Learn to share, and travel the world

Timeshare has a dodgy reputation; its salesmen are sharks, the overheads prohibitive. But it doesn't have to be like that. Felicity Cannell investigates

LAST YEAR about 700,000 timeshares were sold worldwide. Far from fading from sight, timeshare, or "vacation ownership" as the Americans call it, has gained a modicum of respectability as some of the major players in the travel industry realise the advantages of locking a consumer into a lifelong commitment. Tour operators, such as Thomas Cook and Airtours, see traditional package-deal holidays under threat, and are joining the timeshare market. The idea, instigated in the States, is to market it as membership of a travel or holiday club rather than a "property share" in a single resort.

The Marriott Four Seasons Country Club on the Costa del Sol, struggles with the image of timeshare in Spain, and is still having to draw in prospective clients with offers of free rounds of golf or vouchers to spend at local shops and restaurants. But that is where the persuasive tactics end. Once in the resort the approach is very much soft sell. As John McDaniel and his wife found: "The salesman was trying to get across to us that it wasn't a timeshare, it was membership of a holiday facility which offered accommodation in hundreds of resorts worldwide. He realised that he was wasting his time, as we had 'timeshare shark' ingrained in our minds, and left us to our own devices, to wander around and see for ourselves."

Of course, Gary and his ilk are liable to swoop on unwary tourists, with a sales technique that can sell a bicycle to a fish. Hopefully, however, we are getting used to saying no. But companies are retaliating by offering bigger carrots to entice the customers: from a bottle of Champagne, (well, something with bubbles) to free holidays with spending money for just an hour of your time at a cocktail supper when you return. But what an hour that will be. You'll be shackled to the wall with thumbscrews until you sign.

The EU Timeshare Directive gives buyers a ten-day cooling-off period if they change their mind after signing, forbids vendors from taking deposits and obliges them to provide full information on management charges and maintenance costs written in the buyer's native language. Even if member countries have not implemented this directive, which so far Spain hasn't, consumers are still covered. The number one rule is not to part with a deposit.

But the Timeshare Helpline reports that developers are putting together packages to get round the law, such as three- or five-year "user" packs, instead of "ownership" - the right to use the property rather than any share in it - and are taking deposits, entirely within the law. "Nothing will stop these unscrupulous salesmen until credit card companies refuse to honour timeshare payments," says a spokesman for the Helpline. "But even then they can get round it by putting payments down as travel sales."

However, now that established hotel chains offering exchange facilities are involved there is little need for punters to take such risks. The timeshare concept may be tainted by hard-sell techniques, but it is a good one. Lynne Lowman bought two weeks' timeshare in Alicante thirteen years ago from a private company, for pounds 1,500. "The maintenance charges are pounds 120 per year, but I let one of my weeks in October for the same amount, and if I want to go at any other time, I rent a week from someone doing likewise. Now that the owners belong to an exchange club we can also go to other parts of the world".

The bigger players such as Marriott or Barratts have always offered exchange facilities in other resorts, but any timeshare property can join such a scheme, and so then can the timeshare owners, for a yearly fee of around pounds 60. What this means is that even if you own a week in Portugal in September you may never have to use it again. The week will be put on the exchange directory and you have a choice of a similarly graded timeshare elsewhere.

The two exchange companies used by the hotel chains are Interval International, with 1,600 resorts worldwide, and Resort Condominiums Incorporated with nearly 4,000. And the numbers are expected to increase. "Last year our membership in the UK grew by 20 per cent," says Andy Fairburn of Interval International.

Interval and RCI both advise prospective purchasers of timeshares to ensure that any development under consideration is affiliated to one of these two exchange companies. "The exchange deal should be crucial to any timeshare sale. If you buy a week in a two-bedroom apartment in Spain, ten years down the line the kids will be older and off on their own and you may want two weeks in a one-bedroom apartment in America," says Fairburn.

Andy Goss at RCI also advises shopping around, as do the Department of Trade and Industry who suggest looking at resale prices for a more accurate value. Or try renting first. The big developments generally have weeks for rent in timeshare resorts.

But even if the figures look attractive for a lifetime deal - anything from pounds 1,600 (two-bedroom, beachfront apartment on the Costa del Sol), pounds 4,000 (three bedrooms in Scotland) to pounds 15,000 (total hedonism in Florida) - they need careful consideration against other holiday deals. Bear in mind that often the most expensive part of any holiday is the cost of flights, and these will always have to be paid. No point in having the use of a five-star apartment in the Seychelles if you can't afford to get there.

'Your Place in the Sun', DTI booklet free from Citizens Advice Bureaux

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SThree: Graduate Recruitment Resourcer

    £20000 per annum + commission: SThree: Sthree have an exciting opportunity for...

    Recruitment Genius: Plumbing & Heating / Bathroom Trade Counter Sales

    £22000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This well established London ba...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £32,000+

    £18000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat