The American Resort Development Association (ARDA) was founded in 1969 to represent the interests of the resort industry in the USA. Today, with almost 1000 corporate members, ARDA is recognized internationally as the foremost organization promoting the resort development and vacation ownership industry.
In the midst of ARDA's growth, the timeshare segment of the industry believed that more resources were needed to address their unique needs. The International Foundation for Time share (ITF) was founded in May 1982 to enhance the timesharing industry and help insure its longevity through research, technical studies, and education. With a membership of 54 Directors and Fellows and an endowment of over $1 million, the ITF has pursued its goals of industry education, research, and enhancement. During the last 14 years, the Foundation has provided funding for a number of significant research programs and through its Think Tank sponsorships brought critical issues affecting the future of vacation owner ship to the attention of industry leaders.
As the industry grew, the Foundation's leaders began to think about ways to create an even stronger and more effective Foundation. In 1996, ARDA and ITF decided to unify resources and create a more efficient entity to fulfill mutual goals. A strategic planning session was conducted in November 1996 and future trends of the resort development industry were identified. These include increased globalization, greater public awareness, more product diversity demands, larger and more affluent markets, limited avail ability of qualified personnel, constant technological changes, broadening of financing including more public financing and scrutiny, greater services by developers, and the enforcement of ethics and standards in new markets.
In response to these trends ARDA allowed ITF, a 501(c) (6) organization, to lapse. Then, in 1997 incorporated the ARDA International Foundation (AIF). This new, nonprofit organization, established as a 501(c) (3) organization, is devoted to meeting the industry's research and education needs. More specifically, the AIF is devoted to identifying consistent, ongoing industry bench marks, expanding research, offering professional development opportunities for those within the industry, analyzing technological change and its impact, and enhancing the public's knowledge of the timeshare industry. The vision for the ARDA International Foundation is for it to function as a research grant making entity, not an implementing one; thereby keeping staff and overhead costs to a minimum.
While ITF's past efforts provided basic support, the ARDA International Foundation's ability to fund expanded programs requires a significant increase in funding. In order to fully invest in new initiatives, a minimum of $6 million addition al endowment was needed. This amount, in addi tion to the $1 million existing endowment corpus provided through the original Foundation Direc tors and Fellows, will provide a stable and predict able base for sustaining the public education and research initiatives. 'The Time for the Timeshare Industry,' a capital campaign to raise these funds was created. Cristel DeHaan gave a substantial amount of money to assist in the creation of new educational projects and programs for vacation ownership professionals and there are ongoing fundraising events and activities to help ensure that the ARDA International Foundation (AIF) has the resources it needs to provide the necessary research studies and programs that ARDA members rely on and outside of the industry companies look to for future opportunities.
The current ARDA International Foundation Mission is to 'Support, conduct and disseminate research and technical studies that will enhance and improve knowledge for the public and the industry, and develop educational resources that will optimize operations, value, acceptance and service for the industry and the public.' Among the many valuable services available to Association members, the educational arm of the ARDA International Foundation continues to serve the professional and educational needs of the resort industry. Participation in the AIF Education programs signify professional awareness, enhance workplace performance, and foster self-esteem. For industry professionals, participation in these programs demonstrates to consumers, state regulators, the media, and fellow industry professionals a commitment to quality and the ARDA Code of Standards and Ethics.
Anyone involved in the vacation ownership industry requires detailed knowledge of the industry's operational, legal, and regulatory frameworks. The following programs exist to create learning opportunities for people currently in the industry and others who seek to enter it. Toward this goal, AIF offers: publications covering the industry's ethical, legal, regulatory, and operational intricacies; study courses; tests which assess industry knowledge; and recognition of continuing educational efforts.
A timeshare industry resource manual has been created that is used as a general textbook covering all aspects of the industry, including marketing, sales, financing, resort management, state and local regulatory laws, and ARDA's Code of Ethics as well as much more. Based on the manual is an ARDA Qualification Exam that is given both to students and to professionals already serving in the industry. Passing the exam shows that the individual demonstrates a personal commitment to quality, industry knowledge, and integrity, and pledges to adhere to the ARDA Code of Standards and Ethics.
Following the Qualification Exam are the two highly coveted professional designations, the Associate Resort Professional (ARP) and the Registered Resort Professional (RRP), which individuals apply for based on their experience and continuing education within the industry. The Associate and Registered Resort Professionals are awarded by ARDA to those industry leaders who have demonstrated their commitment to high ethical and professional standards through long term participation in the educational and industry related activities. A prerequisite for all individuals seeking these designations is active ARDA Advantage Plus membership (passing the ARDA Qualification Exam and maintaining individual membership to ARDA) and a minimum of 5 years of full time industry employment. A certain amount of credits is necessary to gain the designations and credits are earned through participation in educational and industry related activities as well as tenure. Individuals must have demonstrated their commitment to high ethical and professional standards.
There is also a certification for supervisors, the Certified Timeshare Supervisor, that is based on programs developed with the American Hotel and Lodging Association. The hands on series helps supervisors meet management's objectives for productivity and quality guest service, solve everyday workplace challenges, and gain respect, trust, and support from the people who work for them. The workbook provides a case study approach to building supervisory skills and is designed for those in supervisory or management roles in the resort industry.
Another extremely important program of the ARDA International Foundation is the conduct of consistent, ongoing surveys and research studies of the industry. Studies conducted include a Worldwide Timeshare study, a US Economic and a Financial Performance study. The Foundation is also greatly interested in setting up the process to collect specific industry data on a regular basis that will be analyzed by an independent economist. These independent reports on the industry will be released to the public, semi annually, at first.
The Foundation also supports ARDA's Research Library, offering a compilation of recent industry research covering a broad range of topics from the state of the timeshare industry to fractionals to a market profile of future time share buyers.
<http://www.arda.org>, January 8, 2004.
ARDA INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION, USA