Category Archives: Travel

The ‘New’ European Timeshare Directive

The Plaza Mayor in Barcelona.

The Resort Development Organization (RDO) is an association that consists of and regulates fractional-ownership resorts across the nations of the European Commission. They enact and enforce laws on behalf of resort and timeshare users and work with different national governments to ensure all timeshare owners in Europe are treated fairly by their resorts. They work in conjunction with the English timeshare association, TATOC, as well as many other European timeshare groups.

On March 16th the Spanish government signed the new European Timeshare Directive (ETD) into law. It carries several tenets that strengthen the rights of the consumer and make clear definitions whereas before there were many grey areas that timeshare-shelling companies took advantage of.

The European market has created the same type of monsters that are dogging American consumers. Worthless contracts that are written in perpetuity (forever), unavailable/worthless weeks “owned,” and fraudulent “companies” that promise to get people out of their timeshare contracts, but in reality offer nothing.

With this in mind comes the passing of the ETD. Member nations that use the ETD ensure these rules on behalf of their people:

• A 14 day period where the consumer can still get out of the timeshare without penalty

• The contract’s language will be in the language of the purchaser, as long as it is a language of the EU

• Detailed information on the purchase in the language of the purchaser, as long as it is a language of the EU

• A total ban on deposits

• Contracts as short as one year long are covered by ETD laws (previously it was three years or more)

The inclusion of such provisions makes a statement on how lawless the European timeshare sales industry is. Even in the United States and Mexico, where timeshares are already considered a big scam or at least a poor investment, buyers were able to get contracts in English. Not so in Spain and Portugal, where English and Irish timeshare buyers were buying perpetual contracts in languages they didn’t understand. The ban on deposits and the 14 day grace period encourages the potential contract holder to think over their purchase away from the high-pressure sales pitches used by timeshare salesmen, also similar to tactics used by timeshare salesmen in the United States. Just like in the United States, this new law was enacted by sheer force of the public making complaints about timeshare ownership and sales to their local governments.

Any purchaser of a European timeshare who would like to get out of their contract should transfer their title with Transfer Smart. Transfer Smart does NOT sell timeshares, but is the United States’ leader in timeshare contract transfer and cancellation. We can get you out of that ‘perpetual’ contract. Contact us today.

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Wyndham Worldwide Earns Accolades, Praise

RCI/Wyndham Worldwide has won the Socially Responsible Company award for a second time. The award, bestowed by the Mexican Philanthropy Center (CEMEFI), judges companies that operate in Mexico on several tenets. They include community outreach, environmentalism, corporate ethics and quality of life provided to their workers.

RCI encourages their workers to do community service by giving them incentives for time completed. They give annually to Christel House Mexico, a charity that provides inner-city Mexican children with quality schools and education.

Newsweek ranked them the world’s 73rd most “Green” company for their environmental practices in 2009. Their “Green Initiative Team” markets ways that RCI has gone on environmentally sound policies, and the importance of preserving our planet.

Corporate ethics includes being transparent about their finances. RCI has a healthy track record of developing employees from the ground-level up by focusing on their development, education, welfare and safety. This is the second consecutive year RCI/Wyndham Worldwide Mexico has won the award.

Wyndham has had a run of good press recently. They won Fortune Magazine’s World’s Most Admired Companies 2012 in the Hotels, Casino’s and Resorts category.

Wyndham is the world’s number one seller of timeshares. If you’re enjoying your timeshare, you’re in the minority. If you want to get out of it, Transfer Smart is the world’s number one timeshare transfer service.

Americans Don’t Like To Commit To Timeshares

When the housing market was strong, American’s believed in a future full of commitment. Buy one car and keep it for 20 years, save and buy a house, marry one person for life.

But the housing crash and ‘foreclosure nation’ we live in now is a reflection of how commitment-phobic people are these days. Cars are being leased instead of bought. When cars are bought, they’re being traded in after just a few years. The average age of people getting married is steadily rising. It now stands at 29, whereas it was 26.4 in 2000.

The X Generation has seen their parents go through hard times, with divorce and unemployment rates climbing steadily over the last 10 years. That has led to a young group of people that are very hesitant to commit to anything.

There is a scarcity in buyers at both the home and automotive levels. With jobs that were solid just 20 years ago (like those in the Post Office or Government) now seemingly tenuous, it’s easy to understand why 30-and-unders don’t want to commit to long-term deals. Even pre-paid phone ownership is on the rise, as discount dealers such as Metro PCS and Virgin have seen great rises in their cellular business. Gyms, viewed by most as expendable income, have stopped offering 48 and 36-month long contracts, and increasinging amounts are offering month-to-month deals.

Timeshare sales are a common impulse buy that has seen a number of factors in its decline. First, people don’t have expendable money to go on yearly vacations to the same place anymore, so they don’t want timeshares. They also come with lifetime commitments, or perpetual contracts that even extend to the children of the buyer. The yearly financial burden of something that is rarely used is the first cut in a budget-conscious family (this is often why cable TV service is being discontinued by many).

These conservative leaning practices are leading towards a decreasing national credit debt. The Federal Reserve said total consumer credit in November 2010 was $2.48 trillion, down 3.3% from 2008.

Qatar’s Uprising

Quatar's "Sea Stadium"

Qatar’s image and economy are improving – who talked about this country just two short years ago? They won a bid to host the world’s largest sporting event- the World Cup- and this small country will be the event’s first ever Middle Eastern host.

The stadiums don’t even exist for the World Cup to be held in 2022. Neither do the hotels, timeshares and resorts that will be necessary to house the 1-2 million people estimated to travel to world cups. This is a group comprised of not only the common football fan, but also press, TV crews and dignitaries.

Qatar has gone on a hotel building splurge across its tiny country. The government has planned to build over 90 thousand rooms by 2022. In 2011, only 15,000 rooms were built. Qatar’s government has also pledged $3 billion to renovating three stadiums and building nine new ones, bringing the country’s total to 12. English is spoken wildly throughout the country, as it is taught to youngsters in school. Foreigners are allowed to drink, but natives cannot even touch alcoholic drinks, so there are questions as to how tourists will be served.

There are cons. Qatar is a strict Muslim country, and some female press are complaining about having to wear burkas. The beaches are not clean and tourist friendly, but some of their press says they are a more liberal country than Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates. Also under consideration is that in the Qatar summer, temperatures hover between 107-122 degrees Fahrenheit, conditions that would be deadly to footballers. The very nature of tourism must change, as Qatar carries a strict Visa system.

The Gulf Coast Experiences Record-Setting Tourism Post-Deepwater Horizon Disaster

The Deepwater Horizon on 21 April 2010.

The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon on April 20, 2010 caused extensive damage to the Gulf Coast’s tourism industry. The number of visitors and the amount of dollars spent over that summer was the lowest on record. That was to be expected, but what wasn’t expected was the in 2011. The Gulf Coast saw record numbers of visitors that shattered any year on record, of course including the years before 2010.

British Petroleum (BP) spent $20 billion on cleaning up beaches alone, and now hoteliers and service industry leaders remark how visitors don’t mention the oil spill anymore. BP also gave a total of $150 million to Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi for tourism promotion after the spill. In turn, those states utilized that money to perform extravagant promotions that would’ve been impossible with their previous budgets. In Florida, $80,000 was spent in Santa Rosa County on a sand-sculpture festival. . Okaloosa County had its best-ever June, July and September. In many counties, tourism is up as much as 20 percent over last year. Panama City Beach spent $1 million on a Christmas lights display and almost $200,000 on a prom for senior citizens.

The Panama City Beach area lost a lot during the summer of 2010. They opened a new airport, the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, in May 2010, just a month after the Deepwater Horizon explosion. The lack of incoming tourism that year meant the PCB area was off to a slow start, but apparently 2011 more than made up for it.

On September 14th 2011, the Coast Guard Joint Investigation Team released its final report on the Deepwater Horizon disaster. They found BP, Halliburton, and Transocean all at fault. Despite the horrendous loss of life, it’s good to see the region bounce back and quickly.

BP continues to receive complaints at their online complaint center.

Here at Transfer Smart we are always advising people not to buy timeshares as emergencies such as this one can derail your vacation. While the Gulf Coast saw a record year in 2011, that was a lot of new visitors. Tourists who owned timeshares in the Gulf Coast regions immediately regretted owning timeshares there, and 2010 was a complete waste of money for them. If you need to get out of a timeshare, contact us at Transfer Smart so we can give you the financial freedom you deserve.

Venezuela Travel Guide

Angel Falls

Venezuela remains off the beaten path for the American traveler. Its unusual choice as a tourist destination makes it very easy to find value here, as well as uncommon stories and discoveries sure to amaze your friends back home. Here are some of the ups and downs of traveling to this jewel of South America.

Many agents cut the large country into quadrants when discussing vacation options. Enjoy the vibrant urban center Caracás, the beaches of Isla Margarita, the Andigo Mountains in the west, or the tropical woods of Llanos.

If you choose the urban route, Caracás is known for its salsa clubs and world-class hotels and shopping. There are regional festivals to walk through, arts and crafts to buy, and an eclectic choice of restaurants to visit. Unfortunately, there is a substantially high crime rate here also. Take the local’s advice and avoid certain streets at night and wear jeans around the city instead of shorts to look more like a local would.

The beaches offer surf, fresh seafood, and miles of seclusion and relaxation. El Yague offers one of the best spots in the world for windsurfing, and the isolated beaches of Sucre are worth the effort to visit as you will find crystal-clear water and gold sands. Mochima National Park offers countless islands with protected bays that are perfect for dolphin, turtle and manta-ray snorkeling.

The countryside offers resorts in the middle of the forests, where you can eat fresh papaya off the trees and see monkeys and wild horses. There are also mountains to climb and huge waterfalls, such as Angel Falls, the world’s highest waterfall.

Avoid the public hospitals and trade USD with locals as they offer a better exchange rate. Drink Polar beer, the world’s 17th largest distributor of cerbeza. Enjoy soccer matches and premium baseball games. And most of all, have fun while in Venezuela.

Africa’s Best Safari Parks

When Western Travelers think of reasons to travel to Africa, the first one is usually to “safari.” But what is a safari? And where are the best places on this exotic continent to Safari? Transfer Smart has you covered.

A Safari can be any journey or hunting expedition, but since the word has an African origin, it’s usually considered an African trip of that nature. It is from the Swahili word safar, which means “journey” or “trip”. Contemplate these parks when you go on your Safari.

Phinda, South Africa

Phinda means “the return,” and this reserve lives up to the name. A 22,000 acre reserve in the Natal region, the area has elephants, cheetah and lion breeding projects that have been successful. Room and board at their St Lucia resort start at $500/night.

Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Here you can see giraffes, hippos and cheetahs. During July and August, enjoy the “Great Migration,” where 300,000 zebras, 500,000 gazelles and over a million wildebeests travel north from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara grasslands. The Governor’s Camp houses travelers for as low as $250/night.

Parc National des Volcans, Rwanda

Rwanda’s tourism industry is growing, as I’ve written about previously. This specific park was home to Dian Fossey of the Gorrilas in the Mist fame. As implied in its name, there are volcanoes and mountains a plenty to enjoy, as well as the “Big Five” animals: the lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant. Experience these creatures up-close for only a $600 permit. Tours can cost around $2600.