Get Rid of Your Vistana Timeshare

You may be familiar with the Vistana Signature Experiences timeshare brand. While Marriott Vacations Worldwide is now its parent company, Vistana itself operates two other brands: Sheraton and Westin. Both have recently introduced their own timeshare products in addition to their hotel services. However, many customers do not feel that these new point-based programs can compare to the week system of the past. They feel they are no longer getting their money’s worth.

But Vistana is still growing profits while many customers remained unsatisfied. If you feel that the company’s recent changes have left you and your vacation plans in the dust, you are not alone. If you want to get rid of your ownership for good keep reading.

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This video is from YouTube and is the opinion of a third party. This representative does not represent Vistana in particular. He does, however, give a behind the scenes view of the timeshare industry.

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Luxury Resorts and Golf Courses Shape Vistana’s Early Years

In the middle of a booming vacation ownership sales market, Vistana began operations in Orlando, Florida in 1980. The resort’s proximity to Disney made it a good place for Orlando’s first timeshare property. As CEO and Executive VP, former Chicago bankers Raymond “Rip” Gellein Jr. and Jeffrey Adler moved the company toward a offering a luxury experience. At Vistana’s resorts, people could enjoy:

  • Fully furnished two-bed, two-bath units
  • Fully equipped kitchens
  • Daily housekeeping
  • 18 holes of mini golf
  • Saunas, gyms, and tennis and volleyball courts
  • 3 restaurants

Vistana used many different marketing strategies to sell its timeshares, with much success. They used brokers, strategically placed employees, phone marketing, and vacation sampling. It also went after golfers as a target market. VIstana even went on to develop a PGA branded championship golf resort.

Development began in 1996 and it eventually grew into a sprawling community for golfers. Enthusiasts can now buy vacation packages, visit the Golf Hall of Fame, and even attend the PGA Tour Golf Academy at Vistana’s World Golf Village.

Vistana Continues To Grow

In 1997, Vistana made a successful initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange (VSTN). In partnership with Promus Hotel Corporation, the company developed and managed resorts under several different brand names. Just two years later in 1999, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide (NYSE: HOT) saw its potential, and purchased the company for almost $400 million in cash and stock. Gellein stayed on with the company as a Director and in 2008 when he retired, Starwood’s vacation and timeshare sector was worth $1 billion.

Interestingly, Gellein believes in the partial ownership model and predicts “continued ‘fractional’ sales of everything with high capital costs—from planes and boats to vacation homes. By splitting costs into fractions, part owners share the benefits and expense.” This is not exactly true. While it does reduce up-front costs for the buyer, the savings do matter if too many people buy interest in the same item.

Selling More Than Can Be Provided

If a company sells to more people than it can provide for, everyone can’t get what they paid for. But because their bottom line is making a profit, a company does not have much reason to put a cap on the “fractional” inventory it can sell. When the numbers reach a breaking point, the customer always loses.

Starwood built a number of lifestyle hotel brands, from the St. Regis to Le Meridien. After Starwood bought it, Vistana began to do the same with timeshare brands. In 2014 it rolled out Sheraton Flex, a point-based timeshare product. Interval Leisure Group (ILG), another industry giant, noticed Vistana’s success and swooped in to buy the company from Starwood in 2016. This would give it the rights to Vistana, as well as the Sheraton, Westin, and Hyatt brands.

Under ILG, Vistana then released Westin and Sheraton’s own vacation club brands. Westin also expanded to Mexico with the point-based Aventuras program. Most recently, Marriott Vacations Worldwide bought ILG for $4.7 billion in April 2018 and became the industry’s largest luxury timeshare resort brand.

Financial Success, Customer Frustration

Vistana has had an overall successful history so far, but at what cost? Many of the fed-up customers we work with tell stories about Vistana salespeople lying to them about the way all these mergers will affect their ownerships. They often advised that the changes would make things worse, unless owners paid to “fix” the issue with an upgrade.

Frustrated Vistana owners also spoke of how the units were not as they were told, and staff was predatory. Other issues they have had include:

  • Paying prices for an “oceanfront” reservation, only to get a room that looks over a dumpster. Or, only to find that none of the rooms had the ocean view rooms advertised.
  • Waiting over four hours for a room booked months in advance, even though sales reps told them that purchasing would give them priority in booking rooms.
  • Sales reps taking advantage of owners with memory loss. That’s right; people who are in no state to make big decisions like buying a timeshare.
  • Meeting other people in similar situations “by coincidence” at updates. When they raved a little too much about their own purchases and listed reason after reason to buy that day, many owners realized the sales staff was targeting them.

People have also said that they feel like their timeshare money is going nowhere. They mentioned things such as:

  • Paying off their mortgage and keeping up with maintenance fees for over 10 years, but not being able to take a single vacation.
  • Not being able to review the details of a purchase, because Vistana never gave them copies. This is a huge red flag.
  • Staff convincing them to book at the “best” rate Vistana had to offer its owners. The same clients later found the same bookings on other web sites for much less.
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I Think Vistana Misled Me Into Buying. What Should I Do?

Sales tactics like this and failing to provide you with your contract are a recipe for disaster. These things make it very hard for the consumer to get out, or even know what they’re paying. We know how upsetting it can be to have constant problems using your Vistana purchase after months or even years.

We work with many clients who are struggling because of the debt that Vistana convinced them to take on. While it is a hard situation to be in, it does not have to last forever. Fill out our online form or call us to take the first step toward getting rid of your timeshare.