The story of the development of Wyndham Vacation Ownership, the timeshare division of what is now Wyndham Destinations, is a winding road of various entities which have, collectively, become the largest vacation ownership company in the world.
Headquartered in Orlando, Florida and centered on a points-based system of vacation ownership products, Wyndham Vacation Ownership has developed or obtained over 200 timeshare resorts throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and the South Pacific which include over 23,000 individual units.
To chart the sometimes confusing course of the Wyndham Vacation Ownership history, we first look at the hotel side. The Wyndham Hotel Corporation was founded by Trammel Crow in Dallas, Texas in 1981, with the company reportedly named after Wyndham Robertson, who was a writer for Forbes Magazine and wrote a profile on Crow. The company grew over the years through a combination of acquisitions and corporate restructures, with the company renamed Wyndham International in 1999.
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Now, to the timeshare side. A company called Fairfield Resorts had been operating since 1966 as one of the nation's first timeshare operators. In the 1980's the company decided to diversify from its core timeshare product into such areas as real estate, housing developments, commercial sites and golf courses. Financial struggles set in and the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1990, emerging in 1992 with a new model as the first timeshare operator to transition from the original, fixed-week ownership structure to the points-based system which is widely used in the industry today.
Fairfield grew throughout the remainder of the 1990s, with the corporate headquarters moving from Little Rock, Arkansas to Orlando, Florida in 1999. In 2000, the company was one of the first to allow owners to make online reservations through a dedicated website.
In 2001, Fairfield was bought by real estate and hospitality company Cendant for a reported $690 million, naming Franz Hanning as CEO. The next year, Cendant also bought Trendwest Resorts and Equivest Finance, creating the Cendant Timeshare Resort Group which was, at the time, the largest vacation ownership company in the industry.
Meanwhile in 2004, Wyndham International , in conjunction with timeshare operator Tempus Resorts International, announced the launch of the brand Wyndham Vacation Ownership, which was originally created to attract independent timeshare and hotel developers to participate in a franchise and affiliation arrangement under the Wyndham brand.
Wyndham International was then sold to affiliates of the Blackstone Group in June, 2005, who then sold the Wyndham brands to Cendant.
Enter 2006. Cendant now owns all of the above entities and spins off the resort operations under the newly created moniker Wyndham Worldwide. This would include Cendant Timeshare Resort Group Inc. changing its name to Wyndham Vacation Ownership Inc. , Fairfield Resorts renamed as Wyndham Vacation Resorts, Trendwest North America's WorldMark by Trendwest changed to WorldMark by Wyndham, and Trendwest South Pacific called Wyndham Vacation Resorts Asia Pacific. Wyndham International would also be absorbed under the new Wyndham Worldwide.
Now operating as a subsidiary under the Wyndham Worldwide structure, Wyndham Vacation Ownership would become the umbrella brand for three primary groups (Wyndham Vacation Resorts, WorldMark by Wyndham, and Wyndham Vacation Resorts Asia Pacific). Wyndham Vacation Resorts would later be re-branded as Club Wyndham.
In 2012, Wyndham Vacation Ownership acquired one of North America's most respected independent timeshare operations, Shell Vacations Club. With over 40 years of serving guests in Canada and the U.S., Wyndham would welcome Shell's 19 managed resorts and over 115,000 members into the fold, but continue to manage Shell Vacations Club as a separate consumer brand. This acquisition would open the Wyndham program to additional Shell resort destinations in locales such as the Canadian ski wonderland of Whistler, the tropical paradise of Hawaii and the Las Vegas strip.
The Wyndham Vacation Ownership timeshare powerhouse now has over 900,000 owner families and continues to be run by CEO Franz Hanning. The company has also pioneered a new business model, prompted by the lean years of the recession, which has ensured even more growth for the company. Called the Wyndham Asset Affiliation Model (WAAM), the plan allows for Wyndham to bring additional timeshare resorts into an affiliation agreement with the company, with Wyndham taking over sales and marketing for the resort with an option to refurbish and re-brand the resort under the Wyndham name. This allows Wyndham to continue to add resorts to the portfolio, creating new vacation destinations for its membership without the heavy capital outlay needed for new resort development.
Looking ahead, Wyndham Vacation Ownership continues to think outside the box with unique partnerships such as the latest agreement with Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Hospitality Group to redevelop the former Grand Beach Palace Resort, located on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The newly named Wyndham St. Thomas, a Margaritaville Vacation Club resort, has 262 timeshare units and is the first timeshare resort for the new Margaritaville Vacation Club by Wyndham vacation ownership brand.