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Timeshares vs Hotels

Timeshares vs Hotels

Timeshare vs. Hotels? What is the difference? Answer: Brand Standards

There are so many ways I could answer the question: hotel vs. timeshare. The answer I would give would come depend on the person asking the question. Is the question coming from a timeshare owner, is the question being asked by a board member, is it a potential buyer of the individual property, is it someone that travels for business or is it someone that travels with their family for pleasure and/or business?

As a frequent traveler myself and having a career in hospitality interiors I am often asked what makes timeshares different than hotels and why would someone purchase or stay at a timeshare vs. a hotel. In this article I am going to briefly touch on a few of the various aspects that set them apart. I can certainly attest that almost all timeshares I get the pleasure of designing and working with have a rental program to supplement their reserves. Ideally to attract a potential guest or future buyer to your timeshare you need to meet the majority of the industry brand standards of hotels. That one statement “industry brand standards” is truly what separates a timeshare from a hotel.

My name is Mary Daust and I am the director of Interior Design with Hospitality Resources & Design. We specialize in hospitality interiors. We have the great fortune of working with many of the large branded hotels, small boutique hotels, self-managed timeshares and timeshares managed by SPM, VRI, Bluegreen, InnSeason and many others.

All large hotels chains have mandatory “standards and specifications” they must comply with. The developer, investor/ owner or management company must adhere to the standards and specifications to be allowed to have the particular brand rights. For instance, Holiday Inn Express is one of the brands with IHG. That particular “brand” has its own set of standards that all Holiday Inn Express locations must adhere to. The individual properties receive what is referred to as a PIP which is a property improvement plan. This plan dictates everything; bedding, carpet, artwork, lighting, electrical conveniences, Wi-Fi requirements, bathroom configurations, etc. The developer/ investor/ owner has a certain amount of time to ensure everything is completed as indicated in the PIP or the “flag” will be removed and they can no longer use the brands name. The owner has the option of customizing the specifications upon approval from the architecture and design committee of the brand.

During the economic downturn the chains did not strictly enforce the PIP timeline; essentially they put it on the back burner until the individual hotels improved financially. Those days are gone and it is back to mandatory PIP completion in the allotted time. Hotels are required to stay up to date with brand standards. Once again, if they do not adhere to the brand standards they are not allowed to use the hotel brand name.

Obviously a large entity like IHG / Holiday Inn Brand has the resources to perform all the market studies on current trends, industry standards, demographics, current colors, technology, sustainability, ADA, fire & life safety, etc. Therefore the PIP’s reflect a lot of detailed requirements and information and are a valuable tool in the hospitality industry.

This is where timeshares may fall short. Some timeshares have a plan of continuous improvement / reserve study and it is implemented annually to keep the property up to date. Others do not have the resources to keep their property up to date and most likely their rental program isn’t flourishing in the capacity that it could. If individual timeshares want to have a strong rental program they must have their property up to the industry standards. The larger timeshare management companies are starting to implement “standards” when the individual properties have the resources to complete renovations and refurbishments. They engage commercial design firms to complete the selections for commercial interiors. Often we see where someone within the board or property has employed or utilized a residential designer, decorator employee or board member to complete selection. There is an enormous difference in the technical information on commercial product vs. residential. A quick example would be case goods (wood products; dresser, coffee tables, etc.). Commercial case goods are constructed different than residential. They have a high pressure laminate, solid surface or catalyzed lacquer finish top to resist staining, scratching, burning and all the other things that can take place in a timeshare unit. If residential end tables are installed in a timeshare or hotel you will see wear and tear within a few months, if not weeks. Another example would be the fabrics used on your seating. Commercial grade fabric has numerous testing procedures and treatments applied to resist staining, absorbing and fading. None of these test, ratings or mandatory applications are required in residential, therefore the product breaks down and shows wear and tear at a quicker pace, not to mention will not pass fire codes ratings.

Most branded hotels are required to utilize a licensed interior design firm, or purchase and install exactly what the brand has mandated with a purchasing company. The theory behind “brand standards” for large hotel brands is consistency, efficiency, and most importantly create a loyal guest. Using IHG as the example they have full service hotels, luxury hotel’s, boutique, extended stay and hotels for the business traveler.  They create their “standards” for the individual brands to accommodate the desires of the travelers. However all of their “standards” reflect the industry norms and current trends in color, technology, durability, longevity, codes, ADA requirements, etc.

In my opinion the advantages of timeshare supersede hotels when you are a family traveler or extended stay traveler if you book at a well maintained property. When I am traveling for conferences or quick trips I prefer a hotel because of the modern conveniences (better Wi-Fi, fitness centers, convenience outlets, etc.). When I am traveling with my children and family I prefer a timeshare. I, along with most other timeshare owners, enjoy and appreciate all the comforts of being in a home away home. I sincerely value when I have traveled for hours with the kids in the car and then I have the ability to stop at a grocery store and arrive at the property and get settled, cook dinner and relax. All the amenities and comforts of timeshare are extremely desirable for family travelers, multi-generational travelers and couples.

The timeshare industry has so much to offer frequent travelers and families. My children and I love our timeshare. We like the flexibility of being able to exchange and go anywhere. Once you understand the timeshare industry and how easy it is to exchange your week or weeks then you know you have the ability to travel anywhere. Once you get there, you know you will have all the comforts of home, then you learn to appreciate and value the timeshare industry.

Another benefit of timeshare is getting to know your fellow owners and board members and getting involved. It truly is a family and over the years you and your loved ones create memories in your “home away from home”. I compare it to having a vacation home but not having to deal with all the headache of owning a second home and you are not stuck going to the same place every year when you opt to exchange.

Nothing is worse than exchanging my week and arriving at a property I have never seen and the property has not been kept up to date. This is where the “industry standards” play a large role in the guest being disappointed. No one wants to travel hours to arrive in a location and feel that the bedding is old and not clean, there are no convenience outlets for the kids to plug in their electronics, the seating looks tired and dirty and the unit has a bad smell. The property should strive to meet or exceed expectations.

There are so many variables in timeshare management and upkeep. Board members have a fiduciary duty to the owners to spend their money properly while maintaining the resort. It is a lot to juggle and most often there is never enough money to complete everything that truly needs to be done. Hotels do not have this option and frequent travelers recognize the difference. In a nutshell, the difference of hotels and timeshares is the simple fact that hotels have to keep their brand up to date and fresh. Timeshares have options. Well maintained timeshare properties follow a continuous improvement plan and this isn’t cause for concern. Some of the large timeshare management companies have implemented their own set of standards and it is mandatory for the properties to comply with these.

For the timeshares that do not have a set of standards implemented it would behoove these board members to make sure they engage the appropriate professionals that understand the hospitality industry and codes, current trends and industry standards. Partnering with the right professionals will ensure a smooth renovation. We partner with clients and management companies, and board members to create a plan that we implement over the course of 3-5 years. Once the plan is created the reserves are aligned with the timing of new FF&E and it becomes a continuous improvement plan. To request more information about creating a continuous improvement plan please contact me at mary@hrdorlando.com.

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