Ask RedWeek / December, 2018

How are timeshare companies attempting to appeal to a younger crowd?

Many of my friends have owned timeshares for a couple of decades now - we are in our late 60s, so we have about another decade to enjoy them. I assume timeshare companies are trying to attract new, younger buyers. Are the so-called millennials even interested in buying timeshares? Are companies changing anything to appeal to this younger crowd?

Wyndham Offers $21,000 Timeshares for Price of a Peppermint Mocha!

Psst! Wanna bay a Wyndham timeshare? It's as affordable as a loaded Starbucks.

For a $21,000 timeshare, it'll only cost $5 a day over 4,200 days — or 11.5 years. For a cheaper mocha, spread over 40 years and including maintenance fees, Starbucks fans can buy a Wyndham interval for $3.40 per day.

But who's counting? Everyone knows that timeshares are expensive. That same $21,000 timeshare would buy 105 nights at a $200 per night hotel. Or 70 nights at a $300 per night resort.*

That's not RedWeek's math — that's Wyndham Destinations, the world's largest and newly public timeshare company. In a press release creatively titled, "Millennials are buying a lifetime of vacations for less than the cost of a peppermint mocha per day," Wyndham posits the idea that timeshares are still a great bargain — at least compared to a daily habit of Starbucks coffee.

According to a consumer survey just released by Wyndham's marketing team, Millennials and other prospective buyers are more than willing to accept the $5-a-day concept as long as Wyndham delivers a variety of destinations and a wealth of onsite activities that attract younger families (40 or less) who are just entering their primetime income, travel, and timeshare years. They like the two bedrooms, two baths, full kitchens and living rooms, too.

According to the Wyndham survey of 1,250 Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers:

  • 48 percent of Americans think they'll spend at least $80,000 on vacations during their lifetimes.
  • 56 percent reported staying in a timeshare. Of those, 80 percent said they enjoyed their timeshare experience. This number jibes with other industry surveys of customer satisfaction.
  • 55 percent of the Millennials (under 40) reported staying in a timeshare; 73 percent said they enjoyed it; 24 percent said they would consider buying an interval.
  • 32 percent of all respondents said that lack of "sexy time" — meaning cramped hotel rooms with kids making a ruckus or worse — makes their vacation time less enjoyable. No surprise there, since timeshare companies have been touting "more sex" as a primary benefit of owning a timeshare for several years.
  • "The actual cost to buy a timeshare that allows owners to vacation for a lifetime can be less than the cost of one peppermint mocha coffee per day," Wyndham says.
  • 42 percent of the survey respondents prefer to vacation in new destinations rather than revisit the same destination (or home resort) year after year.
  • Social sharing leads the list of travel trends that influence a traveler's decision making. 22 percent of the respondents said they would consider buying a vacation home (or timeshare) based on its Insta-worthiness — meaning, whether the property would look great in photos on social media channels. (This may sound extremely superficial to Baby Boomers, but it appears to be a major priority for Millennials.)

Survey is Part of Wyndham's Branding Outreach to Younger Buyers

The point of Wyndham's survey, of course, is to reinforce the idea that timeshares are a good buy. Releasing the survey is part of Wyndham's initiative to rebrand itself — and upgrade its reputation — now that the company is a stand-alone, public company no longer affiliated (in terms of ownership) with the Wyndham hotel conglomerate. RedWeek interviewed Wyndham's new branding officer, Noah Brodsky, about all this. Here's what he said about the survey and Wyndham's outlook for 2019.

"We think about Millennials all the time. They are turning 38 this year and they've got the time and disposable income and value a rich experience. 60 percent of our new owners are Millennials or Gen Xers."

As a St. Louis native and current Millennial, Brodsky grew up living the old WorldMark slogan --- "a bag of groceries and tank of gas and you're on vacation." He's a fan of family road trips that allow travelers to enjoy vacations in the American heartland. No airfare required.

"We are not bungalows over the water (in Bora Bora). We are Branson and Myrtle Beach. We're trying to appeal to the broadest set of the traveling public, the everyday traveler," Brodsky said.

As part of its branding upgrade, Wyndham plans to promote its WorldMark properties in the Northwest as well as its urban sites in America's greatest cities. All major timeshare companies are expanding urban vacations to provide vacation alternatives for empty-nesters who want to have a great time — without the kids.

"Urban properties are great for two reasons. That's where Millennials want to go. Urban areas also don't have off-seasons like Myrtle Beach and Branson; you can travel 365 days per year. It matters that we're [Wyndham] big enough to provide all of those opportunities."

Brodsky also talked about the challenge posed by Internet travel companies, like Airbnb, to larger (and slower) established hospitality brands.

"Everyone I know has stayed at an Airbnb place. It was great, but then we all got married late and started having babies. People got worried about having no one at the front desk and secret cameras (spying on renters). I have had a bad experience."

"When I go on vacation, I don't want a surprise. I want the amenities, and so do our customers. We've heard from Millennials that they love Airbnb but now are married and want safety," Brodsky said.

Does he really think any Millennials will give up their mochas so they can buy a timeshare? "Of course not. But timeshares are a consumable (product), just like buying a Starbucks. The only thing you'll have at the end of 15 years of Starbucks is fat. With a timeshare, you're buying a lifetime of experiences and varying vacations."

*You can buy a Wyndham resale on RedWeek for a lot less Starbucks. One owner is listing a two-bedroom, two-bath, full kitchen suite, annual, deeded week at Wyndham's Bonnet Creek Resort outside Orlando (arguably the king, if not the queen of all Wyndham resorts) for $9,995. At $5 per cup, that's 2,000 Starbucks spread over 5.5 years. Enjoy the coffee!

About the author

This answer was provided by RedWeek's Chief Correspondent, Jeff Weir. Jeff is a California-based journalist who has covered California, Congress, and the White House. He also has roots in Silicon Valley, where he directed public relations and marketing programs for high-tech companies. He is also a timeshare owner and member of RedWeek.com.

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