As timeshares become more popular among vacationers from around the world, the massive hospitality brands at the center of the industry are changing the way they look at the business model. Recently, there has been consistent news of “timeshare spinoffs,” which occurs when a hotel or lodging brand chooses to incorporate their vacation ownership branch into its own brand. These independent timeshare companies are being created by a number of notable brands, starting first with Starwood and most recently with Hilton.
Both timeshare owners and those interested in timeshares alike are wondering what exactly that means for the industry. As standalone companies, will these new businesses be able to offer the same product that is steadily growing more popular, or will they change the game altogether?
Last year, Starwood announced the transition of their timeshare ownership wing to an independently owned company rebranded as Vistana Signature Experiences. The move made the vacation ownership portion of their business publicly-traded, and it was eventually acquired by Interval Leisure Group. Little changed for Starwood timeshare owners, save for the logo at the top of their annual maintenance fee bill. Today, while technically owned by Interval, the major timeshare brands of Westin, St. Regis, and Sheraton all operate under the Vistana Signature Experience brand.
In the case of HGV, Hilton Worldwide sought to take the same course of action as Starwood and spinoff their real estate and vacation ownership branch into its own, publicly-traded company. While the process is not yet complete, Hilton Grand Vacations will become an independent company by the end of 2016. Despite the news of the break from its parent company, HGV still plans to add more resorts to its catalogue, and incorporate new affiliations with partner brands.
Much of what you’ll read on this topic (including this blog post), will use the term “spinoff” to refer to the move of separating a timeshare ownership brand into its own company. While it is in truth a sort of spinoff, the real term for the move is called REIT, or “real estate investment trust.” Brands like Starwood, Hilton, and Marriott (the latter made their timeshare brand independent years ago) seek to create these REIT opportunities since the spinoff timeshare companies see lower corporate taxes and perform better in the stock market. Soon after Hilton Worldwide filed the appropriate paperwork with the IRS to complete HGV’s spinoff, however, Congress enacted legislation to ban REITs moving forward.
To the casual timeshare owner, these spinoffs and REITs mean little. Odds are, your vacation club will continue to operate as normal, and you can continue to plan the same great vacations every year. While there are clear monetary benefits behind moves like this for major hotel chains, they still want to encourage easy vacation planning and a plethora of travel options for their members, which means you continue to benefit from your vacation ownership!