RCI to become Wyndham Exchange; says Carmel jobs are safe

Despite a swooning economy that has hammered the time-share condominium industry over the last 18 months, Resort Condominiums
International continues to outperform its market.

That’s not to say there hasn’t been some pain at
the company formerly headquartered in Carmel. RCI officials recently announced that revenue is down during the first three
quarters of this year to $349 million from $370 million during the same period in 2008. Full-year revenue is likely to be
off about 10 percent from $471 million in 2008, analysts said.

The company credited the 2009 decline partly to
currency-exchange issues at its overseas properties. RCI officials expect business to ramp up during the first quarter of
2010 and the 1,050-employee base at the Carmel location to remain stable.

RCI allows owners of vacation time shares
at RCI-affiliated resorts to trade vacation dates and locations with other time-share owners. Employees at its Carmel office
man the company’s North American call center and handle information technology, business development and resort services,
said Richard Ruff, senior vice president and general manager of RCI’s North American sales centers.

Those jobs are safe, Ruff said, even in an industry hammered by a falloff in resort construction and a credit
crunch that makes it difficult for people to buy time-share units.

The company is taking steps
to maintain its lofty position in the vacation-exchange sector, which was essentially invented by Jon
and Christel DeHaan, the Indianapolis couple who founded RCI in 1974.

After Christel DeHaan
won the company in their divorce, she sold it in 1996 to New York-based Cendant Corp. for $825 million.
Ten years later, Cendant’s hospitality division—which included RCI—spun off and became
a separate company under New Jersey-based Wyndham Worldwide.

Wyndham CEO Stephen P. Holmes said during an
Oct. 28 conference call that RCI is being renamed Wyndham Exchange and Rentals to better align the company with other Wyndham
companies—a move he thinks will play especially well with Wall Street analysts.

And in November the company
will launch an expanded Web site—including a Web-based TV station and worldwide time-share search function. Holmes predicted
the Web enhancements will help RCI improve its margins—presumably by allowing the company to do more business with less
call-center manpower.

The move to push clients toward the Internet has some analysts wondering if the Carmel call
center will be downsized. RCI’s Ruff insisted that won’t be the case.

“Our goal is to allow our
customers to do the simplest parts of the transaction online and save time,” Ruff said. “This is still a high-touch
product and, to date, this [plan] hasn’t affected our employment strategy.”

Company officials hope
the expanded Web site will make the company’s time-share exchange services more accessible to a broader customer base.

The fact that RCI has held its position as market leader in the time-share industry is a testament to its large
customer base, industry analysts said. RCI officials said they have 3.8 million members along with 3,700 participating resorts
worldwide.

RCI and Miami-based Interval International are the two largest worldwide time-share exchange companies
and, according to industry analysts, control more than one-third of the worldwide market.

“The last year
hasn’t been easy on the time-share industry,” said Mark Eble, a hotel consultant and Midwest regional vice president
for San Francisco-based PKF Consulting Corp. “A lot of good companies have been hurt.”

Eble said RCI
is positioned to survive the economic downturn as well as any time-share company, but he noted the deepest economic swoon
since the Great Depression has slowed condominium construction worldwide to a snail’s pace.•

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining
{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining Article limit resets on
{{ count_down }}