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Jan 2012 - Page 25

This month’s resort profile takes us to the Orlando/Kissimmee area, a popular tour- ist destination that boasts world-famous attractions, and appears among the top 25 on TripAdvisor’s 2011 Travelers’ Choice Best Destinations list. Vacation Villas at FantasyWorld, which recently opened a new water and amenities com- plex to add to the already popular ameni- ties at the resort, is located in Kissimmee, Fla., approximately one hour from either coast of Florida – Cape Canaveral to the east and Clearwater/St. Petersburg to the west.

Vacation Villas at FantasyWorld, devel- oped by Brady/Spencer Management and opened in 1984, began as a condo/hotel resort where everyone purchased a villa and then a management company rented the unit on the owner’s behalf. The property began moving toward timeshare units around 1989-1990.

Sitting on 30 acres, the resort was constructed using a Mediterranean-style architecture, complete with the red tile roofs and curved archways, typical of this style, according to Diana Cherveny, general manager of Vacation Villas at FantasyWorld. Out of a total of 302 units, 205 are timeshare. Built in four phases, the villas are divided into courts with two-story villas side by side with the same square footage.

Everyone at Vacation Villas at Fantasy- World is excited about the new $13.1 million activities complex, including a new water amenity and an activities building. “The water amenity includes a new 3700-plus square-foot zero-entry pool, a 750-foot lazy river, two 35-foot tall waterslides and a kiddie splash pad,” Diana told us.

“Additionally, the pool area includes two hot tubs, a double-sided outdoor fire- place, and 10 poolside cabanas available for daily rental. The pool bar was also en- larged and televisions were added so no one misses their favorite sporting event.”

The new amenities project, completed by Winter Park Construction and overseen by Vacation Villas at FantasyWorld’s man- agement company, SPM Resorts, took approximately 11 months to complete. The amenities building provides 12,000 square feet of new space, including an owners’ lounge, game room, large work- out area with sauna and steam rooms,

and banquet facilities. In the activities building, guests can purchase and play a round of virtual golf – 18 holes in air- conditioned comfort – with 20 courses to choose from.

Fantasy Surf, a water attraction featuring the patented FlowRider system that has the look of surfing and wakeboarding, the ride of snowboarding and the tricks of skateboarding, opened in September 2010.

“Other resort amenities found at Vaca- tion Villas at FantasyWorld include an additional two pools and hot tub, lighted tennis courts, children’s playground, busi- ness center, free scheduled transporta- tion to the theme parks, free transporta- tion to the nearby outlet stores, charcoal grills and picnic tables, poolside gas grills and more,” said Diana.

We asked Diana to tell us about the staff at Vacation Villas at FantasyWorld. “We have a total of 58 staff members, and everyone works hard to ensure a posi- tive vacation experience for each guest. We have some team members who have been with us for over 10 years. This staff team is very knowledgeable about time- share, and because of their longevity with us, many owners are greeted by name upon arrival. When you have 10,000 owners, that is impressive.”

Diana went on to say, “Keeping up with the rooms is obviously an important task to ensuring guests are pleased with their accommodations. We have a housekeep- ing manager who supervises the talented team of housekeepers. She takes care of all of the purchasing and makes sure the housekeeping staff complies with the high standards set by SPM Resorts.

“Our maintenance department ensures that everything is in proper working order and they tend to most of the day-to-day operations. This department employs 10 individuals. Again, we enjoy longevity with this department, as most have been with us for 3 years or more, and one has been here for 20 years. As a result, this team works well together to quickly address any maintenance needs at the resort.

“We have staff for the bar and lounge area to keep those operations going. Ad- ditionally, we have staff in the pool and amenities areas, and we hire lifeguards as necessary and they also help tend to the safety of the guest,” Diana continued.

In the office area of the resort, along with Diana, you’ll find Christina Moquin, assistant general manager, who assists with any resort operational needs. She also oversees much of the FantasySurf operation. “We employ a marketing manager, Sandy Carey, who joined the resort shortly after it opened in the mid- 80s. Sandy formerly sold the units in the resort before it became timeshare. Since that time, Sandy has worked with resort rentals.”

We also spoke with Trish Docherty, regional vice president for SPM Resorts, and we asked if the current economy has changed the resort’s sales and marketing strategies. “From a rental standpoint, we have had to sacrifice the rate in order to stay competitive. On a positive side, we haven’t lost much on the occupancy side. Because everyone in the area is slashing their rental rates, people are suddenly finding they can stay at a resort in the attractions area, which was at one time unaffordable. Keeping up with the com- petition is an hourly job. We have to stay competitive and we have had to sacrifice rates.”

Trish told us they are seeing an increase in demand/occupancy this year. “It’s amazing how the window to book has shortened over the years. Where you used to have to book 60 days or more in advance, now people are booking the day they are arriving. They know if they wait they’ll get a deal. And with today’s technology and mobile accessibility to the Internet through iPhones and other smart phones, people can decide where they want to stay when they are in the car on the way to their destination. The market- place has certainly changed because of technology,” she explained.

“With the economy and technology changes, I do still see one of the com- petitive differentiators of Vacation Villas at FantasyWorld being that we are still a separate villa unit. You still have your own kitchen, washer and dryer and resort amenities that you may not find at a hotel. And, our proximity to all of the attractions is certainly a plus.”

We also asked Trish if the current eco- nomic situation has changed the way the staff conducts daily operations. “Abso- lutely. You have to shop all of your ven- dor contracts because the competition is so fierce out there that just as rental rates might be dropping for competition, vendors are going to cut prices, too. What you buy, where you buy it, war- ranty periods, staffing – you learn how to find the same quality products, but for less money.”

As for the future of this popular resort, owners and guests at Vacation Villas at FantasyWorld have even more to look forward to. The final phase of the 13.1 million-dollar amenities expansion is in the works that will include a sports area with things like basketball, shuffleboard, tennis, and perhaps some surprises to keep the sports enthusiast busy during their stay here.

“Our timeshare owners provided us with very clear directions and wants,” said Jeff Weinland, Vacation Villas at Fanta- syWorld board president. “Most of the owners are parents and grandparents. They wanted a resort that had activities to appeal to the multigenerational nature of families. Our board took this feedback from our owners and then SPM Resorts helped us determine the best way to make it happen – financially and opera- tionally.”

Photo credit: Michael Lowry Photography

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