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Owners Travel

Why I Started KOALA: to Put Owners First

I started KOALA to give owners more control over a product that (in some cases) seemed to control them.

Mike Kennedy - Jul 10, 2020

Before founding KOALA with James Burbridge, I spent 10 years at The Hilton Club in New York City. My time at Hilton was my first experience with vacation clubs. I knew that our development in Midtown Manhattan was unique, and therefore I naively assumed that the rules surrounding the product would be unique as well. I was (partially) wrong.

Although I can genuinely say we sold a superior form of vacation ownership, when the time came to sell or exchange it, buyers faced the same issues that every timeshare owner faced. Exchange companies didn’t (and still don’t) really work, while resales were significantly less valuable than retail. This often leaves owners stuck paying expensive annual dues for an ownership they’re no longer using and can’t get out of. Something as simple as renting one’s timeshare to travelers – which should have been the easiest solution – was challenging. Although Hilton Grand Vacations had a stipulation that allowed their owners to rent, the how and where were never clear. As a result, very few Hilton Club owners ever really found success with renting. 

We Are an Advocate for Owners

It’s no secret that timeshare resales can be complicated at best, impossible at worst. Some owners are forced to turn to exit companies, which are indeed a “mixed bag” – some are unscrupulous scammers taking upfront money and delivering nothing, while others are legitimate and committed teams that help owners make the most of a challenging market. But it’s not always easy to tell one from the other. Worse, even the good ones often require hefty upfront fees to start the process.

It’s far simpler for vacationers to assess the value of a one-off vacation rental than actual ownership. Firstly, understanding the value of a timeshare rental is simple, as there are easily accessible benchmarks to compare it to. A potential guest can easily compare prices for a hotel room (or two if you have a large family), an Airbnb or VRBO home rental. Savvy renters can even compare rental prices against the same timeshare unit from a different owner (or the resort itself). All these comparable units help a traveler settle on a fair market value for their vacation.

Vacationers know what they’re getting with a timeshare rental: a quality vacation at a resort they love

More importantly, vacationers know what they’re getting with a timeshare rental: a quality vacation at a resort they love. That’s typically not the case with purchasing: there is liability, obligation, and usage rules that one needs to understand before purchasing. The way timeshare is sold (and has been for nearly 50 years) ensures that much of this key information is only available during a sales presentation. And sadly, presentations are not always great experiences.

Changing the Conversation

An accessible and easy rental market could solve this problem for millions of owners that are struggling to exit or simply are leaning towards different types of travel. Moreover, seamless and secure technology means new travelers from all over the world will consider booking timeshares. Most of the new generation of timeshare travelers would never use Redweek or Craigslist — sending payment to a stranger without a guarantee is simply out of the question. Further, the Airbnb generation doesn’t even know to look to these platforms in the first place. 

It’s very likely that many owners would not be so desperate to exit their timeshare if their fees were covered each year with no upfront cash or risk. 

Creating a frictionless accommodation sharing platform is our mission at KOALA. Positioning timeshares as the next generation vacation rental and timeshare owners as the next generation of hosts is what both parties deserve. After all, who doesn’t love vacationing at beautiful resorts at a great price!

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