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History of Timeshare

The concept of timeshares is widely believed to have started in Europe in the 1960s, at a ski resort in the French Alps. The resort’s owner believed that he could attract more business if he agreed to allow multiple owners to split the rights to use the rooms at his vacation property, instead of forcing wealthier individuals to purchase the more-expensive full rights to the rooms in their entirety. It worked, and a new vacation industry was born.

Nearly fifty years later, the concept of timeshares has spread from France to the e
ntire European Unio
n, the United States, Africa, Asia, Indonesia, Australia, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and just about everywhere else that people like to go during their vacations. Today, there are reportedly close to seven million timeshare owners around the globe, each with a stake in the more than 5,400 timeshare units that exist in forty-seven of the United States and about 100 countries in virtually every time zone on the planet.

You can now buy the right to use a resort room, like that one that started it all in the French Alps, or even an evolution of that idea: a deeded property that gives you the right to pass your timeshare unit on to your children or grandchildren. Some timeshare companies are even allowing you the option of exchanging your accrued investment for things like airline tickets and cruise-ship vacations. Only time will tell just how much farther the industry will spread, but it certainly is showing no signs of stopping.

There have, of course, been some bumps along this path of expansion, and there continue to be scam artists out there selling worthless swampland to unsuspecting buyers. But for the most part, the timeshare industry has evolved into just that: a full-fledged industry.

State laws, reputable timeshare exchange companies, and even a professional association of resort developers now exist where just a few decades ago there was nothing but caveat emptor—buyer beware. Internet communities have sprung up, too, allowing timeshare owners, buyers, and sellers to communicate with one another about past experiences. Even well-known hotel companies such as Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt have gotten into the timeshare game.