lockry was held at the Golden Bear Club.

About Orange Lake Resorts

Orange Lake Resorts encompasses 26 resorts and 7,400 villas in the U.S., with more than 340,000 timeshare owners and 5,000+ employees.

Orange Lake Resorts, a leader within the vacation ownership industry with more than three decades of proven success, operates the Holiday Inn Club®. The Holiday Inn Club Vacations® brand was created in 2008 through a strategic alliance with IHG® (InterContinental Hotels Group), one of the world’s leading hotel companies. The Holiday Inn Club Vacations flagship property in Orlando, Fla., located next to the Walt Disney World® Resort, was established in 1982 by Holiday Inn® founder Kemmons Wilson. The timeshare brand includes 26 resorts across 13 states. For more information on Holiday Inn Club Vacations or to book reservations, visit Find us on Facebook at or Twitter at

About Give Kids The World Village

Give Kids The World Village is an 84-acre, nonprofit “storybook” resort located near Central Florida’s most beloved attractions. Critically ill children and their families are treated to weeklong, cost-free vacations, complete with accommodations in whimsical villas, transportation, donated attraction tickets, meals, and much more. Since 1986, Give Kids The World Village has welcomed more than 160,000 families from all 50 states and over 75 countries. At the Village, these precious children learn that dreams really do come true, as they and their families are immersed in joy, hope, and non-stop fun for a few unforgettably happy days. This extraordinary, life-changing experience is Give Kids The World’s gift, made possible only through the generosity of dedicated corporations and countless individuals. For more information, visit

Media Contacts:
Brian Martin
Orange Lake Resorts

Emily Wagner
Give Kids The World Village
407-396-1114, ext. 4519

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.



Courting the Millennial…There’s Hope!

David Stillman, Bridgeworks

David Stillman, BridgeWorks

As promised in “Faces & Places” of the November 2015 edition of Resort Trades, following is our review of a presentation given by David Stillman during the 2015 Shared Ownership Investment Conference.

According to David A. Stillman, co-founder of the marketing consulting firm BridgeWorks, if you are of an opinion that you just can’t interest a millennial in purchasing a timeshare interest, you can rethink that! In his remarks at last month’s Interval International’s Shared Ownership Investment Conference, Stillman offered insight on the potential value of marketing to those aged between 25 to 35, as well as tips on what to tell them.

His book, The M-Factor: How the Millennial Generation Is Rocking the Workplace (HarperCollins) has become a business favorite and with good reason. Resort developers and managers have been comfortable promoting sales, rentals and resale weeks to Gen Y’s elders for quite a while now. The ‘traditionalist’ (born prior to 1946), ‘baby boomer’ (1946-1964) and ‘Gen X’ (1965-1979) are a fairly well known quantity.

In the traditionalist’s case, marketers learned they are a loyal, hard-working group; accustomed to self-sacrifice. Baby boomers are optimistic, idealistic and competitive. For this generation, marketers need to keep the choices simple (offer two options, rather than ten), help them feel they are on the cutting edge and avoid turning a concern about an issue into fear. (For example, minimize the concept of maintenance fees by emphasizing the factors that will keep them on the cutting edge.) On the opposite side of the coin, Gen X needs options and information. They are innately distrustful and skeptical, preferring to be well informed and self-reliant. They hate to be “sold to”; they thrive on transparency. With this group, flexibility is crucial. They want to build traditions with their family, however. So when they challenge you and appear to be negative, they are sending a signal that they just need the facts. They’re not going to buy the 3-day/2-night pressure. You need to be viewed as a resource and not hit the ‘BS-o-meter.’

Millennials, on the other hand, thrive on collaboration. Surveys show their perception of timeshare is rated higher than any other age group. They just need for you to work with them. This is the group that grew up bonding with their parents almost as partners. Decisions were made in a democracy wherein the children were consulted before taking a vacation, changing the channel or even choosing a new car. While they, by themselves, may be NQs, they are definite influencers and love to share. Your time spent with them may have a payoff with residual interest.

Older millennials are fast becoming great prospects as they marry and start having families of their own. Here are a few facts from a survey referenced during the SOIC:


Use mobile device–97%
Use a tablet–9%
On social media                –77%

The same survey found that of non-millennials surveyed who say they don’t own a timeshare, the majority says they are planning more travel, do their research online and routinely look for deals. 55 percent of them prefer to be contacted by email. Their priorities are:

#1           Quality
#2           Flexibility
#3           Value
#4           Choice

Asked to respond to marketing messages, the phrases “home away from home” and “timeshare encourages more vacations” were least likely to resonate. Millennials found destination, short-term product and low interest rates to be critical in making a buying decision. It’s reported that in most cases:

  1. Millennials and Gen Xers can be big advocates.
  2. Millennials are ready to buy.
  3. Millennials are interested in traveling globally.
  4. Online communication is vital.
  5. Millennials want short-term bargains.

So if you can engage them on their terms and offer affordable, short-term products, they are great prospects. It may be time to change our concept in addition to modifying our marketing and products.

Generational Divides

Whether you’re dealing with Millennials (those roughly ages 18- 33), Generation X (those ages 34-49) or the 50-plus/Baby Boomer generation, you’ve probably experienced there’s a cultural disconnect between age groups. Resort managers and operators deal with it on two levels: First when members of their own team clash and, second, when dealing with owners/members or prospective new owners.

How can you  overcome these divisions and find a unifying way to cope? David A. Stillman, co-founder and a Generation X voice of BridgeWorks, a company dedicated to speaking, writing, training, and entertaining on generational issues in the workplace and the marketplace, says he has some advice for professionals looking for answers.

He’ll be offering up his top tips during Interval International’s Shared Ownership Investment Conference  at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach from September 30 – October 2. In particular, Stillman will offer hard-hitting facts on generational attributes and their potential impact on the timeshare industry. The Resort Trades team – Founding Publisher/CEO Tim Wilson and yours truly – will be covering it in detail.

Stillman has also written and co-authored a couple of books that can help. When Generations Collide: Who They Are. Why They Clash. How to Solve the Generational Puzzle at Work (HarperBusiness). His latest book, The M-Factor: How the Millennial Generation Is Rocking the Workplace (HarperCollins) has become a business favorite.

Himself an early Gen X voice in a business world dominated by Baby Boomers, “David has become one of the youngest, most outspoken, and popular keynoters to hit the national circuit,” according to “His unique blend of humor, fairness, and frankness won over audiences of all generations and made him a go-to speaker for organizations that ranged from the IRS to MTV. David’s keynote speeches and workshops on bridging the generation gaps in the workplace and marketplace continue to receive rave reviews from corporations and associations nationwide.”

“As part of his mission to connect the generations using humor, David wrote and produced TimesFour, a one-man show that is breaking new ground in the corporate entertainment market as a comedy about how the generations click, collide and cope in the world of work. David’s creative communication projects have earned him numerous accolades including gold medals at the NY Film Festival, and the much coveted CLIO Award. He was named to the prestigious list of “Forty Under 40” movers and shakers by The Business Journal, as well as one of 200 Leaders to Watch.”

It sounds like he’ll present a very entertaining session. We’re looking forward to having a laugh and hopefully, learning a lot.

How Garden & Gun Came Back, And Now Thrives – Folio:

Garden_Gun_logoA Q&A with Rebecca Wesson Darwin of Garden & Gun.

Source: How Garden & Gun Came Back, And Now Thrives – Folio:

As Publisher of Resort Trades, this article published in Folio (the B2B periodical for those involved in the business of publishing magazines), caught my eye. Garden & Gun not only has an unlikely title (not mention being somewhat unappealing to me, personally), but was launched in 2007 and yet made it through the recession. Rebecca Wesson’s response to how they survived was that they marketed themselves through the Internet. Another interesting point made in the article is that the publisher is extending the brand beyond traditional media and into areas like events and ecommerce.

These ideas are applicable to the resort world, as well. First, from the viewpoint of the resort operator wishing to promote sales, occupancy, rentals and resales; and second, from the standpoint of vendors and suppliers to the industry. Look for ways to use the Internet to attract buyers. Like Jay Baer teaches in his book, Youtility, “Smart Marketing is About Help not Hype.”