Timeshares: When Did They First Appear?

By  //  September 15, 2023

Timeshares, a popular way for individuals to share ownership of vacation properties, have a history that dates back several decades.

These arrangements provide individuals with the opportunity to enjoy regular vacations at their favorite destinations without having to purchase a vacation home. 

While timeshares have been around for a long time and are still a popular option, it is crucial to look into them carefully before making any decision. Also, look into how to get out of a timeshare to make sure you know how to end it when you are done using it or want to do something else. 

The Birth of Timeshares

The concept of timeshares emerged in the early 1960s in Europe. The first recorded timeshare property was the Hapimag Resort in Switzerland, which opened its doors in 1964. Hapimag’s founders, Alexander Nette and Guido Löffel, created a system that allowed people to purchase “times” at their resorts, entitling them to a specified number of days or weeks of vacation per year.

The Introduction to the United States

Timeshares were first seen in the United States in the early 1970s. The establishment of Resort Condominiums International in 1974 played a pivotal role in making them a popular choice. RCI introduced the exchange system. This allowed timeshare owners to trade their allotted time at one resort for stays at other affiliated resorts around the world. 

The Growth and Development

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the timeshare industry experienced significant growth in the United States. Developers saw the potential for timeshares to cater to vacationers seeking affordable and reliable vacation options. As a result, numerous timeshare resorts were established across popular vacation destinations, such as Florida, Hawaii, and the Caribbean.

During this period, various timeshare models emerged.

  • Fixed Week: Owners have the right to use the property during a specific week each year.
  • Floating Week: Owners can choose their vacation dates within a designated season, providing more flexibility.
  • Points-Based: Instead of purchasing a fixed week, owners buy points that they can use to book stays at different resorts within a network.
  • Fractional Ownership: Owners have a share of the property itself rather than a set amount of time, often resulting in fewer owners and more extensive access.
  • Destination Clubs: Exclusive, high-end membership clubs that provide access to luxury vacation properties worldwide.

Regulation and Consumer Protection

In the early years of timeshares, the industry faced issues related to mismanagement and fraudulent practices. As a response to these concerns, legislation and regulations were enacted to protect consumers. 

The Modern Timeshare Industry

Today, the timeshare industry continues to evolve. Timeshare properties exist in various forms, from beachfront resorts to urban city condos. Major hotel chains and hospitality companies often have timeshare divisions, offering a mix of traditional timeshares and points-based systems.

The industry has also embraced digital technology, allowing owners to book their vacation time, manage their ownership, and exchange their stays online. Online platforms facilitate the resale of timeshare ownership, providing an option for those looking to exit their timeshare commitments.

Timeshares have come a long way since their inception in the 1960s, evolving to meet the changing needs and desires of vacationers. What started as a novel concept in Europe has become a global industry, offering individuals a more affordable and flexible way to enjoy vacations. Whether through traditional fixed weeks, floating weeks, points-based systems, or fractional ownership, timeshares continue to offer vacationers diverse options for making the most of their leisure time.