How can we press START on timeshare?

By Bob Kobek, RRP for the ARDA Developments Magazine, reprinted with permission

The Microsoft Start Button contains all your apps, settings, and files—and that makes it so very simple to access everything you need to begin employing all the tasks you need. To accomplish whatever you need to get your technology moving. The Start button is there to simplify your life. The same can be said for the iOS start-up.

We come now to the most important question: What the heck just happened?

Five months ago, we were all preparing to head to Hollywood, Florida, for ARDA World, meet with our respective committees (including us, the technology committee) and enjoy industry chatter and the “what’s new”.

Then, the entire hospitality industry, all of it, just shut down. No need to belabor the many segments included with the word “all”, but suffice it to say, the entire customer journey just went away in the blink of an eye.

Everything has changed.

It was closed, tight and complete. But it is now time to get started to open again and, lo and behold; there is no Start Button! No one place to look to get businesses open and ready for business, quickly or easily.

And technology, being what it is, cannot sit dormant – even for a day. Here is the challenge. We have the existing systems and platforms to get up and to run again. But we have the daunting task of ensuring the same people responsible for managing it before are still around to employ their skill sets to maintain the proper pecking orders in the entire technology ecosystem.

Marketing (including lead generation), sales, support, check-in, check out, maintenance, experience measurement, employee engagement, and all related elements in our process of management were put on hold – indefinitely. Globally! And every one of them relies on technology as the engine.

Then there is property management which includes so many elements it would be impossible to list them in this short article.

But – do not fear – IT does have standard and actionable backups, including the ever lure of innovation. Infrared lighting for disinfecting, upgrades and updates to every technology solution you can imagine are working – for you for a change!

Said Emily Collins, EVC Marketing: “Now is the time for resorts to re-imagine the entire guest experience. Vacations will be stripped-down with fewer customer touchpoints, limited interactions and suspended services. And resorts are looking to technology for support.

“The good news is that technology is available to help with this post-COVID-19 reality. Services such as:

  • Remote check-in/out;
  • Keyless entry;
  • Guest engagement apps;
  • Virtual concierge;
  • AI; and
  • Cloud-based property management systems.

Enable resorts to provide a great customer experience while giving confidence to owners they can return and enjoy their vacations safely”.

So, a few more recommendations for you to consider:

1 Get up to speed on governmental health orders and which ones apply to your operations – such as social distancing guidelines, mask-wearing, sanitation standards and certifications, occupancy limits and rest periods between guest stays at your resort.

2 Monitor changes to these guidelines and prepare to adapt quickly as restrictions are adjusted. You will need both flexibility from your cleaning staff and training for regular employees to keep everyone up to speed.

3 Communicate with your customers regularly. Let them know that you are being proactive and keeping focus on a safe return to full operations. Communication can help ease the adoption of new processes that impact guests arrival and other on-site experiences.

4 Employ SMS communication technology whenever possible. This enables regular communications with owners (but be certain to gain express permission). The same can be said for keeping your email database current.

5 Stay in touch with your technology providers, whether in-house or third party. They need to be aware of your needs and may already be working on solutions to help you get reopened quickly and efficiently.

6 As requirements are changing regularly, support many of them with manual processes and only make automation changes that will provide long-term benefits, such as mobile/contactless check-in, apps that encourage tours, or docs-sign or e-sign for sales contracts that can be done remotely.

Key to all of this: Listen to the technology people you are surrounded with. Listen to your owners. Then measure the needs and act accordingly. It’s not quite a start button, but at least it’s a start.