Sherri Weeks, the Vice President of Business Development for ResorTime, is a pioneer in the travel industry. And she tells a great story about how the website for ResorTime got started in 1999, around the same time Al Gore spawned the great debate over who invented the internet. When ResorTime Travelers (RTT) had the pleasure of sitting down with Sherri, we really didn’t want our chat to end. This is Part 1 of our chat about the founding of ResorTime.
RTT: What was your vision when you came up with ResorTime?
Sherri: Well, at that time I ran owner services at Grand Pacific Resorts. And one of the issues we had was making sure our owners were getting enough use because Bonus Time was one of the key benefits they were sold at that time. And what that meant was that on top of the week they purchased, owners would have the ability to go to their home resort and stay a couple of nights at a really reduced rate. So it really kind of helped them use their ownership all year long.
RTT: And what led to creating the ResorTime website?
Sherri: In 1999, our third year as a company, our owner, David Brown, wondered how we could continue to grow our reservations. And I said I thought we needed to use the Internet. And he said: “Oh, that internet. It’s just a fad. It’s not going to stick around.” I said: “David, I really think it’s going to stay around. Here’s what I’m thinking. If we can build this central location where all the resorts can display their availability in one place, and all the owners, guests and even the general public can come and access this inventory and book it right online, then I think we’ll really be successful.” So he said it was worth looking into.
RTT: And you developed a website within three months?
Sherri: Yes, and that’s the foundation that we have built on over the years.
RTT: How was the website received?
Sherri: The guests really liked it, and we started to see bookings trickle in over time. In the beginning, we thought we might not need a call center. But I felt we needed the service aspect.
RTT: What is the benefit for consumers and owners of the ResorTime website? And what are the differences between a Timeshare rental versus a hotel rental?
Sherri: When we launched the website, we initially built it for Timeshare owners, so that they would have a place to go for the accommodations they were accustomed to. Once you stay in a Timeshare, it’s really hard to go back to staying in a hotel room, and I personally don’t like making coffee in the bathroom. With a Timeshare, you have the ability to spread out. And for our Timeshare owners, once they own one, it really becomes a lifestyle.
RTT: What existed before ResorTime for Timeshare owners?
Sherri: There were big exchange companies that put out giant directories that were like catalogs. It’s really tough to pick your vacation out of a catalog.
RTT: What other travel websites were around when you launched in 1999?
Sherri: We were ahead of our time launching this website. I don’t believe there were any other Timeshare websites out there. Online travel agencies were barely off the ground at that point. I remember some of the new online agencies came knocking on our door, literally in that time period, saying: “We wonder if you might like to list your rooms with us.” So we really helped to launch Timeshare onto a new space. And we were able to add a new component into it, the general public who didn’t own a Timeshare.
RTT: How does a Timeshare compare with a vacation rental?
Sherri: The big difference is that it’s professionally managed. And it’s going to have a lot more service than what you’re going to get in someone’s personal condo or apartment that you rent online. When you rent a Timeshare, the accommodations should be your core overall vacation experience. The sightseeing and the attractions that you when you’re on vacation take up time during the day to help you see and do new things. But what should really be the most important part is that time you get to spend together when you go back to your resort at the end of the day.