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Starwood Vacation Exchange Primer
This article was written as an introductory guide into Starwood Vacation Network (SVN) and its relationwhip with Interval International (II) exchanges.  A must read for all Starwood Owners!

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Starwood implementation of Interval International  ( I. I. ) (Interval) exchange:
Written by: Fred Messreni - TUG Member (updated 11/17/2009)

TUG NOTE: This article has been essentially outdated and obsolete now and left up for historical purposes.  For quesitons relating to Starwood / Interval International exchanges please visit the Starwood forums here on TUG

Starwood Vacation Ownership Forums

 

Preface:

The Starwood system is different from others as it relates to an owners relationship with Interval . This is significant. You should be aware of the issues involved.

Effective August, 2009 Starwood implemented a revamped I.I. exchange methodolgy.

Starwood owners who are members of Starwood Vacation Network (SVN) are not required to establish an independent I.I. member account. Membership is included with payment of SVN Member dues. Members should be aware that the related I.I. membership applies only to shares owned at resorts where the SVN membership applies.

An ownership that is not connected to an SVN membership must maintain an independent membership account with I.I. in order to trade.  .

The first step is to secure a reservation at your home resort. Reservations may be made up to 12 months in advance. The reservation should be made as close to the 12 month mark as possible.  Once confirmed, the reservation is available for deposit to Interval. 

Current information regarding opening an independent I.I. account, member dues, exchange fees, on-line deposit instructions, etc., is available here:


The real world problem of articulating Starwood policy from what is actually enacted at a point in time has caused some frustration. Neither Starwood, nor I.I., have published an extensive and definitive rules guide. Consequently,  please consider this primer as a working draft. It is based on the information gathered from Starwood and owner experiences under the current implementation of the exchange methodology.


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Deposit your Use-Week:

The first step in any exchange request is to place a deposit into "the bank". The bank is Interval International.
Simply call Starwood Owner Services and request that your use-year be deposited with I.I. See Terms of Deposit, and Placing a Pending Request, below, for further information on exchange timeframes and other considerations.

What you can expect from an exchange request:

I.I.'s model for comparable exchange is based on several factors. The precise formulas are closely guarded trade secrets. Something like the formula for Coca Cola:

- Unit size (measured by private sleeping capacity) A 2 bedroom villa sleeps 6 privately, although it will  accommodate a total of 8. A Studio sleeps 2 privately, although can accommodate 4. A 1 bedroom sleeps a total of 4, privately.

- Demand for the interval deposited. Typically, Platinum (prime season) draws more demand than Silver (low season). However, this is not always so.  There are weeks in Platinum season that are in higher demand than
others. Sometimes referred to as bright Red or Pink. Conversely, certain Gold or Silver weeks may (rarely) have a higher demand than the lowest demand Platinum weeks.

Starwood addresses these variations by assignment of seasonal blended values. This is further explained under
the Exchange Methodology, described later.

I.I. publishes a helpful tool to assist members in determining general demand. It is geography, not resort, based.
Called the Travel Demand Index (TDI), it provides a historical demand for every week of the year, for each geographic region of the world. It is, therefore, possible to broadly assess the demand component of your
trade request both in terms of the demand for your deposit, and the demand for the dates you are requesting in your exchange request. The TDI is located at the beginning of the geographic region in the I.I.Resort Directory.

TDI is a scale from 50 to 150. 100 represents Market Average, Above 100 is greater demand. Below 100 is greater availability. Note that below 100 is not lesser demand, but greater availability. The demand component of exchange is not determined by pure demand, it is measured against supply. High demand , low supply, is what creates a blockbuster exchange chip. High demand with an excess of supply results in weak demand as it relates to the demand value of your deposit. Got it? The TDI is best used as a tool to assess the time periods that an exchange request is most likely to be confirmed.

- Quality of the resort deposited. This is a different attribute than the demand measured by TDI, which is geography specific. Resorts in the same geography will have varying degrees of quality. It is safe to assume that Starwood resorts will be among those highly rated for their quality.

- Wild Card (my term): Included in the evaluation of deposit quality is a pre-filter which sits in front of the above criteria. It is established by I.I. members who have exchanged into the resort you are depositing. I.I. performs surveys of these exchangers (not owners) to determine a satisfaction/quality rating for the resort. Trades available
to owners are based on this filter. The owners of the resort suffer in the exchange universe if exchangers do not rate the resort experience highly.

 

Exchange Request Method:

Seasoned timesharing veterans will be best served by forgetting your understanding of familair terms, like "Request First". Such terms are employed in the Starwood lexicon, but have different functional meaning than commonly understood elsewhere. This is a Starwood primer. Terms relate to their meaning in the context of Starwood's methodology only.

REQUEST FIRST is the term used for the single deposit method employed. Specific week selection is not under owner control within the Starwood system, when depositing to I.I.

For deposit purposes, an owner interest is assigned a blended exchange value that corresponds to the resort and season owned.

 - Platinum Plus, includes certain premium priced weeks that are variously referred to as Event, Ultra Premium, etc.
   As all refer to a fixed ownership occupancy right, the actual fixed week will represent the deposit value.

Currently, blended values for floating season ownership are defined as:

 - Platinum, prime season.
 - Gold Plus, typically a floating weeks 1-52 ownership at resorts that otherwise have distinctive platinum, gold and silver seasons.
 - Gold, mid or shoulder season.
 - Silver, low season.
 

Reciprocity is not required for your exchange request to be filled and confirmed. No one has to request the reservation deposited for the system to work. The requirement for your exchange request is the deposit, period. That is the currency that buys your request. The rest is I. I ?s problem.

Borrowing. In addition to banking the current year for use in the future, you may borrow next year?s use for a vacation this year. You can borrow only from the following year. Homeowner Association dues must be paid in full at the time the borrow is requested.




Terms of Deposit (and the logistical delema) :

Unlike any other timesharing system, Starwood and I.I. permit a deposit request to made at any time within the use-year, without impacting the value of its deposit, or what the request may be able to claim.  Further, the deposit request may be cancelled at any time, as long as the request remains pending. A confirmed trade may not be cancelled.

These represent uncommon latitude for the owner considering how to best employ their timeshare interest in a specific use year. However, it must be remembered that every deposit request, once made, completely negates
any underlying reservation that may have been previously made.

Should an owner choose to cancel a deposit request, they may again request a reservation at their home resort.
It will be from that space which remains available at the time the new reservation request is made.

We strongly recommend that an owner NOT place an exchange request unless it is clear to them at the time that they will not occupy the use at the home resort, and not prefer rent in lieu of occupancy. Exchange requests should always be made as soon as the above are known to provide maximum advantage to the owners exchange request.

 

Placing a Pending Request:

Any exchange request that is not confirmed at the time the request is made is called “Pending Request”.

Here are the rules and considerations for your Pending Request:

The more alternatives you provide, the higher the likelihood your request will be promptly confirmed. Combinations of resort and / or time frames. You may use up to 64 combinations per request. You should supply at least 3 alternatives. Any combination of resorts and dates. This deserves further discussion. Although it is possible that your desired exchange will be available when the exchange is requested, it is not likely. You are expecting too much to think so. Likewise, a review of availability at any moment in time is not likely to produce a desired availability. Think about it. Availability occurs only when an owner at another resort desires to themselves exchange , and places their reservation on deposit. Statistically, this occurs most often within the 8 to 5 month window. It is not at all unusual for a request to be confirmed 60 or more days after the trade is requested.

Logistical issue you must be aware of: Your requests are not prioritized. You will be confirmed into the resort / time frame the system locates first. Therefore, it is our opinion that you will be better served by making requests one at a time, in the order of your preference, to avoid the possibility of not receiving a confirmation for your first preference, even if it is at that moment available.

When specifying a resort, use the Resort Code in the Resort Directory. It is the three letters in bold type next to resort picture in the Directory. It can also be found in the index. Exchange fees will be billed at the time you place your request, per week.

Only a full week can be deposited with Interval International. You can lock your unit off and deposit either, or both, suites. The request system is based on “comparable value”. Do not expect size upgrades unless you are within the 60 day reservation window. This is the “Flex Change” period. Any deposit will draw anything available irrespective of the unit size you deposit. A Guest Suite will pull a 2 bedroom if it’s available. Pending Requests cannot be made in this window. Simply call and ask for availability. If you like it, take it.

It has been our experience that availability is not identically reflected on the I.I. website and by phone. Telephone requests do seem to have access to inventory that is not reflected on the website.

 Unlike any other timesharing system, Starwood and I.I. permit a deposit request to made at any time within the use-year, without impacting the value of its deposit, or what the request may be able to claim.  Further, the deposit request may be cancelled at any time, as long as the request remains pending. A confirmed trade may not be cancelled.

These represent uncommon latitude for the owner considering how to best employ their timeshare interest in a specific use year. However, it must be remembered that every deposit request, once made, completely negates
any underlying reservation that may have been previously made.

Should an owner choose to cancel a deposit request, they may again request a reservation at their home resort.
It will be from that space which remains available at the time the new reservation request is made.

Deposits from a use-year remain available for an exchange request for the 2 years ending on June 30 of the second year. Travel must be completed by June 30 of the second year.

The Delema: While an owner may initiate a pending request at any time in the use-year, without penalty to its exchange value, the availability of intervals available to fulfill the request remains best for those that place the request early. Further, a cancelled request requires that an owner place a reservation request at their home resort for use to be preserved. Time is, therefore, an enemy.

We recommend that an owner NOT place an exchange request unless it is clear to them at the time that they will not occupy the use at the home resort, and not prefer rent in lieu of occupancy.  Exchange requests should always be made as soon as the above are known to provide maximum advantage to the owners exchange request.

 

Starwood 72 hour Exclusive:

For the first three days of a Starwood owners deposit, its availability is masked from the rest of the Interval International membership. Only a Starwood owner has visibility to another owners deposit. It may be selected without contention from the rest of the timeshare world. If unclaimed within 72 hours, it is made available. to the I.I. general membership. If a Pending Request is active for one of these deposits, it will be filled without it ever seeing daylight. The deposited week must otherwise be of "comparable value" for this to occur. One cannot expect
a Silver Season studio to pull a 2 bedroom Platinum Season.

 

Trade Testing:

Many Starwood owners are reluctant to surrender their home resort week without knowing in advance the outcome of their desired trade. Understandable.

However, there is some probability to the exercise. Keep in mind that one of the reasons to deposit with the exchange is that the only thing you are certain of is that you do not wish to visit your home resort in a given year. A decision does not have to be made about what you do wish to do.

Having said this, trade testing can be performed to determine what is available, and when. It is hypothetical as you do are not actually executing a trade., and conditions will not be identical at the moment you do. Keep in mind that trade testing will only reflect that inventory that is available at the moment tested. As previously stated, the
likelihood of your desired trade being available at a moment in time is low. In this respect, trade testing is a interesting game, but not to be relied upon as a mirror of what you can expect to occur. Placing a Pending Request puts you in position to have your order filled, if and when it does become available.

The best way to determine what will likely occur is to team with owners who have different reservations, of various sizes and resort locations.  At the same time, each queries the available inventory for the week being used. By comparing the results of each query, it is somewhat possible to determine availability and what may be required to obtain it. As stated, this is more a game than a strategy.  Nothing assures that conditions will be similar enough at a point of actual execution to produce the tested result. It is a way to test relative exchange clout, in a general sense, for insight to the workings of the exchange system.  That is all.

Finally, Its a big world. I.I. has over 2,200 resorts in almost every corner of the world. They are a great resource for Starwood owners.  Starwood has some great properties, highly prized by owners of other resorts/systems. In most cases, your trade requests will bear good fruit. However, the key to success is FLEXIBILITY. If you are not receptive to accepting different locations, or different dates, than your single highest preference, you will often be disappointed. It is a matter of odds. The more answers you will find acceptable, the more likely you will be successful.

As highly regarded as most Starwood resorts are, when exposed to the wide universe of other timeshare owners competing for the same resource, you should not be surprised to discover that there are many resorts/weeks that compare on a superior footing. Prime ski weeks at world class destinations are particularly prized. Not only are they in very high demand, they are relatively few in number. Four Seasons, Hyatt, Marriott, and other quality tier companies have resorts at locations that draw exceptional demand when compared to availability. FLEXIBILITY is the key to successful trading on a routine basis.

I have tried to cover the basics here. Undoubtedly, I have overlooked something of relevance. Hopefully, I have not erred in what has been covered. That is also possible. This is a working draft for Starwood owners. I will update and correct as needed. Your experiences and insight are welcome.

Do not overlook the other sources of exchange information available on TUG. The exchange machinery is still Interval International.

You can discuss this topic with Fred and other experts on the Starwood forum on the TUGBBS online community forums here: 
 Starwood Vacation Ownership Forums


Why become a TUG member?

There is an extended TUG resort reviews database here on this web site available only to TUG members. There are over 4000 resorts covered by this database now and growing weekly. The reviews also include pictures of the resorts, general resort information and a list of owners' email addresses who are willing to answer additional questions regarding the resorts not covered by the detailed reviews.   This is a quick way to see how our members rate the resorts which they have actually stayed at. It has become a valuable source of information to use when planning for exchanges.
 

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