By Colin Foreman
With Dubai’s timeshare industry in its infancy, now is the time to implement regulations to help protect consumers from the potential pitfalls.
How Dubai plans to avoid the pitfalls of timeshare|~|Mr200.gif|~|Ali Ibrahim, deputy director general — executive affairs, Department of Economic Development (DED).|~|Dubai has only just begun to capitalise on the potentially lucrative timeshare market with a handful of developments announced so far. CW spoke to Ali Ibrahim, deputy director general - executive affairs, Department of Economic Development (DED) about how the industry is developing, and how Dubai plans to avoid the timeshare pitfalls experienced in other markets.
Does the timeshare industry hold much potential for Dubai?
Timeshare is a very young industry in the UAE and the Middle East in general. The concept of vacation sharing is still developing across the region, and new ideas take time to be accepted. Also, some of the negative publicity that has beenseen about the timeshare industry in other parts of the world has added to the misgivings and unease.
However, with Dubai establishing itself as a premium tourist destination in the region, there is great potential for the growth of the timeshare industry in the emirate.
A significant number of international companies have begun to operate here, to market timeshare resorts and destinations across the world.
We are also witnessing the birth of the local timeshare market with companies coming forward to set up timeshare projects in Dubai and the UAE.
What progress is being made in regulating the sector?
A few years ago, the DED issued some regulations to regulate the companies marketing timeshare in general. We aim to work closely with the companies in this sector to create uniformity of regulations, and ensure that this is being followed by all companies in the sector.
The recent Timeshare Awareness seminar for companies operating in this business segment (organised by the DED in co-ordination with Dubai Police and RCI) was aimed at adapting the best practices of companies already operating in this sector. More than 57 delegates from various timeshare companies — including representatives from leading global organisations like Interval and Marriott — attended the event.
The seminar was a great success as it proved to be a forum for the exchange of ideas. The result was a series of recommendations to create a regulatory framework for the fast growing timeshare industry in Dubai being agreed upon by participating companies, the DED and the tourist security department of Dubai Police.
The timeshare industry has had a lot of bad press in Europe in the past. What will be done to ensure that consumers’ rights are protected?
The regulatory structure and actual regulations will be finalised much later. However, what we are trying to do currently is to create an awareness of the issues within the timeshare industry and in its dealings with customers.
We are working closely with the private sector, taking into consideration the specific needs of the sector, while formulating the necessary regulations. In this way, we will ensure that timeshare vendors operate within an appropriate legal and commercial framework and that the investment of all parties, consumers, marketers and developers alike, is protected.
Some of the recommendations that we have suggested include sufficient unification of contracts offered by different timeshare operators, in accordance with international terms and conditions. We are also seeking to ensure that the operations of timeshare companies are sufficiently transparent by including all the relevant details of the resort in the contract.
Other specific recommendations could include the provision of a ‘cooling-off’ period during which the buyer has the right
to change their mind about the purchase, as well as a
highlighted clause in contracts which the client signs to confirm that the contract terms are fully understood.
We are also looking to prohibit timeshare brokers from carrying out any promotional activities or concluding any contacts via visits to private homes.
Have there been many approaches from timeshare developers seeking to invest here?
Yes. We have been approached by timeshare developers, some of whom are international players. We anticipate that timeshare and vacation sharing will soon become a popular concept in the emirate.||**||