MACDONALD Resorts, the timeshare arm of the Scottish hotel chain, has offered its 23,000 owners a ground-breaking deal to exit their "in perpetuity" contracts for a fixed payment.
The offer comes amid political scrutiny at Westminster and in Europe of the agreements which bind a typically ageing demographic of timeshare owners not only for life but in perpetuity.
The Herald reported in May that industry body RDO said its members would allow exits in case of death or bankruptcy, and were devising schemes to allow exit over a period of five years.
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Now Macdonald, which is not a member of RDO, is to offer owners a no-strings exit on payment of four years' maintenance fees, amounting to between £1,500 and £2,500 in total.
At the moment Macdonald runs three resorts in Scotland, two in England and four in Spain.
Macdonald said: "Following extensive negotiations with the club committees of its UK and Spanish resorts, the company has finalised plans that will enable members to have the right to exit.
"While the existing timeshare products have been highly popular over many decades, there has been pressure in recent years to provide an exit route for those wishing to end their partial ownership."
Packs were sent out to owners this week proposing to replace the current system of a fixed week in a fixed unit with a club- based points system, and an opportunity to exit every two years.
The points will enable owners to access weeks at other Macdonald Resorts. Macdonald said that would enable "those owners who wish to travel less the option to holiday closer to home".
Owners who decide to exit will receive two free weeks holiday accommodation as a loyalty thank you.
Macdonald said: "Part of the one-off exit charge will go towards ensuring that the future quality and standards of the lodges and apartments remain at the highest of standards as 25per cent of the payment will go directly to the clubs' sinking funds"
The remainder would compensate the company for its loss of contractual rights and "to ensure business continuity".
Macdonald added: "It is hoped that owners will vote through these landmark changes, which will undoubtedly have a ripple effect throughout the entire timeshare industry."
Harry Taylor, chairman of the industry-run Association for Timeshare Owners Committees, (TATOC), said: "Macdonald Resorts should be commended for this initiative that provides a solution to an issue that has blighted the industry in recent years."
Macdonald lost one of its original four Scottish resorts in 2003 when the owners' club committee at Loch Rannoch removed it as manager, despite attempted court injunctions by the company to stop the process.