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Monday, 02 November, 2015, 12 : 00 PM [IST]

RCI Timeshare Conference 2015:

Gearing up for Fast Forward Growth
The global leadership of Wyndham Worldwide and its time share arm, RCI, converged at Agra on October 7 for the third annual Timeshare Conference for South Asia titled ‘Fast Forward’. The conference provided a platform for existing resort owners, hoteliers, prospective developers, and time share marketing professionals to interact and take home ideas about the potential of vocational holidays and time share exchanges. P Krishna Kumar reports…

“It looks to be an interesting business which is a natural extension of hotels. You can increase your customer base and at the same time raise capital which in turn can be invested further to create more inventory. Therefore, the objective was to see whether the concept will make sense for us ,” said Patu Keswani, Chairman & MD,  Lemon Tree Hotels, when asked about logic for a hardcore hotelier participating in a time share conference. Hari Mohan Dangayach, Chairman, Dangayach Group, Jaipur was also present, although his existing hotels are not affiliated to any time share company.  He was also attending the Time Share Conference to understand the concept.

The RCI Time Share India Conference 2015 was conspicuous with participation of people from the wider spectrum of hospitality industry – existing time share partners, prospective developers of resorts, hoteliers, and marketing professionals. Around 200 delegates took part in the day-long deliberations and networking events. This participation justified the theme of the conference ‘Fast Forward’ giving enough indications about the growth this industry is poised for in India, going forward.

Kick-starting the conference, Stephen Holmes, Chairman & CEO, Wyndham Worldwide, said that India is on the threshold of enormous growth with great products and a  nice business environment.  Each market matures differently.  It takes a while to build consumer confidence in a new market, Holmes said.  The Indian consumer base is slowly getting tuned to time share products, he observed.

Sean Lowe, MD, Europe, Middle East, Africa and India, RCI, said that India is an important market for RCI, from both inbound and outbound travel perspective.  RCI memberships from 66 different countries visited India over the last 2 years, he said.  “This shows the global appeal of India.”  The top nationalities include USA, UK, South Africa, Canada, Australia, Finland, Russia, etc.  India’s global appeal as a travel destination hinges around its diversity of culture, historical monuments, nature, food, history, literature, etc., he added.

India Market Trends
Pali Badwal, MD, RCI India, gave a detailed presentation on the time share industry scenario in India and its future potential. Citing various reports by global financial and  market consultancy  agencies like Credit Suisse and Phocuswright, Badwal drew an optimistic  picture for the vacation holiday business in India in coming years.  From an Indian consumer stand point, Badwal said that they require more “education” so that they plan vacations in advance as in the case of travellers in more matured markets.  Indians can utilize their peak holidays in May and June very well if they plan in advance, as it is a lean season in many other long haul markets, he informed. 

He said that the Indian consumer’s desire to travel for leisure has gone up exponentially because of the improvements in road and air infrastructure.  Air travel in India is quite price competitive compared to many other countries. He said that the days when  people only travelled to Goa for leisure, are long passed, and that  people are exploring leisure destinations like Munnar, Ooty, Manali, Kodaikanal, etc. as well, today.  Badwal revealed that time share products are being accepted by Indian travellers like never before. He said that while about two-thirds consume their entitlements domestically, almost 30% prefer to go to international destinations . 

“Destinations in South East Asia are more popular with maturing travellers, while matured travellers prefer to go to long-haul destinations like the US, Europe, etc.,”  Badwal said.  In an inflationary market, time share products are competitive because the investment is for 25 years to life term, he said.  “We need to educate the consumers on the choices available so that their consumption pattern can be diverse,” he opined.

RCI currently has 130 affiliated resorts in India.  The company has seen almost 40% growth in affiliations since 2012.  RCI India expects the momentum of growth to continue for next 3 years to reach at least 200 partner properties in India by 2018. “In RCI we work with 60 different developers. We try to educate them about consumer wants as well as share our feedback on a weekly basis so that they can bring in improvements if required,” Badwal said. 

Chairman’s Round Table
The Chairman’s Round Table had an interesting panel including the likes of Arun Nanda of Mahindra Holidays, Patu Keswani of Lemon Tree Hotels, Harsha Raghavan of Fairbridge Capital along with Stephen Holmes, Chairman & CEO, Wyndham Worldwide. Nanda in his inimitable style made some key observations about the vacation holiday business.  “If you are selling a product for 25 years, it should be built on trust,” he said. Indians being new to travelling the industry needs to innovate and offer new products and services, he said.  Regarding the growth expectation for time share business in India, Nanda said that the industry can grow 50% to 70% over the next decade, if able to “manage” it properly.  However, he said that the product offering across hospitality would undergo significant changes over the next decade considering the challenges from online aggregators like Oyo, Airbnb, etc.

Talking about the Indian market, Raghavan said that Indians are more of “impulse travellers”, and the industry has to build software and hardware adaptable to this market.  “The urge to travel is very strong among Indians,” he said. 

Sharing his understanding of the time share business, Keswani said that the time share industry is today where the hotel industry was 15 years ago.  However, he observed that  time share is a kind of “extension” for mainstream hoteliers.  Hotel developers  can monetize their inventory at least in resort locations by partnering with Time Share companies. The capital thus raised can be used for future investments, he said.

RCI Awards
The RCI annual conference ended with a colourful award nite to recognize the RCI member resorts in India for their excellence. The coveted Best Time Share Resort in the India Subcontinent was bagged by Orange County Resort Coorg.  It also won the award in the Best Timeshare Resort in the South Plains category.  The Award winning Timeshare resorts included: Club Mahindra Thekkady (Best Timeshare Wildlife Resort); Ajit Bhawan, Jaipur (Best Timeshare Heritage Resort); Club Mahindra Baiguney (Best Timeshare Resort in the East); The Waterfront Shaw (Best Timeshare Resort in Western Ghats); Club Mahindra Munnar (Best Timeshare Resort –Southern Hills); Sterling Holiday Resorts Limited (Best Timeshare for Sustainability), etc.

“Every market matures differently. The interest among the developers, hoteliers and the media in this industry shows the growing interest in time share in India. Markets like Australia also had gone through a similar phase. After years of slow growth, it took off quite rapidly. It takes a while to build trust in the consumers. The time share business in India is poised for big growth as the consumer base is tuned to time share products.
-Stephen Holmes, Chairman & CEO, Wyndham Worldwide
By ‘Fast Forward’ theme we wanted to send the message to our partners that the market in India is going to accelerate quickly now, and we at RCI are ready to work with them closely to help them consolidate and grow their businesses faster. We offer lot of technological support as well as consultancy services to our partners. RCI Live stream is one such tool which we offer to our affiliates.
-Gordon Gurnik, President, RCI
We are currently looking for partners both in India as well as in Sri Lanka, Maldives and Nepal. A lot of Indian consumers want to go to these destinations as part of holiday exchange. Currently, we don’t have a presence in those destinations. Similarly, within India, J&K, North East region are high on our list of future destinations. We also see potential for time share resorts in a few pilgrim destinations in India. While some resorts are built in these destinations, they are yet to become our members.
-Pali Badwal, MD, RCI India
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