After spending my first ever night at Universal Orlando Resort – Portofino Bay (yes – I cheated on Disney), I feel as strongly as ever that the time is now for Universal to consider entering the timeshare market.
As development continues on Universal Studios Orlando’s third gate, Universal’s Epic Universe, it got me thinking if we may one day see a DVC style timeshare from them as well. Universal, in many ways, has always been chasing Walt Disney World and implementing some of its ideas to the company’s advantage. With Disney Vacation Club being arguably one of the company’s most lucrative ventures in the past decade, it would stand to reason that some Universal executives have at least considered the option.
The first factor that would need to be analyzed is whether the market exists to support a Universal timeshare property. Based on conversations I’ve had with others over the years, my answer to this would be yes. While the demographic is obviously smaller than what we see with DVC, Universal has done a lot to make themselves more appealing in recent years. Most notable is what they have done to heighten their appeal to guests of all ages. Whether you are looking for a fun family-friendly ride like E.T.s Adventure, or something a bit more thrilling like Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, Universal has now established itself as a place where the entire family can have fun and spend multiple days enjoying its theme parks, water park, and more.
Next, Universal would need to evaluate if the timing is right to consider such an endeavor. In order to do this, I referenced back to Walt Disney World – Circa 1991. At the time Disney launched their first Disney Vacation Club Property – Disney’s Old Key West Resort, Walt Disney World was much different than what we know now. The resort at that time consisted of Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, Disney-MGM Studios, Typhoon Lagoon, River County, Disney Village Marketplace (now Disney Springs), and a series of hotels. Essentially 3 theme parks or “gates”, two water parks, a dining and shopping destination, and some hotels. Sound familiar? With Universal Orlando soon adding a third gate, the resort would be eerily familiar to what Walt Disney World looked like at the time of its decision to enter the timeshare market.
It is also crucial to look at how Universal has responded to the events that have unfolded over the past eighteen months. While construction on Epic Universe was paused briefly, it has since resumed, and construction on all other aspects of their resort continues at a rapid pace. This forward-looking thought process and aggressive investment in its theme parks could only be further bolstered by the addition of a timeshare similar to the Disney Vacation Club model.
The last and most important question to consider for Universal is how to successfully enter the timeshare market. This, in my mind, would be the hardest part of these discussions since Universal technically does not directly own any of its hotel properties. These are instead managed and owned by Loews Hotels. While this is an obstacle, it could in some ways work in Universal’s favor. If Universal were able to get Loews to sign on for such an endeavor, they would be able to leverage the growing network of hotel properties they have across North America. This could work similar to what we see with DVC and RCI and provide a greater value for those interested in purchasing a “vacation club” interest. It is one thing to sell people on visiting Universal Studios Orlando every year, but the possibility of visiting other locations sweetens the deal even more.
As I mentioned earlier, these thoughts are things I’ve considered over the past few weeks since Universal announced arguably its most aggressive growth initiative ever. If they want to play with the big boys, considering a way to get guests to return to their resorts year after year is the next step. Curious to hear your thoughts in the comments below! Is Universal ready to enter the timeshare market? If so, do you think people would buy their product?