Managing maturing resorts – ideas from ARDA New England Meeting

By Gordon McClendon

                  SPI Software recently sent me to attend the ARDA New England meeting held in Providence, RI. This was a terrific day of listening to speakers, learning about new ways to help your resort stay competitive and your owners satisfied.  One especially inspiring session sought to pool the minds of more than 130 industry professionals to brainstorm ideas to address issues affecting older resorts. The ARDA staff later collated and organized those ideas, as follows:

Managing unused inventory and developing new revenue streams

•Offering vacation packages at discounted rates through social media to sell out rooms.

•Support and create active rental of unused and defaulted inventory and recognize operating like a hotel; provide inventory to existing owners.

•Work with local hotels; Twitter feed excess inventory; Groupon

Innovative sales and marketing techniques

•Family and Friend give-away programs—upgrade later.

•Sell to club that needs to balance its inventory.

•Get inventory into rental program for in-house sales.

•Sales team on site—small or large. Need consumer financing. Points-based vacation club,

•Second generation owners off-season inventory discounts.

•Aggressive owner contact strategy: reach out to owners proactively—push/invite owners to use off-season which frees up better inventory in price = new revenue.

•Push rentals. If you have large or small resorts sitting on inventory, get that inventory out to third parties to try and get people staying at the resorts. Once there, the resort can pitch their product and up sell (try it before buying).

•Consolidate product where possible. Second generation no cost transfers with upgraded flexibility added. Internet/Facebook.

•Transfer to younger generation with points product layered on (a $4,000 value). Free transfer. Free stay at resort for next generation to promote interest. Relationship marketing—sports venues, theaters, restaurants, etc.

New fund resources for capital improvements

•Focus on little things—communication. Quantity buys. Leasing. Special access. Vendor terms. Pictures on social network.

•Fee for services—Review existing rules and regulations for revenue-generating opportunities from owners, guest and renters.

•Conventional funding. Bank/lender from industry.

•Conduct long-term reserve studies to accurately project future reserve and replacement needs.

•Lease out HOA space to vendors.

•Engage resort members who may contribute skills, services, or materials in return for accommodations, exchange credits, or maintenance fee credits.

•Effectively communicate long-term capital needs and plans to resort membership to ensure maximum understanding, buy-in, and to seek suggestions and contributions.

•Take advantage of resort infrastructure; host community events on-site to produce revenues, community relations, and resort exposure. For example, farmers’ markets, artist and children’s fairs.

•Determine if the association has land, buildings, or other assets which may be de-annexed and sold.

•Lease HOA assets: amenities to individuals or organizations; labor or infrastructure which may be leased to other organizations; other assets that are not utilized 100%.

Delinquency issues

•Payment plan offered after owner becomes delinquent. Must become current in full before next year’s assessment.

•Foreclosure, series of letters, payment arrangements, deed in lieu, more contact, payment plan.

•Develop early strategy for handling. Understand why owners are going delinquent and implementing strategy consistently with combination of penalties like lock-out of use and incentives like waiver of late fees. Develop payment plans.

•No collections on maintenance fees unless finance is paid off. Celebrate pay off of finance and then finance the HOA fee.

·       Amnesty Program: geared at longer term delinquent (2-4 years), forgive a portion and fees (or all), may payment arrangements.

•Offer payment plans/coupons on the bills for maintenance fees. Explain where the money is being spent in communications with those bills. In collection letter and calls, be more vacation family friendly to open the doors

•Prepayment plan, re-engage customer.

•Engage the customer on an emotional level—empathize with them (they really are having trouble); help them pay it and still enjoy their week; if all else fails, foreclose

Board member education and communication tools

•Keep board members focused on primary responsibility—fiduciary—by having them keep that in the forefront.

•Keep focused on budget and quality services.

•Social media, email links to educational resources, recruit good candidates for board, monthly packets, financial committee of owners to approve budgets, teleconference.

•One must assure management regularly communicate resort issues to the pleasure of the board or they should be dismissed. Board members can only learn about industry issues through management or participating in industry programs such as ARDA-ROC.

•Use social media (Facebook) to communicate. Website owner portal to communicate. Roberts Rules of Order given to each member and then links to website to better understand. Teleconference meetings.

•ARDA’s six hour webinar on how to be a board member, cliff notes on condo docs, AR reports, healthy reserves, etc.

•Share information—invite to management meet, website (secure), operators report, regional meeting.

Liability concerns

•Lack of availability for resorts to insurance; lack of understanding by carriers; ARDA developing relationships with major carriers.

•Addressing privacy compliance according to PIPEDA.

•Management by walking around; personnel/employment practices; certificates of liability; listening; emergency preparedness.

•Open to comments; reviewing disaster response.

•ADA compliance as the owner base ages.

•Vendor liability insurance; workers compensation.

•Awareness—vigilance; document; digital camera; amenity waivers—signage; swimming pools; insurance audits—review coverage

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