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RCI is planning a 30 per cent increase in resorts by end 2020: Sabina Chopra

In an exclusive interview, Sabina Chopra, managing director, RCI India speaks about the timeshare industry in India and why the concept can appeal to the millennial traveller

What challenges has the timeshare industry in India faced over the last two years? How does India compare with the worldwide industry?

Customers around the world are turning to vacation ownership as their preferred option for holidays and vacations. More than 16 million households own vacation interval products at 5,316 resorts, in over 120 countries. There are nearly 500,000 timeshare units with an average resort size of 94. North America remains the global leader with nearly half-the-pie, and approximately two million owners. Europe is the second most dominant region for vacation ownership, with approximately 22 per cent of global figures.

In India, timeshare has grown from single resort hotel to chain of hotels and resorts providing consumers with the opportunity to buy vacation time in any of their properties worldwide which typically offer an array of amenities. Timeshare resort base has grown by over 50 per cent over the last six years showing great potential and promise. As per All India Resort Development Association (AIRDA), over 5 lakh families have subscribed to timeshare in India and the estimated market exceeds 3.5 million. This growth can be attributed to the consistently growing middle class and increasing disposable income. The Indian travel space too has undergone several changes and advanced through time to what it is today. More people are travelling than ever before, they are not doing only annual vacations, but also short vacations such as long weekends and seeking unforgettable experiences.

What India specific strategy has RCI adopted to grow the membership?

Over the last few years, RCI has been focusing on member growth and satisfaction by providing solutions that make travel experience with RCI truly world class. In line with RCI’s objective, we recently launched a new brand campaign in India, ‘The Map Is Yours’. With special emphasis on encouraging travellers to explore a world of new possibilities and saying yes to new experiences, through this campaign, we are working towards increasing the number of transactions per member while giving our affiliate partners a great opportunity to engage with their prospective customers. The three month long digital campaign is running on the official RCI website and across high-impact social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, building awareness and creating high engagement with members.

We also undertook a survey in partnership with Kantar-IMRB to get some insights into the timeshare space to support the concept in India backed by credible consumer understandings. It examined the motivation behind taking a holiday and the factors for location choosing and identified a significant gap in holiday satisfaction rates between timeshare owners and non-owners. The survey findings helped RCI highlight a clear opportunity for new players to look at timeshare as a viable business opportunity.

We are strategically working to grow the market in India for our members and are increasing affiliations with different resorts across the country which has not only widened our presence but also provide our existing and potential members choices of high-quality properties in premium holiday destinations offering unique experiences.

In India, we have been expanding our portfolio to grow the market around India for our members and have worked tirelessly towards increasing affiliations with different resorts across the country like Clarks Holidays, Ramada Kumbhalgarh, Hill Stream Resort in Dehradun, The Global Family Home, Leh, Ananta Spa and Resorts in Udaipur, ‘Nest n Mist’ resort in Waynad, JC Residency Resorts in Kodaikanal and Madurai, Sterling La Vida Varca, Goa and Arie Lagoon, Tisara Villas in Sri Lanka and Hondaafushi Island Resort in Maldives.

The industry is not a very regulated one, resulting in many fly-by night operators. Your comments.

The purchase of a timeshare is a lifestyle purchase and often an emotional decision. Hence, it is imperative that prospective timeshare buyers must be vigilant and educate themselves with right information and purchase timeshares from AIRDA accredited resorts only. Also, it makes immense sense for resorts to affiliate with AIRDA and get the AIRDA creditability stamp.

Do you think timeshare concept will appeal to the millennial traveller/Gen Z segment?

Millennial travellers are wildly different from older generations and have different expectations for their vacation. They are looking for experiences, whether natural, culinary or artistic. Their demand for memorable moments and activities has shaped one of the biggest shifts in travel trend, personalisation. Every traveller has different interests: some are into camping, others are into staying at boutique hotels, while some may prefer luxury resorts. Some travellers like to discover the culinary culture of a country in Michelin starred restaurants, while others might prefer street food.

With the changing dynamics of the travel industry, timeshare is showing encouraging signs of growth as it offers travellers a unique, personalised, immersive holiday experience where everything is taken care by the resort in the most cost-effective way making it a good travel choice. The visible increase in number of membership sign ups in timeshare market is a strong indication of shifting trends. The younger generation is realising the value of owning a timeshare and are eyeing it as a viable holiday investment.

In addition, through timeshare, the new-age travellers can consider newer holiday experiences in offbeat locations, and no longer have to narrow down the options to popular or main stream destinations. In fact, travellers taking to lesser known locations in exchange of mainstream destinations rank high on the search list of timeshare customers. Traditional attractions and old buildings and museums do not suffice anymore. Jungle resorts, ski resorts, cruises, beaches, adventure, golf resorts, heritage, casinos and gaming are all on the menu.

Future roadmap for RCI India?

The RCI portfolio of affiliated resorts in India now includes over 160 properties and RCI is planning a 30 per cent increase in resorts by the end of 2020. We will continue to strategically expand our footprint in and around India with more resorts in Andamans, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bhutan, Nepal and many more to provide high quality resorts and cost effective options for Indian members to vacation abroad. We have more than 4300 resorts globally available for our members in 110 countries.

With the rapidly changing dynamics of the travel industry, loyalty built in through understanding customer needs has never been more important and we are committed to growth in terms of adding more members across target segments.

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