The American Resort Development Association Seeks International Relevance – And Achieves It
This past April, the annual convention of the American Resort Development Association (ARDA) took place at a beachside resort hotel in sunny Florida. What may surprise you is that about a fifth of the attendees – more than 420 people – were international delegates.
True to its name – ARDA World – the yearly meeting of ARDA is becoming increasingly global. And not only in terms of attendees, asmany sessions include panelists representing countries from around the world, dealing with topics both of universal importance and regional relevance.
“ARDA has a very large responsibility because we are the largest and best-capitalized of all the trade associations,” explains Howard Nusbaum, ARDA president and CEO. “The 2010 worldwide study numbers indicate $14 billion in sales – and between Mexico, Canada and the United States you’re looking at $10 billion of it. Basically, to speak in round numbers, about three-quarters of the sales are in North America,” he states. “But where is it growing? It’s that other quarter.”
As we look forward to the ARDA World 2014 Annual Convention & Expo in Las Vegas next April, RCIVentures.com decided to dig a bit deeper into the significance of ARDA’s international aspirations.
RCI’s booth at ARDA World 2013
What is the value of the event on an international scale?
Gordon Gurnik, president of RCI and head of the company’s global operations: Broadly, it’s a chance for the industry to come together and share our ideas. It’s become a lot more about networking. People are focused on ‘How can we share ideas?’ and discussing ways to grow the business, and there’s a lot more collaboration – and ARDA is a great platform for that to happen. With their “ARDA World” strategy, you’re seeing even more of that global cross pollination and ideas being shared – and that ultimately is good for the entire industry.
Dimitris Manikis, RCI’s vice president, Business Development Europe, Middle East and Africa: For me in particular, it’s engaging with our international colleagues – the people I talk to frequently but don’t see regularly. But most of all it’s about leaving the conference with a positive attitude and a reinforced belief that we are in the right business, and there is a great future for our industry going forward.
I’m always inspired by ARDA’s collaborative environment and the organization’s success in finding the funding to support its initiatives and its lobbying efforts. The conference itself is not a conference to talk about how great ARDA is – it’s more of a conference to re-establish the fact that our industry is extremely ripe, vital and strong. So every time I go to ARDA I get revitalized, I see the bigger picture and its opportunities, and I leave the conference extremely excited about the future of our industry.
Can the rest of the world learn anything from the U.S. industry?
Gurnik: I think so. The United States has been sort of the leader from that perspective; it’s probably the most mature timeshare market and the most sophisticated from an operator perspective. A lot of the rest of the world tends to look at the U.S. in general to see how they’ve worked and innovated.
And I think you’re still seeing that. As the downturn occurred, a lot of U.S. companies got very creative about how to continue to grow their business and how to continue to be a dynamic timeshare company. You’re seeing people looking to that and trying to emulate it in other markets, and I think they’ll have success with that.
Manikis: There’s so much to learn, but I will stick to two key elements:
- Lobbying – the U.S. is so strong in creating awareness and fighting for the well-being of the industry.
- Collaboration – some key players in Europe are not part of the RDO [Resort Development Organisation, the European trade association]. I don’t understand why. We need to sit in one room and with one voice work together for the future of our industry.
At ARDA, you’ve got all the big players. They’re competitors and they have their differences, but they all work very hard together to protect the industry. That’s a great lesson for us.
Nusbaum: What we in the United States need to say is, ‘This is what we’ve learned about our business model – the pros, the cons, the challenges. Take that information, look at your situation, and see what makes sense.’
So what can America learn? We can learn about the opportunities; the joint venturing around the world. We can learn the fact that the product around the world is maybe not as tied to perpetuity, which is probably a positive. There’s much to learn.