A Tumultuous 2020 for the Timeshare Industry

2020 was a whirlwind of economic anxiety, epidemiological uncertainty, and ultimately a horrifying moment of national tragedy and grief. The COVID-19 pandemic threw an industry that was already receiving a steady stream of consumer complaints into total disarray.

As we highlighted earlier, developers have closed properties, shuttered North American sales centers, and offered short-term cancellations, while brokers and rental sites have faced squeezes from last-minute cancellations. Meanwhile, social media has exploded with angry comments from those who’ve been affected by policies that at times seemed to be changing by the minute.

Many guests are simply unable to take on the risk to their health that travel can expose them to. So many of these customers are just not able to get any use out of their timeshare during these times, and justifiably feel that they have been taken advantage of.

There have been a few encouraging moves. Some timeshare companies, such as Hilton Grand Vacations Club, are leveling out the playing field for their customers by making policies that postpone the expiration of points and canceling certain transaction fees. Unfortunately, other new policies have added barriers to the already complex process of exiting a timeshare.

Aside from an amplified version of the typical poor communication and mismanagement that we’re used to seeing from major timeshare developers, there were some COVID-related actions that were shocking even by the timeshare industry’s standards.

Orlando Sentinel reported that a Westgate Resorts executive “offered to use coronavirus relief money from the federal government to give short-term jobs to travel bloggers to write stories promoting the company’s resorts.”

Additionally, Diamond Resorts sent out an email to customers last April stating that they’ve “identified ways to provide financial relief to members through refinancing options,” but the fine print made clear that the email was “being used for the purpose of soliciting timeshare sales.” As it turns out, this so-called “refinancing option” was to buy more timeshare points and become more in debt.

Finally, in Wyndham Destinations’ 2020 Q1 earnings call, CEO Michael Brown said that the developer would have to focus more on “owner sales” to keep earnings afloat amid COVID-19 — in other words, shamelessly pushing upgrades on existing members.

Timeshare Exit Team’s CEO and Founder Brandon Reed spoke with Forbes.com last year about the timeshare industry and how it’s been failing consumers since long before COVID-19 landed on our shores.

“We’ve had people in our office tell us they are contemplating suicide because they cannot get rid of a timeshare that is ruining them financially,” Reed said. “It’s so important to get some basic protections in place.”

The feature in Forbes.com included stories from the likes of Wayne McClellan. A former Dupont senior executive in Houston who had bought a timeshare, McClellan and his wife had developed health problems and needed to cancel their timeshare contract, but no one at Westgate would do that. Luckily, Timeshare Exit Team stepped in to help.

While it’s especially dispiriting to see stories like Wayne’s in the news amid such a once-in-the-lifetime economic and public health catastrophe, Timeshare Exit Team will remain vigilant into 2021 by making sure we’re doing everything in our power to help out consumers in need, as expeditiously as possible.

Because after helping thousands of timeshare owners out of their contracts, we’re not going to be stopped by a virus. We hope that 2021 offers more relief for timeshare owners, and as always, we’ll be standing by to help if the resorts are not.