How RCI Will Make a Difference in Georgia

How RCI Will Make a Difference in Georgia

“Georgia is a relatively undiscovered gem of a tourist destination.”

With approximately 4,300 affiliated resorts in over 100 countries, and 3.8 million member families worldwide, RCI, the largest timeshare vacation exchange service provider in the world, has added Georgia to its destination map.

The shared vacation ownership model will transform Georgia’s vacation industry. RCI and the Alliance Group are currently in negotiations to formalize an agreement which will give Georgians the opportunity to try the timeshare experience in summer 2017, while Georgian resorts will become available for foreign holidaymakers from 2018.

RCI has been operating a vacation exchange business since 1974, and is a pioneer of the vacation swap concept. It is popular with large family groups because it makes financial sense for those taking regular vacations, offering space, home comforts and a safe resort environment. By purchasing a specific block of time, usually a week or more, on a resort property, holidays in spacious quality accommodation offering privacy and many amenities become affordable for larger families.

A timeshare-owning family from Georgia will have the option to holiday in the resort they have bought their timeshare at – their home resort – or they can place their week at that resort into the RCI exchange pool and take out a week’s stay at another resort somewhere else in the world. Using this vacation exchange program, a timeshare owner can access family-sized accommodation for far less cost than they would by staying in several hotel rooms or a private rental property of equivalent size. Upon payment of a small RCI membership fee, Georgian member families can return to their home resorts to vacation at no further cost. Should they choose to exchange their home stay period for a vacation outside of Georgia, there would only be a small exchange fee payable. Likewise, foreign timeshare-owning families choosing Georgia can exchange their timeshare to enjoy their vacations at high-class Alliance resorts which are affiliated to RCI, for a small exchange fee. Because RCI members have paid for their timeshare vacation periods up front – buying one of more weeks’ use, to use every year for a contracted number of years, usually 5, 10 or 15 years’ use – they have no accommodation rental or hotel room fees to pay when taking their families away on holiday.

With RCI being part of Wyndham Destination Network, the worldwide leader in vacation exchange and the European leader in vacation rentals, Georgia truly is in experienced international marketing hands, as the resorts offered by the Alliance Group will be promoted worldwide through Wyndham’s global property distribution platforms. The numbers speak for themselves – tourism has the potential to create tens of thousands of jobs within Georgia, as well as bringing in the tourist dollar to boost the country’s revenues. Little surprise that the Georgian Government is supportive of developing its tourism infrastructure, as it recognizes Georgia, as a vacation brand, will become a valuable export. To share more on this, Forbes Georgia prepared an exclusive interview with Dimitris Manikis, RCI Vice President of Business Development for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

It’s the first time a Georgian company has joined the RCI global vacation exchange program. What are the main reasons your company became interested in our country?

In the five years between 2011 and 2016 it has been reported that international visitor figures to Georgia increased from 2.8 million up to over 6 million. These figures clearly demonstrate growth in the tourism sector, which represents an opportunity for the hospitality industry, and for its shared-vacation ownership sector, in which RCI is the global leader – as far as the holiday exchange component of the industry is concerned.

The country’s Department of Tourism and Resorts is committed to developing tourism, as it has the potential to contribute significantly to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). As a member of the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the World Trade Organisation, among other bodies, Georgia is part of a European and international community. It enjoys political and economic stability and has an established legal structure, all of which offer resort developers the security and ease of operation they are looking for.

The hospitality industry has been established in the country, with more than 100 resorts already in operation. We see resorts in Georgia as benefiting from its location at the cross-roads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, attracting visitors from many neighboring countries, such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Russia and Ukraine, all having relatively wealthy middle classes with the aspiration to travel.

Georgia’s varied climate, ranging between sub-tropical in some areas to continental, together with a rich culture borne out of its antiquity, many tourist attractions, and some spectacular mountainous landscapes, have succeeded in attracting significant numbers of visitors from as far away as the US, Germany and Poland.

We believe Georgia is a relatively undiscovered gem as a tourist destination. It has many of the elements and attractions RCI vacationing members are looking for – a good summer climate, rich culture and iconic attractions. It is a safe and stable country offering a variety of authentic experiences that are just waiting to be discovered, and we at RCI are confident we can market Georgia successfully to our international member base.

Why Alliance Group?

The Alliance Group has longevity in its operation, being founded in 2005 and having invested more than $200 million in a range of ventures over the past 11 years. This speaks to its reliability and tells us that this is a company we can trust. The Alliance Group also has much experience in property valuation and asset management – it knows a good real estate opportunity when it comes along – and its local market knowledge and expertise in Georgia is what shared-vacation ownership operators need in a business partner.

We feel that the shared ownership model is a great complement to the Alliance Group’s expansion into the wider leisure real estate field, providing a very profitable and practical alternative to local consumers, who are looking to holiday at an Alliance property, as well as for tourists who are looking to return to Georgia for many years of vacationing while, at the same time, taking advantage of the global vacation exchange platform that RCI provides.

What will RCI affiliation bring Alliance Group?

The business teams of the Wyndham Hotel Group (WHG) and RCI work very closely together to offer a unique suite of benefits, bringing the advantages of an unrivalled international reach to resort developments of all scale and size. We want to bring these advantages, as well as our expertise and experience in the hospitality sector to the Alliance Group.

We are currently in negotiation and are discussing the many different business models we could work with, and these range from a franchise and resort management agreement whereby they would benefit from the association with the Wyndham and RCI brands, to providing the back office mechanisms which will deliver a world-class vacation exchange service to the owners of their leisure properties – be they residential leisure real estate in the form of second home villas and rental properties, or standard timeshare ownerships.

Once we have agreed on the services we will provide, using the collaboration with both WHG and RCI, we will support Alliance and its resorts in marketing and sales: optimizing brand promotion and maximizing the distribution of accommodation through the multi-faceted, multi-channel program, Wyndham and RCI, together, are uniquely positioned to deliver.

Our services will be tailored to the needs of the Alliance Group, and could be extended to working with them in feasibility studies, strategic demand planning, operational support in resort, and sales analysis and reporting.

How did your partnership with the Alliance Group start and what are your expectations?

Our business association started as a result of the Alliance Group’s leadership’s continuous quest for new opportunities: new business models to implement throughout their business, and to identify opportunities to open up new distribution channels for its residential and tourism-related projects.

Our expectation is for both parties to grow together, to create a new revenue and client stream for the Alliance Group, as well as supporting the introduction of the Georgian tourism product to a wider audience around the world through our international vacation exchange platform.

How supportive have you found the Georgian and Adjarian Governments during the course of your negotiations with local resort developers?

Since Wyndham and RCI started exploring business opportunities for their resort developer associates, as well as their own businesses, we have found the Georgian and Adjarian Governments to have been most supportive of our initiative to develop and implement a club vacation scheme in Georgia. We have met with Georgian Government representatives to discuss several resort development projects.

We were greatly encouraged by the engagement and interest the government showed in our projects. The Adjarian Government has since expressed its appreciation to the Alliance Group for attracting overseas interest in new tourism projects to its country. Tourism has always been a big revenue generator for countries which actively encourage its development and so the Georgian and Adjarian Governments are clearly very pleased to learn that Wyndham Hotel Group, together with RCI, plans to jointly implement international hospitality projects with the Alliance Group. This level of government support is crucial in making our plans viable. Of particular importance is the governments’ help and direction in understanding the regulatory and legislative requirements of the country, so that our projects operate in accordance with the best international practice and local structural and legal

Could you please name the top resorts in RCI’S portfolio?

There isn’t a simple answer to this question, as each member nationality has different vacation destination preferences. Spain and the Canary Islands are generally very popular with all nationalities, including our Russian members, who also show a preference for Finland and Hungary. While our members in the Middle East like to travel to India, Turkey, Malaysia and the US. One thing we do know is that our members want us to open up new, unique and exciting destinations to them which means one of the key business objectives of RCI and my business development team is to expand the geography of our vacation options, which is why Georgia and the CIS is of interest to us. 

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