On Thursday December 9, 2010 Disney Vacation Club held its annual Condominium Association Meeting. DVCNews.com was in attendance and posted a running commentary to our Twitter and Facebook accounts. But for the benefit of those who were unable to follow along or attend in person, following is a summary of the major developments that came out of the meeting.
The meeting is comprised of several components including the formal Board of Directors Meeting, the Member Meeting and a Member question and answer period. During the board sessions, the proposed budgets for 2011 were ratified, along with several amendments which were detailed in the budget mailings sent out in mid-November.
According to figures presented at the meeting, Disney Vacation Club dues have risen at a rate of 3% annually since 2005. That rate is far lower than the 9% industry average compiled by Ernst & Young for the American Resorts Development Association (ARDA.)
Following the budget discussions, attending Members were given the opportunity to pose questions specifically related to annual dues.
- Old Key West renovations will run through mid 2011. Costs are currently on target or under the original budget for the refurbishment.
- A member questioned why dues are rising at a rate higher than the Consumer Price Index (CPI.) The reason given is that CPI is not a good indicator of the cost of operating a resort hotel. CPI deals primarily with the costs of consumer goods such as bread, milk, and so on. DVC representatives estimated that 60% of annual dues go toward employee salaries and benefits (including healthcare costs) which are rising at a rate much higher than CPI.
- Foreclosures are currently an issue for DVC but they do not impact member dues. Disney Vacation Development absorbs all costs associated with foreclosures.
Following the budget Q&A, DVC's independent auditor spoke and reported that all Condominium Associations received an "unqualified" (i.e. "clean") opinion.
DVC President Jim Lewis used the next portion of the meeting to address some issues which have been raised at prior sessions. First was the quality of TV channels offered at DVC resorts, specifically the lack of Fox News Channel. While Lewis sympathizes with owners over the many missing channels--particularly TNT--decisions of that nature are made at higher corporate levels and are unfortunately out of the hands of Disney Vacation Club.
Lewis read a letter from a member regarding a supposed decline in value of DVC ownership due to the discount rates offered at other Disney resorts. Lewis stressed that DVC ownership is a long term proposition. They can neither give refunds to members during a poor economy, nor can ask existing members to pay more for their ownership when the economy is good. Overall Disney is steadily reducing hotel discount programs, so the value of DVC will continue to improve comparatively-speaking.
New member perks introduced in the last year include discounts at Best Friends Pet Care, Via Napoli, Tutto Italia, Ridemakers, Little Miss Matched and trail rides at Fort Wilderness campground. DVC has also obtained member discounts on the D23 fan club and for tickets to Disney Broadway productions.
The issue of room cleanliness was briefly addressed. The goal is 100% member satisfaction. DVC staffers stressed that Members should make every effort to get problems resolved during their stays rather than simply contacting Member Services after the fact.
Disney Vacation Club briefly previewed the on-line booking system which is expected to be live before the end of 2011. The system will add many new features to DVCMember.com including making reservations, creating waitlist requests and borrowing of points. DVC Members were involved in the design and testing of the new system in order to gauge its effectiveness. Implementation of the on-line reservation system will be just one part of a complete redesign of DVCMember.com.
As previously report, the 2011 - 2012 vacation planners are being issued by the end of 2010. Point charts for 2012 are already available on DVCMember.com. Hard copy planners were given to all meeting attendees and will be mailed to other members shortly.
DVC presented the results of its own internal member surveys. Those rating the program as excellent or very good totaled 90% of DVC membership. According to figures provided by the ARDA, the industry average for excellent + very good ratings among timeshare managers is 57%. Market Metrix' independent ratings reflect similar results with DVC as the timeshare segment leader with a rating in excess of 91.
General managers of each DVC resort gave brief reports on projects planned for 2011. Included are:
- Animal Kingdom Villas: Improved walking path between Jambo House and Kidani Village. The new path will take a more direct route through the Jambo self parking lot.
- Bay Lake Tower: New jogging trail and fire pit (actually scheduled for completion in late 2010.)
- BoardWalk Villas: Community Hall carpet replacement, resurfacing of the pool side and new furniture for the pool deck.
- Hilton Head Island: Pool recoating planned. They will also take a look at whether the beach house restrooms need to be refurbished.
- Old Key West: The room refurbishment will be completed and all rooms will also receive new patio furniture. Additionally the fitness center is getting new equipment and the arcade will receive new games.
- Saratoga Springs: Flat panel TVs and possibly new soft goods (comforters, drapery, etc.) in all villas. The expanded Paddock pool opens in the summer and the Congress Park pool is scheduled for a refurbishment.
- Wilderness Lodge: The roof on the walkway between buildings will be converted to metal. New exterior signage and lighting is planned. The guest laundry equipment will be replaced.
- Vero Beach: Mattresses and washer/dryer units are being replaced.
It was also revealed in the meeting that DVC will begin offering a new travel insurance product which will cover ALL trips in a single year for a one-time fee of $79. Details to come.
Concluding the member meeting was a general attendee Q&A. Here is a sampling of the topics raised during this session:
- An owner with 1600 points questioned why DVC does not have any sort of loyalty program with extra benefits for high point owners. Jim Lewis stated that they are on the verge of announcing just such a product. While not revealing any specific details, he did state that members will be able to participate both via their own purchases and referrals of other buyers.
- A member questioned why the point charts were reallocated in 2010 and 2011. The high weekend rates had begun to sway members away from weekends rather than balancing things out. The end result was very low occupancy on weekends. The only way to correct the problem was to lower weekend costs and increase weekdays.
- When will wireless Internet service be added to the DVC resorts? A vague answer was given citing a multi-year roll-out of wi-fi service. No timelines or other details provided.
- Complaints regarding the quality and quantity of merchandise with the DVC logo. Reportedly one of Disney's merchandise partners has recently concluded research / focus groups covering all segments of Disney merchandise. The results of these projects will be used to shape the type of merchandise introduced in the coming years. Reps also stated that initial merchandise for Aulani was recently viewed and they believe Members will be very impressed.
- Expansion of concierge at Animal Kingdom Villas: no plans
- Counter service dining at Kidani Village: no plans
- The free valet parking perk--discontinued in October 2009--came up again. According to Lewis, the parking vendor was providing service free of charge to DVC members. Given the growth in membership they could no longer justify the free offering. DVC had no choice but to make members subject to the vendor's fees.
- DVC is looking into making hotel rooms at the Grand Californian available for points bookings due to the lack of availability at the Disneyland Hotel during its refurbishment.