The story of timeshare is rather vague, although it is generally credited to a French developer Paul Doumier. His company The Société des Grands Travaux de Marseille developed ski resorts in the French alps. He coined the phrase “It is cheaper to own the hotel than rent the room”, this became the company slogan and it attracted many buyers. Doumier began marketing his concept between 1964 and 68, primarily with the resort in the alps.
Over the border in Switzerland another company developed their own timeshare business, this was Hapimag, short for Hotel und Appartementhaus Immobilien Anlage AG, and was created in 1963. The owners Alexander Nette and Guido Fenngli began buying their first resorts, these primarily were in Italy, Spain and Switzerland. Hapimag marketed their timeshare on a right to use basis rather than on deeded ownership.
Hapimag is still going strong today with around 60 resorts, spanning Europe, North Africa, Turkey and Florida. They are considered to be of a high standard with Hapimags own shops and fitness areas. They also have a very good reputation for their child care and activities. Strangely enough they have never affiliated with the major exchange companies and are considered one of the largest independent timeshare companies.
In 1969 the first timeshare resort in America was opened in Hawaii at Kauai Kailani on Kauai. The founders of the company Vacation International, Bob Burns and Bob Ringenburg, sold their weeks in 40 year increments and also developed the first points system.
Florida was next and was one of the first states in continental America to develop timeshare in the early 1970´s. The Californian company Innisfree was next, they were the first to sell deeded timeshare. Around 1973 they in partnership with Hyatt had their first development at Lake Tahoe in California. It was here that the term timeshare was first used to describe vacation time purchased from a resort. When Innisfree used the word timeshare on an application to the Californian Department of Real Estate, the popularity of the term increased, it was then used on all promotional materials.
Around 1974 RCI was founded, the husband and wife team saw a need for owners to be able to exchange with owners from other resorts, which increased the popularity of the concept. No longer were you tied to the resort you purchased. RCI has since become the largest of the exchange companies and has offices on every continent. They are also part of the Wyndham group.
From the late 1970´s and into the 80´s timeshare development increased, with massive building programs worldwide. Spain and Portugal were probably the main areas for these developments.
Since the start many companies have become involved in timeshare, some good some bad. Major companies such as Disney, Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt have helped improve the image of the product. They offer some of the best resort around the world and also have the benefit of being among the largest hotel chains.
In 2007 or thereabouts the famous holiday camp company Butlins developed a timeshare product at their Minehead resort in Somerset. They offered a points system called Blueskies, which had a lifespan of 30 years as opposed to the perpetuity contract most companies were selling. Members were not limited to Minehead, they could also use the points at other Butlins resorts or even use the exchange system with RCI. Butlins has certainly come along way from it´s Hi De Hi image.
With companies such as the ones mentioned here timeshare can be a good product, it is just a shame that some companies involved in the industry have given it a bad reputation. Again it is a question of oversight and regulation. If the right model is used there would not be the problems associated with the industry.
I hope that this article has given a small insight into the history of timeshare, it has been quite fun looking for the information and answered many of the questions I had. There have over the years been many stories as to how it started, Most of the sources I located all agreed to this version.
If you have any questions about timeshare you can contact Inside Timeshare via the comments section.