Wide-legged jeans and ‘90s nostalgia may not be the only things making a comeback.
Timeshares may be seeing their own return to popularity, especially among the younger generations. (Incidentally, also the ones bringing back the ‘90s.) Timeshares were hot, hot, hot in the old days before falling off in popularity with a less-than-favorable reputation.
However, in the past several years, timeshare companies worked hard to revamp their image and their offerings, resulting in a resurgent interest among vacation-goers.
Timeshares Before and After the Pandemic
Pre-pandemic, timeshares were on the rise. According to a 2019 report by the American Resort Development Association (ARDA), the U.S. timeshare industry increased for the 9th straight year by 7%.
The timeshare industry accounted for $9.6 billion in sales since 2017, growing to $10.2 billion in 2018. Timeshare sales volume has also increased by more than 26% since 2014.
In short, timeshares were seeing a comeback. Then, the pandemic hit.
With borders closed and travel restrictions in place, timeshares along with most everything else in the hospitality sector were hit hard (at least initially).
In 2020, timeshare demand and sales plummeted by more than 50%.
However, as the world continues to open up, along with record growth in the resort industry, optimism returns in the timeshare industry as well. Using the recent pre-pandemic upswing in timeshare interest as a baseline, the industry expects to make a full recovery and even anticipated growth into 2023.
Renewed Interest in Timeshares
Riding the renewed interest in timeshares, the big players such as Marriott Vacations Worldwide, Disney, and Travel + Leisure Co. built 865 timeshare units in 2019, up from 588 the previous year, and had another 643 planned for 2020.
In an interview with CNBC, Ed Kinney, global vice president for Marriott Vacations Worldwide was encouraged,
“We are full steam ahead. We’ve been really happy with how quickly we’ve been able to respond and the willingness of our guests to return to our properties.”
According to Skift, timeshares made an early comeback during the pandemic, mainly through mergers and acquisitions.
The biggest was $1.4 billion when Hilton Grand Vacations acquired Diamond Resorts followed by a $485 million acquisition of Welk Resorts by Marriott Vacations Worldwide this past June. Wyndham Destinations changed its name to Travel + Leisure Co. after acquiring the travel brand for $100 million.
In an interview with Skift, Marriott Vacations CEO Stephen Weisz shared the potential of timeshare investment,
“The other traditional belief about the timeshare business was that it was kind of a one trick pony where you made the initial sale and were done. Our experience has shown that after the first five years of ownership, on average, people spend an equivalent amount to buy additional points within our system.”
RedWeek, an online timeshare marketplace, also reported encouraging numbers. In 2021, the site saw a 43% increase in inquiries and offers on timeshares for sale, compared to the same dates in 2019 when timeshares were moving towards their peak.
According to their site, these numbers indicate they’re on track for the best year ever for timeshare sales since they opened their marketplace in 2002.
And the location with the most interest? According to RedWeek, it’s Florida.
Heading to the Sunshine State
As Florida is the timeshare capital in the US, the Sunshine State makes for a popular and ideal vacation spot in the pandemic and post-pandemic era.
Vacationers can stay stateside, opting to drive over flying in tightly-packed planes and can avoid potentially more complicated international travel restrictions. With those who have timeshares overseas, many may choose to swap them for the nearby Florida sun and sea.
While the coasts might be the standard go-to, the Midwest is quickly becoming one of the top timeshare destinations.
Branson is making the list as one of the most popular timeshare spots. Unsurprisingly, as Branson, conveniently located and designated the “Live Entertainment Capital of the World” offers numerous amusement parks and great live shows from Dolly Parton’s Stampede wild west musical to Presley's Country Jubilee. Branson also connects visitors to the beautiful Ozarks, providing opportunities to head into nature for hiking, swimming, boating, and fishing.
Most timeshares in of themselves are also a pandemic-friendly accommodation compared to other lodging options. With professional maintenance and cleaning protocols in place and in-unit full kitchens and washers and dryers, most timeshares offer plenty of social distancing and privacy for guests to enjoy and feel safe.
A New Generation
Millennials and Gen Z are quickly becoming the major influencers within the hospitality industry.
Diamond Resorts, a subsidiary of Hilton Grand Vacations, reported travelers aged 24-39 make up their fastest-growing membership demographic for timeshares. The resort saw a 25% year-over-year increase from 2016 to 2020 for this age group.
The younger generations are ready and willing to travel. A survey by Tripit revealed,
“53% of millennials and 55% of Gen Xers have already flown on a domestic flight, compared with 48% of boomers, and 71% of millennials and nearly 77% of Gen Xers have already taken a road trip with a personal car, compared with 65% of boomers.”
Millennials and Gen Z are also willing to shell out the big bucks for a great vacation. According to a survey published on Business Insider, travelers aged 18-34 will happily spend $5,000 or more on vacations.
Timeshares like Diamond Resorts are seeing this demographic shift and are adapting accordingly, providing more flexibility in decision-making, location choices, time availability, offering VIP weekends, and more luxury accommodations.
As the industry adapts, offering more variability in locations, vacation packages, and memberships, timeshares will likely resume the steady growth seen pre-pandemic in 2019.