When it comes to choosing the base for our next holiday, how many of us eagerly read the reviews from previous guests, hoping for some ‘insider information’ or a tip off about a hidden gem, or simply the reassurance that our shortlisted resorts are likely to live up to all we've read about them?
The web is peppered with psychology reports about the power reviews have over us in influencing our buying behaviours. Whether you choose to believe reviews or not, it can sometimes be hard not to let the opinions of others who have visited a resort affect your thinking.
The resorts which are signed up to RCI's Holiday exchange programme are featured on RCI.com - in the Resort Directory - and all have the potential to show TripAdvisor reviews left by non-RCI members, as well as RCI members. If there aren't any reviews against a resort, then it may be the resort has only recently joined the RCI exchange programme and not yet attracted reviews. You could be the first member to review and rate the resort if you have holidayed there!
You can filter TripAdvisor reviews on RCI.com to see all comments, or those just left by RCI members. This is useful because timeshare owners have experience of the resorts in RCI's exchange programme, together with the standards of accommodation and service expected, while general guests may have very different expectations.
When you return from your next holiday using your RCI membership, think about how you felt when researching that trip and how reading reviews made you feel. You can do the same to help fellow holidaymakers in their decision making by adding an honest review of your own experiences. Include any tips on places to eat, drink, see or shop - all the things you wish you'd known on day one of your own holiday. For example, this is a really useful review because it tells me all I need to know about the things that matter to me which are, importantly, all within walking distance of this resort: "Fantastic location, walking distance to all restaurants, supermarket, bars, and even a bakery. Rental of bikes at the hotel was a good idea. Take a ride into Altea and visit the Old Town."
It is clear that RCI member, Susan Collie, values reviews in her holiday planning: "We tend to place more importance on resort reviews from other RCI members to help our holiday decision; these resort and destination reviews are a really useful source that you can rely on. For us, our timeshare exchanges are very much like a holiday lifestyle, so we always look for information on the quality of the kitchens, and we like to have the sun on the balcony in the afternoons too, so we look for that. That's why when we leave a review, we make sure that we are quite detailed, right down to tips on what we think are the best apartments on resort. It's this information that helps us make our booking decision and to be a little bit more savvy when we travel, so we like to do the same to help other holidaymakers - and RCI members - of course." - Susan Collie, RCI Member.
Getting a balanced view
Don’t forget to check the dates of reviews. Only the most recent reviews will show but, in some instances, these could be years old. Resorts are updated all the time, so negative reviews from several years ago may not reflect the quality of a freshly refurbished resort as it is today.
Remember that all manner of experiences, emotions, beliefs, expectations and perspectives can influence an individual's opinion of a resort. Poor weather can greatly impact a holiday for some people and while the resort and accommodation could be fabulous, the weather can, quite literally, cloud our impression of the overall holiday experience.
If a reviewer has encountered an unfortunate issue while on holiday, it may be that the resort team did everything they could to put things right and make amends. However, no matter how well the resort's staff dealt with the situation, their help and support can sometimes get lost in a guest's overall impression because they were still feeling very upset about the initial issue.
So we recommend that you read reviews with an open mind to get a balanced view, and to figure out what is really important to you for your holiday enjoyment. If a resort has less than glowing reviews about its on-site restaurant and you intend to explore the local area to dine out each evening, while all other on-resort amenities tick your holiday wish list boxes, why would this review stop you booking a holiday there? It shouldn't, because you weren't planning on using the on-resort restaurant.
RCI quality ratings
RCI is a membership organisation which means it puts its members at the heart of everything it does, and that includes doing everything possible to ensure the resorts in its Holiday Exchange programme have a consistency of quality standards that members can trust.
RCI has a Resort Operations team which is staffed out of local offices across the world. They work with resort management and visit the resorts regularly to monitor all aspects of the quality of the holiday experience there, from cleanliness of the accommodation and comfort of furnishings to the hospitality and service levels. Member feedback is also highly valued by RCI, and is requested from all members returning from an RCI holiday.
What does RCI do with all this great information and detail? It is used to feed into an RCI quality awards programme whereby quality ratings are awarded to resorts, to help members identify the type of experience they can expect at that resort when looking to book their holiday.
There is a set of specific criteria which all resorts must meet in order to become affiliated - or signed up - to RCI Holiday Exchange. There are additional requirements, such as a 24-hour manned reception - for resorts to achieve a higher quality rating. And that great RCI member feedback also has a part to play in awarding an RCI resort quality status.
Feedback which suggests improvements can be made at a resort is passed to the resort's management by RCI, whose local teams on the ground will work with the resort to maintain its required quality standards.
To encourage members to return their Comment Cards, RCI enters those doing so into a quarterly prize draw. Their feedback gives them the opportunity to win one of the following three prizes: 1st prize £500 credit on the member's RCI Account; 2nd prize £250 credit on their RCI Account; 3rd prize one FREE Exchange.
RCI has three quality awards it can bestow on resorts which have consistently shown an ongoing commitment to quality and guest satisfaction. The blue RCI Hospitality Award icon means the resort consistently scored highly on member feedback during check-in and check-out, and for general high levels of hospitality all round demonstrated by the resort staff. We can all recall how special a holiday or a meal out was for us because we were welcomed warmly like family and treated like royalty.
The RCI Silver Crown Resort Award is presented to resorts which have proven they regularly provide outstanding holiday experiences. Resorts proudly boasting this RCI status have met or exceeded specific standards for housekeeping and maintenance, as well as the set criteria of the RCI Hospitality Award requirements.
If you’re after a super-special RCI holiday experience, try filtering your results on the RCI.com Directory Search to show availability at affiliated resorts holding RCI Gold Crown status. This is our highest quality award, granted to resorts which have met or exceeded the RCI Hospitality and RCI Silver Crown award criteria, plus scored highly on their resort facilities, amenities and services.
Some members look for different things in a resort, such as location or proximity to activities. Others, such as RCI member, Gail Wrigg, value the quality touches to be enjoyed in some of the higher-quality rated resorts, as Gail told the RCI Endless Vacation magazine editor recently: "RCI has an excellent grading of apartments at resorts. RCI has Gold Crown, Silver Crown and Hospitality awards to highlight resorts with high member ratings. Even the standard grade of apartment and resort is still better than you can get in a travel package.”
When you’re searching for your next holiday on RCI.com, or looking in our printed Resort Directory, you’ll see these RCI quality award icons next to many of the resort names. You can use the ‘RCI award’ search filter on RCI.com to pick out the resorts holding RCI Gold Crown, RCI Silver Crown and RCI Hospitality awards.
One of the great benefits of being an RCI member has to be that resorts holding RCI Gold Crown status aren’t always those at the upper end of the price, points or trading power spectrum. You may find availability at some RCI Gold Crown resorts during trading power discounts, Extra Holiday sales, Late Deals and as discounted late booking Points Exchange Holidays.
Exclusive RCI member offers, such as those highlighted here, give members the opportunity to stay at highly-rated resorts which enjoy the stamp of approval of their fellow RCI members who share the same passion for knowing they are getting both quality and value in their travel bookings.
If you would like to see where your RCI membership can take you, click the RCI Resort Directory button below and search for your holiday home-from-home accommodation.
If you do own timeshare, but have never experienced the benefits of holiday swapping using an exchange company, you can join RCI, the world's leading provider of holiday exchange services. All you have to do is to click on the Join RCI button below and your travels can begin now.