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U.S. resort advocacy group calls for timeshare legislation update

American Resort Development Association suggests introduction of ‘deeded’ timeshares to boost sector
  • Keith Stephenson.

Guardian Business Reporter

Published: Oct 30, 2013

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MIAMI, Florida - A top U.S. resort industry advocate has thrown his weight behind the need for The Bahamas to consider modernizing its timeshare legislation in order for the destination to remain competitive.

“It must be done in a way that’s going to really recruit a new type of development that is fundamental to long-term growth and health of the tourism industry,” according to Keith Stephenson, director of state government affairs at the American Resort Development Association (ARDA), a Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing the vacation ownership and resort development industries.

Currently, buyers in The Bahamas only have one option when it comes to purchasing timeshares and that is the “right to use”, which is essentially a contract.  It acts as a license that gives them the right to occupy their timeshare interest for a certain period of time.

But while The Bahamas remains a highly sought after destination that’s focused on new product development, Stephenson told Guardian Business the country still needs more favorable laws that would foster development and act in the best interest of the developers and the consumers.  He is calling on the government to modernize its timeshare legislation to include provisions for both “right to use” and “deeded” timeshares.  He believes that not having this option has hindered The Bahamas.

“The timeshare laws in The Bahamas really do give consumers very strong protections and the deed-based product is a major pillar of that,” Stephenson said.

“One of the major priorities for the multi-national developers would be for the Bahamian government to not only provide for right-to-use timeshare but deeded timeshare.”

On Monday, Bert Blicher, president of the Blue Water Resort at Cable Beach, also called on the government to update the laws relating to timeshare properties if The Bahamas hopes to attract more investments of this sort, noting that industry stakeholders are aiming to provide recommendations to the government as to what changes are needed.  Industry executives have called The Bahamas an attractive and viable destination for timeshare development.

Timeshare component

According to Stephenson, nowadays in a mature hospitality marketplace a focus is placed on timeshare, and many developments have a timeshare component.

It’s a move he calls “vital” to the success of any tourism product.

While The Bahamas has done well as one of the top Caribbean destinations, he pointed out that the timeshare industry is a global business the country has to compete in, and as a result will have to adjust its offerings to attract that market.

“In fact, the model that we see mostly is the multi-use component, where you have the development of a hotel connected with timeshare and home ownership.  And it’s vital,” he told Guardian Business.

“The Bahamas is a viable destination.  In fact, I think it did very well this year when you look at occupancy and revenue per available room (RevPAR).  I think the benefits are the proximity to the U.S., ease of access, reasonable airlift and a longstanding history with the U.S. as being a sought after travel destination.

“So that’s very attractive and a lot of the U.S. brands are doing business there, along with all of the new infrastructure projects and Baha Mar.  That’s something I think the U.S. brands would want to be a part of, so I feel pretty comfortable they can help grow a lot of what’s happening right now in The Bahamas.”

ARDA’s President and CEO Howard Nasbaum said the strong dollar value and proximity to the U.S. are two attributes that has served The Bahamas well as a destination in the eyes of the American tourist.

“Americans like traveling in their own hemisphere because of the ease of travel, time changes are so dramatic and because the air flights are shorter.  But even more importantly, there is a sense of safety,” he revealed.

“Since September 11, I believe that the American psyche has more caution when it comes to traveling to the Middle East, Asia, especially the Pacific Rim.  And the idea of going into our own hemisphere to those places that don’t have those geopolitical problems is comforting.”

“And the Caribbean has great weather year round so it’s got all of the tourism assets.  The dollar is very strong in most of those places.  So economically, American tourists are going to get more for their money.  And because there is an emerging middle class, there is more infrastructure, more restaurants, better roads and airports.  All of those things bode well for tourism.”

“You have some trophy product down there when you look at Atlantis, the partnership between Starwood and Sun Resorts is amazing.  You have a lot of independent developers as well.  The proximity by water or air from Florida is so easy and affordable.”

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