Posted on January 29, 2021
Big news reverberated through the timeshare industry this week as Welk Resorts announced it has agreed to sell its timeshare resorts to Marriott Vacations Worldwide. MVW is the corporate arm which oversees the Marriott timeshare brands such as Marriott Vacation Club along with the Sheraton, Westin and Hyatt timeshare brands and exchange company Interval International.
The sale price - $430 million, with the transaction expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2021.
Marriott will add the eight Welk timeshare resorts into its portfolio along with 55,000 owners. The resorts are expected to be rebranded into the Hyatt Residence Club, growing Hyatt’s club to 24 resorts. Its geographical reach will expand to include Welk’s flagship resort in San Diego as well as destinations in Breckenridge, Palm Springs, Lake Tahoe, Branson and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Welk Resorts began in 1964 when legendary band leader Lawrence Welk purchased a motel and golf course outside San Diego and decided to get into the hospitality business. The company went into timeshare in 1984 and the Welk family will continue to oversee the operation until the sale to MVW is finalized.
Welk owners are expected to be assimilated into the Hyatt Residence Club, which would grow from its current 33,000 owner base to close to 90,000 owners.
Wyndham Destinations, the corporate umbrella of the Wyndham timeshare empire, will be changing its name to Travel + Leisure, Co. on February 17. The company had previously announced its acquisition of global travel brand Travel + Leisure and will transition to the new name as it looks to expand into new travel-related markets.
The acquisition included Travel + Leisure’s travel club programs and its 60,000 members, but the Travel + Leisure brand touches nearly 35 million people worldwide through its resorts, media and travel-related platforms.
Changing the corporate name is not expected to alter the brand names of the company’s current vacation club programs such as Club Wyndham, WorldMark, Shell Vacations Club and Margaritaville Vacation Club. Other timeshare-related brands such as exchange companies RCI, 7Across and the Registry Collection will also remain the same.
Starting this week, the United States began requiring all arriving overseas travelers to provide a negative COVID test before entering the U.S., including U.S. citizens and residents returning from overseas vacations. Tests need to be viral tests taken no more than three days prior to departure from the international location.
While that has thrown some international destinations into a tizzy, many have responded quickly with testing plans and facilities so travelers can feel confident about vacationing overseas and returning back to the U.S.
Timeshare hub Los Cabos has a plan where just about every hotel and timeshare resort in the region offers COVID testing in addition to testing at the Los Cabos airport. Area leaders had been anticipating this announcement for weeks and several other Mexico destinations such as Puerto Vallarta and the Cancun/Riviera Maya region have announced similar testing plans.
Other top timeshare destinations such as the Bahamas and Dominican Republic have similar programs in place. Because the U.S. Virgin Islands is part of the United States, USVI officials say that the new COVID testing policy does not apply to travelers leaving the islands to return to the mainland U.S.
That’s good news for St Thomas timeshare owners as well as those looking to vacation on St John or St Croix.
The policy change is unfortunate news for the Mexico tourism industry, which was experiencing a rebound from the COVID downturn. The state of Quintana Roo, which includes Cancun and Riviera Maya, saw travel over the Christmas/New Year holiday period at 75 percent of pre-COVID numbers from the preceding year.
Even with the testing measures destinations are putting into place, officials are anticipating an initial downturn in international travel due to the uncertainty surrounding the situation. United Airlines executives stated last week that Mexico could be among the most impacted by the new rules, so resorts and tourism leaders are ramping up the communication to let Americans know that the process is in place and won’t upset their vacations.
After weeks of enduring stay-at-home orders, Californians can see some light at the end of the tunnel with the lifting of the statewide stay-at-home order by Governor Gavin Newsom.
The order was lifted because the projections regarding ICU capacity within the next four week projects to 15 percent or higher, meaning that ICU wards would have a minimum of 15 percent of capacity to treat ill patients.
As a result, counties throughout California are evaluating their plans for hotels and resorts to reopen now that the ban on overnight trips has been lifted.
The Palm Springs Visitors Bureau has reportedly told member businesses that lodging establishments, which would include timeshares, could accept leisure travel bookings and restaurants could open outdoor dining once again.
Of the primary developers with California timeshares, Welk Resorts is showing its resorts as open, as is Hyatt Residence Club, Shell Vacations Club and Diamond Resorts - with the exception of Diamond’s Desert Isle of Palm Springs which will reopen on Monday. Grand Pacific Resorts, which has the majority of its resorts in California, reports all of their Golden State resorts as open.
The only Marriott timeshare resort closed in California is Marriott Vacation Club Pulse San Francisco, while Bluegreen is not taking bookings from out of state owners or guests for The Club at Big Bear Village.
Wyndham still has its California resorts listed as closed on its website, and Disney’s Grand Californian remains closed as well. WorldMark only shows WorldMark San Francisco as closed among its California offerings, but this seems at odds with the information showing on the Wyndham website. WorldMark owners, as with all timeshare owners, are encouraged to call their customer service department for the latest information regarding their resort’s operational status.