Marriott Vacations Worldwide, the timeshare giant spun off from Marriott eight years ago, is now a year into its acquisition of Interval Leisure Group and is expecting to see more than $100 million in synergies, according to the company's CEO, Steve Weisz.
Weisz told Cheddar on Thursday that Marriott Vacations "roughly doubled the size of our business as a result of this acquisition," which gives the company much-needed scale as it competes for travelers' dollars with Airbnb, HomeAway and other digital upstarts working in the sharing economy.
Where Marriott Vacations differentiates itself, Weisz said, is in amenities. Whereas Airbnb markets itself to vacationers who want to "live like a local," the timeshare business is still about providing a product that typically involves more space and a "fully amenitized" resort experience, Weisz said. "Plus the professional management we bring to the party."
Weisz is cognizant of the changing generational trends in travel, as younger vacationers want flexibility, experiential trips and "don't want to go to the same place every year." Marriott Vacations offers 10,000 experiences throughout its portfolio of 110 resorts, he said.
With rising fears that a recession is looming, Weisz said the conventional wisdom that people don't take trips in a down economy is mistaken. Even at the height of the Great Recession, people were going on vacation, even as their homes were being foreclosed upon, he said. "It was rather incredible."
Weisz noted that if consumer confidence takes a prolonged dip, it could hit timeshare closing rates, but he remains confident about the company's prospects. "We're in the business of putting people on vacation. That's the one thing that doesn't change," Weisz said, "Everybody still wants to go on vacation."