Website solves vacationers’ ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ problem
If the dates you agreed to use that oceanfront villa conflict with your sister’s wedding, however, you could find yourself losing what you planned to be using and still paying for it.
As time-share owners for 15 years, Jim and Katherine Velasco decided people needed more options than “use it or lose it.” LodgingDeals.com is their answer to the inevitable conflict between vacation time available and vacation time bought.
“Typically, people lose their time or points when they can’t go, and they still have to pay maintenance,” said Katherine, LodgingDeals.com co-owner. “No one wants to lose either.”
Creating an online business that matches unused time for time-share and vacation point owners with people looking for a getaway at a great price is the company’s focus.
Discounts range from 25 percent to 80 percent off retail value.
Time-share owners share property costs for a specific lodging with other time-share owners. Each owner has a specific amount of allotted time, often dates that stay the same year to year.
If they are members of a vacation club, they pay an upfront amount for a number of points that can be redeemed for vacations in a variety of locations.
When Jim retired from software engineering at IBM last year, he blended his technical architecture skills with Katherine’s information-systems management skills to put together a plan that made both types of arrangements better for everyone.
In August, they launched the website.
“Our clients are vacationers,” Jim said, “and our service is to time-share owners with time they can’t use.”
He describes the company’s service as similar to classified advertising. Timeshare owners purchase online space to market unused vacation property time for about $30 per property listing. The responsibility for closing the deal stays in the hands of the buyer.
Allowing time-share owners to market properties that are available for specific timeframes sets LodgingDeals.com apart from other travel sites, according to the Velascos.
They believe the user-friendly software Jim developed adds an appeal.
“We’re just three clicks — click, sort and scroll,” he said.
Another click drops down a description, photos and contact information that come directly from the resort that manages the property.
Resorts include companies such as Wyndham, Hilton, Marriott, Starwood and Disney.
“Some travel sites have people putting up great pictures but they don’t show that the place is next to a bus depot,” Jim said. “We’re matching people with well-known resorts.”
He added that LodgingDeals.com puts users in charge of their search.
“The first thing other travel sites ask for is when someone wants to go, and then people peel off layers of the onion to filter down to things like price. Instead, we let users define the outer layer of the onion, which could be starting with the number of people they want to sleep.”
People looking for lodging could be focused on finding a place to have a reunion, he added. They’re less interested in where to have the event and more interested in what the location accommodates.
“Our software is extremely responsive to someone who’s looking for something like a place that sleeps eight,” Jim added. “It won’t show places that have only two bedrooms.
“We also show actual bookings that are available. A lot of times, people choose a spot they want on other sites, get excited about it and then find out it’s not available the dates they want.”
As a startup company, LodgingDeals.com currently runs on $350 a month, Jim said. “We’ve attended seminars on how to start a new company and are just trying to show that this works right now.”
With 20 listings in the first two months, the company has yet to become self-sufficient but the Velascos are patient.
“We don’t have mouths to feed anymore and are just trying to enjoy the journey at this point,” Jim said.
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