My Holiday Systems International (HSI) experience so far
I just wanted to share my experience so far with HSI.
A little background: We (my husband and I) have attended a few timeshare presentations in the past and never bought. We were always interested but the initial buy in cost was out of reach (anywhere from $10k to $30k). We stayed at the Grand Mayan in Vellas Vallarta in May 08 with some friends who had booked using RCI. Upon checkin the 4 of us were suckered into the 90 minute timeshare presentation with the promise of a free breakfast, free golf and free spa treatments. For 90 minutes we felt this was worth it. We knew we would say no to their presentation. Their 90 minute presentation lasted more than 4 hours. The free breakfast was with the salesrep. After the final NO we were lead outside and told to have an exit interview so we could get our other free incentives. This is where we were told about HSI. To buy into the Grand Mayan TS it was something like $30k and we all said no. The exit guy wrote down our incentives we were promised and then went into the "well if I could offer you all that they offered in there for a fraction of the cost, would you buy it?" Long story short, after another hour of sales pitch we were introduced to the HSI vacation club. We (and our friends) thought it was actually a decent deal at the time. Our friends were even thinking they would sell their current timeshare and just use HSI. (by the way, we did get our free golf and spa treatments so that was cool and they sent us an amazing flower arrangement
Here's what we spent and got: $5000 for the buy in (i am now seeing people have paid much less) plus $99/yr for annual fees. We got a 25 year membership with 75 anytime breakaway weeks and unlimited burn weeks. As a bonus we got a discount cruise for 2 (3 price points: $399, $599 or $799) expires 1 year from date of purchase, specially priced mayan week for $299 to be used at a Mayan Palace or Mayan Sea Garden (1 bd or studio) expires 18 months after purchase. We also get 2 rounds of golf and 2 spa packages when we use the mayan week.
What we were told: We were sold on the idea that most burn weeks averaged $200/wk but could be as low as $100/wk but no more than $950 a week. The example the sales guy gave of a $950 week was Vail Colorado over New Years. Breakaway weeks averaged $500/wk. No additional fees. He talked about many other "fantastic" benefits but we were mostly looking at the weeks and cost. They assured us anyone could use our membership, which meant a lot to us because we travel a lot with family. I was also told that we could split weeks (i will talk more on this below).
They also boast about hotel and cruise deals and that they are a full-service one-stop travel agency on sports packages and many other things.
What we actually got: Burn weeks do go for as little as $100 but you have to be able to book this on about a 2 weeks notice. I have seen weeks as much as $1495 (not often but maybe 4 times in the 10 months we have been with HSI). Basically the burn weeks show you inventory 60 days out. The further out the more expensive. Below I will tell you how we have worked this. Breakaway weeks don't really average $500. I would say more like $650.
When you book online there is an additional $15 booking fee. I was promised that after the annual fee that the only other thing we would pay was the actual price of the week. I was not told of a booking fee. $15 might not be too much but still. Or if you book over the phone there is a $40 booking fee!
How we have used it so far: In the 10 months since we have been members I have let my friend use a burn week to go to Vegas. She paid approx $350 for a 1 bedroom (+ $15 booking fee). My brother went to Kauai for $100/wk in a 2 bedroom (+ $15). I thought that was a killer deal. But this is how we worked it. He knew a few months in advance he wanted to go there. When Kauai showed up on the 60 day or less inventory we watched it for a few weeks. One resort was listed 4 times (1 & 2 bedrooms). The prices started around $550. Each week they would knock off money. He gambled and said if anyone booked one of the 4 then he would hurry and book. No one did and each week they continued to knock off money until it hit $100 and he booked.
We looked at using our cruise for 2 but have decided to let that expire. It would have been a good deal (basically a 2 for 1) but we can't find the time to use it. Instead we are using our specially priced mayan week ($299). We had no problem getting the week we wanted. When I called I asked for a few different weeks in May and June and everything I asked for had availability (1 bedroom). We decided to go in June. We also booked another 1 bedroom so my parents and sister could come. They are using one of our breakaway weeks and are paying $675. I was hoping it would be cheaper for them but....The mayan resort looks amazing with a lazy river and waterslides.
I have called HSI for their so-called hotel discount but I find it is much better to just use Expedia or Orbitz because you are relying on an agent to find you what you want. They have emailed me choices before and they usually send you 4 or 5 star hotel choices but I can do this on my own with other websites.
I guess I would say so far we haven't had a bad experience. I am a little sick we paid $5000 for the initial buy in but I will chalk it up to lesson learned. Our friends who purchased with us (they have the other TS) haven't used it yet but they were sold on the fact that if they didn't sale their TS altogether then they could bank their weeks with HSI and HSI would pay their maintainence fee (i really wasn't listening to the details because it didn't apply to us so I don't know how this works)
Two things I wish is that the breakaway weeks were a little cheaper (maybe they are still a good deal, i dunno. I don't own any other timeshare to compare). And that you could split weeks. I was lead to believe this was a possibility but it is not. We live in the Bay Area and there are resorts that pop up in San Fran and Tahoe all the time. But I really don't want to stay there for an entire week. With my uncles timeshare (worldmark) he can get us 2 night stays. Using his worldmark we stayed in a 1 bedroom Tahoe resort for $60/night. We have also stayed 2 nights in San Fran.
So I guess that is it for now. Sorry for the long post but maybe this will shed a little light on HSI and our experience so far. We are using our Mayan week this June in Acapulco so hopefully it will go smoothly.
Feel free to contact me or leave another post and I will try and answer questions. I would also like to read if anyone else has had any positive experiences with HSI. Any "secrets" to share on getting better deals?
Here are a few current examples of what is on their burn list, two are even over the promised max $950 (i guess that makes 6 times I have seen this) and currently there aren't any "as low as $100 :
French Lick Springs Villas IN (French Lick) 2BD 8 3/14/2009 $575.00
Pelican Resort Club St. Maarten Studio 2 3/14/2009 $950.00
Radium Valley Vacation Resort Canada (British Columbia, Fairmont Hot Springs) 3BD 8 3/14/2009 $725.00
Beachcomber International Australia 2BD 6 3/21/2009 $286.00
Kahana Beach Vacation Club HI (Maui) Studio 4 3/21/2009 $291.00
Buganvilias Resort Vacation Club Mexico (Puerto Vallarta) 2BD Penthouse 8 3/28/2009 $725.00
Gurneys Inn Resort & Spa NY (Montauk) Studio 4 3/28/2009 $1,250.00
Grand Velas Resort Mexico (Nuevo Vallarta) 2BD 5 4/4/2009 $3,675.00 (this must be one killer place for that price...i dunno)
Maui Beach Vacation Club HI (Maui) 2BD 6 4/4/2009 $432.00
Cabo Villas Mexico (Cabo) Studio-Luxury 4 4/11/2009 $449.00
Sea Village HI (Big Island) 2BD 6 4/17/2009 $508.00
Kamaole Sands HI (Maui) 2BD (with Loft) 6 4/18/2009 $684.00
Xanadu Beach Resort and Marina Bahamas (Freeport) Studio 2 4/18/2009 $424.00
Villas at Regal Palms FL (Orlando) 4BD 10 4/25/2009 $695.00
Playa Del Sol Grand Mexico (Nuevo Vallarta) 1BD 4 4/30/2009 $550.00