Club Med recently announced the news of its latest Asian venture – a new project in Krabi, Thailand, featuring both a resort and residences. The company prides itself on its capacity to surprise, and the residence component certainly represents an interesting variation on the all-inclusive model which has put Club Med on the map. However, as Hotelintel.co found out when meeting CEO for South and East Asia & Pacific, Xavier Desaulles, Club Med has much more on the menu for Asia in the near future.
“At present we have 70 resorts worldwide, including 24 ski resorts with four in Asia,” said Xavier. “Our guests are looking for diversity, for different destinations, so for the mountain resorts we are adding Pyeongchang, Korea, the host venue for the upcoming Winter Olympic Games, and another near the site for the Winter Games of 2022 near Beijing.”
This new emphasis on winter sports comes in addition to Club Med’s Tomamu Hokkaido property in Japan which is already delighting skiers and their families with its distinctive focus on activities and entertainment. It is a model which Xavier believes is working especially well with the current target markets.
“We tap into the consumers’ desire to have the experience inside the resorts; the formula works because you pay before the stay and then your wallet is in the safe – everything is taken care of. Millennial families in particular are looking at this travel formula. We provide the different activities, so when you come to Club Med you are not bored, there is something here for everyone.”
Despite the success of the Club Med model, and that of other all-inclusive operators such as Robinson Club, Xavier describes how his company’s positioning leaves it with few genuine rivals. “We are in a unique segment focusing on families, and our signatures are proprietary and unique,” he explained. “Those signatures are the experiences we are guaranteeing our guests, and details like international GOs (Gentil Organisateur – Club Med ambassadors who embody the brand and deliver the experience) speaking your language. We don’t really have competitors as the feeling in our resorts is very special to Club Med. The spirit of the GOs will amaze you, and our guests tell us that their experience is unique, something that others don’t have.”
The family focus is something that may come as a surprise to those who knew Club Med in Europe and its reputation as a place to party, but a shift has clearly taken place. “We welcome everyone,” pointed out Xavier, “but families are a fast-growing market, especially in Asia. The millennials we keep talking about – in five to ten years, sixty percent will be parents. They want to spend time together in a safe place, in a learning environment. We are still a party place, but with a twist. We have always had flair – we surprise you – but Club Med is about entertainment and keeping people happy, and it’s shifted upscale. We are constantly innovating, and we believe the upscale clientele is waiting for this kind of experience.”
There are, however, some differences in the way Xavier’s clientele perceive the Club Med experience when comparing Asia with the company’s other destinations. “It’s the same basic formula,” he said, “but gastronomy requires elevated standards in Asia as our guests are very much looking forward to the cuisine. Also, the kids’ club is seen as very important in Asia, because millennial parents want their kids to learn; it’s not just about playing but also learning a language or learning a skill, and learning how to be more self-confident. The feedback shows that in Asia the learning experience for kids is very well received.”
If the Asian clientele place different demands upon Club Med, the main challenges faced when operating in Asia seem unchanged to those of any other destination. For Xavier, finding staff is still the big issue, especially when expansion lies ahead.
“To support the accelerating growth, we need talent. If we want to open three to five new villages every year, we need the staff to power these new villages – that’s more than 5,000 people. But once we find them, working at Club Med is life-changing if you are gifted and passionate. Managers are trained to give associates opportunities. We take a chance on committed people, and for some it changes their lives. It works.”
It might be expected that Club Med’s future growth will continue to follow the blueprint of spacious all-inclusive resorts in unspoiled locations with a wealth of activities to keep guests occupied. Indeed, it is the need for space that currently deters Club Med from considering city locations. In contrast, venturing into the residences project which is planned for Krabi might appear surprising, but Xavier is open to the possibilities.
“This is a way to give value to our owners through building exclusive suites and villas. It is a growing sector, not a core business, but we are pragmatic and if it can enhance the value to our guests we will do it,” he stated. “We’ve done it in Mauritius, and so it can also work in other resorts.”
Innovation, pragmatism, and a concept that has so far stood the test of time should give Club Med a great foundation for its future developments in Asia.