Christel DeHaan (b. 1942) co-founded Resort Condominiums International (RCI), which became one of the largest brokers of timeshare trades, and subsequently evolved into a successful travel club with a huge worldwide membership base.
Christel was born in Germany to a middle-class family that had fallen on hard times before the war. In 1958, she graduated from high school at a Franciscan convent, and moved to England to become a nanny. She returned to Germany a year later, where she met her first husband, a medic at the US military base. They moved to the US in 1962, separating in 1971. It was in 1973, having met Jon DeHaan while studying at Indiana Central University, that she remarried and the couple began to work on the idea that would become RCI only a year later. It evolved from a simple concept that time-sharers or owners of condominiums might prefer some flexibility regarding where they wanted to stay, and when.
The business quickly took off and, despite growing competition, the DeHaans were able to capture a large share of the exchange market by dint of being there from the start. By 1985, RCI had enrolled its 500,000th member family, with 1,100 resort affiliates in 50 countries. In 1987, the business would proudly declare that 98.6% of the time, exchangers got to go where they wanted. When Christel and Jon separated in the early 1990s, a judge awarded Christel control of the company based on her contribution from the outset, and she continued to run RCI successfully before selling it in 1996.
Following the sale of RCI, Christel founded a non-profit organisation, Christel House International, which helps impoverished children around the world to break free from the cycle of poverty and, through Learning Centres, realise their hopes and dreams.
Christel was honoured by the British Travel & Hospitality Hall of Fame in 1997.