Timeshare and Cannabis: Parallel Trajectories?
Over the past year, I’ve been comparing the parallel trajectories of the burgeoning legal cannabis industry and the maturing timeshare industry. Years as a communications professional in the hospitality/travel sector and a recent interest in the cannabis industry give me the opportunity to see some amazing similarities shared by these seemingly disparate businesses.
The Wild West
In the early 80s the timeshare landscape looked like the wild west. Enthusiastic entrepreneurs charged ahead with abandon. The excited frenzy often fostered false promises and the early success of the timeshare sales lead to greed. Despite its transformation, the residual image of flashy guys with a gaudy watches sporting big gold chains still lingers, capitalized on by so-called timeshare exit companies.
Cannabis too suffered from a less than stellar reputation. When it was still called dope and pot prohibition was the law of the land, hippies with beads and headbands engendered a counter-culture lifestyle where rules were meant to be broken. Despite grassroots support for legalization–selling, buying, and using the outlawed plant lead to countless arrests and incarcerations, particularly among people of color.
While in their infancy, both industries —timeshare and cannabis—were driven by strong individuals. Initially, laws, safety and boundaries weren’t top of mind for some unscrupulous developers and chilled- out pot dealers saw no need for constricting rules.
As the public becomes more educated about the numerous benefits of marijuana, the mainstream cannabis industry is divesting its image as a bunch of stoners. Not only does weed make most people feel better emotionally, creatively, and physically, scientific data supports its medicinal uses.
The first person I met who was actually “officially” in the cannabis space told me astonishing stories of elderly patients’ reduction of Parkinson’s tremors. Another woman I met suffered so badly from epilepsy she couldn’t hold a job or drive a car. Traditional western medicine gave her horrible side effects ranging from headaches to nausea. When a friend suggested plant medicine, she figured she had nothing to lose. And she didn’t. Today she functions comfortably and is a cannabis advocate and educator. Anecdotal histories from Seth Rogen to those less visible talk about the benefits of the plant addressing anxiety, ADHD, PTSD, and stress.
In the timeshare world, a site called LoveMyTimeshare.com is an example of the continuing popularity of timeshares and vacation clubs.
This current popularity is yet another parallel.
To market, to market
In the past six years cannabis acceptance and legitimacy have brought another similarity to light. Today, with nearly all industries, internet marketing is key. Advertising regulations vary from state to state, and compliance is always a concern.
As timeshare matures into an important component of many corporate hospitality chains, it has outgrown these restraints. Back in the day, as a “marketing gal” for a successful Southern California coastal resort, I sent every timeshare ad to the Department of Real Estate for approval. Over the years, timeshare self-regulated itself, protecting buyers and owners in concert with the DRE. Along the way major hotel companies became involved and with the advent of Marriott Vacation Ownership into the industry, timeshare became destigmatized to the point it is publicly traded on Wall Street.
We see similar issues with cannabis and the economy. Highly regulated, and still not legal on a federal level, cannabis too struggles with advertising compliance guidelines. Banking issues compound the sales and marketing challenges. My financial adviser constantly reminds me he can’t present cannabis stock for client consideration. However, I may ask him to trade on my behalf. Think “ don’t ask don’t tell.”
Parallel challenges, parallel opportunities
Back in the day, I was on the front lines of supporting timeshare developers acceptance by city councils on the Southern California Coast. Hearings were held. Drawings were displayed. Eloquent and sometimes angry dialog ensued. When developers explained the revenue to be realized by taxes and tourists, the timeshare concept became mainstream and for the most part welcomed.
Fast forward to 2021. Government agencies gratefully receive tax revenue from Cannabis businesses. In my neck of the woods (In Southern California’s Coachella Valley), Cannabis billboards line the highway; Google can always find “cannabis near me”; we have consumption lounges and 420 friendly resorts. Like timeshare, Cannabis is becoming mainstream.
The proof is in the numbers: On the consumer level, approximately 1/3 of all US households own timeshares (American Resort Development Association) and 1/5 of Americans use cannabis.(New Frontier Data). Both of these industries continue to thrive.