Today’s generation wants more than just an average holiday

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Although the concept of vacation ownership is still nascent in India, global stakeholders in this space like RCI are quite optimistic about India market from both inbound and outbound perspective. Pali S. Badwal, Managing Director, RCI India feels that there is a growing realisation among new age travellers about the value of owning a timeshare. P Krishna Kumar spoke to Badwal on the trends, growth strategies, etc.

Although Time Share and Vacation Exchange concept is prevalent in India for almost three decades now, the consumer's understanding of the concept is still low as compared to many developed markets. What is the reason for that, and how is it changing?

When timeshare first entered the Indian market in the mid-eighties, it had to go through an initial phase of acceptance. The concept is still new to some as it did not receive the required nurturing it demanded.

Today, the scenario is certainly improving as timeshare travel is one of the best ways to stay committed to vacations, be it family holidays or the well-deserved break.

The younger generation is realising the value of owning a timeshare and is eyeing it as a viable investment.

How was RCI’s journey in India and what has been the growth in memberships over the last decade?

RCI is a global leader in vacation exchange. We have nearly 4,300 affiliated resorts in over 100 countries with 1.8 million exchange vacations each year.

Since its inception in India in 1992, we have approximately 139 affiliated resorts in over 60 unique destinations across the country. The top six Indian destinations with maximum number of RCI affiliated resorts are – Goa, Ooty, Manali, Corbett, Shimla, Kerala and Coorg.

RCI has been at the forefront of the holiday ownership in India along with the other players, and is quickly became a driving force within the timeshare industry.

What is the growth potential in terms of timeshare holiday resorts that you expect in India in the next couple of years? What are your strategies in relation to filling the gap that exists in terms of demand and supply in parts of North and North East India, and regionally in Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal, etc?

We have added 52 resorts in the past four years across India, are making every possible effort to increase our footprint to newer and exotic destinations to make it available to our members, and recently have added three resorts at Bathala, Filitheyo and Medhufushi Island in Maldives, where we see a lot of demand from the members. We are looking at expanding our footprints into Sri Lanka by the end of 2016.

A lot of mainstream hotel owners/ investors attended your Time Share conference in Agra last year to understand the business model. How do you look at the potential of mainstream hotels joining the Time Share network at least partly, considering the location feasibility?

Yes, many hotel owners/investors attended the Timeshare conference in Agra to understand the business model and to know how they could make this commercially viable. You will certainly see new players entering the timeshare market soon.

What is the trend in terms of holiday preferences that you see among the time share customers in India and how are the trends evolving?

The days when people would just go on a holiday for the purpose of visiting a place for its weather and scenic beauty are far behind us. Today’s generation wants more than just an average holiday. We have witnessed an increasing demand for places offering adventure, newer experiences, etc.

There is a shift in the demographic segment of travellers. Consumers, between the ages of 30 and 40+years, are showing an inclination to outdoor/ adventure holidays and exploring new places. The new-age traveller now looks to explore adventure/wildlife and spiritual destinations. Consumers are indicating a preference for non-commercial, less-explored destinations where they can get away from the busy city-life and their routine days. Another growing trend in the Indian market is drive-to holidays, where consumers drive to the destination of their choice with last-minute bookings. New destinations which are now getting popular include Daman, Silvassa, Nainital, Sri Lanka and Maldives.The advent of technology, and abundance of consumer-direct travel services available to the travellers, has transformed the hospitality industry, as well as the holidaying patterns of Indians. Trends are evolving day by day and as technology and infrastructure keep improving, we shall be hearing about new emerging travel trends.

Bulk of RCI’s affiliations in India comes from Mahindra and Sterling portfolio. What are your plans in terms of growing your affiliations outside these two partners?

Mahindra and Sterling are both important partners of ours in India as are the likes of Magic Holidays, Karma Group. At the same time, we have added 20 independent affiliated properties in the last four years across India and one in Maldives. The affiliations come from a wide variety of players in terms of size and locations. I think it is also important to note that our global network gives Indian timeshare owners so many additional travel options as well, when they begin to consider destinations abroad.

While hospitality brands are investing a lot on improving the technology interface with their customers, how does RCI plan in this regard?

Technology holds a special significance in the growth of tourism sector. Along with the major hospitality brands, we too have been making investments when it comes to technology, to improve the overall customer experience for the services we offer. It forms an important part of our budget mix.