Arguably, 2021 has proven to be just as challenging for the travel industry than 2020, with different markets attempting to both control the spread of COVID-19 and open up – sometimes simultaneously. Many timeshare owners are among travellers who have had their plans thwarted by changing restrictions.
Cancellations and reservations
Club Wyndham South Pacific, the largest of Wyndham Destinations Asia Pacific’s clubs, introduced a cancellation policy ensuring owners with plans cancelled due to COVID-19 or restrictions received their credits back, or an extended travel-by date on expired credits. This policy has been adjusted 249 times since March 2020 and there have been 194,000 cancellations during that period, with 159,600 or 82% cancelled under this policy. These are reservations which would normally have gone ahead, and these cancellations also resulted in re-bookings and additional Waitlists for the team to process.
To December 15, 2021, the Owner Services call centre received 131,614 inbound calls, made 56,355 outbound calls and responded to 78,189 emails. Staff have also been responsible for SMS messaging tens of thousands of owners to give them the opportunity to cancel. Despite the increased workload, satisfaction with Owner Services contact has continued to sit at 9.11 out of 10, the same as in 2020. New training methods have helped keep satisfaction at this level, while operating hours have been extended and feedback has been taken on board with the introduction of a wait time estimation for phone calls. This year, the Member Services functions for Club Wyndham Asia and Innovative Holiday Club by Club Wyndham were also brought in-house in the form of localised services in the clubs’ various markets.
In addition, the Philippines-based portion of the Owner Services team has battled local challenges like typhoons and earthquakes, but has continued to strongly engage with owners.
During the COVID-19 period, Wyndham Destinations’ operations teams reworked hygiene standards with guidance from global experts, and rolled these standards out at resort level to ensure guest safety. Resort teams also worked on ways they could improve the “club experience” owners received – which led to initiatives like a hobby farm at one resort, a gold sluice at another, outdoor cinemas, fire pits, free bike hire and more than 100 complimentary activities.
Resort stays have improved from 8.43 in 2020 to 8.53 in 2021, continuing an upwards trajectory from 8.05 in 2017.
Numerous refurbishments and a significant development at Port Macquarie progressed throughout 2020 and 2021 despite COVID-19, in order to deliver a better product to owners/members. Club Wyndham South Pacific owners were given the opportunity to book 66 apartments and villas outside the club, along with associate resorts, to make up for properties unavailable due to travel restrictions. Associate agreements have also been signed with Club Wyndham Asia and Innovative Holiday Club by Club Wyndham to give members more options in their domestic markets.
COVID-19 restrictions meant Wyndham Destinations’ sales representatives had to change how they sold timeshare. Formerly, this was done at resort sites, but with resorts closed in some instances and travel plans interrupted, representatives began doing presentations by Livestream or Zoom. Scores have consistently improved during this time – 8.43 in 2020 and 8.27 in 2021. Although his represents a slight reduction between 2020 and 2021, scores were at 6.68 in 2017.
Critical complaints lodged with Customer Care have also reduced – from 1,530 in 2019 to 1,386 in 2020 and 1,004 year in 2021.
Wyndham Destinations has promoted its education programs more than ever to help owners and members get the most from their ownership/membership. The Owner Education team has educated 6,693 owners/members to date in 2021, more than double last year’s 3,324. Almost 6,000 were educated in the 37 sessions across the year, while 776 owners/members were educated in personalised one-on-one calls.
The business also began an initiative in 2020 called Club Wyndham TV, a video channel initially designed to provide light entertainment and travel inspiration during COVID-19 restrictions. This has evolved into an avenue to showcase resorts and educate owners about club ownership. A YouTube channel has recently been launched which now achieves approximately 2,000 views a month.
Communications efforts have also been ramped up, with an increase in social media posts, 61 informative emails and a new Instagram account.
The Consumer Finance team – responsible for managing owner/member accounts and timeshare owners/members loans with Wyndham – experienced an uptick in hardship cases the moment COVID-19 started and the restrictions hit home. Since March 2020, they have provided hardship relief to approximately 1,612 owners/member. The department began an Owner Solutions team to re-engage members who wanted to exit their timeshare, and this team has worked to re-engage more than 1,660 owners/members.
The finance team has also played its part in communicating the value of ownership/membership to owners/members, particularly when asked about the purpose of annual levies.