The Dodge Retort

Tech, media and other interesting stuff

Economy Report from Hilton Head

Posted by jdodge349 on March 1, 2009

An informal but powerful influence over our perceptions about the economy is the looking around test.

So a weeklong trip to Hilton Head, one of America’s premier vacation destinations, offered some hopeful signs. It wasn’t DEAD! The last week in February from what the locals told us is either last week of the slow season or the first week of the busy season.

Our resort, the Marriott Barony Beach was perhaps a quarter full, but a car count toward of the end of the week suggested it was trending toward half full. Maybe not quite half, but it was not DEAD. And they filled the pool this week even though the temperature never climbed much beyond 65. That’s a sign of spring and renewal.

It should be noted these are timeshares meaning they are prepaid and people will come despite the tough economy. And many visitors to the resort appeared to be retirees. They have nothing else to do, but not me. I worked half the week. A younger with-children set appeared toward week’s end.

When we arrived Sunday, many of the restaurants were closed. In fact, the island looked like a ghost town except for steady traffic. Hilton Head is traffic light paradise with long red light cycles that infuriate impatient New Englanders like me.

But as the week bore on, the restaurants ranged from half to three quarters full. And the Old South golf course on a Wednesday afternoon was busy.

Another key looking around indicator are the number of real estate “for sale” signs. We saw very few. I suspect some folks are refraining from selling given the market. Regardless, second homes apply considerable financial pressure to someone who just lost their job. None of that here, it would appear.

We took in the timeshare sales presentation in exchange for 10K Marriott points and a getaway trip. Marriott sells multiple tiers of timeshares based on the season, ocean front and the value of the resort itself (Barony Beach is primo, sitting on one of the nicest beaches on the East Coast).

So a week’s timeshare for a nice two BR condo can go for up to $35,000 or higher during prime time (summer). We were steeled not to buy (after all, we were determined twice before and bought anwway), but when my wife jokingly said we might buy one for the ridiculusly low price of $3,000, our sales guy jumped on it said he could pull it off if we bought today.

Three thousand bucks! That was the only suggestion that timeshare sales were in the tank. The season would probably be two weeks in January with the condo located downwind of the dumpster. But plenty of tire kickers were milling about the Marriott sales center. He also told us we could easily sell our ocean front condo and that the massive Barony, the majority of whose condos are not ocean front, was sold out. I’m sure we got the glass half full schpiel, but I found our presenter to be largely credible. What’s more, Marriott sells great timeshare and point system value especially folks who like to travel.

So that’s the good news from Hilton Head. As a friend said to me recently, “there’s an economy our there.”


3 Responses to “Economy Report from Hilton Head”

  1. Lou Covey said

    I’m finding the same thing. The economy isn’t dead, it’s just moved to a healthier environment. We’re not going to find growth in the areas we’ve been accustomed to for the past five decades: semiconductors, automobiles, consumer electronics, etc. But it is growing by leaps and bounds in new applications for electronics, software acceleration and software as a service. It’s also in anything that does what needs doing in a different way. Semiconductor equipment is going to go through a dramatic redesign to make it possible to bring down the cost of manufacturing. Medical testing is going to become increasingly automated. it’s a brave new world out there.

  2. Hi

    Because of the town of Hilton Head Island’s Land Management Ordnances and the planned communities’ restrictions there are almost not areas that you can display a for sale sign. Through out the Island all signage is very strictly controlled. Resort traffic is down some but above national averages. In addition, real estate sales on Island are off 50% the number of units from 2005. The average monthly sales of homes on Island in the first 9 months of 2008 were 47 homes per month. The last three months of 2008, that number was 27. Today there are 67 homes under contract and 30% are short sales or bank foreclosures. On a thirty days average the number of closings is running 44 as of today.

    My website has sales charts showing 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 comparisons.

    Best regards

    And Twisdale

  3. Mary said

    I like your “lookin’ around test”. I’m guessing that the Hilton Head tourist industry is counting on their committed timeshare visitiors to make a difference this season. They’re probably even happy to have timeshare renters. My family rented a week at the Lake Tahoe Marriott in a deluxe 2 bedroom suite for only $1,000…a $3500 savings. Found that at That stay really made us think about owning…and buying on the resale market.

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