Once the pinnacle of the holiday industry, sadly now timeshare is a waste of money for most owners
Timeshare no longer works in the modern world. The industry has refused to evolve, and the rest of the travel sector has outpaced it, as internet-savvy consumers realize that owning timeshare is a waste of money.
When it worked
In the days before the internet, timeshare worked brilliantly. I’m sure many of us are old enough to remember the old days of having to go into a travel agency and pick something out of a brochure, hoping that your hotel lived up to the star rating and pretty images on arrival. And the crushing disappointment when it didn’t.
By buying a timeshare, customers could guarantee themselves exclusive lifetime access to high-quality accommodation that they couldn’t find on the high street.
What went wrong?
These days, the majority of European timeshare resorts have long since lost their exclusivity. You can find stays offered in most resorts on sites such as Booking.com, often for less than the cost of the annual maintenance fees charged to members. Members would also have paid a lot of money for their timeshare itself, supposedly to guarantee exclusive use of the resort.
Timeshare’s other unique selling point of quality assurance has also faded into obscurity with the advent of the internet. User-generated review sites such as Tripadvisor allow shoppers to extensively research holiday accommodation prior to travelling, removing the element of the unknown from booking into an unfamiliar resort.
What was once a highly-innovative product now lags significantly behind it’s competition, as the average holidaymaker doesn’t care to be tied to a single destination.
Problematic Exchange System
Recognizing the latter flaw, the timeshare industry’s solution was the creation of the exchange system, designed to allow owners to visit other destinations by banking the use of their timeshare for use of a different one from a global pool of banked weeks.
Naturally, this exchange system came along with a raft of extra fees… Fees to join the exchange system… Annual membership fees for the exchange system… Fees when an exchange is made… Fees for banking weeks… Fees for allowing another person to use your timeshare etc…
All this on top of the regular maintenance fees, which often equate to the cost of purchasing holiday (flights included), from the internet by themselves.
Having spent all of this money, there is also no guarantee that owners will be able to get the exchange that they are looking for. Popular destinations fill up quickly, or cost huge amounts of points. Customers are often left disappointed and faced with the choice of a holiday somewhere less appealing, or having to spend even more money in order to privately book into a hotel.
To regular holidaymakers, booking a holiday is as easy as finding the trip that they want and clicking a button.
Timeshare owners, on the other hand, have rather more hoops to jump through…
- Everything runs on a strict deadline: Holidays must be booked by a certain date, maintenance must be paid on time, exchanges must be arranged by a specific day etc. Owners who miss even one of these deadlines may be penalized by the loss of their holiday. But of course, the resort will still be happy to collect the payment, no matter how late it is…
- Timeshare weeks have fixed check-in days. These usually tend to be a week day and are notoriously inflexible. So, if this doesn’t fit in with your life, tough.
- Owners are also limited to booking in week-long blocks, where as non-owners are free to select their check-in dates and length of stay.
- Enforced booking windows lead to fierce competition. Point owners can be up and dialing their resort the second the window opens and still not get the weeks or apartment that they were hoping for. The same goes with those looking for a good exchange.
- Owners get no say in annual maintenance fee increases, unless they can attend a (usually inconveniently-located) AGM. Even then, resorts will ensure that the deck is stacked in their favour, so that dissenters are always outvoted.
An unwelcome inheritance
Despite contracts in perpetuity having been ruled illegal many years ago, many owners still find themselves trapped in lifelong memberships, which they face having to leave to their descendants upon death.
Originally sold as a lifetime of wonderful holidays that could be passed down through the family, timeshares now represent an expensive millstone.
Difficult to escape
Needless to say, new sales have stagnated, as modern consumers are quick to see the flawed logic behind the system and realize that timeshare is a waste of money. Unfortunately, this means that unscrupulous resorts have shifted their focus to bleeding as much money as possible out of their existing members, who represent a captive audience.
With owners tied into long term or perpetual contracts, resorts are guaranteed a consistent revenue stream from maintenance fees. And of course, there’s always the option of up-selling customers to more points or weeks, as availability continues to dwindle, due to resorts selling off weeks to the general public online.
Owners fed up with the situation will often attempt to hand their timeshare back to the resort, only to be refused. In desperation, some may even attempt to sell their timeshare privately, hoping to recoup some of their losses, only to find that they can’t even give it away, as buyers do not wish to take on the burden of membership fees.
So what can I do if my timeshare is a waste of money?
There are only two sure-fire ways to legally exit a timeshare, both of which will require the help of a qualified professional:
- Relinquishment – Quite simply, cutting your losses and releasing your membership and maintenance obligations.
- Compensation – Many timeshare owners in Europe were sold memberships that violate EU regulations. Spain, in particular, has especially stringent laws governing the sale of timeshare. Yet prominent resorts such Anfi continued to ignore these regulations long after they came into effect. Owners who are able to prove that they were mis-sold are entitled to claim compensation from their resorts. Speaking with a professional Claims Advisor can help determine whether you have a valid claim. Alternately, you can use our free compensation calculator to check how much you may be entitled to.