Author Archives: Kristina Payne

LUXURIOUS AMERICAN TRAIN VACATIONS NOW OFFERED

Granbury, Texas, October 4, 2017 – America’s Trains Inc. (ATs) is now offering scheduled all-inclusive Journeys by Rail on luxuriously rebuilt passenger ‘cars’ that will travel with Amtrak and regional railroads throughout the US and into Canada.

Journeys are normally for eight days and seven nights. The routes travel from San Antonio to Chicago, then to Portland, Vancouver (Canada) returning to Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco to Chicago, Montreal returning to New York, and then to Miami. Journeys include visits and shorter trips to Glacier National Park, California’s wine country, San Diego and other places. Cars are dropped off and park at appealing en-route destinations to allow passengers to live on board while they enjoy an extensive choice of local off-car attractions and activities, without moving to and from a hotel.

The company’s CEO, Barry Jones, stated that “Our capacity to book initial Journeys will quickly increase as car improvements are finished and they enter service on an expanding number of itineraries.  We will have about 42 passenger plus additional private and other service cars within the first several years.”

Individual (single) vacation Journeys by Rail fares are lower than prices of comparable luxury foreign (there are no others in the US) train vacations.

ATs also offers Train’Shares (timeshares) that include frequent Journeys that can be exchanged for luxury resort vacations worldwide. Owners have unique rights not normally attached to typical timeshare ownership. If they don’t use Journeys no maintenance or other fees have to be paid. Train’Shares retain a resale value, and ATs will buy them back at any time after a first Journey is used.

America’s Trains Inc. (“ATs”) provides unique, luxurious Journey by Rail vacations throughout the USA and into Canada, with intriguing en-route layovers where passengers live on board while enjoying endless local activities and attractions.  ATs rail cars are not older units with new paint, fixtures and furniture. They are fully redesigned, rebuilt and refurbished to exceed Amtrak’s mechanical specifications, with interior amenities that retain classic features and provide utmost passenger gratification. 

 

Media Contact: Alex Davies

309-370-5801

alex@americastrain.com

americantrainvacations.com

Airbnb’s New Apartment Complex

By Kristina Payne

Airbnb announced on October 12, 2017, that it will partner with a Miami-based development group to build a new apartment complex in Kissimmee, FL. The details of this deal could create competition for Florida timeshare owners, resorts, and companies.

Airbnb is a website that lets homeowners rent out their home, or just a part of it, to vacationers. This is useful to people who live near tourist locations, as it can sometimes be cheaper for the traveler than staying at a hotel, and offers an extra source of income for the renter. Airbnb also provides a more home-like environment than a hotel, which directly challenges the timeshare marketplace.

However, Airbnb has been under fire lately from the cities in which it operates, as sometimes homesharing can disrupt the communities in which the homes are located. Landlords of apartment buildings and condominium homeowners’ associations also are upset at Airbnb; some rental apartments and whole-ownership condo buildings have turned into a rotating revolving door of random people whom landlords and boards don’t know and can’t hold accountable if anything goes wrong.

Airbnb’s solution is to create Niido Powered by Airbnb, which will build and retain full ownership of a 324-unit apartment building. Renters will be able to Airbnb their apartment for 180 days a year, or they can stay in their apartment at the same time as a vacationer and be able to rent year-round. Niido will provide other services that make this situation more like a timeshare, in that they’ll have keyless entry and a concierge.

This seems awfully close to timesharing. One person could rent out his own place for 26 individual weeks, but timesharing still has the edge over Airbnb. With a timeshare, you aren’t living in someone else’s space for a little bit, you’re living in your own. Timesharing companies provide the cleaning and other amenities, whereas Airbnb doesn’t automatically provide that service. With a timeshare, you pay for better accommodations that you know are going to be high-quality, and you aren’t staying in some stranger’s spare room, which can be a real risk with Airbnb.

The relationship between Airbnb, Niido, and individual tenants could be a rocky one, as the tenant will share the profits with two companies instead of one. The extra income a tenant gets from this relationship will be significantly less than that of a normal Airbnb host. The exact division of the money is unknown so far.  

This type of living arrangement may not be wanted everywhere in the U.S, or it may become just like a timeshare under a different name. Whether this partnership between Niido and Airbnb will be successful isn’t known yet, as the building doesn’t exist yet. It’s a developing situation on which the vacation industry as a whole should keep a close eye.

Kristina Payne is the social-media coordinator for TimeSharing Today.

Living online: Social media and Timesharing

Living Online is a new feature written by our newest contributor, Kristina Payne! This article was originally published in the September/October 2017 issue of Timesharing Today.

By Kristina Payne

Millions of eyes are on social media every day. Many of those eyes belong to Millennials—people born from the early 1980s through the first years of the 21st century. This emerging generation is becoming a prime market for timesharing, but Millennials aren’t attracted by the timeshare industry’s traditional marketing, sales, and customer-relations techniques.

I am a Millennial. To connect with me and my generation, your enterprise has to be on social media in a significant way, individual to each specific resort or company and to each target consumer base. It is possible; it just has to happen on our terms—in the little spaces between our normal daily activities.

The first thing I do in the morning is look at my Twitter account. A lot of my friends do that, too. I find it’s to be a nice way to start my day. I like seeing what happened last night while I was sleeping, and it’s an easy way to get my brain started and ready to take on the day.

Twitter isn’t the only thing I check in the morning. My routine goes Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, shower, breakfast paired with some YouTube, makeup and hair while listening to music, and then starting some school work or regular work—whatever my day calls for.

Throughout the day

But that’s not the only place for social media in my life. I check between classes, at lunch and dinner, before bed, and just when I’m bored. There’s no rhyme or reason to when or why I check social media. I just use it. It’s part of my life.

I think social media enhances life in a way that normal interaction doesn’t. The internet has anything and everything you want to know and also access to any person you want to know about at any time.

If I want to know everyone’s opinion of the most recent news or product or controversy, I can go to any number of websites that will let me know what everyone thinks. I can also participate in a bigger discussion, and defend or change my opinion when listening to others. Social media is a great big constant discussion.

It’s a complement to normal life, too. I can be at school in Connecticut and still talk to my best friend who goes to school in New Jersey. I never have to feel isolated if I’m just sitting home alone. I can always talk and interact with people.

This has obvious problems. You can become so obsessed with online engagement that you ignore a physical social life. People can say terrible things online without suffering the same repercussions as t in real life. It’s a balance.

Most Millennials use social media to talk to real-life friends who aren’t physically in the same place. We use it to make plans, discuss homework, or any number of topics. The biggest way we all use social media is to connect and communicate with each other.

Online interaction has social norms and mores about that are vastly different from real life, and even different from website to website. The way I act on Twitter is not the way I act on Facebook. That’s the same in real life, too; the way you act at a party with friends is not the way you act at a family party.

So, what is each website for and how is it useful to you?

Facebook is the place everyone is on, from your favorite celebrity to your parents. You act a little nicer and more professional on Facebook.

Twitter is like a school hallway; you can post only 140 characters at a time, and it can be anything—nonsense, advice, a joke, political discourse—and anybody can chime in.

Instagram is where you post artsy pictures with cute captions; it’s where you go to make your life look better than it actually is.

Snapchat is where you post pictures of your actual everyday life. It has a nice dose of realism.

Other social-media websites include Tumblr, Reddit, Pinterest, and YouTube, but the four I mentioned are the really big ones that everyone will be on. These are free-to-use websites on which anyone and everyone will take part. Use them to your advantage.

Kristina Payne is a senior at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT. She also runs the TSToday social media pages! Go to our Facebook or Twitter to ask any questions you might have.

 

In The Face Of The Unknown

Contributed by ARDA-ROC/Resort Owners Coalition  www.arda-roc.org

When natural disaster strikes, everyone stands defenseless in its path. Whether a tornado, hurricane, or fire, this X factor remains a constant threat to consider. In the face of these larger forces at work, there is no such thing as being too prepared-every industry, every business must have a risk mitigation plan. Hurricane Harvey in Houston: case in point.

Nowhere is this more important than the U.S. vacation ownership industry, as it serves 9.2 million owners and more than1500 resorts. Featuring a product that offers a lifetime of vacationing, the business is about being prepared from all sides and at all levels. Precautionary plans are built into the very structure of the product to protect all groups in the face of the unknown (legally and otherwise). Developers, management companies, and HOA boards come together to work in a safe way that ensures the most important timeshare agent is protected: the owner and his/her vacation and the safety and success of the overall resort.

The crisis plan has both short- and long-term implications as various phases are put into effect. At the most immediate level, exchange companies developers & management companies work as partners to deliver safety plans custom-made for every situation-ensuring a “people-first” focus on owner safety and accommodation. These teams implement crisis action plans, property evacuation, communication vehicles, reservation adjustments, special assessments/reserves, and renovation phases.  Welk Resorts’ work with Sirena del Mar when Hurricane Odile hit Cabo San Lucas in 2014 is a great example of a solid transition plan that involved detailed care for staff and owners alike. The emerging changes to the resort resulted in an even more stunning property, as the repairs and upgrades were made.

There are many long-term effects of these types of catastrophes, whether the setbacks are financial or physical. But there is also another much larger story: how communities mobilize and come together as partners to rebuild and stabilize. And with the vested interest of timeshare owners and their resort caretakers, they are part of this fight to survive and contribute to the positive long-lasting economic comeback of a region that recovers. Let’s look the example of Hawaii, when Hurricane Iniki devastated Kauai in 1992. ARDA-Hawaii commissioned a post-disaster study for the four months trailing the event, to see the impact on timeshare in that region. Mitch Imanaka, managing principal of Imanaka Asato and former chair of ARDA-Hawaii, shares the compelling results of industry resilience.

“The study revealed that in all cases, across the islands, timeshare resort occupancy levels on average across the state did not drop off as severely as they did for more traditional hospitality products (10% versus 40%), such as hotels. In fact, year-over-year, Kauai actually had a 1% increase in occupancy over the prior year after the hurricane hit!”

Imanaka adds: “Of note is that during the post-hurricane period, timeshare resorts on Kauai were the first to re-build…testimony to the fact that timeshare owners really care about their resort.”

No hurricane touches down without leaving a trail of impact on businesses and regions and the people that will be part of the solution. But how well a resort is prepared for these scenarios can reclaim the end result of that event-as a powerful transformative testimony of success.

This is the strength of timeshare’s 50-year legacy, hope in the face of all odds.

The Impact of Hurricane Harvey on Timeshare Resorts

By Scott McGinness, CIC, CRM, CSRM,Vice President, Property & Casualty, Gregory & Appel Insurance, www.gregoryappel.com

Hurricane Harvey may be the costliest natural disaster in US history, with damage estimates over $190 billion. It will have an economic impact not only on Texas, but the entire US.

For the timeshare industry, we can expect to see an increase in Property insurance premiums. The insurance market has been very competitive for the last few years but this event will likely trigger a widespread rate increase. Even those insurers not directly impacted by Harvey will be forced to adjust rates based on the higher cost of reinsurance, which most carriers rely upon to share risk.

This event will also show the inadequacies of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). One of those being the lack of Business Interruption coverage, which replaces lost revenue during a sustained interruption of operations. Many businesses, including timeshare resorts, are unable to recover without properly structured BI insurance.

The other major inadequacy of the NFIP is that it was $24 billion in debt prior to Harvey, and viewed by many to be unsustainable. Harvey may put it over the edge. Not only will the future availability of the NFIP be in doubt, but their ability to respond adequately to Harvey is questionable.

Because of the existence of the NFIP, traditional insurance carriers have played a secondary role in providing Flood insurance. Those carriers willing to offer coverage do so with high deductibles, or in excess of NFIP limits.  With the future of the NFIP in doubt, they’ll need to step in to satisfy the need for Flood insurance. That will come with increased premiums, however, since the private insurance market won’t subsidize premiums as the federal government has been doing with the NFIP.

Timeshare resorts, and businesses in general, should prepare for increased Property premiums, and perhaps diminished availability of coverage in 2018. This is true particularly for resorts located in coastal areas. For this reason, it would be advisable to get an early start on the insurance renewal, perhaps 120 days in advance of the expiration date. This gives your agent time to explore all available options in containing premiums and providing adequate coverage.

Some Industry Insights: Resort Flood Insurance Premiums Inside and Outside of Harveys’ To Be Impacted

By Chad Dorsey, Vice President, CIC, CRIS, Brown & Brown of Florida, Inc. Vacation Resort Specialty Division,  http://bb-wpb.com/

On Friday, August 25th Hurricane Harvey made landfall northeast of Corpus Christi, Texas as a category 4 storm with sustained winds of 130 mph proving to be one of the fiercest storm’s to hit the U.S. in over a decade. Once Harvey made landfall it was quickly downgraded to a category 1 hurricane and bringing with it over 50 inches of rain in certain areas of Houston, our nation’s 4th largest city.

Though some property damage will be attributed to wind, there is no question the majority of devastation caused by Harvey is a result of flooding, a peril primarily insured by the federally funded National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The NFIP, prior to Harvey’s arrival, owed the U.S. treasury over $24B in part due to previously paid claims from hurricanes Katrina (2005), Sandy (2012) & Matthew (2016). It is still too early to tally the full damages of this most recent weather event but it is sure to place additional financial strain on the NFIP as initial estimates of Harvey’s damage are expected to exceed tens of billions of dollars.

Due to the current financial crisis the NFIP finds itself in, flood premiums in many parts of the country have increased 25% already this year as a result of rate increases. In addition, the NFIP has a renewed nationwide emphasis on reviewing the accuracy of flood zone maps causing certain resorts to be reclassified from low risk to severe zones which is only further increasing premiums and reaping unanticipated havoc on resort budgets. Congress has until Sept. 30 to reauthorize the NFIP and in the wake of Harvey an extension is likely as is the continued debate surrounding the best way to establish a flood program that is financially capable of meeting it’s claims obligations on premium dollars alone and not an IOU from the national treasury.

The NFIP provides the most cost effective insurance policy for timeshare resorts to insure against flood however timeshare boards must recognize the programs various coverage constraints. For example, in many cases the true replacement cost of a resort exceeds the maximum coverage limits available through the NFIP. It is also important to note that nonresidential buildings (i.e. clubhouses) insured for flood through the NFIP are insured on an actual cash value basis (depreciation taken) and not replacement cost. In addition, the NFIP does not insure the business income loss and extra expenses a resort incurs following a covered flood event.

Resorts purchasing coverage through the NFIP, especially properties in moderate to severe flood zones, should budget conservatively for a possible 25% premium increase effective next renewal. The pattern of seeing higher flood premiums is almost certain to continue for many years until the NFIP can repay the federal treasury or the private insurance market sees a way to competitively underwrite our nations flood risk while still making a profit.

Lastly, it is important to remember that floods can happen anywhere and affect any resort. The Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA reports that more than 20% of flood claims come from properties outside of a high risk zone. Don’t allow your resort to take a chance like many Houstonians did – buy flood insurance to protect your resort from a flood disaster.

 

How Are Hurricane Categories Determined? What Do They Mean?

The strength of hurricanes is rated using the Saffir/Simpson scale in the United States. This scale assigns a storm to one of five categories based on its wind speed. Category one is a minimal hurricane and category five is the strongest. Using this scale helps estimate the potential property damage and expected coastal flooding from a hurricane.

Categories are determined by Maximum Sustained Winds as follows:

  • Category 1. 74-95 mph
  • Category 2. 96-110 mph
  • Category 3. 111-130 mph
  • Category 4. 131-155 mph
  • Category 5. 156+ mph

What is a tropical disturbance?
A tropical disturbance is an organized system of clouds and thunderstorms without a defined circulation.

What is a tropical depression?
A tropical depression is an organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a circular wind circulation and maximum sustained winds less than 39 mph.

What is a tropical storm?

A tropical storm is an organized system of strong thunderstorms with defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph.

What regions around the globe have hurricanes?
Hurricanes develop over tropical or subtropical waters around the world. There are seven tropical cyclone areas (basins) where storms occur:

  • Atlantic basin (North Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea)
  • Northeast Pacific basin (from Mexico to the dateline)
  • Northwest Pacific basin (from the dateline to Asia)
  • North Indian basin (including the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea)
  • Southwest India basin (Africa)
  • Southeast Indian/Australian basin
  • Australian/Southwest Pacific basin

What is the “eye” of the storm? What are rain bands?
The hurricane’s core is called the “eye.” The winds closest to the eye, typically averaging about 60 miles from the center of the storm, are the strongest and bring the most potential for damage. Rain bands, or outer spiral bands, are the bands of clouds and thunderstorms that trail away from the eye wall in a spiral fashion and are capable of producing heavy bursts of rain and wind. The spiral bands also make hurricanes appear to cover a much larger area with damaging winds than they really do. This is the reason why damage during strong storms does not cover the entire area the storm passes over.

Why are hurricanes named? Who names them?

The National Hurricane Center is responsible for naming tropical cyclones in the Atlantic basin. Hurricanes are named to provide ease of communication and reduce confusion between forecasters and the general public regarding forecasts, watches and warnings.

 

Hawaii timeshare associations win tax case

By Kristina Payne

Maui County has been ordered to return $10.7 million to Ocean Resort Villas and Ocean Resort Villas North.

Maui Now and The Maui News reported that the litigation began after the county assessed additional taxes for the timeshare properties, claiming that they owed a total of $10 million in property taxes for 2006, 2007, and 2008.

The timeshare associations claimed that this additional tax was imposed in response to another lawsuit that started in 2013 and is still pending.

Judge Peter Cahill sided with the timeshare associations because of the way the county reassessed the property tax. This sets a precedent in favor of timeshare buyers. The judge was worried that future buyers would not fulfill their tax obligations if the tax can change at any time.

The county is appealing the decision.

What does this case mean for the timeshare industry? Tell us what you think on our Facebook or Twitter page.

For more information, Visit Maui Now and The Maui News.

Identity-Protection Tips

By Kristina Payne

In this new age of fast-paced technology, keeping track of the best ways to protect your information from thieves and criminals is becoming increasingly difficult.

A lot of online articles will give you quick tips on how to protect your identity while you’re on vacation, but protecting your information isn’t that simple any more.

Most websites, online retailers, and even walk-in stores keep your credit-card information on their corporate servers. Web browsers such as Internet Explorer and Google Chrome have options to save your credit-card information for easier checkout. This seems pretty convenient, until you think about recent news of hacking and website outages all over the internet.

This is scary and seems to be out of hand, with corporations collecting personal information without regulation.  Although major hackings are hard to control and predict, you can take three main steps to help protect some of your information.

  • Never input or post your Social Security number anywhere on the internet. No website should ever ask for that information, and no bank will ever ask for that information over the phone or in an email. If someone asks you for that information, hang up the phone or delete the email right away. If a website asks you that information when you’re checking out after some online shopping, do not make a purchase and leave the website. Your SSN is just as unique as you are. It’s the number-one way a thief can steal your identity.

 

  • Use gift cards and cash while on vacation. Going to a nice resort for your vacation can be a great time, but do you know how safe that resort is keeping your information? A risk is associated with using your credit card when purchasing and planning that vacation online. Many companies, including like Visa and MasterCard, have gift cards that look and act just like a debit account, to which you can add money as you go. Using one of those while on vacation can help you protect your information as well as stick to a budget. In a foreign country, using cash is always better than anything else.

 

  • Keep a close eye on your bank account. Sometimes you need to input your credit-card information on a website, or maybe a store that you’ve recently visited reported the theft of some credit-card information. To help protect yourself in such situations, check the amount of money in your bank account daily, and keep a close eye on your credit score. Most banks will deactivate a debit or credit card when you alert them to suspicious activity on your account. Fixing issues with your credit score can be more complicated, but the sooner you find a problem, the sooner you can work toward a solution

To prevent massive damage to your identity and credit, keep track of when and where you use your credit-card accounts and provide personal information. With proper planning and simple precautions, you can enjoy a worry-free vacation.

Kristina Payne is the social-media coordinator for TimeSharing Today.

Viewing The Solar Eclipse

By Kristina Payne

On August 21, 2017, everyone in the continental United States will be able to see the first solar eclipse since 1979. The next one that will encompass the entire U.S. won’t be until 2024.

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the earth and the sun, blocking the sun’s light and casting a shadow over the earth. It will not be as dark as nighttime because the eclipse emits light just as the sun does.

Looking directly at the eclipse isn’t safe. To view it safely, either buy special solar-viewing glasses, or create a projector for it. To create a projector, poke a small hole in a piece of white cardboard, and hold it over a piece of white paper so it creates a shadow. The hole will mimic the sun and show you the progress of the eclipse.

The total eclipse will be visible in 14 states. Moving from west to east, it will cross Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The rest of the U.S. will be able to see the moon cover most of the sun.

More information on the eclipse is on NASA’s website: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/eclipse-who-what-where-when-and-how. Mark your calendar with the time the eclipse will occur in your location.

Kristina Payne is the social-media coordinator for TimeSharing Today.