Article by: Quincey Ross
Every year tens of millions of families take advantage of free or ridiculously low-priced overnight resort visits promoted by timeshare companies as ‘getaways’ and referred to in industry jargon as ‘mini vacations’. It is not uncommon for timeshare sales volume resulting from these mini vacations to constitute a major portion of a resort’s overall sales volume. As you might expect, they are elated by this.
Drawing on these historical lessons, most mini vacation campaigns begin with an offer specifically designed to appeal to the upper middle-class segment of the travel-appreciative population. Why is it directed to the upper middle-class? First, with average timeshare prices hovering around $15,000, a lower-income group might not have the affordability and second, because history shows that this group is most likely to possess the magic combination of affordability and acceptance of the timeshare ownership concept.
And when the affluent do respond they often look upon timeshare ownership with disdain so their purchase levels (closing average in industry jargon) are much lower and cost ineffective. That is why, except for limited specifically targeted programs, resorts spend the bulk of their marketing dollars targeting the upper middle-income demographic.
Both types require the participant to meet basic participation requirements. The hooked requirements will be very specific (thus the ‘hooked’ moniker) while the published non-hooked requirements may be vague at best. The hooked offer may specify that you be a married homeowner with a minimum household income of over $75,000 and you and your spouse commit to attend a 90 minute sales presentation during your stay.
The purpose of clearly specifying these requirements up front is to assure that the majority of responses will only be from qualified individuals. Of course the non-hooked offer usually creates a larger number of inquiries. In either case the sole purpose of the promotion is to produce qualified prospects.
The non-hooked offer will appeal to a broader audience, with many failing to meet the normal participation requirements. By design this will create a higher volume of inquiries than the hooked. But there is a secret and powerful success formula awaiting the caller at the resort end of the reservation line. Resorts cannot afford to provide low-cost mini vacations to families who do not meet the basic qualifications or agree to the presentation. So a highly trained ‘reservation’ department is charged with the main objective of converting that non-hooked caller into a hooked one. Here’s how.
When a non-hook reservation call is received the reservation team springs into action with a warm welcome and a series of carefully worded questions designed to determine if the caller meets the resort’s normal qualifications. If they do, then an attempt is made to hook them for a presentation. Most reservation teams are paid a bonus for this. How it is done varies by resort but it is common practice to offer incentives like dinner and show tickets or free accommodation upgrades in return for a commitment to attend a presentation. The reservation team might even explain that the time period requested is ‘sold out’ for that promotion but it just so happens that there is ‘one’ executive unit remaining that only requires a commitment to attend the presentation. Bingo. If that doesn’t work there is usually a second conversion attempt made at check in.
Callers who do not meet the qualifications (tactfully determined by those carefully worded questions from the reservation team) are likely to find that accommodations for the requested time period are ‘sold out’. Awarding the mini vacation to a non-qualified participant or even to a qualified caller who refuses the presentation offer is a dead loser for the resort. If you don’t meet the qualifications and commit to the presentation, your odds of getting your preferred date is minuscule. It’s not that you won’t be able to take advantage of the offer; only that you may not get first or even second choice of dates. Major timeshare developers today are much more attuned to public perception than their predecessors and don’t want the scrutiny that may accompany their refusal to honor the offer.
Every honored package costs the resort hundreds of dollars so they are professionals at offsetting these costs through the sale of airfare, upgrades, attraction tickets and extra nights.
The ‘hook’ and ‘non-hook’ features also apply to those vacation certificates that are a big part of timeshare promotional premiums. Read the fine print.