Anantara Vacation Club expects sharp growth in Chinese members
Martin Tolan joined Anantara Vacation Club in early 2013 as senior vice-president of sales and marketing and was promoted as chief operating officer last year. Before Anantara Vacation Club, Tolan spent 15 years in key senior leadership positions at Starwood Vacation Ownership in the US, Mexico and the Caribbean.
What is Anantara Vacation Club’s business model?
Anantara Vacation Club is in the business of developing resorts and selling vacation ownership at these resorts. Buyers or members buy ownership of stay in hotels. We make profits from proceeds generated as a result of sales and marketing of the membership. We are a kind of developer, of second homes. What we sell is an alternative to second homes.
A lot of people say they do not want second homes because they do not like the hassle or can’t afford them.
Under the vacation ownership concept, owners purchase a flexible period of time that allows them to holiday in some of the most luxurious places at a one-time fixed price, locking in future holiday accommodation costs at today’s values.
When did your company start making profits? How many members does it have?
Anantara Vacation Club started being profitable after its membership reached 3,000 members. We now have 7,000 members.
What’s your ambition in the coming years? How many members do you want to have? Will they mainly be from China?
I see the number crossing 25,000 to 30,000. There were 100 million outbound travellers in China last year and the number will grow to 200 million in 2020. So you cannot ignore the Chinese market. China is the biggest market for everybody.
Who are your competitors ? What is your group’s niche?
Marriott, Wyndham and Hilton. The niche of Anantara Vacation Club is that compared to its competitors, it offers owners much more vacation options/locations in Asia. It is expanding aggressively.
We are a developer under a brand. That way we can manage the quality and services of the products. Those assets are put into a trust, to ensure owners’ interests are protected. They own shares in the trust. The assets are what the members use.
Should buyers consider vacation ownership as an investment?
No, you should not look at your vacation ownership purchase as an investment. It is a programme designed to enhance the holiday experiences available to you, allowing you to lock in your resort accommodation at today’s prices to avoid inflation, and guarantee you holiday options for years to come.
It is just like buying a car. You buy a car and you use it. Some people buy vacation ownership thinking that it is a way to make money, either by subletting it out to friends or family, which you may be able to do. However, a better choice may be to gift holidays to your wider family and friends’ network.
Members are required to pay club fees, what are they used for?
Similar to owning a condominium, the payment of club fees guarantees the upkeep of the owners’ purchases over the years, with the fees used to maintain resorts, enhance facilities and programmes, and provide ancillary services. With all monies being used to manage and maintain your club, you are ensured peace of mind in relation to the maintenance of your club resorts.
What is Asian’ vacation style?
The interesting thing is generation travel. Parents, children with grandparents will stay in one apartment, instead of two or three hotel rooms. They can also cook. Chinese are active tourists. They like beaches but they just take a couple of pictures and they are gone.
What is your background?
I worked for Starwood Vacation Ownership throughout the US, Mexico and the Caribbean for 15 years, before that I owned and operated my own company and ending up selling it in 1997. At Starwood Vacation Ownership I was a vice-president. I came to Asia for vacation and fell in love with the Anantara brand, and Anantara ended up recruited me During the global financial crisis, there wasn’t much fun in the US and I was looking for a change. They recruited me as they wanted somebody with brand experience.