What Do Resort Recognition Awards Mean?
By George and Rosalie Leposky
In the constellation of “very nice” timeshare resorts, certain stars shine brighter because they have received a recognition award from their exchange company. Such recognition – whether it’s the Interval International Five Star Award or the RCI Gold Crown Resort designation – can mean a lot to your resort’s developer and management, and to you and other timeshare owners.
If you bought at a resort with a recognition award, the salesperson undoubtedly pointed it out to you as an external validation of the resort’s claim to quality.
Also, because exchanges typically involve swapping accommodations at your home resort for accommodations of similar quality at another resort, owning at a resort with a recognition award opens the doors for you to exchange into other award-winning resorts.
If you’ve arranged such an exchange, you may have been deliriously happy with it – or not. While a recreational slum would be unlikely to earn and retain a recognition award, the quality level among resorts that do qualify for a recognition award may vary considerably.
This is particularly true of the Interval International Five Star Award, which is based on a proprietarily developed Quality Rating Survey (QRS) that covers five general criteria: area, site, amenities, and guest services.
Interval does not publish specific scoring requirements “because of the variables involved” in its methods, says spokesperson Chirs Boesch. “Scores are weighted according to the type of vacation experience. For example, a resort in an urban area may not be required to have a full size kitchen, but may offer more in the way of guest services.”
Once a resort receives an Interval Five Star award the company relies on comment cards from exchange guest to monitor the quality of the resort’s accommodations and the vacation experience it offers.
By contrast, RCI publishes a detailed brochure listing the specific criteria a resort must meet for the Gold Crown Resort designation and two lesser levels of recognition. For resorts that can’t quite meet the Gold Crown requirements, RCI provides the Silver Crown resort designation. RCI Hospitality is for resorts that don’t qualify for Siler Crown but meet minimum standards.
RCI also relies on comment cards from its members. They evaluate check-in/check-out, hospitality, resort maintenance, unit maintenance and unit housekeeping.
In addition, RCI Gold Crown resorts must satisfy specific requirement for resort amenities, guest services, unit amenities/Interiors, and resort maintenance. Silver crown and RCI Hospitality are based solely on member comment card evaluations; the resort facilities criteria don’t apply.
Although Interval International uses the word “rating” to describe its resort evaluation tool, that tool is really a checklist rather than a rating mechanism. A true rating system offers a
hierarchy of benchmarks, such as the three RCI resort recognition levels, AAA’s one-to-five diamonds and Mobil’s one-to five stars for rating hotels, or the letter grade you receive in a
Interval’s QRS is more like a pass-fail course grading option; it says you met a minimum standard but doesn’t say how much better you may have done.
Without a lesser quantity of stars to reflect lesser levels of excellence, Interval’s Five Star Award is inherently misleading. One may (but probably shouldn’t) assume that it represents excellence on a par with the likes of hotels that receive five AAA diamonds or five Mobil stars.
The corollary assumption, that every Interval resort not blessed with a Five Star Award is egregiously flawed, is unfair to the many comfortable, attractive, and well-maintained Interval-affiliated resorts that are neither high-end deluxe nor deplorable dumps.
It would be fun to compare Interval’s specific QRS criteria (if Interval would publicly disclose them) with the AAA Five Diamond criteria available online at www.aaanewsroom.net and the Mobil Five-Star criteria, also available online at www.mobiltravelguide.com .
When a developer enters the timeshare industry and prepares to open a new resort, the exchange company with which he affiliates may grant a pre-opening (or even pre-construction) recognition award based on what he plans to build and the exchange company’s expectations for the resort’s future.
If his resort is a desirable property in a highly demanded location, Interval and RCI may compete for his affections. He may even be able to dual-affiliate if neither company has enough leverage with him to exclude the other. In this competition, one or both of the exchange companies may fudge some criteria to grant his resort a recognition award for which it might not objectively qualify. This is easier for Interval to do, given the lack of transparency in its Five Star Award vetting process, though in fact no objective third party monitors either exchange firm’s adherence to its own award criteria.
In the UK, Interval’s Five Star Award and RCI’s three recognition awards could become superfluous in time as a new program to rate that nation’s accommodations based on a common set of standards takes hold.
Beginning in 2006, VisitBritain, VisitEngland, VisitScotland, VisitWales, the Automobile Association, and the Royal Automobile Club will use the same rating criteria and guidelines to decide how many stars to award to a hotel or resort.
As a consequence, ratings from one-star to five-star will mean the same thing no matter which organization’s inspectors rate an establishment. All raters will use a 40-page workbook with detailed tables, based upon each organization’s requirements and published jointly by all of the organizations. All have agreed to accept each other’s ratings.
This won’t force Interval and RCI to stop granting their own recognition awards to UK resorts, but an Interval Five Star or RCI Gold Crown resort that garners just two or three stars from the national rating system will be instantly suspect.
If a resort does not participate in this collective UK rating system, “the national tourist boards … will not be able to promote it, send journalists there or include the lodging on its Web site, etc.” explains RCI spokesperson Ray Shepherd. “The grading system applies to individual properties that pay an assessment fee. Thee is no timeshare category as such but if the property is a mixed-use or can offer rentals etc, then the system will grade it accordingly.”
The Trusted Independent Voice of Vacation Ownership since 1991
March/April, 2006© TimeSharing Today