Whether or not this is in response to the growing popularity of home share rental platforms like Airbnb and the like, this growing trend is a reflection of how today's travelers want to spend their vacations, and where they want to be.
While the majority of vacation timeshares are found in locations where you’ll find swaying palm trees, white-sand beaches, and waves, some vacation rental companies are branching out into major metropolises like New York City, Boston, and Washington, D.C.
At least that’s the case with Marriott Vacation Club’s newest collection of timeshares. Called Marriott Vacation Club Pulse, this group of five properties is located in five major U.S. cities — New York, Boston, D.C., Miami, and San Diego — and each offers a more urban than resort-like experience. All of the locations, with the exception of the Boston one, are fairly new conversions and all have also undergone renovations or are being renovated now.
Marriott isn’t alone in expanding its timeshare collection to big cities. Hilton Grand Vacations Club also has two locations in New York City, as well as in Vancouver and Miami.
So, why offer more urban timeshare experiences? What’s driving these vacation rental brands to expand to cities?
“There’s a strong demand for city-centric properties,” said Ed Kinney, VP of corporate affairs and communications for Marriott Vacations Worldwide. “We’ve known our owners and guests are eager to explore new places and try new experiences, especially those in more urban locations. It’s an exciting extension to our Marriott Vacation Club brand, and one that expands our vacation choices into even more destinations, all with a very unique style. Our owners and guests can truly immerse themselves in the cultures, local scenes, and neighborhoods of some of their favorite cities.”
Dr. Amy Gregory, an assistant professor with the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management, said that companies like Marriott Vacations and Hilton Grand Vacations Club are expanding their collections with city locations to “get new experiences for their owners, and also to respond to what owners want,” which is more city vacations.
“People are doing more urban vacations,” said Gregory, who has more than 25 years of professional experience working in the timeshare segment. “More and more people are going to urban areas and wanting to explore what they have to offer. You can see by the locations that Marriott picked that these are prime urban destinations for vacationers.”
How Urban Timeshares Differ from Traditional Resort Timeshares
For one thing, the city timeshare properties generally offer less space than timeshares in beach resort areas simply because space in those cities can often be limited and that real estate space is also much more expensive.
“Real estate is expensive and scarce in top urban markets, but can be found,” said Gregory. “It’s a supply and demand balance that drives price.”
To that end, Marriott Vacations’ Kinney said that each of the new Pulse locations is “designed for shorter, more active stays” and “quick getaways.”
Because stays at the city properties will be shorter than more traditional timeshare stays, Gregory said having these kinds of experiences available will add to the flexibility owners want in terms of being able to use up their points for smaller trips or getaways.
The New York city property, for example, emphasizes a rooftop bar while the Boston property plays up its historic lounge. The San Diego property, which is taking reservations for July 1, is described as being “inspired by San Diego’s renowned Gaslamp Quarter.”
When it comes to activities for timeshare owners, you probably won’t find them playing rounds of golf or tennis, or lounging by expansive pools at these city properties.
“At Marriott Vacation Club Pulse locations, the action of the vacation is found outside the property — in the city and in the neighborhoods,” Kinney said. “Activities at each property will be dictated by what’s happening in the cities and neighborhoods, and will continually be evolving.”
Gregory, for one, pondered if the new Marriott Vacation Club Pulse in New York might offer historical walking tours, or wine and food experiences. “Those are probably the kinds of things that they will likely offer. They may not have full-fledged activities programs like you might see at a traditional resort. A full-fledged activities program isn’t quite as necessary or critical because people are there for such a short period of time.”
Is This a Response to Airbnb?
As the timeshare market increasingly eyes the next generation of timeshare owners, could they be using these urban properties to try to appeal more to Millennials? Is offering more urban experiences that let guests explore cities and local neighborhoods appealing to the type of traveler who may prefer a home-share rental on Airbnb?
Kinney said, “Not really at all. Creating Marriott Vacation Club Pulse was in response to our owners and guests telling us they’d like more urban properties, with city-centric experiences. It’s a great opportunity for us and we’ll continue to evolve it.”
Gregory sees the move not so much as a direct response to Airbnb, but a more general response to what’s happening in the overall travel market.
“Whether or not Marriott would say this is a direct response to Airbnb as competition, I don’t know, but I think it’s a response to customers demanding more of an Airbnb experience, and both hoteliers and timesharing companies are responding to it,” she said. “It’s all about giving people an experience at the local level, and you see the lodging industry, timeshares included, looking for this new contemporary idea of vacationing that consumers are requesting.”
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Photo credit: The view from the rooftop bar at the new Marriott Vacation Club Pulse - New York City. Marriott Worldwide Vacations / Marriott Vacations Worldwide