July 3, 2010: WHAT’S ON THE MENU THIS WEEK? Well, there’s quite a bit of “getting BIGGER” in the news this week, but let’s start off with this:
“THE TERM ‘SLOPPY JOE’ TAKES ON NEW MEANING ONCE YOUR TRIBE HAS DESCENDED INTO CANNIBALISM”: Remember the guy who is building a “network of underground shelters for the long-term survival of possible future catastrophes, in 2012, or decades beyond. The $200 million project called Vivos (Latin meaning: to live), will accommodate up to 4,000 people, in as many as 20 shelters, each strategically located within 150 to 200 miles of a major metro area.” (See With 1,000 Days Remaining, Will You Survive the End of the World?) It’s a fractional ownership deal, sort of. Something that’s easy to make fun of.
Well, the always irreverent Stephen Colbert got wind of it and on June 29 he did a whole segment about it on The Colbert Report called Doomsday Bunkers. I thought I’d share it with you as a special Happy 4th of July appetizer. Enjoy!
|The Colbert Report||Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
(If you have a problem viewing the clip, you can find it at http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/313677/june-28-2010/doomsday-bunkers)
THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT: RCI has been jumping on the social media marketing wagon big time for quite a while, and they show no sign of slowing down. In March this year the company unveiled two new iPhone apps that let users share their holiday experiences with friends: An RCITV app for iPhone and iPod Touch users and something called the RCI SnapBook.
With the RCI SnapBook, which I think could become very popular, you can save photos, videos, voice memos and texts on your iPhone during a vacation and then publish it on www.RCISnapBook.com in various ways – a scrapbook, timeline or map display which you can share with friends. At any time during or after the vacation, the user can share their vacation memories with friends or log into the RCI SnapBook portal and add additional “assets”.
The RCITV app allows iPhone and iPod Touch users to view featured Destination Channel videos, currently available to the public on RCI.com. It lists all videos with a small thumbnail image, video title and video length in the application navigation. Once users view the video, they can email the video link to a friend or save it for themselves. RCI plans to provide additional functionality and more videos for download in future releases.
Is Interval International doing anything like that? Just wondering out loud…
HAWAI’I CALLS: Geev ‘um, Brah!!! Aulani, Disney Vacation Club Villas, Ko Olina has begun active sales for Disney’s new Hawaiian resort on the island of O’ahu!
The first-ever destination resort for Disney, the Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, Ko Olina, Hawai`i, is planned to include 481 two-bedroom Disney Vacation Club villas and 360 traditional hotel rooms upon its completion. Also included will be an 18,000 sq. ft. spa, two restaurants, a wedding lawn, a kids’ club, a conference center and a pool area complete with a feature pool, wading pool, tube slides, sunset-facing hot tubs and a snorkel lagoon.
Scheduled to open on August 29, 2011, Disney will begin accepting reservations for the Aulani hotel on Aug. 2, 2010.
This resort is the first test of Disney’s strategy to build stand-alone resorts and niche attractions in markets far from its theme-park resorts in Orlando and Anaheim, Calif. If it works, Aulani will serve as a model for similar Disney projects in other markets, such as Washington DC where Disney spent $11 million last year to buy 15 acres as a potential resort site.
If it doesn’t work? Back to the drawing board…
IN KIWI COUNTRY: Without much attendant publicity, Wyndham Vacation Resort Asia Pacific chief executive Barry Robinson officially opened the $22 million Wyndham Wanaka Resort in New Zealand’s South Island on July 1. (The hotel portion of the property has been accepting guests in its former incarnation as the Mt. Aspiring Hotel for some time.)
Wyndham spent $22 million in the acquisition, refurbishment, and redevelopment of the property. The company added an additional 50 rooms, including executive suites, which were completed last September.
The overhaul of the hotel was completed by Wanaka Resorts Ltd – a company which was being led by Christchurch businessman Graham Wilkinson and Queenstown property developer Gary McVicar.
Note that as a Wyndham Vacation Resort Asia Pacific property, it is an affiliate resort that is not part of WorldMark, The Club. Nevertheless, I quote from the WorldMark website: “40 minutes from the world-class ski resorts of Treble Cone and Cardrona, a short walk from the pristine shores of Lake Wanaka and only two minutes from Lake Wanaka village, Wyndham Vacation Resorts Asia Pacific Wanaka is ideally located adjacent to the former Associate Resort, Mt Aspiring Hotel, Lake Wanaka.
“While the resort becomes WorldMark South Pacific Club’s, first ski destination in the Asia Pacific region, it is famous as a year-round destination because each season provides its own range of unique activities.”
It’s a very beautiful place, and if you’re up to the journey you should definitely put it on your list.
The company is pursuing interests in Auckland and Wellington, as well. Getting BIGGER?
US VIRGIN ISLANDS: The island of St. Croix is getting BIGGER in the timeshare department, too. Developers for Robin Bay Realty have received unanimous approval from the Senate Committee on Planning and Environmental Protection for a permit to build the 618-acre Seven Hills Beach Resort on the island’s southeast shore between Great Pond Bay and Grapetree Bay. It still has to go to the Senate for final approval, and of course there are still appeals and court actions and federal permits and financing that need to be finalized. But this is a big step forward, and IF all goes well the development could break ground in 2011.
The $1 billion resort is to be built in four phases over a period of about 12 years. The first phase will include the construction of a 38,000 square foot casino, 422 hotel rooms, and 56 timeshare condominiums. This phase is anticipated to cost $300 million and will take approximately 2 years to complete.
Upon buildout, the project will include 870 hotel rooms, an 18-hole golf course, 756 timeshare condos and family homes, tennis courts, a 50,000 square foot sports arena, a water park, and a conference center.
Currently, Divi Carina Bay Resort — with 180 rooms — is the largest hotel/resort on St. Croix. Seven Hills would dwarf it.
GETTING BIGGER IN CENTRAL FLORIDA: Kissimmee’s FantasyWorld Resort, home to Fantasy World Club Villas, is adding a $4 million indoor surf park to its amenities. Called Fantasy Surf, the surf attraction will feature a patented FlowRider™ Double system, which is a ramp that shoots water on an incline to simulate waves. At 32 feet wide and 49 feet long it can accommodate 25-30 riders per hour. The padded walls, floor and beach is covered by a three-inch sheet of water that creates a surfable wave. This ride, with its cushioned surface, was designed for wipeouts.
Due to open in October, Fantasy Surf will be open seven days a week throughout the year.
Hey! FantasyWorld, you’ve come a long way, baby!
RECOMMENDED READING: If you’re currently employed and making a decent living, I suggest you keep your head down for a while longer and don’t give up that day job. Here’s a scary opinion about the economy that’s worthy of contemplation, just because what if Paul Krugman is right? His record so far has been pretty good…
Anyhow, read his column in the NY Times called The Third Depression. You might want to have a couple of beers within reach… 😉
HOW ARE YA DOIN’? Industry veteran Keith Trowbridge, of Executive Quest, has announced the results of the annual salary survey of the timeshare/vacation ownership/fractional, hospitality industry. The survey includes 25 categories from Sales, Marketing, Finance, Human Resources, Resort/General Managers, CEO’s, CFO’s, etc.
Not surprisingly, the industry continues to battle the recession and compensation is, in most instances, lower than it was last year. The one area that has taken the largest hit is the category for realtor, real estate developer, sales and broker – an approximate 300% drop in income. On the plus side are sales representatives; however, sales managers and directors took a minor cut in compensation while training specialists and directors saw their compensation increase by over 200%.
You can get more details, including how to order the report, by clicking here.
PEOPLE: Angel Fire Resort in New Mexico has appointed John Kitts to the position of chief executive officer, effective July 23. Kitts, who has been the resort’s chief financial officer for the past two years, will oversee Angel Fire Resort’s five principal businesses— operations, membership, timeshare, resort development and real estate sales.
Kitts appointment comes on the heels of Pat Brunstad’s recent resignation. Brunstad has served as the resort’s CEO and director of development since 2008. As CEO for Angel Fire Resort Operations, LLC, Kitts will oversee all aspects of Angel Fire Resort management and operations, including membership, hospitality, mountain and golf operations, real estate and development, marketing, legal and finance.
In Park City, Utah, Chris Harrington has been appointed to management positions at two resorts. He was named general manager of The Lodge at Stillwater, managed by LaTour Hotels and Resorts, and general manager of Tapestry Resorts’ owner rental program at Shadow Ridge Resort & Conference Center.
At Stillwater, he is responsible for overseeing the lodge and its facilities, including supervising day-to-day activities of all departments, assisting guests, and achieving goals and objectives for growth, revenue generation, cost control, employee development and guest satisfaction.
In Virginia Beach, VA, Robert M. Howard, formerly Chief Financial Officer at Gold Key/PHR, has been named Chief Investment Officer for the company. The announcement was made by Gold Key/PHR Chief Executive Officer Bruce Thompson.
According to Thompson, Chief Investment Officer is a new position within the firm. In his new role Howard will evaluate and manage the company’s various assets and their contributions to the overall performance of the organization. He will also be responsible for seeking out and evaluating new asset opportunities for growth and expansion and maximizing those assets’ R.O.I. as they are brought into the company’s portfolio.
DEAD SKUNK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD AWARD: This week’s Dead Skunk Award goes out to the notorious Timeshare Relief, a “postcard company” that lures timeshare owners into seminars at local hotels by leading them to believe the company will buy their unwanted timeshares from them.
Timeshare Relief, via glossy postcards sent to timeshare owners’ homes or via phone calls, promises that at the end of their “educational” seminars the company will “Offer a guaranteed timeshare exit solution that will provide 100% satisfaction and leave you timeshare free forever.” What they don’t divulge is that the “offer” entails the attendees paying Timeshare Relief in the vicinity of $4,000 to relieve them of their timeshares and related taxes, maintenance fees and other costs.
Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell agrees with me that Timeshare Relief has been indulging in deceptive trade practices. He filed a legal action against the company, the result of which is that Timeshare Relief will be refunding in excess of $91,000 to Vermont consumers. Click here to see the details.
Timeshare Relief is owned by David and Cindy MacMillan, a couple who like to promote themselves as owning multiple businesses devoted to “helping people”. Other “helpful” companies they own include Timeshare Transfer (“Transfer America is an industry leader in Timeshare transfers, helping families all across America experience the Ultimate Freedom from Timeshare Ownership with a 100% Guaranteed Timeshare Exit Solution”); Credit Repair IQ (“…to be a leader in the credit repair industry by helping consumers”); and Merchant Solutions IQ (They knew millions of merchants would appreciate a simple, profitable method for processing credit cards and other merchant services). And they helped to launch other “postcard companies”, such as Right Choice Transfer and We Collect Timeshares, which employ the same marketing tactics developed by the MacMillans.
When you look at pictures of this helpful couple and read their story (they essentially use the same story for each of their businesses), they appear to be the cleanest, most righteous, Bible-belt neighborhood goody-two-shoes you would ever want to meet. How could you possibly distrust them?
Well, my personal opinion is that they (and others in the same business) are Dead Skunks of the first aroma. PEEE-UW!
And that’s it for this week’s Roadkill. See ya next weekend, and keep your eyes on the road… Oh, and if you enjoyed this,tell a friend!
Published every Saturday.
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