Timeshare: it is happening again

As anyone who grew up watching Twin Peaks will tell you; there’s a dark side to everything, even cherry pie. And even in our sunshine-sodden paradise that is the hotel sector, there has long been something slightly unseemly going on. And that thing is timeshare.

If you’re old enough to grasp the cherry pie reference, you’re probably old enough to have spent a weekend afternoon being dragged around a repurposed country house where your parents were lured with the promise of something which is no longer a design priority in our lives: a carriage clock.

Those whose carriages come with the clock included, look away now, but for a while there, the idea of buying (and in many cases borrowing the money to do so) your annual holiday in advance for up to 100 years was seen as quite the hip lifestyle choice.

Of course the issue with that is that it’s really, really odd. Around the Agent Cooper time in the proceedings, the choices of where you might be spending your two weeks were very limited indeed. It was all a bit Poundland Elton John, where you weren’t filling your trolley with 16 copies of the sane CD so you could listen to it in all your houses, but one cassette of Starlight Express which would see you set forever.

Back to the now, where we are all Elton in the cloud, and timeshare is back. Although we’re no longer sharing time, we’re ownershipping vacations.

Drawing our attention to this was the completion of Hilton Grand Vacations $1.5bn acquisition of Bluegreen Vacations. Yes, $1.5bn.

The deal highlights were as follows:

Adds scale and diversity to HGV’s offering:

  • Increases HGV’s membership base from more than 525,000 to more than 740,000 and its resort portfolio from 150 to nearly 200 properties in 14 new geographies and eight new states.
  • Complementary footprint of predominantly drive-to locations will double HGV’s presence along the east coast and expand the number of available outdoor and ski destinations while increasing sales distribution in new key markets.
  • Extends HGV’s offering, broadening its customer reach and expanding the relationship with the Hilton Honors programme.

See? Looks just like a regular hotel transaction, with its scale and its loyalty and its adding a variety of experience-driven antics. There was quite a lot made of an agreement within the deal with Bass Pro Shops and its “actively engaged, loyal community of outdoor enthusiasts” but that’s something for you to enjoy researching on your own.

Is timeshare the way ahead? Are we catching up to it or has it modernised to meet our needs? The period when women had logs for children was also the time when hotels tended to be owned by the brand over the door. Now, no-one owns anything, it’s all rented. This is, as we know because we now have a ‘subscriptions’ tab in our banking app, something widespread in our consumer lives.

But as we know from the vinyl revival and Travelodge’s decision to own some hotels, one size does not fit all. Many home renters would be happy to own if only the market would allow.

Timeshare gives you the reassurance of ownership, that all-inclusive feeling, but long term, where you can rest easy, knowing you’ve banked your holiday for the foreseeable. It’s that Elton John holiday home portfolio, without the floristry headache.

Timeshare now operates more and more on points rather than fixed weeks, creating the ultimate in loyalty programmes. Timeshare companies have been able to create their own currency, which truly locks in the consumer. Not just points to fritter on lattes, but points which actually mean a damn. Timeshare is the model which the hotel sector would, really, like to move us all to. A subscription which makes Soho House look like amateurs.

When Twin Peaks returned it bucked the sequel trend and was hailed as bigger, better, more disturbing than before. Will timeshare’s revival revolutionise how we buy our travel? Or is it so many backwards-dancing dwarves?

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