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Westgate Resorts began in 1982 as a vacation timeshare entity with one 16-unit resort in Kissimmee, Fla. Banking on a formula that combines luxurious yet affordable suites at family centered resorts, Westgate appears to have struck vacation gold.
Now celebrating its 30th year, to say this organization has grown would be an understatement. With 27 resorts across the United States that encompass more than 10,000 luxury villas and yearly revenues of more than $813 million, Westgate Resorts claims it has become “the largest timeshare company in the world.”
“More than just condos and a pool, Westgate offers its clients a vacation experience,” COO Mark Waltrip says. Each resort is conveniently located close to major family centered tourist destinations such as Orlando, Fla., Park City, Utah, and Myrtle Beach, S.C. “Most of the resorts are uniquely themed based on the destination,” he says. “In addition, there are a variety of activities that enhance that resort’s theme as well as restaurants and shopping venues.”
Condominium units at the resorts are appointed with luxurious amenities such as jetted spa tubs and granite countertops. The spacious rooms and fully equipped kitchenettes offer guests a home away from home. “Everyone expects great service and clean rooms,” Waltrip says. “Our job is to deliver a unique vacation experience.” Operating much like a hotel, the resorts offer weeklong timeshares. Non-owners can also stay for a nightly rate.
Each resort allows guests to be immersed in the vacation experience. “For instance, the Westgate River Ranch located in central Florida offers a dude ranch theme,” Waltrip notes. Visitors are treated to events such as rodeos and dinner hayrides. Other attractions include a petting farm, a trap and skeet range, a nine-hole golf course and a full-service marina. Guests can enjoy the surrounding wild flora and fauna at the nearby Kissimmee Island Cattle Co. Wildlife Management Area.
The Westgate Lakes Resort in Orlando is close to the Disney World parks, Universal Studios and SeaWorld. The resort grounds feature seven heated outdoor pools, full-service Serenity Spa, on-site dining options, activity programs and a kid’s club. The Westgate Smokey Mountain Resort & Spa in Gatlinburg, Tenn., is home to the Wild Bear Falls water park. Resort activities include fishing trips, arts and crafts, and live entertainment. In addition, most resorts include sport courts, video arcades, fitness centers and miniature golf courses.
“Although the resorts are located near tourist destinations, many visitors claim that they never have to leave the resort grounds,” Waltrip says. For instance, the Las Vegas property, Westgate Flamingo Bay Resort, offers a family friendly experience. Although close to the local attractions, this garden-style oasis is meant to be a serene respite from the glitz of the Las Vegas strip. “In addition to our standard amenities, guests are offered a variety of recreational opportunities,” he notes. “We can arrange tours of the Hoover Dam or the Grand Canyon or even provide tickets to one of the stage shows.”
For a fee, owners can exchange a weekly share for a stay at another Westgate Resort location. Owners also can take advantage of Westgate Resort’s exchange program with Interval International. For an additional fee, Westgate members can stay at more than 2,700 resorts around the world.
Westgate Resorts enhances the vacation experience by providing a high level of service to its clients. Through its unique training program, each employee is trained by a certified field trainer (CFT). The CFT is responsible for instructing new and existing team members on company standards, standard operating procedures, service philosophies and specific job-related skills.
From the customer’s initial contact, team members follow a specific script that touches on all aspects of the client’s stay. As an owner arranges the trip, the guest service agent will suggest activities based on that guest’s history with Westgate Resorts. “We track the history of every guest,” Waltrip says. “We try to anticipate what the customer wants before they even arrive at the resort.” On arrival, a guest service agent will escort the owner on a tour of the property, book restaurant or spa reservations, and orient the customer with the resort.
To ensure a high level of service, all Westgate guests are invited to participate in an experience measurement survey that gauges both the performance of the staff as well as what was important to the guest during his or her stay. From this collected data, reports are generated which show guest satisfaction results for a specific property and how that property compares to all Westgate Resorts.
Based on this information, each resort’s scores are broken down by department (front desk, guest services, etc.). In turn, that department receives a monthly improvement plan based on the experience measurement scores it received. Each department head is required to complete an individual action plan to address any deficiencies and improve the overall score.
“With Westgate Resorts, guests and owners get many benefits over just renting a hotel room,” Waltrip asserts.