Timeshare owners navigate cancellation policies as coronavirus delays vacation plans

Timeshare owners navigate cancellation policies as coronavirus delays vacation plans

When the state of Hawaii issued an order mandating a 14-day quarantine for all visitors and residents arriving at its airports, Vanessa Troyer knew she would have to cancel her mid-April family vacation to a resort in Kauai.

So Troyer visited the website for Vistana, which manages her timeshare, and canceled, then rebooked two rooms of the three rooms at the Westin Princeville Resort for February 2021.

Troyer said she later discovered that instead of debiting her 444,300 timeshare points from 2020, Vistana used her 2021 points on the booking.

The company, she said, considered her 2020 points to be "restricted" since she canceled the stay, meaning she could only use them to book reservations within 120 days of the trip.

Troyer called the policy unfair, saying vacation properties in Hawaii are often "booked solid" one year in advance.

“It just doesn’t work and I’m not understanding why they are treating it as if it was the owner’s fault," Troyer said. "It really bothers me because it takes advantage of people.”

Troyer is among many other timeshare owners who are scrambling to rebook trips because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Analysts say cancellation policies for major timeshare companies vary, but most are allowing owners to rebook for later dates with no issues.

Ed Kinney, a spokesman for Marriott Vacations Worldwide, which owns Vistana, acknowledged that the company's policy does place restrictions on refunded points. If owners want to rebook with those points, they must do so within 120 days of the trip, he confirmed.

In some cases, owners may not be able to reserve the same resort or the same destination, Kinney said.

“It’s always good for people to have some flexibility, whether it’s the exact location or the exact date," Kinney said. “But we have been really successful in making an alternative solution work for people.”

Troyer said 120 days does not leave enough time to get the best deals on flights. She worries her 2020 points, which expire Dec. 31, 2021, might be wasted. She also said she's paid more than $6,000 in maintenance fees for her timeshare this year.

“They are making it really difficult," she said.

Lisa Ann Schreier, a timeshare analyst, said companies should be "consumer-centric" during a pandemic. The companies, she said, have nothing to lose by allowing owners flexibility with their points.

“I think if anything comes out of this pandemic it's going to be that consumers are going to finally vote with their money and support those companies that are doing the right thing," Schreier said.

Domestic travel guide: If you're moving between states, here's where you'll have to self-quarantine

Photo shows a vacation scene from the website of Marriott Vacations Worldwide, a timeshare company.

Here is a list of COVID-19 cancellation policies for the some of the nation's major timeshare companies:

Hyatt Residence Club

The Hyatt Residence Club is also owned by Marriott Vacations Worldwide. Kinney said owners who cancel their reservations within 60 days of the trip will get their points refunded and must use them within their seasonal reservation window. Owners who cancel before the 60-day window can use the refunded points on their date of choice, he said. The 2020 points will expire on Dec. 31, 2021. (Note: Hyatt's policy is only accessible to members with a valid login.)

Hilton Grand Vacations Club

The Club is waiving all cancellation penalties for anyone who cancels or reschedules a reservation that had a check-in date before May 31. The company is also refunding booking fees for applicable reservations.

Disney Vacation Club

Disney says it is automatically canceling reservations on a week-by-week basis until a decision is made on where the resorts can reopen. If you have a reservation with a check-in in the next 30 days and it gets canceled, Disney will return those vacation points for the current use year. If a customer is using borrowed points and the reservation gets canceled, those points will be returned to the use year they were borrowed from.

WorldMark by Wyndham

The company said there is no penalty for anyone who cancels reservations with an arrival date prior to May 31 up to 24 hours prior to your scheduled arrival.

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Source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/2020/04/24/coronavirus-travel-timeshare-owners-navigate-cancellation-policies/3003547001/

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