Future proofing the holiday club product offering
The timeshare product has changed drastically since conception – the most significant being in the 1990’s when the demand for more flexibility ushered in the ‘vacation club’ era and soon became the ‘new normal’. The growing demand in South Africa to offer holidaymakers a product with more flexibility that is not bound to a specific resort and costly to move to another, led to the decision to launch Funseekers International – a Points and Holiday Club in June 2000.
Francois Grobler, the Executive Trustee and Club Manager of Funseekers International, shares some of the challenges faced when starting up and where he sees Funseekers International in today’s evolved market.
A modest start
We started out modestly, with the marketing taking place predominantly from our flagship Gold Crown Resort, Sondela Nature Reserve & Spa, and then slowly built momentum from that platform. Our biggest challenge during the start-up phase, was that we were very late in the game and points clubs were already mature. As the sales companies were already working for other clubs, finding sales people proved to be another challenge we needed to overcome. We eventually teamed up with roaming sales agents in the Western Cape and had a good sales run for about four years, until the market took a tumble in the 2009 recession. At that point we went back to doing our sales and marketing onsite at Sondela Nature Reserve & Spa.
Members and product offering
Today, the Club has approximately 2,000 members. In 2016, we took over The Vacation Group Club and now concurrently manage its approximate 1,500 members with Funseekers. With flexibility front of mind, the club offers of a variety of holiday ownership options such as fractional, exclusive use, camping and a combination of short- and long-term points members. This enables Funseekers to cater for a broad spectrum member-base, of which almost all have been with the club for more than a decade. Our members represent a spread over all ages ranging from 18 to 85 years, with the majority being GenX and Boomers in the 40 to 69 year age group.
A driver for domestic tourism
With world-acclaimed resorts in our own backyard and local travel being more affordable for South Africans, it’s not surprising that 90% of our timeshare products support domestic tourism. A very small percentage of between 8% and 10% are currently taking holidays at resorts abroad.
Key success factors
For Funseekers to remain relevant in an industry that is constantly evolving to meet changing consumer preferences means continuously ensuring our products ‘hit the sweet spot’. By utilising our own holiday properties through our flagship resort, Sondela, we have been extremely successful in obtaining the holiday accommodation members require. In addition, club members have access to the facilities of other timeshare organisations including exchanges via i-Exchange and RCI. They also have the exclusive opportunity to use their points for bookings at selected caravan parks, ATKV and Forever Resorts.
The impact of travel clubs on traditional timeshare and points clubs
With the change in consumer preferences, we are seeing a shift from the traditional timeshare member and points-based ownership to fractional ownership, investment ownership and short notice / short-term rentals. This has made the emerging travel clubs more attractive to potential new members and reduced the number of resorts available through the holiday exchange portals. Unfortunately, some travel clubs use marketing methods that discredit traditional timeshare and points clubs which places pressure on our administration staff.
The future of clubs
I believe a combination of both club models – points and membership – work best in today’s market. We are currently in the process of evolving Funseekers into a hybrid club which will consist of traditional timeshare, holiday points and short-term membership with rental options and a shorter notice period.