Made for millennials: is 2020 the time for timeshare?

The chief executive of Diamond Resorts shares his views on the current trends shaping timeshare and says the secret lies in exclusivity and personalization

Outdated, inflexible, only able to ‘use it or lose it’ are just some of the myths and misconceptions that have arisen around timeshares since they gained popularity in the 1970s as a new way to holiday. Mike Flaskey, the chief executive of US-based Diamond Resorts, a firm with network of over 379 vacation destinations in 35 countries, was recently interviewed for an EyeforTravel by Reuters Events white paper. In this full transcript of the interview, he sets the record straight.

EFT: The growing number of choices in hospitality is making it a highly competitive environment. What is keeping you awake at night?

MF: Some people suggest the sharing economy in hospitality, such as Airbnb, has eaten away at the appeal of timeshares. We wholeheartedly disagree. Our consumer values exclusive and personalized experiences, and they are really embracing the amazing events we offer that cannot be found on a typical vacation.

EFT: In which customer demographic are you seeing the most growth?

MF: Millennials now make up Diamond Resorts fastest-growing membership demographic. While the company is experiencing significant growth across all groups, millennial membership has outpaced all other groups with an average of 25% growth year over year for the last five years. This growth seems to mirror other industry trends, as millennials invest more in their vacations compared to any other demographic. It is said that 33% are now willing to spend $5,000 or more on a vacation!

A recent Reuters Events: CX Trends in Travel Survey found that 35% of respondents view millennials as the biggest opportunity (Boomers 12%, Gen X 15% and Gen Z 17%)

EFT: That is interesting as it mirrors the results of our recent survey. What would you say that millennials are looking for and how is Diamond Resorts meeting this demand? 

MF: Millennials are after unique vacation experiences, and our aim is to offer intimate, member-exclusive concerts with platinum-selling artists such as Cole Swindell, Lee Brice and Jana Kramer, along with other perks such as access to premier seats at sporting events and culinary tours. With our innovative points system, members like the fact that they can personalize their vacation experiences and get the most out of their ownership. We are continually expanding our offerings to meet and exceed changing demographic preferences and making data-driven decisions to enhance experiences while putting our members first.

EFT: And what about Gen Z, do you have your eye on the next generation? 

Of course, generation Z is growing in influence and spending power, especially as it relates to travel. Now the largest group of consumers at 32%, Gen Z values and prioritizes the experience. Whether or not the motive is a perfect Instagram post, Gen Z values authentic trips and memorable moments. This is a huge opportunity for us as our goal is to offer unforgettable experiences as already mentioned above and that seems to be right up Gen Z's alley.

EFT:  This is the start of a new decade, and it is as good a time as any to ask what you believe will be the keys to success in 2020?

MF: The world is undergoing a major shift in decision-making and buying power and it’s changing the hospitality industry as we know it. As of this year, millennials have officially overtaken Baby Boomers in the workforce. So, capturing the millennial market is paramount to anyone’s success. As the hospitality industry gears up for the biggest disruption in decades, the key attributes Diamond Resorts is focusing in on like experience, smart technology and personalization are a must for attracting the millennial traveler.

The white paper – Cracking CX: Human-focused, Data-Driven & Unforgettable – is free to download

EFT: What do you see as some of the major emerging trends of 2020?

MF: From Insta- and ecotourism to multi-generational, purpose-driven and cashless travel, there are several trends shaping the industry for 2020.

  • Instagrammability: What we know is that people love sharing their vacation pictures on social media, and one of the most popular platforms to share pictures with their friends is on Instagram. Arguably one of the most influential social media platforms out there right now, Instagram is having a huge impact on the travel industry. In fact, according to a survey conducted by UK company Schofields, more than 40% of respondents under 33 consider ‘Instagrammability’ the most important factor in choosing their holiday destination.
  • Payments: The time when we travelled with wads of cash, traveller’s cheques or exchanged cash at crazy rates isn’t a thing of our too-distant past. And while that is still the case in some countries, technology is changing the landscape rapidly. As a society, we no longer need cash in our pockets, especially as we move forward with technologies such as mobile and touch payments.
  • Green travel: From sustainable travel methods and locations to volunteer vacations – are on the rise. Today’s consumer is more environmentally conscious than ever before, and current trends reflect that. Businesses across the travel industry have embraced this trend, which is only set to become more prevalent in years to come. Sustainable tourism specifically has become paramount today, with one in three people looking for a company that is sustainable.

EFT: Tech investment is obviously crucial. What are your three priorities in 2020 and why and how do you see these delivering on customer experience goals?

We have multiple technology priorities but I would say that the top three are:

  • Unifying our data to activate across the customer journey. To this we are leveraging best-in-class digital platforms like a customer data platform
  • Expanding our digital booking platform to connect with the mobile traveller of today in their channel of preference (chat, SMS, email, voice assistant)
  • Investing in a data analytics platform and building internal discipline to further inform how we deliver at each step of the customer journey

Mike Flaskey was interviewed for the free white paper from EyeforTravel by Reuters Events, which also includes CX insights from senior executives at Caesars Entertainment, Vacasa, The Xanterra Collection and WhyHotel

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