RDO10 Conference: What did we achieve?
European timeshare body, RDO, delivered a unique, informative and insightful conference on 11-12 September 2019, in an event that marked its 21st anniversary as an organisation.
Keynote speakers, panelists and top industry experts urged delegates from across the European shared-holiday ownership industry to deliberate the theme ‘The Next Chapter’ – which reflected the fundamental shift in consumer needs and preferences in travel today.
Consumers are travelling more than ever before, paving the way for the industry to triumph and deliver products in line with their holiday and purchasing preferences.
While existing economic and political challenges poses potential obstacles, there was an overarching opportunistic theme to this year’s event, which gave resort developers and key industry players the tools to harness prospects in the market.
Kicking off with a breakout session on Yield Management – Slicing the pie, Daniel Bates and Roman Sucharzewski, Diamond Resorts, together with Guy Mantel, CLC World Resorts & Hotels, gave delegates a one-stop-shop on risk-taking and balancing in the world of inventory yield management.
Drawing on their own insight on maximising timings, gauging information from call centres and cross-fertilisation of inventory, the speakers also discussed the impact Brexit has already had on travel choices and how each company is tackling this. Brand awareness, driving direct bookings and digital advertising also ranked highly on the speakers’ list of top tips.
RDO’s legal panel delivered a highly insightful update on the areas the organisation is most engaged with at present, including success with various scam companies targeting consumers to ensure protection of owners.
Leo Johnson, Disruption Lead at PwC, launched the formal conference agenda with a thought-provoking, invigorating and somewhat harrowing keynote speech, after giving delegates the choice of ‘the dark side’ or ‘the light side’ with many delegates inevitably selecting to hear the darker outlook.
Impact of technology
Technology and artificial intelligence (AI) are moving at a rapid pace and Johnson highlighted that it will not be long until robots and automation dominate our lives.
AI is also rapidly increasing, and considering the early species of humans took more than 600,000 years to double its brain size, AI has already outsmarted us and is getting smarter each day. White-collar jobs are vanishing across the world with robots improving efficiencies, and yet we are only at the brink of the change which is to come.
In concluding, drawing upon Marilyn Monroe’s infamous saying, ‘good things fall apart so that better things can come together,’ Johnson’s ‘light side’ of his speech shared the many positives to come from decentralisation, referring to it as a ‘rediscovery of normals’ to provide equal opportunities for all.
Leading on from Johnson was Daniel Hulme, CEO and Founder at Satalia, who delivered the second keynote speech of the conference on how data has become the fabric of our universe, and linking into Johnson’s argument that AI has superseded human intelligence.
Using examples, including the many ways humans can interpret one sentence, Hulme explained how data bots can quickly identify logic, and gain more insight from the data we collect than humans possibly ever could.
All 100 employees at Hulme’s company Satalia set their own salaries and their own KPIs, working in an environment with flat hierarchy – which, in a decentralised world, could be the direction for many businesses in the future.
Within this ‘next chapter’ of new consumer preferences, new ways of working and saturated digital spaces, brand is arguably more important now than ever before. Ste Davis tackled this in his presentation – ‘how to build an influential brand online in the age of digital disruption’.
Sharing how Facebook and Google have dictated and dominated direction for many brands, Davis used the example of how UniLad and other businesses have fallen victim to the companies’ change in tact for SEO and algorithms.
To combat this, strong brand values and customer loyalty are essential to create a ‘moat’ around a business by owning the brand, securing it, building it to last and growing its value proposition to drive consumers directly to your website.
Influencers are changing journalism as we know it, but now that consumers have become savvy, Davis explained to delegates that this is likely to be another change to come.
Online reviews are also integral to a strong brand and reputable business as Jordan Pellant from Trustpilot explained in his session, ‘Online Reviews: An untapped channel for the timeshare industry’. Pellant took delegates through a presentation on how Trustpilot has enhanced many businesses’ review rates, thus encouraging direct bookings and repeat activity, highlighting the importance of review response time and empowering employees to service guests online post their resort stay.
As is the case for many industries, claims management companies pose potential challenges which must be overcome to ensure the protection of consumers. Chris Emmins, Co-founder and Director of KwikChex, was recognised as a ‘Consumer Hero 2019’ by the UK Trading Standards Institute for his work to identify scammers and bring them to justice.
Emmins gave delegates an insightful update on his progress, following the extra funds raised by RDO members for this important initiative.
2019 marked an important year for the industry with the launch of the European Resort Owners’ Coalition (EUROC). Jane Gilmartin, Ken McKelvey and Nigel Howells shared an update on the fantastic support the organisation has already received from resort developers and Home Owners Associations which has helped fuel its growth and success.
The RDO10 conference was brought to a close by a panel of industry specialists: Robin Mills, Vice President, Business Development, EMEA – RCI Exchanges; Darren Ettridge, SVP Resort Sales & Service EMEAA, Interval International; Jason Gamel, President & CEO, ARDA; José Puente Orench, Solicitor, Gomez-Acebo & Pombo; Lee Dowling, Managing Director EME, Marriott Vacations Worldwide Corporation and Paul Gardner-Bougaard, Chief Executive, RDO.
The panel deliberated whether we are moving fast enough as an industry to meet the demands of today’s consumers, and what more can be done to refresh our mindsets and invigorate our products.
Short-term ownership products, lifestyle benefits and taking it back to basics where all key themes in the conversation, but the prevailing outcome was the opportunity the hospitality and real estate industry has – demonstrating that there is a seat at the table for the companies who wish to take it.