April 6, 2012 — The curtain fell once again yesterday, April 5, 2012, as another annual ARDA (American Resort Development Association) Conference closed at the Venetian Resort Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, NV.
Bidding a fond farewell to several industry folks, I left the Venetian nearly overwhelmed with all the information and news items, tips, rumors, pieces of gossip, thoughts and opinions I had collected. Yet once outside the hotel, in the sunlight of the afternoon and back in the ‘other’ world, a sense of chaos began to nibble around the edges of my perspective about our industry.
ARDA provides an invaluable service to the industry and those who attend the association’s functions such as this week’s convention are exposed to and have the opportunity to attend a plethora of very good, informative meetings covering most topics of concern (from A-Z) to them and the ‘biz’.
And for the record I can assure all ARDA bashers (and from time to time that would include MOI) that to put together such an annual event is no easy undertaking and quite frankly the ARDA staff (and committees, volunteers etc.) did, over all, a very fine job. Kudos to them all!
Okay, now with the accolades out of the way I have so much to report on, so many topics to cover, and interviews to describe, etc. that it just isn’t possible to do so in one weekly update.
As such over the next many weeks and months from time to time I’ll do just that for the 10,000 + industry professionals who read ‘The Gate’, most of whom did not attend this year’s Gala event.
What I will briefly report today is the following. First of all I had the great pleasure to once again catch up with the always busy, highly regarded and never-give-up “rebel” Mr. Jerry Sikes, CHA, RRP and President of Pro Management.
All of us who have the pleasure of knowing Jerry (and “girl Gerry”, too) also know that he has worked endlessly and tirelessly for the betterment of our industry over many years. Next week Jerry will be undergoing some medical treatments and he is in all our prayers to be sure!
Thanks Jerry for your time and invaluable input this year and for the autographed book you wrote, too. We did have some pretty good times over the years, shaking things up once in a while in the ‘biz’, and when your plate is freed up a little more let’s get together and do some more stuff!
Also this year it seemed there was a more upbeat, positive and enthusiastic crowd attending than in the years that immediately preceded the huge 2008 global financial collapse that damn near brought the entire timeshare industry to its knees.
My best estimate, based on the official ARDA Attendee directory, is that this year approximately 1,700 folks had pre-registered for the convention. And although ARDA will publish their official findings I am guesstimating that with a few hundred later registrants the number of attendees will be in the 2,000 neighborhood which, if I’m correct, would still be down from previous years all time highs in the 3,000 to 4,000 range.
The count for the Exhibitors area seemed down as well. Again, based on the official ARDA Exhibitor directory and an actual head count it appeared that this year ARDA 2012 had around 100 vendors in the Exhibitors Hall.
The majority of the vendors were the usual suspects and the exhibit area— excluding the invitation-only “International Delegate Reception in the Exhibit Hall, sponsored by ICE”— was only open for two days and only for a total of 9 (nine) business/selling hours (Tuesday from 12:00 noon until 5:00 P.M. and Wednesday from 10:00 A.M. until 2:00 P.M.).
While in the exhibit area taking photos and meeting some of the newer vendors, there were mixed perspectives as to whether traveling to ARDA was actually worthy of their expenditure, considering the investment to do so and the scant few hours the hall was open.
I met one particular vendor who invested $25 Grand in all to travel to and ‘do ARDA’ this year, and when I met him he was so bored he was nodding off for a nap at 2:45 P.M. And that was day one of when the Hall opened for business.
Also spotted on the grounds were several former timeshares executives who were ‘cut’ during the initial phase of the 2008 crash. Some of them have new businesses started and are apparently doing quite well while others, not many, seemed lost and could find no place to hang their hats, so to speak.
My instinct was that a few of them were roaming about with hopes of bumping into a developer and once again securing a very lucrative paying position that had either been filled by other capable individuals or that are simply no longer available in an industry that has cut out a lot of the excess fat and is watching every precious penny.
I also came across a small group of five Attorneys who were chatting in one of the main corridors and I overheard: “If it wasn’t for all the compliance issues we wouldn’t be…” I didn’t hear the rest of what was said but it was followed by sneers, snickers and a dash of self-righteous smugness.
And there was no shortage of marketing and sales execs on hand who to this day, despite the reality of the ‘market’, etc. still refuse to change the way they’ve been marketing and selling for decades. They still believe the old ‘an up is an up’ and ‘throw it against the wall and see what sticks’ methodology is the only way to fly!
And don’t dare even suggest marketing and sales methods that other industries (or developers) are using with great success. Simply stated, those few execs are protecting their own ‘deal’ and don’t want to hear about it! Not up for discussion! Forget about it! Go Away!
That said, other execs are finally starting to come around and slowly embrace what I (and others) have been touting for years which is, in part, that “Virtualization” is “the new face-to-face of business” and that “business has not changed, only the process has!”
I also spoke with other execs and a few developers who privately shared with me their tour costs and VPGs (aka; efficiency factors). A couple reported very impressive numbers (STATS) with one developer producing an YTD VPG exceeding $5-K (believe it or not; but I read the actual most recent company report and know the company/developer very well).
But others seemed satisfied with STATS that are dismal at best and VPGs in the $1,000 (above and below) range. I just don’t get that at all, except that they do make bank on the pure volume of tours they drag into their sales centers and they’ll maintain that process come hell or high water!
Another developer and his team also told me that they are quietly working behind the scenes to put together a short-term product, something I have written about often and other industry professionals have advocated for many years as well.
This team of execs and the developer actually do get it, that although a deeded ownership plan in perpetuity has its place, the smart money, IMPO, is on short term timeshare plans/projects like they’ve sold in Mexico for decades.
‘Buy today, use it for X years and then you’re done, walk away and out from under any further financial obligations; plus of course those really ‘happy campers’ (owners) will make for great reloads when the time rolls around!
The final point this week is about our industry’s own ‘boots on the ground’, the civilian grunts in the foxholes manning their marketing posts and reps on the front lines in the sales trenches who are often battling enormous odds, the economic realities, etc.
These mostly good, hard working loyal souls are still producing BILLIONS of dollars in sales revenue each year. Some reports are forecasting upwards of 7 Billion (this year— 2012) and since the ’08 crash, these troops have collectively marketed and sold somewhere around (counting first quarter 2012) $25 BILLION in sales on those little round tables!
These battle hardened troops have been extremely dedicated to their developers/companies, especially during these financially challenging times and sometimes in the face of lowered commissions and the elimination of bonuses, SPIFFS, etc.
Yet while many of us were prancing around this year’s convention in all our glory and magnificence, other than a few ARDY awards handed out for the best sales rep with such and such company or the best marketing person, etc. the convention seemed to have pretty much ignored the army of front line troops once again.
You know, those warriors who meet the enemy head on daily and who are arguably one of the most critically important components to our industry’s very survival: the sales and marketing folks who make it all happen!
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