While the destination is popular with owners, points sales at Aulani, Disney Vacation Club Villas look bleaker with every passing month.
When Members are asked where Disney should build another Disney Vacation Club resort, they often list places like the Caribbean, the Colorado Rockies, or other exotic locations. Although visiting resorts that are not at Walt Disney World or Disneyland Resort might be high on a Member’s wish list, its quite another thing when in comes to buying points at such resorts.
Disney seldom has problems selling DVC points for the resorts located at the Parks. But it has had issues marketing the DVC resorts that are not adjacent to a Disney Park. Some proposed Disney resorts, such as one near Washington, D.C., never came to fruition. The size of Disney's Vero Beach Resort was scaled back from the original plans due to weak sales. Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort opened in March 1996 but it was not until December 2001 that the resort was fully declared for the DVC inventory.
Today DVC containus to sell resorts adjacent to a theme park for $145 to $185 a point while both Vero Beach and Hilton Head Island are priced significantly lower at $115 a point. This disparity is also reflected in transfers of the two.
Aulani is the third DVC resort not located near a Disney Park and is a very popular destination among members. However, this popularity has not translated into strong sales. Its sales have lagged behind its counterparts located at Walt Disney World.
The chart below compares Aulani and Polynesian sales since the Polynesian commenced sales in January 2015. Through 2015, Aulani monthly sales kept pace, averaging 75,241 points to the Polynesian’s 76,867 points. But beginning in January 2016, Aulani started to decline while the Polynesian improved.
From January 2016 to February 2017, the Polynesian averaged 127,344 points per month to Aulani’s 41,406 points. And the downward trend has continued as Aulani has averaged only 25,160 points over the last four months.
The Polynesian’s sales took off in early 2016 when Disney introduced its first set of sales incentives for the resort. Since then, Disney has continued to offer different incentives, including the latest the Free Points for Life Offer. Ironically, Disney has offered incentives for Aulani that match, if not exceed, those offered for the Polynesian or Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. However, these added incentives have failed to jumpstart sales at Aulani.
Although Disney has been actively marketing Aulani since July 2010, only 51% its rooms have been added to the DVC timeshare program--just 241 of 467 vacation homes. The rest are under Disney's control, likely rented to cash guests along with more than 350 hotel rooms located at the resort.
By comparison, the Polynesian Villas & Bungalows opened sales in January 2015 and in less than 2 1/2 years has declared 360 of its 380 rooms for the DVC membership.
Not Aulani sales news is grim. Although total sales volume is lower at Aulani than for the Polynesian, the average deed size at Aulani is much larger: 153.3 points per deed versus the Polynesian’s 132.9 points per deed. Recently, one individual purchased seven Grand Villa Fixed Week deeds totaling 7,773 points, while another individual purchased three deeds containing 600 points each.
Disney has realized for some time that Vero Beach and Hilton Head Island must be priced lower than the resorts located near the Parks. However, with Aulani, Disney has priced it to match the base prices of the Walt Disney World resorts it is actively marketing, which is currently $176 a point.
Perhaps it is time to admit that Aulani, like other resorts that are not near a Park, cannot be priced the same as the Park resorts.
Wil Lovato is a contributor to DVCNews.com and has been a Disney Vacation Club owner since 2009. His DVC Home Resorts include Bay Lake Tower, Animal Kingdom Villas, and Aulani. He can be found posting on many Disney discussion forums under the username of “wdrl.”
There are a lot of very nice timeshare options in Hawaii. Many are in spectacular settings. Also due to the cost of airfare to Hawaii, many timeshare owners do not go every year and rent out at low prices. I just think there is too much high quality properties that compete fairly well with Aulani in Hawaii. Disney commands a premium price yet you can buy at a Marriott property for less and get a fairly comparable vacation experience, and with Marriott there are properties on multiple islands.
When you compare a stay at Aulani to a regular hotel like the 22 acre Hilton Hawaiian Village (a place I have been to) for $220.00 per night in September for instance, you can see what I am talking about.
The major issue with Aulani was that damn Disney arrogance. They could have built a smaller DVC, but the hotel side wanted an essentially free hotel. As the hotel size grew, so did the number of villas to pay for it. They could have phase built the resort like Marriott did with Ko'Olina, but hey, there's a recession and we can build cheaper.
80+% of DVC members are East of the Mississippi. Not the core US audience for Hawaii. They could have developed that more, but no, let's not build more than 48 rooms at GCAL.
Aulani is yet another example of bone headed expansion of DVC. Who knew Vero before DVC? Retirees and beach people. West Palm, Cocoa, Marco Island would have all been home runs. DVC could have built in all 3 and been successful. They took the build it and they will come approach. We love Vero, but we typically vacation in West Palm.
HHI? Let's build on the intracoastal. The resort is awesome, but that hinders the desirability. It's a great resort, but it was half assed as well.
While HHI, VB and Aulani are all great resorts in great locations, they are a loooooong way from a fake Castle.
I view these resorts as great options for an occasional non Disney trip, but other than HHI and I have no desire to add points.
A also seem to recall that the man made lagoons where Aulani and a couple other resorts reside, were pretty much off the beaten path; not much to see or do right outside the resort. It seems to me the closest anything was the Tank Farm for Pearl Harbor Naval base.
Did you purchase Aulani points or another DVC resort? I'm curious if the points price or maintenance fees affected your decision in where you purchased.
I think you are exactly the type of member Disney was expecting for Aulani. The resort is definitely much nicer than other timeshares I've stayed at, and I would equate most of the WDW DVC resorts with competitors like Marriott and Hilton (nice but not quite as nice and immersive as Aulani). I think you do get more bang for your bucks or points when you're at Aulani. If I had an interest in staying often at Aulani and I didn't have to travel during peak season, I'd purchase points at a WDW resort and book Aulani at the 7 month window.
dwelty, I agree with you that options like the Hilton Hawaiian Village are nice and much more affordable, but the rooms at the Hilton are starting to show their age, and the resort isn't quite as immersive as Aulani is and often feels very crowded. I don't think that's Disney's target audience for Aulani, though. Just like the Disney Cruises cost a lot more than other cruise lines, Aulani costs more than Hilton Hawaiian Village. You do seem to get more bang for your buck when you pay for Disney's offerings though. And just for the record, if I'm paying out of pocket, like you I stay at the Hilton. I've stayed at Aulani on points, but then I don't usually travel at peak times.
I'm always curious what metrics Disney uses to make their decisions. Aulani does offer a locals rate (I don't know if it's just for the hotel side or DVC rooms as well). My brother who lives 20 minute away from the resort has taken advantage of this a few times. Even living in Hawaii, he finds that the resort is a wonderful treat for his family which includes two small children. A lot of his local friends do the same thing. I think he has a local friend who's purchased points there. My brother has actually considered it. If he's going to spend a few nights a year at Aulani and take a big family trip to WDW every 3 years, it might be worth it over time to just do it on points. He's just not sure yet that they can go all the way to WDW at least every 3 years. I think it's the reverse for DVC's current majority membership base as others have stated. It's pretty darn expensive to go from the east coast to Hawaii (heck, it's expensive to go from the west coast to Hawaii!). Even if you do plan to go to Aulani on occasion, wouldn't you rather buy at WDW if you also visit WDW regularly?