£80k to join an "exclusive" timeshare club that is now on booking.com
Timeshare companies blasted for selling exclusivity to members, then opening the bookings up to non members who haven't paid a joining fee.
Hildyard K (name withheld at own request) has paid over £80,000 to Diamond Resorts over the last two decades in joining fees and various upgrades. This gave him around 70,000 points. "It was enough for 3 holidays a year," says Hildyard - 62, from Peterborough. "Two 2 week breaks and an extra single week. The standard at Diamond was terrific and as we paid for our upgrades over the course of 20 years we didn't really notice our total joining fees creeping up so high. We had been disappointed with booking through regular travel agents and believed we were paying for an exclusive standard of luxury."
The joining fees were not the only costs involved for Hildyard. There were also 'maintenance fees' to the tune of £7000 per year. "We were told that this was to maintain the resort and its facilities," says Hildyard. "We understood that there were gardens to maintain and that it costs money to keep the building standards up etc. We knew it was a lot of money but we assumed that was what it cost. Our holidays are important to us, so we paid up. Every year, on time."
Regular booking sites
Hildyard's eyes were opened when a couple of years ago he was searching Booking.Com for an extra holiday, only to find his 'exclusive' Diamond resort, Los Amigos Beach Club advertised for regular rental booking.
"I thought it must be a mistake, or some unusual circumstance," says Hildyard, "but I checked for other Diamond resorts and sure enough every single one is available to rent for non members. I rang Diamond to ask why resorts in an exclusive club I had paid a great deal of money to join were available to people who had never done so. Diamond told me that the policy had changed and they needed to monetise the unused inventory. They also told me (rightly it turns out) that exclusivity was not written into my contract."
Same cost to non members
"The worst thing was that what a non-member pays through Booking.Com, (or Expedia etc - Diamond resorts are available on all booking sites) is pretty much the same as my maintenance fees for the same week," says Hildyard. "So Even though I paid £80.000 to join Diamond, I don't get a cheaper rate than a non-member who books online.
Committed to £7000 a year
The biggest difference between being a Diamond Resorts member (besides the hefty joining fee) is that Hildyard is committed to paying another £7000 a year in annual fees, whether he holidays or not. "The non-member who rents a week through a booking site has complete freedom and flexibility," explains Hildyard. "They can choose to spend £7000 and holiday as much as me. Or they can holiday less and spend less. During the pandemic of course, many people are not going on holiday at all, and not paying anything. I have to pay my normal £7000 even though I can't access the resort, and Diamond can increase these fees at their own discretion.
"I wish I had never joined. I wouldn't have done if I'd known it would become possible to book without being a member. In effect I have paid £80,000 for the privilege of committing myself to an annual spend with Diamond. Much better to book through regular sites and have total freedom of choice."
"Hildyard's situation is not uncommon," comments Daniel Keating from the Timeshare Consumer Association (TCA). "Twenty or thirty years ago when timeshare was popular, people were happy to pay for exclusive luxury clubs. They had no reason to think that by 2021 those clubs would be renting to non-members at the same price as the annual fees. It's easy to see why Hildyard and other owners feel hard done by
"The trouble is that not only does the £80,000 membership have no resale value, it is difficult to escape the commitment even if the owner is prepared to write off the money they paid to join. Timeshare businesses are not thriving any more. New member sales have dropped significantly and they rely on the annual fees from existing owners. The timeshare resorts are fighting hard to prevent members from escaping their contracts and people need expert help to relinquish what they own."
There is also a potential bonus for many people whose timeshare was bought in Spain. Keating explains: "Since 1999, there have been many regulations enacted to protect consumers from high pressure timeshare sales. Most resorts ignored these regulations and as a result many timeshare owners are actually able to claim a refund or even compensation."
Daniel adds a warning: "Sadly, many firms out there who offer these services are actually criminals who will charge you money to help you relinquish a timeshare ownership, but will never do the job. Make sure you only deal with an established, reputable claims firm. It can be difficult to tell the genuine firms from the fraudsters, but if in doubt check with either the Timeshare Trust website, or get in touch with us at the TCA on the contact details below."
Timeshare Consumer Association. Contact us on: T: +44 2036704588 or +44 2035193808 (ask for Daniel), E: firstname.lastname@example.org (Address to Daniel).
WhatsApp (message only) +447586871055
TCA provides a central resource of consumer information on timeshare matters for the media and other organisations – We work towards encouraging responsible, honest, timeshare operators. We also publicly expose negative consumer practices and organisations which operate in a manner detrimental to timeshare buyers and owners.
An important part of our mission is to lobby UK and European Governments and regulatory bodies for improved consumer protection in the timeshare environment and collect information on frauds and mis-selling, for action by enforcement authorities.
We are staffed by former and current timeshare owners, as well as former timeshare industry staff. We know our way around the timeshare business
We are a a proud member of the UK Small Charities Coalition
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