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San Antonio Resort Becomes First
Shell Vacations Systems Franchisee
March 29, 2005 - Northbrook, IL -- Three Canadian developers - Gary Buckley, Ian Sarna and Meril Rivard - with a vacation ownership (timeshare) resort in San Antonio, Texas have become the first Shell Vacations Systems (SVS) franchisee.

In making the announcement, Tracy Sherles, President of the points-based Shell Vacations Club and the architect of Shell's franchising initiative commented: "It is important to understand that what we have done is truly unprecedented in the timeshare business. For us, signing this franchisee was the first mountain in the range."

"This is the beginning of a new and exciting era for Shell Vacations," said Sheldon Ginsburg, President and CEO, Shell Vacations LLC. "The signing of Salado Creek by Shell Vacations Systems and the launching of SVS will allow us to increase our market share while maintaining a competitive advantage."

What caused Buckley and Sarna to take this significant step? "We knew that points were the way to go," explained Buckley, "but it is too expensive for an independent to create the entire system. Buying into an established club system is better than being a single resort developer. It makes us a part of something larger and puts us on a higher level for our customers. It helps us compete with the brands and public companies, lets us tap into their preferred vendors and enables us to attract better sales and marketing talent. Becoming a franchisee gave us a more competitive product. It's also a better value proposition and highly cost effective because utilizing all their support systems gives us so many more options."

Added Sherles, "As Canadians selling in the U.S., they recognized they didn't have the needed knowledge of regulatory issues. When they realized how much they were at risk for noncompliance, it made them even more certain of the value of the franchise"

Developers' Background: Crossing Borders

Here's how these Canadian developers ended up with a Texas hotel and became the first SVS franchisee. Gary Buckley has a 20-year background as a Canadian hotelier in Manitoba and Ontario. Ian Sarna had established a timeshare program in 1982 at the Elkhorn Resort, about 2 hours from Winnipeg. Ian served as director of sales for the Elkhorn's timeshare program for about 11 years until 1993 when he went into the golf business. In 1999, the two became partners after purchasing the Elkhorn Resort.

When they purchased the Hill Country Inn & Suites in San Antonio, it was a 192-room hotel. They later decided it would be more successful as a timeshare resort of about 130 timeshare units and renamed it Salado Creek Villas due to its location near a creek with the same name, which translates to Salty Creek in Spanish.

Canadians Become SVS Franchising Pioneers

About a year into their timeshare sales program, Buckley and Sarna decided they needed help. Sales were not at anticipated levels. They heard about Shell Vacations franchising plan and decided to jump in, feet first.

"With a single site resort in Canada," Sarna added, "we soon recognized that we didn't know U.S. marketing techniques. As a franchisee, we knew we wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel. We could leverage from a company that has been successful for 20 years, giving us a real jumpstart and putting us years and huge sums of money ahead. As a small developer, it would take us five years to get where we are on Day One as a SVS franchisee."

Next Steps

Since their decision to franchise, the 192 guest rooms of Salado Creek Villas will undergo an extensive $7 million renovation and ultimately be converted to 105 one- and two-bedroom timeshare units.

Adds Buckley, "We will begin the sales program as a franchisee as soon as the state registrations, financing and procedures are in place, the computer system is installed and we have hired the right sales and marketing professionals. With Shell training us in their systems, providing their Club infrastructure and converting our units into Shell Vacations Club points, we will be a SVC resort on our first day of operations."

Simon Crawford-Welch, Shell's Executive VP of Sales & Marketing says, "As a regional resort, it is well suited to points because the average stay is short. Having a resort there allows Salado Creek Villas owners to use their points for stays and also to have access to the entire Shell Vacations Club system.

How does it feel being a pioneer? Says Buckley, "As much as there is a downside to being a first guy, there is also an upside. Knowing they are equally eager for our success, we anticipate a most successful partnership. We are confident being a Shell franchisee will make us more profitable and successful than we'd be as an independent."


Franklin Khedouri at 480-860-8077
Joe Malone at 508-563-0127

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