Dreams not real estate
Timeshare owners buy dreams not real estate. Successful resort operators – whether they are developers, management companies or owner councils – need to facilitate those dreams – says renovation and design expert Joe Aiello, CEO and president of HM Franchise , which licenses the Timeshare Makeover affiliates in the U.S.
Timeshare renovations are big investments, with many moving parts. They require a plan, and that plan must start with a clear understanding of what renovation means to your resort. With clear goals, a thorough process and a good plan, the renovation will improve your property, energise and excite owners, and encourage greater on-time payments and resales.
Without a plan, renovations often spiral into anxiety, disruption and disappointment. A major cause of renovation problems is the term, “renovation,” itself. In the real estate industry, where the timeshare concept originated, “renovations” are construction events that repair and return buildings to a former state. Timeshares, however, are businesses more than they are buildings, and we sell experiences as our products. The important distinction is that in the time share business, you must improve continually.
Meeting owners’ aspirations
Truly understanding owners’ unique needs and aspirations for a “home away from home” experience is key to a successful refurbishment.
Peter Pienaar, General Manager: Business Development at Southern Sun Resorts said owners’ feedback is definitely taken into consideration in the planning phase of a refurbishment. “Once the share block board has approved the refurbishment concept presented by the designers, a ‘mock-up’ unit is done, and guests have the opportunity to test the product over a period of a year before the actual refurbishment is undertaken. In this way we are able to make tweaks and changes based on the feedback received”.
Charlene van den Berg, Director: Administrative Services at VRS said, “We set great store by what our owners and members have to say. All relevant comments and suggestions are carefully considered when planning refurbishments because meeting the needs and desires of today’s time sharers is a top priority”.
Balancing revenue: levies vs refurbishment
Owners’ aspirations vary with every owner and resort. But fortunately, timeshare refurbishment goals are relatively straight forward – make your owners happy they bought their timeshare and make them feel good when they visit. An ancillary goal that is part of “make them happy” is “keep the place affordable”.
But being mindful of levy increases and owners’ financial means while simultaneously considering the resort’s finances can become a delicate balancing act when planning a refurbishment, especially for large projects.
“All our resorts operate independently and have their own refurbishment plan and budget. But the one constant across all the resorts is that we strive to maintain healthy reserves to provide for the planned projects, so as to avoid having to raise special levies when projects need to happen,” said Peter.
Catering for digitally savvy timeshare owners
Today’s owners/members are used to personalised connectivity at home and they are increasingly looking for resorts to satisfy this when they holiday. This means refurbishments need to go beyond décor and also factor in robust connectivity and smart features which meet and exceed, owners’ expectations.
“To cater for this generation’s dependency on mobile devices, we make every effort to keep our resorts up to date with technology and sustainability. Currently, most of our properties are working towards achieving WiFi coverage in all of the chalets / units – as well as a back-up supply for electricity and water,” commented Lara Pretorius, Senior Regional Resorts Manager for the Beekman Group.
Recognising that the industry is striving towards operating on a carbon net zero basis in the future, the goal of reducing energy costs and minimising environmental impact during a refurbishment is increasing.
Not only are architects, designers and contractors getting serious about green design, so are timeshare resorts. They know that replacing wasteful, energy-guzzling amenities with environmentally friendly alternatives not only benefits the environment but will also have a major impact on the resort’s bottom line and of course garnish goodwill from owners/members.
One such company is Vacation Recreational Services (VRS), who is in the process of installing a new solar PV system at Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve. The project, which began in early 2021, embraces Kagga Kamma’s “Going Green” mission by minimising its reliance on fossil fuels for energy generation. The construction and installation commenced in May this year and is set for completion and commission in September 2022.
Another VOASA member actively driving sustainable projects is the Beekman Group. The company’s ‘Go Green’ initiative actively drives sustainable projects and has since 2012 been executing a strategic rollout of sustainability practices at its resorts. With each refurbishment, steps are taken to lessen the carbon footprint of the resort.
Of the projects to date, none has been as bold as the newly completed 7 700 square metre solar farm at Dikhololo Resort in the North West Province. This pilot project is expected to save over 612 tonnes of coal a year and will account for over 85% of the daytime power supplied to the resort. Looking to the future, it will also serve as the template for future green-energy overhauls at all Beekman Group properties.