Whistler Vacation Club's Walk of Fire

Presenting the first ever Cornerstone Award at VO-CON last month, from left Jon Zwickel, CRDA, Marlene Scott and Macarena Lorenzini of award sponsor Northwind.

Presenting the first ever Cornerstone Award at VO-CON last month, from left Jon Zwickel, CRDA, Marlene Scott and Macarena Lorenzini of award sponsor Northwind.

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WHISTLER, BC—Back in September 2010, Marlene Scott was among four members of the board of directors of Whistler Vacation Club who discovered a misappropriation of funds.

The financial status of the club following the misappropriation left both the reserve accounts and pre-payment accounts depleted.

“Our journey began in September 2010 with one payroll cycle in cash flow and $450,000 in payables,” Scott told the audience at VO-CON 2013 last month in Vancouver. “In short, we were two weeks away from closing our offices and selling off the properties to pay our debts. I call this our Walk of Fire.”

But rather than give up, the board decided to fight back. Thus began a new era of self management.

“To emphasize a new era of being self-managed, we went through a re-branding process—we recognized how important it would be to breathe life back into our club and energize our owners. It was out with the old… and in with a new member-centric culture,” Scott said.

They implemented a number of measures to stimulate owner engagement:
-Creation of a new website, www.thewhistlervacationclub.com;
-Online billing and payment by owners in real time;
-Social media communication on Facebook including bi-weekly messages of upcoming Whistler events, owner rental and availability and owner-to-owner communication; and

On the renewal front, they did the following:
-Conducted a reserve study in 2012; reserve accounts were created and they began saving to replace capital items such as windows, decks, etc.;
-An interior designer and architect reviewed the property and created a 'timeless' comprehensive palette for the front entrance, pool deck, lobby and unit interiors; and
-The front entryway project will begin by the end of 2013 and the lobby will be completed by spring with two units planned for renovation in the Spring of 2014.

All of this helped to energize the club.
-In terms of owner retention, the delinquency rate in 2012 was below five per cent.
-The rental program implemented in 2013 is ahead of budget.
-They have refined operational processes—implementing a new performance-based pay scale for housekeepers has resulted in a 12 per cent saving in 2012 and 8 per cent in 2013.
-Unit interior items including flat screen TVs, bedding and DVDs have been replaced.
-There is greater Strata (homeowners' association) involvement and more participation in local events.
Scott summed it all up for the VO-CON audience.

“Our building is undergoing a renewal, zero debt on the building, owners coming back multiple stays per year, we refined our operations, implemented checks and balances for increased transparency, built back our reserves, implemented reserve acccounts and our pre-paid and operating accounts are in the black by over $1.5 million.

“I believe our 'walk of fire' and subsequent recovery is deserving of  the CRDA Cornerstone Award as it represents a test of courage demonstrated by our unwavering determination and continued to commitment to owners and the industry to improve perceptions and be game changers.”

The audience at VO-CON obviously agreed, voting Marlene Scott and the Whistler Vacation Club winners of the first ever Cornerstone Award.

For full coverage of the 2013 VO-CON cenference:
VO-Con forum explores the business of vacations