(Carl Cronan is editor of RealEstate Florida.)

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ORLANDO, FL-The formation of Holiday Inn Club Vacations providesa boost of confidence to the nation's timeshare market, accordingto industry leaders. Intercontinental Hotels Group, which owns thetraditional hotel chain, launched the new venture with the Familyof Orange Lake Resorts during the company's annual conference lastweek.

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The 2,412-villa Orange Lake property near Walt Disney World inLake Buena Vista, just west of Orlando, will be the first timeshareresort to carry Holiday Inn's familiar green flag and revampedlogo. The 1,400-acre site was developed in the early 1980s byKemmons Wilson, who also launched the Holiday Inn chain more than ahalf-century ago.

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"The fact that these two companies are coming back together forthis strategic partnership is fabulous," Howard Nusbaum, presidentand CEO of the Washington, DC-based American Resort DevelopmentAssociation, tells GlobeSt.com. "It's a kind of coming home."

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Nusbaum notes that Wilson developed Orange Lake as a means forworking-class families to live in luxury for one week of every yearwhile on vacation. He adds that Orlando remains the top timesharemarket in the US, largely because of the worldwide popularity ofDisney World and other theme parks.

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Disney itself is expanding its involvement in timeshares,unveiling two projects set to open next year: the 15-story Bay LakeTower at Disney World's original Contemporary Resort, which openedwith the park in 1971, and the Treehouse Villas at Disney'sSaratoga Springs Resort & Spa. Disney Vacation Clubs has alsostepped up its marketing efforts this year in an effort to selltimeshare units tied to vacation packages.

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Although British-owned IHG is getting into the timeshare gamewell after its largest hotel rivals, it is also entering at apotentially troubling time. Other such chains have reporteddeclining timeshare sales through the first half of this year,along with higher default levels by buyers.

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However, IHG CEO Andy Cosslett believes timeshares are a naturalprogression for Holiday Inn because of its North American customerbase. "This deal reinforces the strength of the Holiday Inn brandas we are able to move into the timeshare market with a goodpartner who knows the business well," Coslett said in a newsrelease announcing the launch of Holiday Inn Club Vacations.

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ARDA's Nusbaum says the US timeshare industry remains resilient,having posted sales of $10.6 billion last year, a 6% increase from2006. "Timeshare is still the little engine that could," hesays.

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However, some timeshare companies are not entirely immune fromproblems related to the nation's credit crunch. Orlando-basedWestgate Resorts disclosed over the weekend it will shut down much of its salesand lay off hundreds of employees.

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