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Unless they work on a bit of re-invention, the hard-sell tactics of time-share companies and the C-list quality of their properties will always make the field seem like the used-car lot of the travel industry.

Time-share executives gathered in Orlando this week said that, despite the battering the industry took during the recession and global financial crisis, they hope to return to sales levels seen before the 2007-09 economic downturn.

But they also expressed concern about the still-uncertain economy and what it might mean for time-share development going forward.

“There is a very tight correlation between consumer confidence and people’s inclination to pull the trigger on a time-share purchase,” said Steve Weisz, president and chief executive officer of Orlando-based Marriott Vacations Worldwide, said during the 14th annual Shared Ownership Investment Conference at the Peabody Orlando hotel.

The time-share industry, which is largely based in Central Florida, was hit hard by the collapse of Lehman Bros. in 2008 and the ensuing credit squeeze, which made it very difficult to finance time-share purchases. Only now are many companies getting some relief.

Capital One Financial Corp., a major bank best-known for its “What’s in your wallet?” credit-card operation, entered the market for time-share financing earlier this year, filling a void left by the departure of two other major lenders. The move was hailed Thursday in Orlando as “manna from Heaven” by Howard Nusbaum, president of the American Resort Development Association.

“Sitting here in 2012 and being able to talk to developers who have made it over the last three, four years, it’s a really good testament to the industry,” said James Casey, a Capital One senior vice president.

Still, other issues remain. Many time-share companies cut back on building new resorts during the recession, and as inventory wanes, they will soon be looking for acquisition and construction loans.

“That demand is really starting to pick up as the developers are working through the inventory they have amassed,” said Ron Goldberg, president of Wellington Financial, a long-time time-share lender.

Also, baby boomers who historically have been a strong market for time-share companies are giving way to members of Generation X, whose preferences for vacationing can vary greatly from their parents’. And consumers generally are developing a more international outlook when planning their travel, some industry members said.

“They’re buying in Branson, [Mo.], but they’re thinking of Bangkok,” Nusbaum said.

(c)2012 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.


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