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By Cait DeBaun, Project: Time Off

On October 5th, a diverse and influential group of thought leaders in business and human resources gathered in Washington, D.C. to think about one important question: since American workers aren’t taking their time off, what can we do to reverse that trend?

We’re so glad they asked.

Over the course of this year’s Upside of Downtime Forum, experts like David Dye, Dan Schawbel, Samantha Brown, Juliet Funt, and Guy Kawasaki — in concert with Project: Time Off experts — provided a variety of answers to that broad and important question.

Here’s a taste of five of the biggest concepts that you can start putting into motion at your office today — most of them might be easier to do than you think.

  1. Create a magnetic culture.

In an age when talent recruitment and retention often makes the difference in whether a business succeeds or fails, an engaging culture is imperative. (Not to mention the incredibly high cost of turnover.) But while that can feel like a big issue for one individual to solve — especially if your workplace has several divisions or is geographically spread — it’s important to remember that most employees see their boss as the top influencer in their life. A better culture can be as simple as keeping in mind the three P’s Deloitte’s David Dye believes truly drive employees: pride, purpose, and passion. If you can offer those three things — whether it’s by incorporating an innovative vacation policy or just in everyday interaction — workers will be happier, engaged, and more productive.

  1. Be predictable and flexible.

Our most recent research on the subject shows that over half of Americans don’t take all their time off every year. That’s not the case at Deloitte, where 81 percent of the firm’s nearly 245,000 employees use all their paid time off every year. How? It’s the result of a reinvention of an approach to performance management and new policies that provide local leaders the autonomy to find the right solution for their people.

What that really means is that it’s about communication. Deloitte managers ask three key questions of their direct reports: What inspires you? What’s getting in your way? How can I help? It may seem simple, but even asking these questions can help you better understand employee needs and desires — whether that’s about taking time off or anything else.

  1. Encourage people to take ownership.

Instilling self-engagement in employees is both cost-effective and offers significant return on investment. By fostering a positive culture and communicating — and, in action, empowering them to make decisions like taking time off when they need it — you will encourage them to not only want to stay at the job, but excel as self-sufficient operators. “Say to people, I trust you, I trust your judgement,” Guy Kawasaki explained. “I empower you to take action.” This is especially important for Millennial employees — the future of any organization’s management force. One way Dan Schawbel suggests companies do this is by through flexible work options—that include vacation. Flexibility inherently shows your employees you trust them.

  1. Seek authenticity.

Sam Brown knows a thing or two about experiences. But as someone who travels and talks about travel for a living, even she is not immune to burnout. Her answer? Finding authenticity in her life by not looking at the past, creating rituals — like taking regular vacations to recharge — and doing things not because you have to, but because you think it will lead to something great.

  1. Even for a moment, replace exertion with thoughtfulness.

Not every vacation requires months of planning. But while Americans are often brilliant at process improvement, we’re lagging behind when it comes to thinking improvement.

In fact, as Juliet Funt notes, the first step to taking longer pauses, like vacation, is finding the “whitespace” that lies beneath the constant barrage of emails and meetings that are modern work.

“When talented people don’t have time to think, business inevitably suffers,” Funt explained. “It’s like we’re eating all day and never swallowing.”

We’re all working to solve the world’s biggest challenges. But we owe it to ourselves and our employees to address a challenge that’s in our hands — taking moments that are both recuperative and constructive, even if it’s truly just a moment. After all, tapping into the upside of downtime starts with just that: downtime.

Are you ready to take the lead?

If you missed the Forum, don’t worry, you can watch the recorded livestream here.

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A recent popular trend has become share or peer-to-peer vacations – like Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway – where vacationers rent rooms or houses directly from homeowners.  For most families a vacation is a once-a-year event, where everything needs to go right to fully enjoy the relaxation a vacation provides.  Yet, people are still going on vacations that don’t fully meet their needs, even through these peer-to-peer services.

While this type of vacation can work for some people, a recent survey of over 1,000 vacationers conducted for the American Resort Development Association (ARDA) by research group Leger revealed many drawbacks.  Respondents said they least liked the fact that there was no housekeeping (47%), no concierge/front desk (23%), and that it was not a part of a resort (17%).

Now while this survey showed the things vacationers who use peer-to-peer services did not like, it also showed some of the things that they found very beneficial to their vacation enjoyment.  Two of the main things respondents cited were the fact that their rented unit had a kitchen and that there were multiple rooms.

So, what offers these in-demand amenities without the downside of the drawbacks found in peer-to-peer rentals?  Timeshare!

According to a recent article in Hotel Management Magazine, “A quick glance at the media hype surrounding Airbnb, HomeAway and other sharing economy hotel alternatives would lead many to believe that these companies are the founders of a new concept that is revolutionizing the industry. But, in fact, another facet of the hotel industry­—timeshare—considers itself the ‘original’ sharing economy, and has the facts to make a compelling case.”

Timeshare accommodations offer a large living space that includes a kitchen for when you want to cook your own meals as well as multiple rooms that give you both space to be together as a family or privacy to be alone.  And, most timeshares also offer housekeeping, a concierge/front desk and a resort style property.  Ultimately, timeshares offer the size and space that peer-to-peer services offer while also providing the key amenities that have almost become expected during a vacation. The last thing you should be thinking on vacation is vacuuming!

By Catherine Reynolds, Associate Manager of External Communications, RCI

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Today’s traveler is looking to take something new away from their vacation, and that is often taking the form of newly obtained knowledge. They want to see or do something they never thought possible. In fact, there’s a growing case for experiential travel as the new norm. TripAdvisor’s TripBarometer: 2016 Travel Trends study reported that 25 percent of millennials choose their vacation destination because they are able to do an activity that was not possible elsewhere.

Of this same group, 43 percent even reported that they would be willing to spend more on trips that allowed them to visit somewhere on their wish list. While we often hear this said of millennials, it’s not just for the young and single travelers. Globally, 69 percent of all travelers plan to try something new in 2016 according to TripAdvisor, showing that travelers of all ages are looking for new and novel experiences. Experiential travelers are looking for four main things in a vacation: First Hand Experiences, One-of-a-kind Properties, Fully Immersive Vacations and Experiences of the Future. But where can Experiential Travelers experience all four of these amenities? At timeshares across the world, of course!

First-Hand Experiences

Grupo Vidanta recently announced the opening of new Cirque du Soleil® themed properties that perfectly provide these types of experiences. Opening in 2018 in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico, the properties will be intertwined
with a Cirque du Soleil® theme park, where travelers will be able to move beyond spectatorship to become characters within the park’s interactive stage and experience Cirque as never before. An on-site Cirque school takes the experience to new heights and in doing so, travelers will
get a taste of what it is like to actually be
a part of a Cirque du Soleil performance,
an experience that they aren’t able to have anywhere else.

One-of-a-kind Properties

Vacation ownership developers are also creating properties that give travelers a chance to experience accommodations like never before. Karisma Hotels & Resorts capitalized on an opportunity
to create Latin America’s only overwater bungalows with its soon-to-open Palafitos-Overwater Bungalows property in Mexico. It comprises 30 elegant suites with spectacular views, glass bottom floors and private infinity pools, as well as beautiful and well-appointed accommodations where guests and members will enjoy awe-inspiring sunrises and sunsets. An experience not offered in many locations.

Fully Immersive Vacations

Family vacations have always been in the wheelhouse of benefits for the vacation ownership industry with the additional space and amenities provided at most properties. Karisma Hotels & Resorts’ new Nickelodeon Hotel & Resort Punta Cana property sets a precedent. This upscale resort mixes luxurious amenities with fun-for-the-whole-family experiences centered around Nickelodeon characters. But it’s not all just for kids! Adults can also experience a family vacation without sacrificing luxury and relaxation. The white sand beaches, tropical beverages, and Karisma’s Gourmet Inclusive Experience help ensure that the grown-ups have the vacation they want, too.

Experiences of the Future

As the appetite for experiential travel continues to grow across all population segments, the timeshare industry is perfectly positioned to offer these types of vacations!

air eco impact
It’s not only the vacationers that love timeshare—the local cities and towns where timeshare resorts are located love it as well! That’s because it boosts their local economy in so many ways.

For example, timeshare represents:
• $79.5 billion in consumer and business spending
• 511,782 full- and part-time jobs
• $28.1 billion in salaries and wages
• $10.2 billion in tax revenue

Spending by timeshare owners and guests during timeshare stays was estimated at $10 billion in 2015—with approximately $3.4 billion spent onsite at resorts, and $6.6 billion spent offsite in the communities where the timeshare resorts are located.

For more details, check out our infographic and to learn more about vacationing with timeshare, go to www.VacationBetter.org.

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Vacationers are loving their timeshares!   The U.S. timeshare industry enjoyed a sixth straight year of steady growth in 2015, according to the State of the Vacation Timeshare Industry: United States Study 2016 Edition, conducted by Ernst & Young for the ARDA International Foundation. Here are a few of the highlights from the research:

When comparing 2015 to 2014:

  • Sales volume increased by nine percent, to $8.6 billion, the second largest increase since the recession and a 9% increase over last year.
  • There are 1,547 timeshare resorts in the United States, representing about 200,720 units.
  • The average sales price was $22,240.
  • Occupancy increased two percent, up to almost 80 percent, compared to a 661 percent hotel occupancy rate.

There were some other interesting facts to note as well:

  • 70% all timeshare units are two bedrooms or more. An average one-bedroom unit is 700 square feet; an average two-bedroom unit is 1,180 square feet and an average three-bedroom unit is 1,660 square feet—compared to the average hotel room size of 350 square feet.
  • Beach resorts are the most common type of resort.
  • Theme park resorts have the highest occupancy.
  • Florida has the most resorts—24% of the national total.
  • Nevada has the largest average resort size—230 units on average.
  • Hawaii has the highest occupancy rate for a region, at 86.7%.

For more details, check out our infographic and to learn more about vacationing with timeshare, go to www.VacationBetter.org.

On January 1, 2015, millions of Americans will be saying goodbye to the hard-earned vacation days they didn’t use in 2014—to the tune of 169 million days! Make sure that in 2015, you’re not one of them.

American workers permanently lose 169 million days of earned PTO each year, according to an Oxford Survey from the U.S. Travel Association. The same survey found that despite earning an average of 21 days of PTO each year, Americans only use 77 percent of that time, forfeiting 4.9 days. The result has a negative effect on workers (higher stress levels), employers (liability of unused PTO) and family (less quality time).

Considering these statistics, it’s safe to assume that many of us fell into a “too little, too late” category as we reflect on time spent with our families in 2014. But it’s not too late for next year!

And isn’t this what New Year’s Resolutions are all about?

As many families gather together for the end-of-year festivities, it is the perfect time to plan out next year’s vacation. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Timing is everything: discuss what time of year works best for everyone. School calendars, work projects and other commitments are usually known in advance—plan around these!
  • Plan in advance: with plenty of notice, you can ensure that your work is covered and time-off is approved well in advance.
  • Paying for it: many people prolong vacation because they can’t afford it, however you are more likely to find cost savings when you plan in advance. Take it from timeshare owners—since their vacations are pre-paid, they are more likely to use all of their time off!
  • Planning: Try something new—a new location or a new type of vacation! Many people aren’t aware that you can rent a timeshare, which could be a great way to experience one before purchase. See for yourself the difference between a timeshare and the traditional hotel stay — have all the space you need for a family of any size.

Make a commitment to use all your vacation and spend time making memories with your family. After all, you’ve earned it.

Beach Family

Timeshare owners will tell you that the extra space of vacation products make it a great way to travel with extended family. That’s why more travelers are turning to timeshare vacations for their family reunions and get-togethers.

Don’t let the size of a family reunion deter you from getting your extended loved ones together! From spacious accommodations to activities for everyone, timeshare stays will ensure that you have the space to relax and still spend time together.

Read our Time for Togetherness guide for travel options and suggestions to help make family reunions fun, affordable and stress-free.

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With surging numbers that show how the timeshare industry is doing, it’s clear that vacationers are enjoying their timeshare getaways!  The industry association’s research group, along with Ernst & Young, just released its State of the Vacation Timeshare Industry: United States Study for 2014.  It shows that the timeshare industry enjoyed significant growth in 2013.  Here are a few of the highlights:

When comparing 2013 to 2012:

  • Sales volume increased nearly 11 percent, to $7.6 billion.
  • There are 29 percent more resorts planned for the upcoming year.
  • There are 1,540 timeshare resorts in the United States, representing about 192,420 units.
  • The average resort size was 125 units.
  • The average sales price was $20,460.
  • Occupancy remained steady at around 77 percent, compared to a 621 percent hotel occupancy rate.

There were some other interesting facts to note as well:

  • Beach resorts are the most common type of resort.
  • Urban resorts have the highest occupancy.
  • Florida has the most resorts—23% of the national total.
  • Florida has the highest total sales volume—$2.3 billion.
  • Nevada has the largest average resort size—283 units on average.
  • Hawaii has the highest average sales price—$27,712 and occupancy rate 85.2%.

For more details, check out our infographic and to learn more about vacationing with timeshare, go to www.VacationBetter.org.

[1] STR Monthly Hotel Review: December 2013, Smith Travel Research.

Too often we feel guilty about taking the vacation days we are given—three quarters of all American workers earn paid time-off, yet many of us fail to use them.

Research from Oxford Economics shows that American workers failed to use more than 400 million days of earned leave last year. We have become a society of workers conditioned to think of vacation as a luxury, even if it’s deserved—despite growing evidence that vacations are good for you. Taking a much-needed break from work has been proven to lead to lower stress, better job productivity, improved relationships, and a healthier outlook on life. Yet time and again, we make excuses for not getting away: I can’t afford it, I’ll use my days for a staycation to get things done around the house, I don’t know where to go, I’m too stressed at work to leave right now.

Guilty Vacation Syndrome

When thinking about taking a vacation, which best describes you?

  1. Dreading the inevitable “must be nice” sarcastic comment from your co-workers.
  2. Thinking about the right time to get away makes you sweat.
  3. Already feeling guilty about taking time off from work.
  4. Knowing you’ll probably do some work while on vacation frustrates your family.

If you chose any of the above answers, chances are you suffer from “Guilty Vacation Syndrome.” The first step towards recovery is to change the way you think about vacation: it is a necessity, not a luxury.

You not only deserve a vacation because you work hard every day, you need a vacation, and you should not feel guilty or let someone else make you feel guilty for taking one.  We can’t afford to overlook the importance of regular time away with family and friends as a positive contributor to achieving a better work-life balance.

Enjoying a guilt-free vacation is about overcoming the guilt of being gone, committing to not working while on vacation, and embracing some much-needed time off. Here are few tips to get started:

  • Use your earned vacation days. Don’t get to the end of the year and have days left on the table!
  • Discuss with your boss an appropriate time to get away and offer help to colleagues when it’s their turn to take time off. Sharing the workload will lessen the likelihood of resentful co-workers when you go away!
  • Make sure you prepare well for your vacation so your work doesn’t fall apart while you are away, and so co-workers can find information if needed in your absence.
  • Set boundaries and stick to them. Do not agree to be “on call” or “readily available” while you are away. If your workplace knows they can reach you while you are away, they most certainly will. And you may need another vacation when you return to work!
  • Toss out the mindset that the company will fall apart if you aren’t there. The company, and your workload, will be there when you return.
  • Remember that if you don’t take some time off, your health, your family, and your work will eventually begin to suffer. Vacation time is not just a luxury— it’s a necessity for being a healthy, well-rounded human being.

Take a vacation, you deserve it!