TimeshareAdvisor aims to be the first unbiased and comprehensive timeshare source that provides information and user-generated reviews for the timeshare market (totalling 1,548 resorts in the US and more than 5,000 globally) without charging fees to consumers.
The goal of the US-headquartered site, still in beta, is to focus on the timeshare owners’ overall vacation experience, from planning the trip to their actual stay. Income will be derived from advertising sales and sponsorships.
TimeshareAdvisor is privately funded by friends and family angel investors. Principal executives include Suzanne Harris, an online marketing professional experienced in the timeshare space, and David Tossell, general manager.
Q&A with founder Suzanne Harris:
What problem does your start-up solve differently to what is already out there?
TimeshareAdvisor works for both the industry and consumers in an underserved market. More than 8.4 million timeshare intervals are owned in the US alone.
The site provides resort managers with the opportunity to showcase their properties and consumers to rate their stays. Consumer reviews and user-generated photos of specific resorts, plus forums for timeshare enthusiasts to swap tips.
A unique feature of timeshareAdvisor is its “manager tips” section, within each property’s Overview page. Resort managers are able to highlight the amenities of their property and learn about area attractions and activities.
Here is an example of a resort that has highlighted their Featured Amenities on their Overview page. Here's another example from a property in Florida.
TimeshareAdvisor’s comprehensive, ‘Manager Tips’ questionnaire was designed to include topics to address questions consumers might have before arriving at the resort and once they are there, such as pool information, exercise and fitness, dining (on property and nearby), local attractions, room amenities/features, parking, and smoking policy.
Why should people or companies use your startup?
To become a member all a consumer has to do is create a profile. There is no fee, as many other online timeshare sites charge.
TimeshareAdvisor also offers an incentive-based Go and Tell Points program. Timeshare enthusiasts are rewarded for posting reviews and photos with points that qualify for frequent iPad mini prize drawings.
On the B2B side, our free marketing services provide resorts with the opportunity to further promote their property to sales prospects and future guests.
What is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers?
Our strategy for raising awareness and getting new members includes both online and traditional approaches.
Tactics include organic search, online display and PPC advertising, social media channels including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc., social farming, sweepstakes, blogging, trade and consumer PR, print media and trade events.
A variety of highly regarded experts in the fields of online marketing, social media, public relations and technology worldwide are also "closely involved" in the company. They'll help get the word out.
How did your initial idea evolve?
Having worked in the travel industry for a number of years, my partners and I recognized that there was a real void in the timeshare space.
What is wrong with the travel that requires another startup to help it out?
TimeshareAdvisor aims to be the first site to appeal to both industry professionals and consumers in this niche market.
Our company vision is to be a trusted, comprehensive review and informational resource for both customers and resorts. Credible, unbiased reviews will encourage resorts to identify their respective strong points and those that may require attention.
Timeshare often comes with its fair share of criticism, yet timeshare owners have a very high satisfaction rate, according to surveys.
The U.S. timeshare industry is a $6.5 billion a yearbusiness and one of the fastest growing segments in the global travel and tourism industries according to ARDA, the American Resort Development Association.
The space's longtime leaders have been the long-time US message board sites Red Week and Timeshare Users Group, which help owners to rent out their properties during intervals they can't use them themselves.
Similar startups include three-year old Timeshare Juice, which Tnooz has profiled.
These listings sites emphasize the facilitation of swaps and resales of properties.
One of the biggest challenges facing new marketplaces is what angel investor Brian Balfour has described as the chicken-or-the-egg problem — "With a small number of people on the platform, the value to each individual user is small, so how do you get more users to join?"
This poses a problem for startups that many founders choose to ignore. As investor Peter Thiel has said, "The conventional thinking is that great products sell themselves; if you have great product, it will inevitably reach consumers. But nothing is further from the truth."
Will the founders of TimeshareAdvisor focus on scalable customer acquisition? Will they build off one or two customer acquisition channels at most, sometimes "paying" for users and doing A/B testing?
We also worry about possible brand infringement on TripAdvisor's marekting with the name TimeshareAdvisor. Let's hope the giant TA doesn't bully a little guy.
NB:TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.