Reprinted with permission from Timeshare Perspectives magazine, November 2007:
Addressing Software Challenges for Points Ownership and Fractional Ownership Resorts
By Matt Brosious
Systems Products International (SPI) was established in 1973. At that time, tracking a fixed week and fixed unit was a pretty simple process. In today’s timeshare model, points or club membership is coming to be a common vehicle when selling vacation ownership. As many an information technology manager will tell you, there are complexities in managing information for these types of shared ownership that go well beyond the capabilities of yesterday’s hospitality or timeshare systems. Fortunately, software developers such as SPI, are on the task!
Providing structure for points and clubs
There are as many models for offering points or club membership, as there are developers in the timeshare business today. They have the common element, however, of providing purchasers with a number of points that members can either use for accommodations, cruises, car rentals or other applications; or that can be banked for use in the future. In many cases, developers have only recently created their programs. In some others, they are still tweaking and managing further enhancements to their basic structures. There is no “norm” as of yet.
The best approach in data management for this type of complexity is one that allows the developer’s Information Technology (IT) staff to utilize a table-driven system. In our case, Systems Products International (SPI) has found Microsoft’s .Net platform to provide the most flexible solution in this regard. We made a decision to go this route because we felt it to be the best investment for the future. The advantages are too numerous to delineate in this context, but a few of the major factors were the technology’s scalability – that is, its ability to handle multiple sites, multiple users and virtually unlimited applications – and its promise of being the platform for the future. The use of .Net allows a developer’s IT staff to make use of pre-built software applications that are “ready to go” out of the box and don’t require the lengthy software development cycles of the past.
For instance, let’s say a development company acquires a new resort project to add into the mix. The use of a table-driven software platform more readily allows the developer’s IT staff to prepare for the addition by providing the means to handle both previously established timeshare schemes, or models of fixed and/or floating ownership, as well as the new points structure. The software should also provide for the conversion of consumers as they upgrade to points.
Additional complexities of managing a fractional resort or condo-hotel
In the case of fractional ownership and condo-hotels, many IT experts have been vexed with demands for data management which go far beyond the realm of what is typically handled by timeshare- or hospitality-oriented software. While condo-hotels utilize many of the applications normally applied to hospitality and/or timeshare resort management, the added necessity of handling the condo-hotel owner/guest relationship as well as the unique aspects of rental inventory yield management go far beyond the capability of the standard hotel and resort software packages. In the case of fractional ownership resorts, many aspects of timeshare resort management apply but with added complexities of fractional calendar rotation and higher levels of service delivery.
In the first case, buyers purchase a unit or interest in a project with the purpose of using it personally and hopefully, gaining rental revenue. Therefore, the records must be owner-based, rather than room- or unit-based. In other words, the standard hospitality format of tracking rentals according to rooms is inadequate and must be supplemented by software that will plug in. Such is the case in SPI’s Condo Hotel Tool Kit which interfaces with the hotel or resort’s front desk management system, but also maintains a database of the owners including contact information, an accounts receivable system for maintenance dues and an owner revenue system that tracks the owners’ interests and provides them with monthly or on-demand statements. These properties should be standard with such a system. Add-on’s, such as the capability to maintain correspondence, transaction histories and a record of all the legal documents pertaining to each individual owner are highly desirable, as well. In the case of fractional ownership resorts, the central reservation system must handle the added demands and the owner services system must be able to suply the high level of service expected by the affluent fractional owner including access to a self-service web site.
Management must track each owner’s usage, interfacing between general ledger, reservations and front desk management systems. It’s easy to see the importance of having a reliable software system, whether owners number in the dozens, hundreds or thousands.
In addition, the software must follow a formula based rotation formula to ensure that rentals are offered on a fair, rotating basis. It is helpful if the condo-hotel’s on-line reservations system interfaces automatically with the property’s front office management system.
Web services require today’s technology
Today’s sophisticated consumer demands on-line access to up-to-the-minute information and the ability to confirm reservations and make payments. SPI responded to demand by resort operators by providing them with a Web Services Tool Kit, which enables them to manage this process from their current Web site. Without the use of today’s more robust technology, your web site team would not have this functionality available to them.
Developers and operators of points-based clubs, fractional resorts or of condo hotels will find that using a software provider who utilizes a platform with the scalability and flexibility of Microsoft’s .Net and SQL Server technology is a pivotal decision which can be the difference between success and failure of the entire project. The good news is it’s possible to achieve a totally integrated, robust and scalable system that will handle these newer types of vacation ownership with commercially available software systems.
Matt Brosious is director of sales for Systems Products International (SPI). Located in Miami, Florida, SPI was founded in 1973 and is the world’s leading provider of software and advanced technology products for the vacation ownership industry. SPI’s products and services exhibit industry best practices – ensuring that resort clients’ critical operations run efficiently and are cost-effective. The company’s range of software solutions and “information at your fingertips” provides resort developers with accurate, timely data and greater functionality. SPI’s platform is based on the latest Microsoft .NET technology, offering modules to handle marketing, sales, in-house marketing, property management and central reservations, owner services (including finance, dues and mortgage receivables management), Web services and business intelligence. For more information, contact Systems Products International at 305-858-9505, email@example.com or visit www.spiinc.com.
Posted by Sharon Drechsler.
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