Exchanging Hawaiian Time

Even Hawaii residents are looking into timeshares in the Islands as a new way to travel. But are they right for you?


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Photo by Robert Sheetz/Courtesy of All Island Timeshare Rentals

The sandy beach in front of the Ko Olina  Resort area consists of four manmade lagoons. Here, even local residents have purchased timeshares.

The timeshare industry has grown, and more people are turning  to timeshares as a different way to take a vacation. But for the uninitiated, the world of timeshares is a mystery. What are they? How do they work? Are they a real estate investment or a travel opportunity? Is a timeshare right for you?

Hawaii’s timeshare industry is answering to visitors—and locals—who are asking for more options in how they spend their vacations. Across the Islands, more than 5,000 Hawaii residents have literally bought “Hawaiian time” by owning timeshare properties in the state, according to the American Resort Development Association (ARDA).

The basic premise of timeshare is simple. You, along with fellow owners, share the use and costs of running a vacation accommodation. Each investor owns at least one week of time per year.

The timeshare concept was originally created in Europe in the 1960s. A ski resort developer in the French Alps innovatively marketed his resort by encouraging guests to “stop renting a room” and instead “buy the hotel.” The developer was successful in increasing occupancy and the idea spread.

Over the decades, timeshares have become a home-away-from-home for 4.1 million families. Timeshares range in size, from small studios to three- and four-bedroom condos. They normally include all the conveniences of home: a fully equipped kitchen with a dining area, dishwasher, televisions, washer and dryer, VCRs and more. It is not uncommon for luxury timeshares to offer a workout room, pool, golf course, salon, spa and other amenities.    


If you already live in Hawaii—why bother buying a timeshare here, too?

For Hal and Sandi Steinhoff of Kapolei, it was all about the game. “Every year my family comes into town for the Pro Bowl,” Sandi says. “We were always trying to find a condo in Waikiki, but February is just such a busy time of year. Sometimes we had to get two hotel rooms because the condo units were always the first to go.”

Instead of duking it out in Waikiki, the Steinhoffs purchased a timeshare within five miles of their home at the Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club. “Every year we reserve the week before the Pro Bowl,” Hal says. “We all get together and stay there during the week when the football players are around the area. It’s a lot of fun.”

Hawaii’s timeshare industry is the fourth largest in the nation. The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism recorded that, in 2005, the number of timeshare units increased by more than 15 percent compared to 2004. The number of Oahu timeshares increased 26 percent to 1,422 units, Maui timeshares rose 23 percent to 1,720 units, Kauai timeshare units increased 4 percent to 2,090 units and Hawaii increased 19 percent to 1,592 units. Hawaii’s timeshare industry has hit nearly $300 million in annual sales.

Across the nation nearly 50 percent of recent buyers purchased their timeshares within 400 miles of their homes, ARDA reports, perhaps suggesting that people are becoming more interested in vacationing closer to home.

This was true for the Steinoffs, who, although they own a second timeshare in Orlando, Fla., are especially fond of Ko Olina. “The big benefit is that we don’t have to worry about going far to enjoy our vacation,” Hal says. “It’s close to our home; we don’t have to fly anywhere. When we get to the resort area, we feel like we’re away from everything.”

Proximity is one reason to buy a timeshare here; value is another. Typically, the timeshare week (one through 52) you own influences the value of your unit and your chances of trading it for another destination. Hawaii is an exception to the rule. “Everyone wants to come to Hawaii,” says Douglas Lupton, RRP, founder of All Islands Timeshare Resales. “Owning a timeshare in Hawaii puts you in the driver’s seat in the exchange system. You have what everybody else wants.”


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