New member sales dropped to all time low
"People just aren't buying timeshares any more," says Robert Salmon a timeshare industry expert with European Consumer Claims (ECC). "Thirty years ago they were ground-breaking disrupters to the travel business. However timeshare companies have failed to evolve at the same pace as the rest of the holiday sector, and as a result are generally considered restrictive and poor value by modern consumers. People don't want to pay money to commit themselves to outdated holiday systems."
Resorts offering unused inventory on bookings sites
"Timeshare clubs are left with a cash flow deficit to fill," says Salmon. "Most companies have chosen to make up the lost new-member revenue by advertising the empty apartments to the general public on sites like Expedia. This gives them a cash injection in the short term, but the decision has been taken badly by people who paid tens of thousands of pounds to join an 'exclusive' resort."
Same cost for non members
"This is the real blow for timeshare owners," adds Steven Warner, an ECC timeshare contracts specialist. "The cost that the timeshare apartments are being advertised for, is about the same as a member pays in annual fees for the same week. The member not only has to pay the same, they have already paid thousands (sometimes tens of thousands) of pounds for their initial membership. They are also committed to paying annual fees whether they holiday or not, even during the pandemic. People are referring to this as the Pandemic Maintenance Heist."
Difficult to escape
"We have had a dramatic increase in timeshare owners wanting to get out of their memberships," says Andrew Cooper, CEO of ECC. "This is not as easy as it sounds, because timeshare contracts are written to commit the member to the annual fees. Members can not sell their timeshares because nobody wants them. They can't even give them away because nobody wants the commitment. In fact people need expert help to relinquish a timeshare."
Be careful who you ask for help
Cooper warns of the pitfalls waiting for unwary timeshare owners trying to get out of their memberships. "Sadly there are a large number of criminals masquerading as timeshare law firms. These people act and sound like genuine firms, but are only interested in stealing your money.
"There are regular media reports of people losing significant amounts of money to these fraudsters. If you are not sure about who to trust, seek advice from one of the independent timeshare consumer associations, or the Timeshare Trust site before handing over any money."
There is a potential bonus for some timeshare owners. Andrew Cooper explains: "For some owners, mainly those who bought in Spain during or after 1999 there is a chance that they can not only escape their membership, but also claim some financial compensation too. Many resorts ignored protective legislation put in place to protect consumers against high pressure sales tactics, and as a result there are a lot of owners whose contracts are invalid. When people retain an expert to help them relinquish their timeshare, they should ask to see if they may be entitled to this compensation."