Most people sign up for timeshare because they are promised luxury standards and exclusivity. Considering that the heyday for timeshare is over in Europe, are these benefits still justified and relevant?
During the 1980s and 1990s, before the dawn of the internet, coming across accurate information about holidays was much more difficult.
When booking a holiday, all you had to go on was a physical brochure with it's glossy photographs.
Brits were attracted by dreamy hotels on picturesque beaches. But they were then surprised when they turned up and found that their chosen hotel was nothing like that promised in the photos.
Holidays from hell became big news in the tabloid press as more and more holidaymakers shared their nightmare stories.
The holidays from hell saga brought about a new business model: Timeshare.
Holidaymakers were made the targets of by aggressive sales operations where they were presented with high-quality accommodation in exclusive resorts.
They paid a premium, but many were happy to pay the sign-up cost of thousands of pounds and the expensive maintenance fees in order to avoid another holiday from hell scenario.
These fees have always been questionable.
It is well known that they were greater than the actual maintenance costs however in the early days, they were less than booking a regular holiday with the same high-quality standards (if you exclude the upfront joining fee of course!).
Timeshare resorts continued to squeeze out more sales across Europe, and standards were maintained. After all, the complex had to appear in premium condition to tempt new customers during the sales display.
Jumping forward to 2022, things have changed considerably.
New member sales have either ended completely or slowed down considerably. The maintenance fees are now the sole income stream for many timeshare companies.
Over the years, these fees have been ridiculously inflated and they are now comparable and often even more expensive than the cost of regular holidays.
As the resorts are not actively selling any longer, they have no motivation to maintain their superior standards.
Cuts and reductions in facilities along with dated apartments are common member complaints.
Just look at this example from Playa Real, a timeshare resort in Marbella, Spain:
Drab: Playa Real apartment living room
Tired: Playa Real apartment bathroom
Uninspired: Playa Real apartment bedroom
These days, regular holidaymakers can book apartments that are as good as or often superior to timeshare complexes -- often for less than timeshare owners pay in their annual fees.
Take a look at the Romana Playa complex, close to the Playa Real timeshare complex.
This is currently available from £519 per week, which includes cleaning and beach access. It is arguably a better standard than nearby timeshare complexes.
Furthermore, timeshare resorts are no longer exclusive and can be booked on travel websites like Booking.com. Holidaymakers can stay in them without paying any joining fees and only pay for the time they spend there.
Andrew Cooper, the CEO of European Consumer Claims (ECC), says that "customers are contractually obliged to pay whatever the timeshare company decides," while the resort has "no motivation to provide high standards in return."
"To maximise profits, a timeshare company's logical course is to minimise expenditure wherever possible on resort standards. And to increase the annual charges the maximum they believe they can get away with".
Over the decades, the travel industry has evolved significantly mostly driven by competition and consumer demand however, Mr Cooper explains that "timeshare owners are being left behind, without the standards, choice and flexibility enjoyed by regular holidaymakers".
"Ironically the expensive memberships that once shielded timeshare owners from 'holidays from hell' have trapped them in some of the least acceptable holiday conditions available in modern times."
If you are considering your timeshare options, speak with one of our specialists at the Timeshare Advice Centre.
It may be possible to relinquish your timeshare membership, and you may even find out that you are entitled to compensation.
Get in touch today to find out more.