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Fractionals in the Sunshine State - Piers Brown reports from the ARDA convention

Date: 2011-04-04 23:54:13

Last week Fractional Summit USA was privileged to be a sponsor at the annual ARDA convention at the World Center Marriott, Orlando, Florida. Billed as the premier gathering for the vacation ownership industry, the four-day conference attracts more than 3,000 participants from over 20 countries and offers attendees a myriad of educational, networking and social opportunities.

The conference attracted the big-hitters from the fractional, PRC, timeshare, hotel and hospitality sectors and I was there to take it all in.

After arriving the day before the conference started, I settled in and had some time to kill. I decided to register early to avoid the queues the following day and stumbled upon the final afternoon of another convention – Playlist Live. The YouTube logo on the conference poster piqued my interest and drew me in. The event was about to finish, so I wandered in and was amazed at what I was now part of.

I immediately felt old, despite being one year short of what most would class ‘middle-aged’. The place was very busy with queues and queues of people aged roughly between 15 and 25 years old lining up to meet their ‘idols’.

Slightly bemused and having experienced nothing like this in Europe, I asked a staff member what the event was all about. “Playlist Live is more than a typical YouTube gathering. It’s a two-day convention that brings the biggest names in YouTube and their viewers together to celebrate online community,” was the reply. My intuition kicked in and I quickly realized these ‘idols’ were YouTube personalities!

Here are a couple of pics and there’s a YouTube community stat next to each:

Shay Carl
Shay Carl  900k+ YouTube subscribers





Lisa Nova

Lisa Nova (left) 168 million + YouTube channel views

Slightly amused (or should that be bemused), I left with a smile on my face contemplating the changing consumer landscape and the fractional buyers of the future.
That evening I joined my friends at Resort Trades for some Italian cuisine and a quick stop for a nightcap at the hotel bar, before retiring to bed.

The next morning I was up bright and early for the first day of ARDA. Fractional Summit USA had teamed up with Wall Street Journal to sponsor the Fractional Luxury Forum morning session.

The session was well attended and the panel, co-chaired by Steven Petersen of Ballard Spahr and Michael Burns of Private Residence Resorts, featured a ‘who’s who’ from the fractional industry and real estate academia including Dustin Carfield of Next Star Funding, Jeff Potter of Exclusive Resorts and Rob Kaplan-Sherman of The Research Intelligence Group.

The national economic picture, detailing the current state of the industry was explained by Rob Kaplan-Sherman and we then witnessed a compelling interview with an actual fractional owner who described his fractional buying journey – a purchasing decision that took four years to make!

Dustin Carfield gave an upbeat overview about the current and future state of fractional financing. Despite confirming there’s still no traditional fractional financing being available, the takeaway was that the finance market would be moving in a positive direction shortly.

Jeff Potter presented on how Exclusive Resorts has fared over the last few exceptionally challenging years, highlighting how strong referral membership sales, the introduction of ‘try before you buy’, ‘once in a lifetime’ membership vacation initiatives, coupled with a focus on exceptional member satisfaction had positioned ER very well for the future.

The session finished with a lively and enjoyable audience Q and A hosted by Steve Petersen based around the information that had been presented.

Networking is always a big part of ARDA and the 2011 opportunities didn’t disappoint. Following time in the Press and VIP rooms, and fighting back jetlag I spent some time listening to Jenny Ochtera at the Sales and Marketing Forum: Reaching the New Consumer. There was a definite timeshare sales slant but some great research information presented.

The second day again started early and I attended a panel discussion on ‘New Luxury Fractional Product – Are you Prepared for the Transformational Shift?’. The session was well attended and it was great to see students from many of the Hospitality Schools listening intently.

After a brief introduction by James Beckham Jr of Global Resorts, Tom Goetschius of Tom Goetschius Associates presented on how fractional sales are stalling as the consumer looks for bargain real estate generally, the sales messages that no longer work in the new economy and the fact that the sales multiplier is now x1.2 at best. Tom also talked through those sales techniques that are working and how the consumer is generally taking longer to make a decision.

Next up was Nicole Evans of Ballard Spahr LLP who was congratulated by the audience for recently being awarded Partner status within her company – nice touch James. Not having seen Nicole present before I was particularly impressed with not only her legal knowledge but overall approach to the fractional sector. Her presentation discussed the legal stress of mixing a ‘new fangled’ fractional offering or changing the existing fractional model – she was very brave in stating that some of the financiers she’s met during the recession have described fractional real estate as a “toxic asset” which needs to find its own space. I can’t help feeling Nicole’s going to be a bright light within the industry for many years to come.
Gregg Anderson of The Registry Collection based his presentation on the Cub Scout motto of ‘being prepared’ for fractional market shifts, the benefits of fractional exchange and the increased importance of the new consumer.
That evening I attended RCI’s drinks reception before quickly being scooted off to the ‘Party with a cause’ at the House of Blues, as a guest of Interval International’s evening. This charity event has been part of ARDA for at least 10 years and having not really known what to expect, it was such a hoot!

KC & The Sunshine BandThe drinks flowed all night and it was great to spend some social time with Joe Hickman, Neil Kolton, Darren Ettridge and Michelle DuChamp, particularly after both Darren and Michelle had dressed in 1970’s fancy dress gear and done their bit on stage with KC and his Sunshine Band (left).
Wednesday came and went in a flash whilst nursing a slight hangover and before I knew it I was on a plane taking off to return back to London -needless to say I slept all the way.

In summary, ARDA 2011 was the best conference I’ve attended and I look forward to my next trip to Florida to host Fractional Summit USA 2011, ‘Moving the market forward’.

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1 comment to Fractionals in the Sunshine State - Piers Brown reports from the ARDA convention

John Hulme says:

Baby give it up! No Piers, that isn't my reference to you, it was reminding our readers who KC and the Sunshine Band were or even.....still are.

ARDA seemed like the place to be so far this year and we will all look forward to attending next year to continue our support.

We are looking forward to Summit USA now, whilst Piers was busy networking in Orlando, we were amazed by the amount of calls we had received in reference to our very own event, bigger and better, no not me...the Summit this year, it is already shaping up to be a company record attendance.

Date: 2011-04-04 16:32:41

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