ARDA's Howard Nusbaum

Savoring timeshare's "sweet spots"

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Maura Curley

He has the distinction afforded celebrities like Madonna and Sting.

He’s often referred to simply as “Howard.” No last name required.

A single moniker is unlikely for the head of any organization based in Washington D.C. but Howard Nusbaum, who has been the president and chief executive officer for the American Resort Development Association (ARDA) for the past 13 years, has achieved a guru like status as the “go to“ guy for answers about the timeshare industry.

In late October industry insiders were grabbling at his suit coat sleeves at the Eden Roc hotel in Miami, which looked a little like the United Nations with developers, hoteliers and tourism industry professionals from around the globe converged at the 15th annual Shared Ownership Investment Conference.

Nusbaum, a small man with a big presence, was unflappable, candidly discussing trends in the industry his organization represents – and lobbies for in the capital.

ARDA represents the interests of more than 1,500 resorts, as well as timeshare owners and homeowners associations across the United States and individual timeshare owners.

Before his tenure at ARDA Nusbaum was the director of corporate and industry relations for the American Hotel & Lodging Association and previously served as vice president of marketing for Janus Hotels and Resorts.

Put simply, he knows about resorts, and how growth ebbs and flows according to the economy and trends in the marketplace.

I spoke with Nusbaum the afternoon after he made a dynamic presentation at the morning session of the Shared Ownership Investment conference. He reiterated his take on the state of the timeshare industry, which had double digit growth until the economic downturn in 2008. Nusbaum observes that people in the timeshare industry have since learned to work “ smarter.” He referred to the economic slowdown as a “humbling” but also an opportunity for those in the industry to take their breath, experience what he referred to three years ago to as “the new normal”

Now he talks about “ sweet spots” in the timeshare industry, which is coming back to an even better normal. New strategies included more targeted niche marketing, and increased profit centers, such as fee for service and reselling of timeshare units, which have outlasted their use for some individuals and families. Nusbaum confirms now there is a more up to date consumer portfolio, and fewer defaults on timeshare properties.

Total sales are now up 9.1 percent. That’s not chump change for an industry that did more than $7Billion in annual sales in 2012.

Nusbaum says there is a huge demand for timeshare throughout the Caribbean. He indicated ARDA is working with Island governments to expand beyond Aruba, St. Martin and St. Thomas, which hold the lion's share of timeshare properties in the region.

Despite his status in the industry Nusbaum is not one to sit on any laurels or be content with the status quo. He’s always studying trends, aware of the vacation desires of the millennials as well as their offspring. This certainly suggests the concept of timeshare is here to stay and expand in novel ways.


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