Amenity buildings at The Village at Steamboat include in-ground hot tubs with shelters built of heavy trusses. The 800,000 vacation members have helped the condominium establishment keep from going under in times of recession.

Photo by Tom Ross

Amenity buildings at The Village at Steamboat include in-ground hot tubs with shelters built of heavy trusses. The 800,000 vacation members have helped the condominium establishment keep from going under in times of recession.

Local timeshare size triples

Village at Steamboat owners hope to be recession-proof going into new year

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The Village at Steamboat Resort Manager Andre Elkins is proud of the spacious kitchens in 144 new condos at his property on Pine Grove Road.

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The new presidential units at The Village at Steamboat have upgraded finishes, appliances and furnishings and include private hot tubs on the decks.

Ready for a slowdown

When Wyndham Vacation Ownership launched a major expansion of its presence in Steamboat two years ago, it made this resort one of its two primary ski destinations for hundreds of thousands of timeshare owners.

However, the company is preparing for the impacts of tighter credit markets on its timeshare business plan by laying off 12 percent of its employees. Company officials expect timeshare sales to drop by 40 percent next year.

Wyndham, whose shares trade on the New York Stock Exchange, announced Dec. 8 it would cut 4,000 jobs, according to The Associated Press. However, the company said the pullback isn't because of wavering demand for timeshare condominiums. Instead, company officials say they expect sales to fall to $1.2 billion in 2009 from $2 billion in 2008 because a certain kind of financing has dried up.

Wyndham's third-quarter earnings report shows that revenues from financing its timeshare sales are a big part of its balance sheet. Consumer finance revenues increased $18 million to $111 million in the third quarter, up nearly 20 percent from the same period in 2007.

According to The Associated Press, Wyndham's business model has relied on its ability to finance as much as 70 percent of its sales. The company previously has sold those loans and borrowed against the proceeds to finance new timeshare developments. The company just completed 144 condos in Steamboat late this year.

Company officials recently advised their investors that the market for those types of securities no longer exists.

- The Associated Press

contributed to this report

The greatly expanded number of timeshare condominiums at The Village at Steamboat Springs could afford Steamboat Springs a measure of recession-proofing this ski season. After all, the 800,000 vacation members of Wyndham Vacation Ownership essentially have paid for their stay in a condo at Steamboat in advance.

"We treat everyone here as owners and guests," The Village at Steamboat Resort Manager Andre Elkins said. "If our owners don't use their points, the value of owning is diminished. And they don't have to say, 'We've already spent $4,000 to come here.' The cost of lodging is built into their ownership, so they are likely to have the mentality that they have disposable income."

However, Elkins hesitated to forecast occupancy rates before the first of the year. And he wouldn't be surprised if his middle-income owners cut back on their spending habits this winter.

"I can say we're 100 percent booked for Christmas week," Elkins said.

His property has more than doubled in size this ski season to 208 condominiums. How quickly members in the vast Wyndham network catch on to the new condos on Pine Grove Road, just across from the Meadows parking lot, will help to determine the occupancy rate of the 144 new condos.

Wyndham owners purchase vacation points that entitle them to stay at international resorts. So, the most expensive part of a ski or beach vacation already is paid for. Elkins said historically, 75 percent of his guests purchase their vacations at regional sales centers and drive here from up and down Colorado's Front Range, with a number of people coming from cities in New Mexico and Oklahoma. That historic guest base could expand if the new condos spread awareness about Steamboat among Wyndham owners.

The Village at Steamboat development goes back to 1985, when the first condominium building and a clubhouse were built. A second building brought the number of units to 66, and it stayed there for more than a decade.

Historically, those 66 units have seen 93 to 100 percent occupancy from Christmas to April, Elkins said. Even in the shoulder seasons, the Village has hovered at about 60 percent occupancy.

"It's a new project now," Elkins said. "I'm seeing high

demand for this locale, and we're fielding a lot of calls."

His property actually manages vacation condominiums for four vacation clubs under the umbrella of The Village at Steamboat Condominium Association.

Wyndham Vacation Resorts Steamboat Springs is assigned 71 units, as is the WorldMark Steamboat Springs. In addition to their standard one-, two- and three-bedroom condos, each has a couple of presidential units that feature higher finishes such as granite counters and wood floors in a two-story townhome configuration.

The expansion of The Village at Steamboat also includes a new operations building. There are a wide variety of amenities including indoor and outdoor swimming pools and in-ground hot tub spas, each with its own pavilion built from heavy wood trusses. There is a gas-log fire pit the guests can enjoy in winter, and a half-court basketball court and playground. There are three shuttle vans to ferry skiers to the gondola and the ultimate convenience - ski storage at SportStalker.

"Our guests can store their skis at SportStalker whether they rent from them or not," Elkins said. "They've provided us with fantastic service, and they offer an additional discount."

The interiors of the standard condominiums are nicely appointed with mission-style furniture, fireplaces, two flat screens, full kitchens and dining tables. With the exception of the presidential suites, they don't aim to match the luxury of slopeside condominiums at Steamboat, but there's a reason for that.

"We represent affordability," Elkins said. "A lot of our members are couples with children. Quite a few of them have young children."

During their visit, they enjoy a fitness center with current machines, a steam room, gathering areas with fireplaces and a game room for the children.

Elkins said the transition from a 66-unit property to one with 208 condos this winter was made easier by the fact that he already had long-standing department heads on staff.

Elkins has been employed at The Village at Steamboat for a decade. Maintenance Supervisor Rick Hines has him beat with 19 years at the property. Head of Housekeeping Betsy McGrew has been hard at it for six years, and Assistant Resort Manager Alan Koermer is a veteran of two years at the property.

Elkins said that his timeshare vacation owners guests are drawn to Steamboat by the same qualities that appeal to every vacationer.

"The biggest reason for our success is that this is Steamboat," said Elkins, who has lived here for 19 years. "We're a real community with a ski hill. We understand that we're an extension of the community and genuinely want to protect and maintain it.

"Our guests look forward to going sledding and going downtown to see the lights. They enjoy hearing stories about Carl Howelsen, and they like having coffee with the locals."

The greatly expanded number of timeshare condominiums at The Village at Steamboat Springs could afford Steamboat Springs a measure of recession-proofing this ski season. After all, the 800,000 vacation members of Wyndham Vacation Ownership essentially have paid for their stay in a condo at Steamboat in advance.

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