Vacation Clubs: more relevant then ever
by C. Maurizio Bisicky Chief Operating Officer at Anantara Vacation Club
Clubs have the potential to come out of the crisis ahead of the travel & leisure pack if they do the right thing.
The Covid crisis is reminding us of 2 things: spending priorities do change, when economic uncertainty worries are mixed with the behavioral changes required to stop the spread of the virus ; and customer loyalty is - more than ever - priceless.
Unlike a hotel brand or an online travel agent, vacation clubs don't have customers. They have members that have made a long term financial commitment and are reaping the benefits of that commitment year after year. And while many industries had to invent KPIs to measure the engagement levels of their customer/loyalty base, we have very simple ones: are the customers still paying their principal and their yearly club fees? Are they still referring their friends?
A well run Club knows all the ins and outs of their members. What view they prefer when they arrive in their favorite resort, which delicacy the chef has to prepare for them on their first dinner.. but right now this is a great base, but not enough. In a world where local travel will supplant international travel for the next 2 years, to stay relevant to their customer base, Clubs have to go out of their comfort zone and set up temporary destinations that their members can actually use. Will this cost money? Yes. Will it cost less than a surge in bad debt from members that don't see the value in remaining in a Club they can't use? Yes. And why stop there? in a new environment spending priorities change. Services and products close to home might be currently more important then going on holiday.
A Club should listen and act accordingly. Partnering with local businesses - located where the members actually live - is a herculean task. But it can be accomplished, if this is what members want. We are on the cusp of a long term reshaping of the Club business model here - to encompass more than just accommodation in a fantastic tourism hub.
Another key point to keep members engaged is to help those in need. At Anantara Vacation Club, we are allowing members to use their existing points to 'pay' for Club fees, or to extend the validity of unused points beyond their natural expiry date. We have agreed to all member's requests of payment reductions and temporary holidays - without any ifs and buts. And we are rewarding generously those that decide during this challenging times to purchase a membership or upgrade their existing one. They are giving us a vote of confidence and support. We had a few members that upgraded recently mentioning that they appreciated what we were doing for them - they didn't need the extra points, but it was their gesture to say 'we support you too'. They deserve the best value, the best service and our sincere gratitude.
Clubs that act swiftly and recognize that the world has changed and that the services provided have to change with it, will come out of this stronger then ever, and are poised to recover faster than anyone else in the travel sector. Hopes that everything will go back to 'same old' in a couple of years are misguided. Not only the economic slump that we are facing will require Clubs to be more 'economically relevant' to their member then ever; also the different priorities will greatly influence what members want from their Club and how they intend to have 'leisure time' in the short term future.
Club currencies represent an ever increasing buying power that Clubs have so far employed to get their members a great deal for their holiday accommodation needs. It's time to look at that buying power - and check what the members want to use their currency for in the future.
Maurizio Bisicky is COO of Anantara Vacation Club, the leading 5 star vacation ownership business in South-East Asia. AVC is part of Minor International (BKK: MINT).