The hotel business can be strange in many ways. But timeshare brands are far, far stranger.
A hotel might have the Marriott brand, but it’s most likely not actually owned by Marriott. It may not even be managed by Marriott. Marriott sells the rooms, provides some standards, and takes a slice out of revenue. Of course that’s just one of a number of different arrangements. (We think of airline codesharing as a bit deceptive, United Airlines sells a flight with its flight number but you actually fly on Lufthansa. Yet this is perfectly normal.)
How about Marriott Vacations controlling Hyatt’s timeshare portfolio? That’s something not a lot of people realize but gets a big exclamation point from Marriott Vacations Worldwide spending $430 million to acquire Welk Resorts to turn them into Hyatt Residenes properties. And wait – there are Lawrence Welk hotels?
In a sale expected to close in the second quarter, Marriott “says it plans to rebrand the Welk vacation resorts in California, Colorado, Missouri, New Mexico and Cabo San Lucas as Hyatt Residence Club properties.”
- Lawrence Welk hotel properties
- Owned by Marriott Vacations
- That will be.. Hyatts. Say what?
Band leader and TV star Lawrence Welk became a real estate developer. He also patented a musical restaurant menu, and accordion-themed ash tray and serving tray.
Shortly after the end of his TV show’s run, in the mid-1960s, Welk picked up his first resort property in Escondido, California – a mobile home park with motel, restaurant and 9-hole golf course. He converted it into a timeshare 20 years later. And he built the portfolio into 8 timeshare resorts that included a property near Palm Springs, two in Lake Tahoe, as well as locations in Branson, Missouri; Breckenridge, Colorado; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Cabo San Lucas. The company also owns inventory at other resort properties (“Experiences Collection by Welk Resorts”).
But the Welk name doesn’t mean what it once did, and rebranding is expected to take place over a 9 month period. Marriott plans to “have Welk continue to sell its points-based club product until 2022 and by 2023 look at integrating that into one club system.” The deal increases the total number of Hyatt Residences owners by more than 150%.
“I think it is an old-time name and it appeals to a much older demographic,” said Reay, president of the Atlas Hospitality Group. “I’d say most young people don’t have a clue who Lawrence Welk was so getting the Hyatt Residence Club name opens up a lot more marketing opportunities and to a wider audience, so I think it’s a very smart move. You also have the benefit of their loyalty guest members and the economies of scale and buying power of Hyatt, which can negotiate much better rates with online travel agencies like Expedia.”
The Welk family will retain ownership of an “undeveloped 22-acre site near Poipu beach in Kauai that is entitled for 168 timeshare units or condominiums” as well as “land near the Escondido resort and also real estate in Branson near that timeshare property.”
The history of which brands own what timeshares is bizarre and includes Marriott Vacations buying Hyatt Residence Clubs along with the Starwood timeshare business that… Marriott didn’t want.