Why does timeshare have such an availability problem?
As summer holidays approach, spare a thought for the hundreds of thousands of British timeshare owning families annually competing for limited availability in their resorts
Trading up (but down)
At one time, all timeshare memberships were sold as specific weeks in specific apartments. The owners had a guarantee of coming at that time every year provided they paid a hefty annual fee.
Pretty soon it was realised that members needed more flexibility than that. They wanted to be able to swap for different times, and even different destinations. Systems were put in place to accommodate these more sophisticated needs.
Unfortunately those systems don’t work.
Flexible products such as floating time, or points based memberships ostensibly allowed people to choose the time and place they went on holiday. However, as with regular holiday complexes, everyone wants the high season weeks. Those get booked and then other members have to take what is left.
“With timeshare, certainty and flexibility are what quantum mechanics describes as Complimentary Variables. You can have one or the other, but never both” explains Andrew Cooper, CEO of European Consumer Claims (ECC). “The salespeople sold points or floating time as an expensive upgrade. People paid good money because they believed they could now not only come in high season, but also swap to other times of year if they wanted.
“When these members actually tried to book back into the resort in high season they were now told that there is no availability. They were faced with the unfair choice of either going at a time that wasn’t convenient, or buying an extra holiday outside of their membership, while still paying their annual timeshare fee. Meaning they paid twice but for only one holiday.
“When people complain about this to the resorts they are told that they have a 1 or 2 year booking window. But who on earth wants to commit to a particular holiday week 2 years in advance? And those that do follow the rules report trying to book at a minute past 9:00am on the day the booking lines open, still to be told they are too late.”
No longer exclusive
With new member sales having dried up in Europe, timeshare entities needed to find a new source of income. One way they did this was by renting out accommodation to non members via sites like Booking.com and Expedia.
“Timeshare memberships were originally sold as access to exclusive, high quality accommodation,” clarifies Cooper. “But once people had flexible memberships, the resorts were able to syphon off weeks to rent via regular booking sites. Who would know? Nobody had a fixed right to any particular week…”
“ECC’s switchboards regularly receive complaints from owners of floating time or points telling us that they were unable to book into weeks they want with their memberships.
“And yet when they check on Booking.com they find plenty of availability in their resorts for the time period they want.
“By anyone’s standard’s this is totally unfair. The members have already paid for that accommodation and yet the resort is selling it a second time to non members.”
In 2020, the first year of the COVID pandemic, most resorts were closed for business. At the time there was wide ranging criticism of the timeshare industry for charging full annual fees, despite not having to host guests.
“Clearly timeshare resorts overheads were reduced to almost nothing,” states Cooper. “There was no electricity or water to pay, no staff wages (they were furloughed) and a large number of other expenses were minimised.
“Resorts basically made a significant profit during the pandemic because they charged the same fees, with significantly less outgoings.”
Instead of the full or even partial refunds that members were clamouring for, they were instead told that they would be given double accommodation the following year.
“Impossible, obviously,” clarifies Andrew Cooper. “Where would all that extra inventory come from?”
In fact, the ‘inventory problem’ was compounded when in 2021 most resorts were closed again. And again, members were charged full maintenance and told their weeks would be carried over to 2022.
“So this year, timeshare resorts have to somehow provide triple the amount of holidays,” says Cooper. “They couldn’t provide enough holidays for their members before the pandemic. This year we expect a quagmire of failed bookings and rejected holiday requests.
Time to get out?
“Timeshare is outmoded, outdated, and out of touch,” says Andrew Cooper. “Holidaymakers nowadays don’t want to choose their destinations and dates so far in advance. They might see a location on a movie or a TV show and think ‘oh, let’s go there’. They want the flexibility to try out new destinations or holiday ideas. Or maybe even not holiday at all some years. They certainly don’t want to be committed to hefty annual fees for something they may not even use.
“Many timeshare owners believe themselves to be stuck, unable to escape the contract. Usually this is not the case.
“Anyone who is looking for a way out of their timeshare, should get in touch with a competent claims firm for advice on their options.”
- European Consumer Claims (ECC)
- ECC contact details
- Leading timeshare claims firm targets £billions in refunds over “unfair” 2020s maintenance fees
- Book your timeshare holiday…. on Booking.com
- Timeshare exchange system failures highlighted by COVID and Ukraine war
- Pandemic profiteering accusations rock timeshare operators
- Timeshare owners furious over paying for years of holidays they can’t have
- 2020 timeshare “Maintenance Heist” leaves owners desperate to escape contracts
- Is timeshare a thing of the past?
- Escaping unwanted timeshare memberships
- Can timeshare owners in Spain really claim compensation?
- £80k to join an “exclusive” timeshare club that is now on booking.com
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First published on MyNewsDesk June 2022