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Sailing lessons are just one of many activities enjoyed by holiday club members at Laguna Phuket.

Trading Places With Timeshare

Sunday, November 25, 2007
LARGELY because of bankruptcies, timeshare has a troubled past. But with the entry of reliable quality brands, club holiday memberships are now a popular and secure alternative.

Marriott and Laguna Phuket are two reliable brands offering the chance to families especially, with Thais taking to the concept in large numbers.

The Marriott Vacation Club International has more than 300,000 member families worldwide, and has been involved in timeshare since 1984.

Both brands offer members the opportunity to take holidays at thousands of resorts around the world through points exchange systems.

Entry level for the Marriott is $S14,000, or 12,000 points, the equivalent of three nights at the Marriott Phuket Beach Club in peak season, for 50 years.

Competition on Phuket between the top-end brands has been intense, with the Marriott cheekily running an office on the road just outside Laguna Phuket, as well as operating a sub-agency at a restaurant on Bangtao beach, right in front of the Sheraton Grande Laguna Resort.

Yet there are members who have happily joined both clubs to increase their spread of choice destinations around the world.

It's easy to see the value in these programs, especially for busy, growing families who want a reliable destination. But plenty of couples and singles are joining as well.

Laguna Holiday Club members Barb and Ken Lewis typify the modern travelers who mix and match their own broad travel options.

Barb, a teacher and development trainer, and Ken, a geologist, are Canadians who live and work in California . . . and play wherever they wish.

The pair first came to Phuket in 2002. Ken takes up the story: ??????The timeshare concept really works for our family. As expats living in the Middle East at the time (the Lewis??????s son and daughter are now at college in Canada)
we had lots of vacation days and the ability to travel.

??????We traded our weeks using RCI (a points exchange trader) for three years
after we purchased the timeshare.

??????In 2003 we traded our time for a week at the Kona Hawaiian Village on the Big Island in Hawaii and another week at the Embassy Suites resort in Kauai.
We enjoyed Volcano National Park, hiking, kayaking, snorkelling and surfing.

??????In 2004 we traded one week to stay at a resort in Malaga, Spain and another week in Portugal.

??????In 2005 we traded for a week of skiing at an RCI Intrawest resort in Whistler, Canada, then flew down to Baja, Mexico and spent two weeks at an RCI resort in San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico.

??????We stayed at the La Jolla Resort and enjoyed the beach, whale watching and dining.

??????In 2006 we returned to Phuket and stayed at Allamanda Laguna Phuket. We
sailed through Phang Nga Bay and saw an amazing Sea Gypsy village.
??????We rented a fishing boat for a day and caught 14 tuna. The skipper took us to Racha Island and cooked up the tuna for lunch while we enjoyed a swim.

??????We took a jet boat out to Phi Phi island. The other days we relaxed poolside
and beachside at the Allamanda and at the Sheraton, enjoying seeing the baby elephants and Thai dancers.

??????At night we tried out all the great dining and night spots from Kata to Bangtao.

??????So far in 2007 we have spent a week in Colorado at an RCI resort in Winter
Park. We had great days skiing at Copper Mountain, Breckenridge, Winter Park and Mary Jane ski resorts in both powder and spring-like conditions.

??????We are currently looking to trade for another week at a beach resort somewhere in Southern California this summer.??????

Clearly enjoying their mid-forties, the couple relish winter sports and water sports, hiking and camping, and working out and running wherever they choose.

Provided careful consideration is given to the cost, the contract, the benefits and the brand, the 21st century version of time share has quite a lot to offer.

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