Book your timeshare vacation.... on Booking.com
Timeshare owners furious at their 'exclusive' resorts being made available to non members on regular bookings sites like Expedia, Airbnb and Booking.com
Grim vacation complexes
Timeshare may not seem mainstream to every vacationer today, but in the 1980s and 1990s, the concept solved genuine problems. ‘Vacations from hell' was a popular phrase in the tabloid media, referring to hotels and apartment complexes that looked amazing in the brochure, but disappointed in real life.
Families would turn up after travelling all day to find tired looking apartments, in shoddy complexes that had been skilfully photographed to look far bigger and better in the glossy brochure. Yes, it was all paper in those days. And usually an in-person visit to a travel agent to actually book the vacation.
Disappointed travellers would sigh and commit to making the best of it. "It's only a roof over our head. We'll be out most of the time anyway..." was a refrain heard chorusing from many a crumbling aparthotel in the Orlando suburbs, or outskirts of Vegas.
Despite their good natured stoicism, these people were perfect targets for expensive timeshare schemes.
Many holiday hotspots towards the end of the last century were overrun by touts, driving vacationers towards high pressure sales presentations. But all the pressure in the world doesn't work without promising what the beleaguered prospects yearned for: High accommodation quality guaranteed, in an exclusive complex, and the same standards whenever they travelled elsewhere.
It was expensive, costing tens of thousands of dollars to join - and a yearly fee of usually more than the cost of a regular vacation. But for a whole generation of customers, their peace of mind was worth the price.
For years, timeshare memberships delivered on this promise. Vacations were no longer a gamble and the one or two weeks of annual family time were spent in the luxury expected.
By the early 2000s however, the rest of the travel industry got its act together, and timeshare resorts started to lose its USP.
The first big change was the rise of user-generated-content review websites like TripAdvisor. With the expansion of business onto the internet, you no longer relied on a brochure, you booked online. And before you did, you could read what other customers had to say about their own experiences with the hotel.
Former guests are not (generally) being paid to promote the accommodation. They will tell you exactly what they thought. If a place is reviewed by a lot of guests you will know precisely what to expect for your money, good or bad. The days of being surprised, or tricked by fancy photography are over.
With this major selling point gone, people were less motivated to pay ten, twenty, thirty thousand dollars or more for a timeshare membership. Especially when the annual fee is around the cost of the equivalent standard vacation.
Finally the timeshare companies caved and rented their spare inventory to non members.
In 2022, nearly every timeshare resort is available to non members via regular booking sites like Booking.com
End of the line
"This was the last straw for many owners," explains Suzanne Stojanovic, spokesperson for American Consumer Claims (ACC). "We get calls from timeshare members whose resort is telling them there is no availability, when they can see the same week available on Booking.com. Often it costs less for a non member to book online than the member pays in management fees.
"There is now less justification for a timeshare owner to have paid tens of thousands of dollars for a membership when they have minimal benefits that are not available to the casual renter. This isn't what people paid all that money for. Their resorts are effectively changing the deal without offering any compensation in return.
"Booking through the online sites as a non member is arguably preferable, because customers can come and go as they please. They are not contractually obliged to pay every year for something they may not want to use, unlike the timeshare owners.
" ACC, been helping people to escape these dated and constrictive membership contracts."
To discuss your options regarding an unwanted timeshare contract, contact ACC for a free, confidential consultation.