Monday, October 29, 2001

MerryGo borrows P2P name for Internet timeshare exchange

Published in Interface Tech News

MANCHESTER, N.H. ‹ MerryGo launched its new Web site in late September. It will use a peer-to-peer (P2P) method, permitting owners of timeshare properties to deal directly with each other, rather than going through a difficult-to-use central clearinghouse system which is not available on the Internet.

MerryGo is not harnessing the power of computers, but the power of individuals, and is providing central-server traffic direction on its Web site.

The standard timeshare exchange process involves a large group of people, each of whom has an asset: a week of time at a timeshare resort property. Those people pay annual membership fees to resorts and to associations that permit them to exchange their time at one location for someone else's time at another spot.

At present, that process is complex and overly centralized, said Forrest Milkowski, company co-founder and executive vice president for sales and marketing at MerryGo. "We're going to change the way the timeshare industry works," Milkowski said.

That's a big statement for a two-person company targeting the $1.5 billion timeshare exchange sector, but mirrors the changes P2P technology has threatened in the music industry via sites like Napster.

MerryGo's service involves one-to-one trading, with owners posting properties on MerryGo's searchable site. When they find an interesting property, prospective exchangers can e-mail the timeshare owners directly.

Milkowski said this way is not only cheaper, with fees based on transactions rather than annual memberships, but more personal. "I can actually contact the person who owns the property," he said.

This permits travel tips to be passed on from person to person, including which restaurants are the nicest or directions to a pleasant picnic spot. Milkowski said MerryGo's method takes the information out of the hands of a telephone representative for a large company and puts it into the hands of timeshare owners and exchangers.

The company is also partnering with major timeshare resort companies to offer discounts for vacationers exchanging within one company's properties, rather than seeking out other destinations. Although Milkowski said MerryGo Web site visitors would be free to choose any location that fits their needs.