Shonky for trapping holiday-makers into a bad deal for a lifetime
While most investments aim to deliver a financial return, the same cannot be said for holiday timeshare schemes. In our investigation of five popular timeshare programs – the Accor Vacation Club, Classic Holiday, Ultiqa Lifestyle, Wyndham WorldMark South Pacific Club and the Marriott Vacation Club – the financial outcomes we uncovered ranged from terrible to terrifying.
The shonkiest of a very bad bunch is the Marriott Vacation Club International, which has a contract term over 40 years in length. We found that visiting a two-bedroom apartment on the Gold Coast for one week in high season will cost a whopping $450,001 over the contract lifetime, and $154,823 is due in the first five years. This was 938% more expensive than similar accommodation sourced on an online booking site, which cost $14,907 in the five-year period for comparable holiday accommodation.
Figuring out an accurate cost for any particular timeshare holiday scenario can be a difficult job, even for the financially astute. But any scenario also assumes you're able to take a holiday every year (timeshare schemes will cost you every year whether you take a holiday or not), and that accommodation will be available when you want it. Chances are, you might have trouble taking a holiday when it suits you. According to statistics from the Australian Timeshare and Holiday Ownership Council, timeshare occupancy sat above 90% in 2016, which is "considerably higher than the 72.5% occupancy rate across all hotels and resorts in Australia".
Lifetime investment with no financial return
With all this in mind, companies selling these 'investment' products are often quoted explaining that this is a lifestyle purchase and should not be viewed in the same way as other investments. For example, Marriott makes the point on its website that its timeshare scheme offers the chance to "make the most of every precious vacation moment", promising to let you "live the vacation lifestyle". You'll certainly need a good break after attempting to navigate the ins and outs of holiday timeshare schemes. In our visits to timeshare sales presentations from other companies, we found the sales tactics were likely to leave people feeling bamboozled or coerced.
A lifetime investment product that doesn't offer a financial return, based on an emotional purchase? That's Shonky. Contracts lasting 40 years and longer that could leave families in financial ruin? Shonky. Marriott Vacation Club snaring people in an especially atrocious deal costing hundreds of thousands of dollars? Downright Shonky. This so-called investment is the bad deal of a lifetime.