I recently returned from a family vacation to Williamsburg, Virginia. We rented a client's Diamond Resorts Greensprings timeshare, giving us a convenient location from which to explore the area (more on our stay there in a later post.) After spending a few days enjoying the many Williamsburg attractions, we needed to escape the August heat, and made an impromptu trip to near-by Virginia Beach. None of us knew exactly what to expect there, as this was our first visit. Once we arrived, and pulled onto the Atlantic Avenue strip, my first impression was wow: Apparently no one told the folks in Virginia Beach about the recession!
The streets were alive with activity, the beach packed with vacationers, and nearly every room in the city (and there are a lot of them) was occupied. The few hotels with availability were charging well over $300 per night for a view of the parking lot. In Virginia Beach, business is booming.
We settled into a hotel, which turned out to be owned by Gold Key Resorts, and hit the boardwalk. This 3 mile stretch gives visitors views of both the ocean and beach, and the myriad resorts and restaurants along Atlantic. I soon found myself feeling nostalgic, as if there were something familiar and exciting going on that I could feel but not see. It took a bit for me to get it, but when I did, I found myself smiling involuntarily... There was timeshare; timeshare everywhere!
Growing up in Orlando during the 80's & 90's, it was hard not to become enamored with the excitement of timeshare. Our town's home-grown industry offered a rare opportunity to transcend class; both for those whose fortunes were made (or lost) selling timeshare, and for middle-class families that bought, and were able to live like millionaires for one fixed week per year. Sadly, Orlando became complacent - over-built, over-regulated, and over-confident in its ability to grow forever. Perhaps, though, my hometown has served as an example to later timeshare developments in towns like Branson and Virginia Beach; a lesson in what not to do. One thing is certain, Virginia Beach is buzzing with the kind of excitement you only get with timeshare done right.
It's easy to miss the many timeshare marketing booths set-up around Virginia Beach, but they won't miss you. The vibrant young men & women with smiling faces want you to come to breakfast. Unlike some markets though, the OPC's in Virginia Beach stop short of being too pushy - maybe they just don't need to be.
Room rates, more than any other factor, are what make timeshare relevant to consumers. Buying a timeshare just to have a nicer room on vacation isn't that motivating, but if buying timeshare saves you a lot of money and gives you a nicer room on vacation it becomes downright appealing! With the high cost of even modest accommodations in Virginia Beach, buying a timeshare there is the logical choice for regular visitors. The city's main purveyor of timeshare is Gold Key Resorts, and they've created quite an empire, with properties spanning the boardwalk.
It would appear that Gold Key's resorts were developed in a South-to-North fashion along the strip, and we had the chance to check things out from the shade of our rented surrey. Coming from the south end, the first of their timeshares is Beach Quarters, located on the ocean side with a beachfront pool. A few blocks down and across the street from the ocean is Turtle Cay Resort, offering low-rise Key West inspired condos, and an elaborate pool area with water features. Near the middle of the Virginia Beach boardwalk is the aptly-named Villas at the Boardwalk, featuring an indoor pool, and a casual seafood restaurant, the Rockfish Bar & Grill. At the north end of the strip is the Ocean Beach Club - this is a beautiful new oceanfront resort where almost anyone would want to stay (including us.) Ocean Beach Club has a beachfront pool and tiki bar, valet service, and would look right at home on any of the world's most exclusive beaches. One thing all of these properties have in common is that they're very well maintained. It's common for timeshare developers to allow their older properties to deteriorate, making it easier to sell upgrades - not so at Gold Key, all their properties look immaculate!
Interestingly, the developer has also built several hotels and restaurants along the strip; not a common practice in timeshare, but it works. The stand-out Catch 31 restaurant, located at the "31 Ocean" plaza, was some of the best seafood we've ever had.
The timeshare industry has been through a rough patch lately, and it can be tempting to become a bit cynical about its future. Seeing Virginia Beach timeshare in full swing was inspiring; pointing the way towards the future of our industry. Perhaps where timeshare developers went awry was attempting to forcibly mold timeshare into a product that worked for everyone, rather than allowing it to develop organically; based on the wants and needs of vacationing families. This new "organic" model may be why timeshare is thriving and relevant in Virginia Beach.