TORONTO — Executives from across North America painted a picture of the current vacation ownership climate yesterday during the first day of the annual Canadian Resort Conference, held in Toronto’s Pantages Hotel.

Hosted by the Canadian Resort Development Association (CRDA), the two-day conference has attracted 80 delegates from across Canada and the U.S., representing resort owners, financing institutions, vacation exchange networks and more to tackle the current issues in Canada and the U.S. as well as some of the challenges presented by Airbnb.

To recap last year’s U.S. industry outlook, timeshare sales have nearly reached pre-recession levels. According to data from the Washington, D.C.-based American Resort Development Association (ARDA), 2013 sales reached $7.6 billion, compared to a high of $8 billion and a low of $6 million during the recession. The survey also showed that maintenance fees have stabilized and delinquencies have dropped from 12 per cent to 11 per cent.

The timeshare buyer demographic is morphing with the times to include moderate to middle incomes and single buyers in their early 40s, down from an average age of 58. “That shows we’re not becoming a niche product, something that only the affluent can continue to buy, but that we’re something for every traveller and their family,” described Robert Craycraft, VP of Industry Relations at ARDA, who explained that resorts are also revolutionizing their offerings to include more recreation options and cabana-style pools.

Meanwhile, the accommodation rental service Airbnb has been a big issue in the Blue Mountain area in Ontario, said Dianne Hounsome, manager and developer of The Cottages at Port Stanton in Severn Bridge, Ont. “What’s happening is their rental program is becoming compromised, because people are meeting [their Airbnb guest] at the gate and giving them the key, so there is some challenges on the rental side, too.”

It’s an issue that can be solved by implementing regulations at the municipal level, added Hounsome, who shared an example of newly instituted regulations in New York City that impose fines on Airbnb hosts. But, Ed Romanowski, of Calgary-based Bellstar Hotels & Resorts, isn’t too worried. He‘s confident the service aspect of a resort will outweigh the benefits of the Airbnb service. “We’re in the resort business. We sell exceptional resort experiences and programs. If we can’t beat out an Airbnb product for that, then I wonder how good a job we are doing in delivering the resort experience.”


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