What happened when a HFP reader took a Hilton ‘timeshare’ marketing trip!

A couple of months ago, a Head for Points reader called up Hilton HHonors about a routine enquiry.   When the agent had dealt with his query, he made him an offer – would he be interested in a heavily subsidised £199 weekend break in Craigendarroch in Royal Deeside Scotland?

Hilton has a new Hilton Grand Vacations timeshare club it wanted him to see.  And he would get 10,000 Hilton points as well.

He decided to go for it.  This is how he got on!

Craigendarroch

This is the website of the Craigendarroch resort.  The trial package was priced at £199 for two people for two nights dinner, bed and breakfast – clearly good value.  There is theoretically a £50 weekend surcharge but our reader got this removed when he pushed.

Craigendarroch 2

The £199 package was designed around a Junior Suite.  Our reader is a Hilton Gold and was upgraded to a full one bedroom suite (see the three photos below, which he took).  A free bottle of prosecco and some chocolates were in the room on arrival.  The (inclusive) food throughout the weekend was excellent, as was breakfast.

HGVC 1

As part of the deal he was obliged to sit through a Hilton Grand Vacations Club sales pitch.  He booked a 9.30am slot in order to maximise their sightseeing time in Ballater and for a walk up Craigendarroch hill.

The sale pitch lasted 90 minutes, as a two-on-one with a sales person.  This comprised a 30 minute ‘getting to know you’ chat, a walkaround tour of the different sorts of suites available and then a discussion of the Hilton Grand Vactions concept.

Unlike the typical timeshare model, these are described as ‘timeshare unlocked’ or ‘Vacation Ownership’.  You receive an annual points allocation which can be used on a suite in Craigendarroch or for another HGVS property.  There are 32 suites in the main part of the original hotel building for sale, after which it will no longer be bookable as a hotel stay by the public.  (There are another 90 lodges on the grounds that were sold under previous ownership on the traditional timeshare model.)

HGVC 2

The costs were high.  The lowest investment was £3,500 plus £350 of administration fees.  This would generate 1,700 ‘points’ per year for 36 years.  This would get you a standard room for a week in November, but just a short weekend break in early Spring in a Junior Suite.

You wouldn’t have any chance of anything in peak season at that level.  Apparently a 1 bed suite for a week at high season per year would involve an initial payment of over £20,000.

This might sound reasonable over 36 years.  However, this ignores the annual administration fees £600-£800 to which you are legally committed to pay for next 36 years.

HGVC 3

Our reader noted that the Conrad Rangali resort in the Maldives was included as an option for using HGVC points.  However, it appears that you need a whopping 25,000 HGVC points for 10 days.  This means that, if you paid £20,000 for the one bedroom suite and then did not go for the first three years, you would have enough points for a 10 day Maldives break!  As a rough rule of thumb he felt that 25 Hilton HHonors points gets you the same value as 1 HGVC point.

So, he felt the deal was poor.  Our man was positive about the ‘marketing trip’ experience though:

“Q: Overall am I glad I did it?
A:  Yes.  Food was good, classic Scottish Country property, lovely surroundings, always fancied staying there.

Q: Was it worth it?
A: Yes, novelty value on staying over, very good food, swimming pool ok (too warm for decent swim)

One thing for certain – the weekend made me reflect and appreciate that I’m an independent minded traveller who knows how to judge a good value offer!”

If you wanted to try this package for yourself, you can book an inspection tour for £199 via this website – although the £50 weekend surcharge is automatically added if you book via this route.

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Comments

  1. Sad that they’re closing it as a normal hotel. I had a great stay there a few years ago as part of a holiday cycling across Scotland. Plenty of good restaurants in that part of the world.

    • Christoph says:

      Are they really closing it as a normal hotel? When was this announced? Didn’t fint anything on FT.com, so just asking because I wanted to visit this place sometime in the (near) future…

      • Given the glacial pace of selling the rooms (70 suites, 52 weeks) I reckon it will be a good few years before they get all of the slots away! Presumably it will keep operating as a hotel until the bulk are sold.

        There is actually a private lounge in the property, I had a picture but didn’t use it, which is just for timeshare owners. This clearly means they intend for non-timeshare owners to be around for a while yet.

        • Hilton also tend to still run HGVC properties as hotels for all the dates the rooms aren’t in use by members (plus remember members may use their HGVC points at another property anyway)

  2. Erico1875 says:

    These points will of course be available resale, as are Marriott, Disney Vacation Club sand Club La Costa points.
    They can go as low as 10p in the £ as people can be desperate to get rid of them just so they are not committed to high management fees.
    Have a browse through the listings at a Worldwide Timeshare Hypermarket. A buyer should look to put an offer in at least 20% lower than the already heavily discounted prices shown

  3. Wylie Cardow says:

    Sadly Hilton ruined this property when they converted this to a vacations club. It was a great little hotel – the smallest Hilton in the world.

  4. Rich Spencer says:

    I did a similar version of this with Marriott a few years ago in Spain- roughly same price for a 3 Bed Villa including a hire car for 3 or 4 nights- great value as I could have taken up to 6 members of my family.

    Same format- 90 minute pitch of the resort/scheme which was lovely, but seemed terrible value given the ongoing annual cost- the actual annual amount seemed to be the same amount you could get the holiday for each year without the initial £20k outlay.

    Mine came through Amex I think and you also got the bonus Marriott points and a 2 for 1 voucher to use back in the UK.

    Would reccommend it if you get the chance and can cope with a 90 min pitch- I actually tried to find another one recently through Amex with no success!

    • I have done one with Marriott , the Renaissance Koh Samui US $99 for 3 nights BB on arrival they informed me that the timeshare centre was closed until further notice and I didn’t have to attend any presentation.
      I also did the Anantara bophut Koh Samui for US $149 for 3 nights. This time I encountered a rather pushy salesman who was not best pleased when after 90 mins I thanked him for his time and left.

      I use http://www.skyauction.com/ (nothing to do with skyTV) to purchase the Vacation Certs when on offer at US250 and redeem them here http://www.resortcerts.com/ Click on Preview resorts to check availability.
      I have stayed in some nice timeshare properties using these certs

  5. If it’s like the Disney one, then do also bear in mind that the management fees go up every year in line with their projected costs (not linked to an inflation measure).

    • Lipton says:

      I rang hilton honors a few weeks back to chase up my free night certificate and was transferred through to another department after I was offered 500 hilton points to listen to some marketing speel. It must be the same promotion as they only offered a place in Scotland in the UK. they also had places in Florida. I politely declined and still waiting for the 500 points……..

      • Yes, our man was offered Florida as well – I cut that bit out of his story.

      • Ditto – took quite a bit of chasing to get them but Diamond Desk sorted it eventually for me! (piddling number of points but it was the principle!)

        • Lipton says:

          Totally agree. 500 points is 500 points even though raffles values them at about £4 ish.

  6. Is the 10,000 HH points bonus standard? It is not mentioned on the website, so I guess it is thrown in during the phone chat-up process?

  7. Stripy says:

    Always remember, if you’re tempted to buy one of these timeshares, that you’re almost always better off buying resale (VacationSmarter.com, MyResortNetwork.com etc…) as it’s significantly cheaper than buying from the developer. But always do your research. Just my 2p worth :)

  8. A few thoughts based on when I looked at this before…

    1) I attended an HGVC presentation in NYC. Was staying at the W=A and they were holding it at their West 57th St property. Received US$100 to attend the presentaiton (as an Amex gift card)
    2) Presentation/walk-around find, there was then the ‘hard sell’ to try and persuade you to take out the offer – lasted about half an hour for this bit!
    3) Totally agree re. management fees – even if you just look at the per-night costs based on them it’s not ultra-cheap to begin with!
    4) Buying direct gets you Hilton Gold status for the length of ownership – not available on resales but others have pointed out the resale prices are much lower!
    5) Points can be used at multiple HGVC properties, or in the bigger timeshare exchange schemes or (the bit they really pushed) can be converted into HHonors points – however the conversion ratio isn’t that great, especially post-2013 devaluation.

    Overall I just wasn’t convinced of the value compared to paying cash at the time – it would perhaps be a different matter if there hadn’t been all the annual fees.

  9. Alexander Farmer says:

    I too purchased this package and am wondering how he got the £50 charge waived. I plan on using this over a weekend and would love to avoid this somewhat ridiculous charge. I’m also a Hilton Gold.

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