L to R: Patrick Mitchell, Henri Giscard d'Estaing, Xavier Mufraggi of Club Med's senior management in Cancun.

Club Med, the pioneering all-inclusive hotel group that began with barefoot villages for singles and has evolved into some of the world’s best family all-inclusives is growing again -– and fast.

At a press conference held September 29, 2014, Xavier Mufraggi, CEO North America and Patrick Mitchell, VP US Sales shared news of Club Med, the pioneering resort group.  The mood was upbeat as 200 international media and travel trade gathered at Club Med Cancun Yucatan, one of the Americas’ first Club Med Villages which has just undergone an expansion and renovation.

Club Med Management is Happy

The first slide of the presentation showcased a new tag line accompanying the famous Club Med trident symbol: “And What’s Your Idea of Happiness?”

Feeling that Pharell Williams was already taking over the world after receiving a “Happy” greeting card from the site JibJab.com, I listened as Mufraggi said that the all-inclusive market had more than doubled in size over the past three years.

That trend has powered Club Med’s strategy and, according to Xavier, 60% of wealthy travelers now say they would go to an all-inclusive resort, not only for value but for the convenience of the experience, especially for a family.

He was happy to add that recent surveys showed 80% of Club Med clients are “affluent” or “very affluent.” And, surprising to some who recalled the era of beads=booze, 70% of the clients today are families and only 10% are singles.

Internationalization is Key to Club Med Growth

Club Med is the only all-inclusive brand that has translated well around the world,  he said. While North America is Club Med’s biggest market by demand, Mufraggi noted that China is the biggest international market, growing faster and with greater revenue potential than the US. (Unspoken was the knowledge that news regarding the takeover bid from Chinese conglomerate Fosun and its partners was due soon.)

Club Med Development Plans by Resort in the Americas

Mufraggi described the “Four pillars of Club Med” as the French company’s commitment to having resorts in the best locations; being ideal destinations for family vacations; offering a diversity of sports and guest activities; and maintaining the “Club Med Spirit” through a friendly, encouraging staff  that wanted guests to make memories.

Club Med Cancun, Yucatan, Mexico

The popular resort opened in 1976 and was for three decades – until Hurricane Wilma hit – an adults-only enclave.  This latest $14 million renovation includes 60 new two-bedroom family suites in the new Aguamarina wing, a new multi-use guest lounge, and a new conference center to come. While the palette of Frida Kahlo colors maintains the resort’s Mexican charm, both the Las Cazuelas buffet restaurant and La Estancia were redone — the latter turning into an haute chic, table service Argentine Grill with an open-plan kitchen and extensive wine cellar.

Club Med Columbus Isle, Bahamas

Columbus Isle, a secluded island in the Bahamas, is considered one of the top dive sites in the world and is popular with honeymooners. A $40 million real estate project will create five new 3-story buildings along Bonefish Bay. Private ownership units will be similar to regular Club Med rooms, with king beds or two doubles plus sleep sofas; some as connecting rooms, a few with kitchens. Sixty deluxe oceanfront rooms will be added nearby the new Club Med Spa by L’Occitane. Additionally, they are enhancing public spaces such as restaurants, the main pool, and adding a windsurfing school, to be done by summer 2015.

Club Med Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Popular since its opening in 1982 (and still one of their top three revenue producers), this family resort will be adding rooms for couples with a quiet zone and access to a new Zen and Wellness area to complement the Spa by L’Occitane. Families and adults can take advantage of the nearby championship golf facilities, plus a 9-hole pitch and putt, practice bunker, and mini golf. Expect the adult Zen zone to have 60 deluxe rooms and a pool to the right of resort (family zone now on the left). Exclusively for couples, it promises to be stylishly white and ready for winter 2016.

Club Med International Developments

Henri Giscard D’Estaing, Chariman and CEO Club Med worldwide, shared news of developments for the brand outside the Americas.  In the works is an expansion beyond the 25 countries in which Club Med operates. (Warning: News subject to current negotiations with potential majority investors.)

Club Med Dong’ao Island, China

Club Med’s third village in China in on Dong’ao Island near Hong Kong. They are building 72 five-star caliber family rooms for those who seek privacy and upscale service” to open March 2015.

Club Med Bali, Indonesia

The Club Med in Nusa Dua, Bali was among the first in that tropical paradise, and will soon be renovated and expanded.  Giscard D’Estaing noted, “We are permanently improving the resort,” with a new pool, a seaside specialty restaurant and more rooms.

Club Med Gregolimano, Greece

Located on Evia and voted “Best Family Resort in Greece” by TripAdvisor, it will be expanded with 42 new rooms plus more recreational activities.

Club Med Kani, Maldives

At this resort in 2015, 52 couples-only Finolhu Villas will open very near to the main resort.  Each will be on stilts or on the beach with its own private swimming pool and shower.

Club Med International Ski and Mountain Resorts

Having found success with 21 snowsports resorts in five countries, Club Med is opening a stylishly adult place in the French Alps, at the regions’ highest mountain resort. Club Med attributes the ski resorts’ success to being all-inclusive; having airport transport and easy check-in; guest lift tickets and lessons from top instructors; kids clubs; gourmet cuisine; and many activities such as cooking lessons that non-skiers appreciate.

Club Med Val Thorens Sensations, France

The sleek white and neon contemporary resort at Val Thorens is opening in December 2014 in the Tarentaise Valley, Savoie region of the French Alps. It will have an open bar, meals prepared under the supervision of a Michelin starred chef, a rock wall and exercise classes, disco and customized apps to make the on mountain and off mountain experience easier.

Club Med and the Multigenerational Market

In addressing a question about multigenerational groups at Club Med, CEO Giscard d’Estaing noted there was huge potential in this market, since “the product really suits all types and sizes of families.” He added that they often see grandparents paying for the trip who might choose to stay in the most upscale part of the resort, like the five-trident Jade Wing at Cancun, while other family members stayed in the four-trident-rated family suites at the Aguamarina or in connecting rooms.  He also cited the growth in having grandparents arrive at Club Med resorts with only their grandchildren in tow.

Research indicating that people in their 60s, 70s and 80s are seeking more active lifestyle environments on vacation, he added, indicates that Club Med is a “perfect fit” for multigenerational and reunion travel, regardless of age.  He reiterated that highly trained GOs try to accommodate the needs of every guest while encouraging them to try out new sports, in a safe environment. At the same time, the resorts offer less active pursuits such as cooking classes, wine tastings and bridge games.

Club Med Actively Pursues the Family Market

Mufraggi added that last Thanksgiving at the Sandpiper Bay resort in Florida, an estimated 60% of the guests were part of four-generation families.  Because all Club Meds have handicap accessible rooms, and many have family suites that connect to other rooms and can sleep up to seven, the resorts are attracting more multigenerational travelers. 

Another benefit for families is that once booked, connecting rooms are guaranteed because the selected bedding configuration is reserved for you. As part of their diversity initiatives, he said Club Med also welcomes single parents, same sex couples, in fact every facet of the multi-faceted family niche.  However, since fees are charged per person, a family with only one child in a connecting room will pay more for that privilege.

Club Med Still Happy

After several questions, the media event was closed by CEO Henri Giscard D’Estaing, who quoted one of Club Med’s two founders, Gerard Blitz – in French, Spanish and English:

The goal of life is to be happy.

The time to be happy is now.

And the place to be happy is here.”

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