Many timeshare owners are furious that the ‘exclusive’ resorts they have paid for in timeshare deals are being made available to the public on sites like Expedia and Booking.com.
For the modern traveller, there is something slightly old fashioned about timeshare. But they first came around to solve a genuine problem for holidaymakers.
‘Holidays from hell’ were a staple in the tabloids. They usually consisted of a family travelling to Spain or a European hotspot eager to arrive at the beautiful hotel they had booked, only to find that it was nothing like the brochure made it out to be.
Such experiences were very common, and they were very disappointing for holidaymakers who were forced to make do with something resembling a building site. In the end, they would say, it’s just a place to sleep because we will spend most of the time on the beach.
And it was these people who were the prime target for expensive timeshare deals.
Many of the top destinations for tourists in Europe were overrun by touts in the 1908s and 1990s. They would use high-pressure sales techniques to target disappointed holidaymakers and encourage them to buy timeshare.
Holidaymakers knew they would receive fantastic accommodation at an excellent complex, and that they would always enjoy the same quality when they went elsewhere.
While it was expensive, with upfront costs into the tens of thousands of pounds, and an expensive annual fee which was more than they would spend on a normal holiday, they still got peace of mind. For them, that was worth paying for.
These memberships worked out well for a long time. People enjoyed turning up and knowing what to expect with no concerns about suffering from a nightmare holiday again.
However, things soon changed. In the early 2000s, the travel industry upped its game, and timeshare began to go out of favour.
It was the arrival of sites like TripAdvisor that changed the game so significantly. Suddenly, people could go on a website and read reviews from real customers about their holiday accommodation.
These reviews were far more likely to be accurate because there was no promotion involved. Anyone who wanted to book a holiday could easily find out what to expect in advance.
Suddenly, there was less need to pay thousands of pounds for a timeshare membership and the annual fee on top for the same peace of mind.
As a result, many resorts were left with a big dilemma. They had plenty of inventory that was not generating revenue. So, they decided to rent it out to make up for this. Naturally, timeshare owners who had paid a lot of money for the exclusivity were not happy about this.
In the year 2022, nearly all timeshare resorts are available to members of the public on booking websites.
“This was the last straw for most owners,” Andrew Cooper, CEO of European Consumer Claims (ECC), says. “We get calls from timeshare members whose resort is telling them there is no availability, when they can see the same week available on Booking.com. Often it costs less for a non-member to book online than the member pays in maintenance.
“There is no remaining justification for a timeshare owner to have paid tens of thousands of pounds for a membership when they have no benefits that are not available to the casual renter. This isn’t what people paid all that money for. Their resorts are effectively changing the deal without offering any compensation in return.
“Booking through the online sites as a non-member is clearly preferable, because they can come and go as they please. They are not contractually obliged to pay every year for something they may not want to use, unlike the timeshare owners.”
Anyone buying a timeshare after 1999 might have another option: “Spain enacted laws to protect consumers from high-pressure timeshare sales in January of that year,” says Cooper. “Arrogantly, the large majority of resorts ignored those laws, and as a result all the contracts they wrote after that were illegal. Right now, courts are awarding significant amounts of compensation to owners who were mis-sold with those illegal contracts.”
Contact ECC to get a free consultation and find out about getting out of your timeshare contract or even just claiming compensation.