Small But Mighty
Georgi Bohrod, RRP
When approximately 100 vacation industry leaders gathered at the Four Seasons in Whistler, B.C. last week one common thought prevailed. The intimate gathering of VO-Con’s Canadian timeshare resort developers, providers to the vacation industry and interested newcomers clearly agreed: we might be small but we’re mighty. With attendance up 20% and sponsorship at a record high, the move to an independently produced conference proved to be an overwhelming success for Jon Zwickel, President and CEO of the Canadian Vacation Ownership Association (CVOA). During his opening remarks, Jon’s rallying cry to “make timeshare great again” reverberated loud and clear.
What struck me in particular was the chance to get to “know” each member of the Board of Directors who not only voiced their opinions on various vacation industry challenges, opportunities, dilemmas and victories, but also shared their professional histories in an open and inciteful way.
Who knew that so many came from hospitality families? That Jon Zwickel’s family owned resorts in the Catskills. That Diane (Stanton) Hounsome’s Cottages at Fort Stanton evolved from a hotel built to accommodate rail passengers generations ago and that Wyndham’s Gord Minor started as a houseman to rise through the ranks to regional director of one of timeshare’s largest companies. These anecdotal tales set the stage –not for presentations but conversations—opened the door to honest dialogues about the Canadian Vacation Ownership Industry’s greatest focus: to work hard to help people have extraordinary vacations.
As Francis Taylor, newly elected Chairman of the Board of Directors of CVOA said that “as an industry we have to be lobbyists for our product. Canadians are travelers. Canadians purchase Timeshares. Our job is to play a role in helping people use what they bought.”
Time and time again, the discussion turned to experiences. Timeshare Vacationing is no longer just about the accommodations. The consensus at CVOA is that the future of vacationing lies in the merging of hospitality, great travel experiences and accommodations. Jon proffered that we should approach these visions with naivete and creativity. In my mind, the concept is like Shoshin, the Japanese concept of approaching with a child’s mind with no preconceived ideas. This is what allows for true creativity.
Of course, it wasn’t all sweetness and light. There was plenty of grousing about the increase in the minimum wage and how it is affecting the service industry, which, along with improved technology, is driving the move to self-service. As with any new business innovations there are learning curves and these Canadians and folks who do business with or for Canadians are learning how to make this move positive.
Two great speakers added zest to the experience. World famous Indian Chef Vikram Vij and Motivational Hypnotist Wayne Lee left the group with exceptional messages, good food and uncontrollable laughter.
How can you miss when you are awash in beautiful weather, extraordinary surroundings and exceptional people? VO-Con 2018 is definitely on my list for next year.