By Heather Mullinix
Each year, more than 90,000 guests travel to Cumberland County to enjoy a vacation at the Wyndham Resort at Fairfield Glade. Now, those guests will be greeted at a new, state-of-the-art facility following the celebration and opening ceremony of the Wyndham guest check in and timeshare sales offices.
“We want nothing but success for this place,” said Franz Hanning, president and CEO of Wyndham Vacation Ownership. “Our company started here. It thrives here. It is dear to the company. We want people to have the happiest moments of their life at Fairfield Glade.”
Fairfield Glade is one of Wyndham’s more than 185 resort locations, which are located across the United States and around the world. The company is a recognized leader in hospitality, with brands that include Dream Hotels, Planet Hollywood, RCI and other hotel, exchange and rentals and vacation ownership brands.
But much of the success of Wyndham has roots in the culture of creativity, innovation, work ethic and hard-working, reliable people formed more than 30 years ago at Fairfield Glade, TN.
“That culture formed in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s set the foundation for this company,” said Dave LaBelle, regional senior vice president for Wyndham VAcation Ownership. “It happened right there,” he added, pointing to the site of the new guest check in office that stands where the original timeshare sales office once stood.
That old sales office was where Hanning got his start with the company. He recalled the difference in Fairfield Glade from when he arrived in 1982 to today. Back then, he noted, he drove into the resort as it was beginning to sell timeshares within a “sort of” job. He had an interview, but that was it. He was hired and started taking tours around the developing resort, but he didn’t make any sales that first week on the job. Or the second. Or the third. By the end of June 1982, he still hadn’t made a sale and was in danger of being BOI — back on the interstate, he said.
“I tell this story to all our sales reps,” Hanning said. “You can really start with this company, go 0 for June and end up CEO.”
“You probably can’t go 0 for June and July and end up CEO of this company,” he added, laughing.
His two and a half years at Fairfield Glade were an important time in his career, he said, and why he wanted so much to be a part of the event Wednesday. In fact, he’d just gotten home from a business trip and was preparing to leave for Cumberland County when his son asked why he had to go away again.
“I said I was going to a special place,” Hanning told those gathered Wednesday. “Without Fairfield Glade, there is no way I would have gone on to the success I’ve had. You just don’t forget your first love.”
Construction on the 14,823-square-foot facility began Nov. 16, 2012, with a groundbreaking ceremony. It actually opened May 31, about a month ahead of schedule. It boasts several environmentally friendly components, such as energy-saving lighting and flooring made from recycled materials, which are expected to increase efficiencies at the resort.
Julie McPherson, vice president of facilities for Wyndham Vacation Ownership, worked with Sr. Project Manager Lindsay Baines-Bossert to plan the project with Fairfield Glade personnel. Sara King, executive vice president for the company, praised the team and added, “They understand how intentional design and how the environment can drive sales and drive revenue.”
Resort Manager Dana Hartle said, “This new facility has provided a whole new atmosphere, bringing a sense of excitement to our owners and guests and a revitalized sense of pride to our associates. The ribbon cutting and grand opening events brought a feeling of excitement among our associates, the community and our board of directors that was beyond anything we had anticipated.”
That environment is important to families that have made the decision to invest in a vacation ownership, said Diane Chalfant, timeshare representative to the Fairfield Glade Community Club and herself a timeshare owner.
“When families make the decision to invest in a vacation ownership, they do so to ensure they’ll have quality time with their families and those they love,” she said. “They also look for a resort they would feel proud to take their friends.”
Fairfield Glade has more than 23,000 time share owners.
“And the largest timeshare corporation in the world is making investments in our community,” she said. “It’s been exciting to see the enthusiasm of the residents, the guests and the businesses.”
Each year, she said, more than 90,000 guests stay in the more than 450 available units. Using an estimate of just $50 per day per guest spent in the community, Chalfant said those guests would contribute upwards of $18 million to the local economy each year.
“That is in addition to the $800,000 in dues they pay to the Fairfield Glade Community Club,” she said.
Cumberland County is the top county for tourism spending in the Upper Cumberland, recording $100.3 million in tourist expenditures in 2011.
In addition to local spending that helps to alleviate local taxes for residents, the Fairfield Glade resort also acts as an introduction to a community many timeshare owners go on to call home following their retirement. Chalfant was one of those, as well, saying she and her husband decided on their second visit to Fairfield Glade they wanted to stick around a while. They’ve lived in the community for six years now.
Wyndham also employs more than 160 people through its resort operations, timeshare sales, marketing and home sales. Another 60 or so are employed through housekeeping vendor MasterCorp, which is headquartered in Crossville.
While visiting Fairfield Glade, guests enjoy the 11 lakes, two marinas with beaches, fishing, boating, tennis, biking, swimming, hiking and, of course, golfing at the five on-site courses. The on-site concierge helps guests find activities they enjoy in the area, as well as directing them to local eateries and shopping opportunities. The facility also has a membership area that helps the owners learn how to get the most out of their vacation ownership.
The celebration event included a golf tournament benefitting Victory Junction, a year-round camp for chronically and terminally ill children located in North Carolina.