For many timeshare owners, dates assigned to them are not always convenient, and swapping their units is not easy to do. Aside from the increasing maintenance fees, these might also be the reason why some owners want to get out of their timeshare contracts. This was also the problem of Mike Blackwell, a former timeshare owner, who along with his two friends came up with a solution and, in the process, launched a business to help others with the same problem.
The venture is called Resort Rentals By Owner or RRBO.com, an online marketplace for vacation rentals of timeshares. It was founded by three former CompuServe and AOL executives: Blackwell, who ran AOL Search; Bob Kington, one-time executive producer of CompuServe online service; and Mike Doel, former chief technology officer for CompuServe.
Blackwell, being one of the millions of timeshare owners in the United States, immediately saw the possibilities of an online marketplace where timeshare owners could quickly and easily offer their resort condos for rent in a very hotel-like way. The founders of Resort Rentals cited the example of popular person-to-person commerce sites such as StubHub.com in launching their business. But instead of trafficking in concert tickets, they offer resort timeshare rentals.
The vacation rental website acts as the intermediary in handling the bookings as users go to the website, find the timeshare resorts they like and rent them immediately. According to Blackwell, the owner doesn’t pay to list the rental to them, they just keep 15%. Despite its still-low profile, the company is getting eight to 10 calls a day as Kington said. He added that they’re being conservative with marketing dollars spent right now until they prove market acceptance and get more capital, which will allow them to ramp marketing to levels that are 10 times what they’re spending today.