Ask RedWeek / May, 2018

Marriott Vacation Club to buy Vistana, Hyatt, Interval International - what are the implications for owners?

I just got an e-mail that Marriott Vacation Club is buying ILG, who owns the Vistana, Sheraton, Westin, and Hyatt timeshare networks, Interval International, and several other travel companies. What does this mean for me and other timeshare owners within these companies?

Great question, with answers to come over the next six to 12 months. RedWeek interviewed Marriott and other industry execs to address this question and analyze the impact of the ILG acquisition. Here are our findings, and they go way beyond just Marriott, Westin, Sheraton, Hyatt, and Interval.

Consolidation Changing Timeshare Landscape and Options for Owners

Background: The timeshare industry has been in a very major flux since 2008, when the US recession forced companies to cut back on spending. Financing dried up for building new resorts; thousands if not millions of travelers stayed home; timeshare sales stagnated (along with all other travel-related spending). Meanwhile, Internet companies invaded the travel market while online travel agencies (Expedia, TripAdvisor, etc.) started providing instant, or near instant, online reservations for hotels, timeshares, travel packages, and vacation homes.

The travel world changed, forevermore, and it is still changing as a result of the economic pullback of 2008. One obvious sign: big companies with profitable resorts and sound business infrastructure bought smaller resort chains; mid-level timeshare chains with financial issues sold themselves to the highest bidder; legacy resorts started failing as older owners dropped out, strapped by increasing delinquencies that the resorts could not overcome.

What remains, to this day, is the continued escalation of consolidation. Big outfits are getting richer, while smaller resorts struggle to adapt to the changing economic environment. It's the Pac-Man theory of Darwin's "survival of the fittest" law as applied to timeshare.

Where the Marriott Acquisition of ILG Fits Into This

With more than 400,000 timeshare owners and a very reliable brand reputation, Marriott Vacation Club was already one of the world's leading timeshare companies, second only to Wyndham Worldwide in the number of owners. The $4.7 billion acquisition of ILG's shares, due to close by the end of the year, adds 250,000 more owners to the Marriott network as it assimilates the owners, assets, and 40 resorts held by the Westin, Sheraton, and Hyatt timeshare chains, Interval's vast exchange network, the VRI management company, the Aston hotel chain (primarily in Hawaii), and other companies. The implications for owners are huge, but still to be determined since nothing will be announced until after the acquisition is finalized. But at the very least, current Marriott owners can expect greater access to the Westin, Sheraton, and Hyatt resorts. Owners at those clubs, meanwhile, can anticipate greater and easier access to all of MVC's resorts and travel packages.

"When we combine with ILG, we will have seven upper-upscale and luxury brands with over 100 vacation ownership properties around the world," said MVC CEO Steve Weisz during a recent quarterly conference call with Wall Street analysts. "Together, we will have access to 100 million members in the Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and Ritz-Carlton Rewards loyalty program for our six Marriott vacation ownership brands and access to almost 10 million members in the World of Hyatt loyalty program to fuel the growth of the Hyatt Vacation Ownership business."

Those are big numbers by any stretch of the imagination and they may catapult Marriott Vacation Club into the #1 position in vacation ownership (next to Wyndham). As Wyndham owners may already know, Wyndham Worldwide is spinning off its hotel and timeshare divisions into two separate public companies, with closing due by the end of June. The new Wyndham timeshare company, called Wyndham Destinations, will become a joint alliance with RCI, the world's largest exchange company, and include all of Wyndham's resort management services.

And Then There Were Two...

When the dust settles on these major business moves, Wyndham and Marriott appear set to dominate the US timeshare landscape while other companies, including Disney, Diamond, Bluegreen, and others pursue their own expansion plans. Private equity company Apollo Global Management, meanwhile, is already pursuing plans to take Diamond Resorts public after buying the company for $2.2 billion two years ago. So, at the least, more changes are afoot in the industry.

For the short term, Marriott's purchase of ILG should have no impact on Marriott owners or members of the affected ILG clubs, Marriott officials said.

"Until we have a chance to consolidate the programs, nothing will change," said Ed Kinney, MVC's vice president of communications. "I have had calls from owners of both clubs (Marriott and Vistana) who want to know if their cruises or vacations are impacted. Nothing is going to interrupt owners' vacations."

During the next six months, Kinney added, Marriott will be reviewing the best way to integrate the companies to ensure a smooth transition for a future program that, he said, "provides the best services, infrastructure, and products" for owners, employees, and shareholders.

For all concerned, the acquisition is being portrayed as a "win-win" for the companies and their customers. But as timeshare owner forums will attest, speculation among owners is already rampant with questions about what might lie ahead — including the impacts on maintenance fees, sales programs, and travel options.

One change seems clear — and it is based upon the very recent history of the Marriott hotel chain's year-ago purchase of the Starwood hotel network and rewards program. It has taken Marriott a full year to resolve the transition issues and announce a new integrated program. It goes into effect August 1. Timeshare owners should expect a similar measured rollout and implementation of MVC's new timeshare program. In the meantime, we will keep RedWeek readers posted on all major developments that impact their use and enjoyment of timeshares.

What do you think about this latest merger? Tell us in the comments below.

About the author

This answer was provided by RedWeek's Chief Correspondent, Jeff Weir. Jeff is a California-based journalist who has covered California, Congress, and the White House. He also has roots in Silicon Valley, where he directed public relations and marketing programs for high-tech companies. He is also a timeshare owner and member of RedWeek.com.

Leave a comment

    11 Comments

  • Avatar for parkern2
    parkern2
    May 08, 2018 (2 weeks ago)

    Jeff, for some older owners, the bottom line issue is disposition. Do you think these consolidated behemoths will formulate programs to aid those who need to "get out?"

  • Avatar for jamesb1336
    jamesb1336
    May 08, 2018 (2 weeks ago)

    Terrible for Marriott Owners. Marriott has the best properties/locations ... all this will do is make it more difficult to get the resort/week/location within the resort that you want. Marriott just "bought" a huge list of customers to sell to, as their existing customer base has heard their sales pitch so many times already.

  • Avatar for johnl1590
    johnl1590
    May 08, 2018 (2 weeks ago)

    won't this cause legal problems for Marriott since certain representations were made at time of purchase which may now change under the new management.? Will this cause and exit for some owners..?

    John

  • Avatar for jerrys493
    jerrys493
    May 08, 2018 (2 weeks ago)

    In the late 1990's, I purchased a Marritott Time Share out of my respect for the Marriott company's level of quality throughout the world. I must say that over the years, as Marriott Vacation Club's programs have expanded both geographically but also in its expansion of ownership of former competitors, I have seen my value for having entrusted in the MVCI constantly dwindle. My ability to get my choices for vacation locations has been greatly diminished, so much so, that in the last five years, I have not been able to use my "prime" weeks for exchange. I fear this new aquisition and expansion of Marriott's domination, will only create less options for owners, than more. From a publicity point of view, past expansions suggested with more new properties, owners have more options. However, in practice, my experience and that of many other MVCI owners I know, just the opposite has happened. When I purchased, I was told buying my location in "prime week" meant I had a property that would always be high demand and good for my trade ability. Nothing has been further from the reality. I fear the future based on this new announcement will only underscore what in retrospect, was a disappointing purchase. I hope that I am wrong!!!

  • Avatar for hwrjmcl
    hwrjmcl
    May 08, 2018 (2 weeks ago)

    I don't own a Marriott resort, but I love trading into their resorts. However, my resort (Star Island) has a deal with Wyndham and they are after me to switch (and PAY to do it) to a points system. When I purchased my resort it was considered a five star red week, now a pineapple symbol. But Marriott only uses points. I am concerned when I trade my unit, Interval/Marriott will convert my resort into a point basis and my unit will become devalued as a result. Since I have a deeded property, will I have a leg to stand on to retain my resort's trading status?

  • Avatar for tome37
    tome37
    May 08, 2018 (2 weeks ago)

    As a long term Marriott Platinum Elite, bringing in and blending lesser quality resorts into Marriott's program raises much concern for us. Many of these new resorts purchased are below MVCI standards. MVCI's members paid top $$$ to belong, it is not fair I could be competing with someone of a lesser quality membership to stay at one of my own Marriott properties.

  • Avatar for lorem2
    lorem2
    May 08, 2018 (2 weeks ago)

    I hate this. I so prefer the the Westin/Starwood brand over the Marriott. Everything is more expensive in the Marriott system. They don't keep their timeshares up to date.

  • Avatar for janetp278
    janetp278
    May 09, 2018 (2 weeks ago)

    I've read the remarks below. I know exactly what everyone is saying - and it is true. I've owned three timeshare brands comprising 6 weeks. Over 20 years ago I was able to use Interval and go to Hawaii, Aruba, California, etc. and I used a very low end timeshare. But, then as timeshare and II grew it became difficult to trade. Needless to say, I sold my lower end timeshares, and mainly stay within the Marriott and Hyatt timeshares. The Hyatt are deeded weeks so no Hassle. More of a problem with Marriott, and as an ocean front owner, more money - more difficult. Good luck to all of us going forward. Lets hope this new big company will remember their initial supporters.

  • Avatar for joanneg107
    joanneg107
    May 12, 2018 (2 weeks ago) • Last edit by on May 12, 2018 07:53 PM.

    Wondering where that leaves us folks who have a timeshare week in a resort (Star Island Resort and not a Wyndham Building) but converted to Interval Gold Points?

  • Avatar for tonyab38
    tonyab38
    May 19, 2018 (1 week ago)

    I'm looking to purchase a resale timeshare (points) through Wyndham. Why does Wyndham Resorts and Worldmark Wyndham use a difference point purchase system? Wyndham points start at 86k-1M+. Whereas Worldmark points contract/resale points listed are significantly less (6k-40k). Thanks.

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