Despite some recent signs of improvement, the timeshare industry as a whole remains stuck in the past in terms of the marketing strategies being utilized. This is not to say that the industry is alone in this sense though, as many companies across all industry sectors still persevere with dated thinking. A high percentage of marketing budgets are spent on old-school outbound marketing techniques such as TV advertising, distributing flyers, bulk emails and print advertising. For a lot of companies this type of marketing is seen as a necessary cost that leads to sales, so they continue to use some, or all of these strategies.

The Problem with Traditional Marketing:

The problem with this form of advertising is it interrupts an individual’s day with something they most likely weren’t interested in and aims to “rent attention”. Rather than enticing them to try your product, such as a stay at your hotel or resort, it often has the opposite effect of annoying them and turning them away from your brand.

One of the worst types of outbound advertising is sales reps on the streets who try and lure unsuspecting couples or families into a resort for a talk that can last up to two hours or more. After this process the tourists will either be put off the idea of timeshare for life, or end up feeling forced into buying something they didn’t really want. When they get back from their holiday they often decide to cancel their purchase anyway as they have more time to reflect. This type of pushy sales technique is thankfully becoming less and less common, but is still used by some resorts. You only have to consider the reps standing outside restaurants in tourist hotspots trying to force a decision from people, to see how this generally has the opposite outcome!

While TV, print, and radio advertising, emails and leaflets are not as disruptive as pushy sales reps, they are nonetheless still annoying and increasingly ineffective. It is very difficult to gauge how effective these types of marketing strategies are, as statistics are generally not available for how many  people bought a product based on seeing these adverts. Despite a lack of reliable data on how much business these outbound forms of marketing bring to a company, a huge amount of money is being spent and wasted on them. They are a waste because people’s tastes are changing fast.

People hate to be pushed into making purchases they don’t really want and this is becoming even more apparent with Millennials (born between the early 1980s – mid 1990s) and Generation Z, (born from the mid-1990s to early 2000s). These generations, especially Gen. Z have literally grown up with the internet and computers, and modern technology such as laptops/tablets, smartphones and social media. This technology has now proliferated to people of all generations giving them a wealth of information and entertainment at their fingertips which they can access from the mini-computers that almost everyone in the Western world now carries around with them. Because of this huge variety of choice, if people feel a form of entertainment is too annoying such as a TV station full of adverts, they no longer have to put up with it. While older audiences may stick with TV, radio and newspapers because that is what they are used to, younger generations will watch YouTube, listen to music on Spotify or iTunes, stream movies and shop online. If you only rely on traditional advertising, you are missing a huge audience.

Why Your Resort Must Market Itself to Millennials and Generation Z

As a timeshare resort owner you may be wondering why should I market to younger generations though, as traditionally timeshare owners have belonged to an older age-range demographic. While a recent report by ARDA (American Resort Development Association) shows this is still true in comparison to other forms of travel and holidays, the average age range of timeshare ownership has significantly dropped in recent years in America which is likely to become the case across the industry. This study has shown that new owners are now on average nearly 10 years younger, with 30% being millennials!

Millennials have often been stereotyped as a lazy generation who are unprepared to work hard, still living at home and with little purchasing power, while they sit all day glued to their mobile phone screen. Therefore it has seemed like a waste of money to target Millennials for timeshare ownership or vacation exchange programs. This was also the same within the Cruise industry which had an old fashioned image and was seen as the preserve of older generations. Timeshare and the cruise industry in fact are often perceived in the same way, as the preserve of retirees and those looking for a quiet holiday in the sun.

This perception of cruises is the problem that Andrew Stuart, decided he needed to change when he became the President and Chief Operating Officer of Norwegian Cruise Line in March 2015. Through market research, he and the Norwegian Cruise Line were able to discover that Millennials did not deserve the negative image they had at all. In fact Millennials are an upwardly mobile and ambitious generation who are getting married, having kids, but haven’t committed to home ownership so have an incredible purchasing power. As Andrew suggested recently when he spoke at RDO7 in London, to overlook this generation is a huge wasted opportunity in terms of new loyal customers and potential profit.

When Andrew took over at the head of Norwegian Cruise Line he set about changing the marketing strategy and image of the brand in order to attract Millennials. As he suggests, although they are still not the core customer base for cruise companies, they are teaching all other generations how to consume content, how to shop and how to learn. Ultimately by attracting the Millenials, all other generations will follow. This can be seen in the rise of older generations born before Millennials shopping online, communicating via social media, and using smart phones, tablets and laptops to consume digital content.

Generation Z, have practically been brought up with the internet and digital technology from birth, so they don’t see social media, smartphones and the internet as something separate from their normal life but an essential part of their day to day living. This can be seen by how essential that generation deems a wifi connection to be when they are going to a hotel or resort.

While Generation Z often do not have the purchasing power of Millennials, they are also essential to market to as they influence the decision making of their parents, friends, family and even the wider public. They (along with Millennials), love to use social media to share the experiences they have had on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, live streams (FB and Periscope) and other channels. If they enjoyed the experience they had at a resort with their parents and the excursions offered then they will share this and help advertise your resort to potential new customers. This is an excellent and very cost effective form of inbound marketing.

How to Successfully Market to Millennials and Generation Z:

What the Norwegian Cruise Line case has shown is it is absolutely worth marketing to Millennials as profits have risen significantly since Andrew took charge of the company and changed their strategy. As Andrew suggested at RDO7, the timeshare industry can learn a lot from how the cruise industry has shifted its marketing to include Millennials. What this will take is a significant shift in mentality from timeshare resort brands. While business is going well for the industry at the moment this can all shift very easily if a newer, more nimble opponent enters the market. If there is any doubt in this you only have to look at what Uber has done to the taxi industry or Airbnb to hotels.

What the data reveals from many studies conducted into the lucrative global travel market is that people are looking more and more at the experiences offered by the place they are staying. They are also becoming increasingly discerning as they use online tools such as social media and review sites before making their decision about which company they will part their hard earned money with. They are not going to be duped so easily by flashy logos or commercials.

Resorts need to understand that the power has shifted to the consumer and instead of pushing their message onto people who can easily turn away, they need to draw Millennials and Generation Z in with effective inbound marketing. These generations expect excellent valuable content such as well written blog posts, exciting and interesting social media updates and amazing, high quality photos and videos. If you are not providing value to these consumers they will quickly and easily look elsewhere as they now have so many more options.

This is why instead of wasting time and money investing in annoying outbound sales tactics, there should be far greater effort invested in creating a quality experience both within the resort and with excursion companies you work with, and producing amazing content based around this for your resort website, blog and social media channels. One way of doing this could be through a GoTimeshare media trip involving a team of bloggers, film makers and social media marketers. There were recent GoTimeshare media trips to Pearly Grey Ocean Club in Tenerife and CLC World in Malaga. On both of these trips the media team stayed at the resorts for a week and went on a number of amazing excursions. There were blog posts, social media updates, photos and videos for the GoTimeshare website and social media channels and for the resort blogs and social channels.

Millennials and Generation Z are no longer as powerfully influenced by traditional advertising because they can so easily block it. This is why marketing via social media channels is a highly cost effective and useful means of reaching these consumers as they use social media so much. Resorts should not just be seen to be going through the motions though, but utilise the amazing strengths of each of these channels. Don’t just focus on Facebook because there are hundreds of millions of people using Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Tumblr and Google Plus, and YouTube is the second most viewed website in the world! If you are going to have a presence on these sites then invest time into each.

The benefits are huge as you can view the analytics of these channels and your resort blog to see which marketing strategies are working and which aren’t. This allows your marketing team to constantly adapt and improve. Because literally billions of people are using social media, especially younger audiences, your resort content, or the content posted by your guests can go viral and reach massive audiences without a huge outbound push. Instead these posts will bring new inbound interest and potential guests to view your social media channels, blog and website.

Your resort should constantly be innovating, like Andrew has managed to do with Norwegian Cruise Line in order to attract this new upwardly mobile audience, who love to travel. Millennials and Generation Z consume a huge amount of content on their mobile, and mobile internet use has surpassed desktop internet use. It is essential therefore that your website is tailored first and foremost to mobile use. The booking process should be quick and simple because younger consumers have much shorter attention spans. Ryanair recently realised this when it started losing profits, so decided to make a number of improvements to its service, including changing the booking process to just a few clicks.

Use new technology and forms of entertainment such as Snapchat and live video to advertise your resort and attract potential new guests. If one of your friends was to share a live video feed on social media being being broadcast by your resort team from the resort restaurant by the sea or swimming pool, this would grab people’s attention and entice them to check out your website. Your resort could also work with influencers such as online vloggers, who are more popular among younger generations than movie stars.

For example, if your marketing team invited a travel vlogger such as Mr Ben Brown to your resort to make a sponsored vlog and create other content such as doing a takeover of your resort Snapchat account, then this could reach a huge potential audience! Ben has over 630,000 subscribers on YouTube and is far more known than many TV personalities. Millennials and Generation Z are more likely to trust the opinion of their favourite Snapchat, YouTube or Instagram stars than the corporate message being shown by your brand. While kids and teenagers may not seem like your resort audience, they in turn have a huge influence over where their parents decide to go on holiday.

Since the digital revolution began to occur over a decade ago, it has been clear that the world of marketing has been turned on its head. While some resorts have been slow to realise this and make the transition, there is still time to switch things around to reach new guests and continue to grow profits as the cruise industry has managed to do. If this transition isn’t made though, the timeshare industry risks being left behind and suffering from more nimble newcomers such as Airbnb. The tools are all there, so there is now no excuse not to adapt.