S.A. Timeshare Pioneers: Tony Ridl Shares His 40+ Year Journey

As one of the founding members of Club Leisure Group, Tony Ridl made his mark among the pioneers of South African timeshare in 1981. Over the years he continued to be an innovator for the industry with the landmark Bantry Bay International Vacation Resort – one of the most successful vacation ownership resorts in the world. He shares his 40+ year journey with us.


Question: What made you decide on timeshare?

I’m a chartered accountant by profession so when you think about it, timeshare made perfect sense because it’s a numbers game – why sell it once when you can sell it 52 times.

Question: How did you get into the timeshare industry?

While doing my articles I managed some hotels for a person living abroad. After I qualified, I joined his business and formed a partnership agreement to own 50% of any liquor off-sale purchase, which included the hotel. By the 70’s our business, Discount Liquors, had grown into the biggest retail chain in Durban. But when wine went into the supermarket, I started selling off my stores and then, in 1981, someone mentioned the word timeshare to me. I headed down to the south coast with Brian Waites to attend an RCI presentation at the Wild Coast Sun.

That serendipitous act put me on the path that led to my first timeshare development – Glenmore Sands – situated on the beach and just 10 km from the Wild Coast Sun. At that time I was RCI’s third developer in South Africa. Shortly thereafter, I joined forces with Ovland, a construction and property business. Together we formed Ovland Timesharing until 1988 when they decided to leave timeshare and focus on construction.

Question: What were some of the notable milestones along the way?

The milestones we have achieved were made possible by the early global timeshare pioneers who carved the way for us to learn from and to tailor our products to suit the South African holidaymaker. Believing in the timeshare product and being willing to take risks led to Ovland Timesharing being among top players to develop the South African market.

Thereafter, the development of Bantry Bay International Resort – a block of flats and an iconic rock pool that would later be regarded as the most successful timeshare development anywhere in the world at that time. The CEO of RCI at the time, Bruce Ravenhill, put South African timeshare on the map by saying: ‘Bantry Bay is not only the best resort in South Africa, but one of the best in the world’.

Some of the other highlights that come to mind was moving from the world of fixed weeks to points, which was prompted by the adjustment of the Easter holidays, after which very little was developed on the fixed week basis.

Question: Refurbishment is key in timeshare. What is your most memorable one?

The penthouse at Bantry Bay Resort. The late Gilmore Greyling, one of the renowned timeshare interior decorators in the 80’s, asked us ‘What’s the budget?’. We told him ‘We want Harry Oppenheimer to say WOW when he walks into the penthouse!’ No expense was spared to achieve the epitome of luxury. I remember the first shipment for the pink marble floor was sent back to Italy because it was not the right quality. There were original oil paintings, crystal glassware, electric curtains and beautiful peach coloured sliding doors that opened from the dining straight onto the sea view. In the end we spent a quarter of a million rand on the penthouse suite, which is equivalent to more than R6.8 million today.

Question: In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges facing the industry?
Accepting change and getting people to change. Millennials present the hugest challenge by wanting to change all the time and our industry must be willing and ready to adapt in order to survive.

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