Travel pioneer celebrates 60th anniversary

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 April, 2010, 12:00am

Club Mediterranee, more often known as Club Med, celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, having grown from a tented camp in the Balearics to more than 80 villages on five continents.

The company's success over the decades comes down to its pioneering spirit, according to Henri Giscard d'Estaing, chairman and chief executive.

'After the second world war, people were looking for happiness and to experience this easily and simply,' he says. 'Club Med gave guests access to new and exciting destinations, and pioneered new ways of doing things, such as the all-inclusive holiday and Mini Club for children. Over the years, we have been the first in many new destinations - we were among the first to offer an all-inclusive resort in Malaysia, and we will be the first in Oman, as well as the first international ski resort in China.'

Club Med underwent a major relaunch in 2004, rebranding the company around 'upmarket', 'friendly' and 'multicultural' themes. It renovated many properties and opened more upscale accommodation, including villas at the five-trident La Plantation d'Albion resort in Mauritius, and Marrakech Le Riad in Morocco. Club Med's tridents work as a rating system, similar to star ratings.

The upgrade also included more personalised services such as room service in suites and the opening of private areas in some four-trident resorts.

The company's G.O.s (gentle organisers, who lead activities, provide entertainment and care for guests) represent about 100 nationalities and speak more than 30 languages, offering a uniquely multicultural experience.

In the past few years, in reaction to global market studies, Club Med has enriched its all-inclusive deal, offering additional services and products including bar items and snacks. It has also expanded its services for children.

Children have for decades been a key aspect of the Club Med experience. 'Our ambition is to be the worldwide specialist for all-inclusive, friendly, multicultural holidays for families and couples,' d'Estaing says. 'Our real know-how is families. Parents can do what they want while we take care of their children.'

The Mini Club has for many years provided safe and stimulating play areas and activities for children aged from four to 10, while the more recent addition of Club Med Passworld offers a private, creative environment for teenagers. Some resorts also now offer support by trained staff for babies.

'We have strict criteria for our resorts that offer Club Med Baby,' says Caroline Puechoultres, president and chief executive for Asia-Pacific and general manager of strategy, development and quality. 'These resorts have high sanitary standards and must have medical facilities nearby. All our staff are fully trained and we offer a Baby Welcome service including the provision of prams, baby beds, areas to feed and suitable food.'

Club Med's move to offer a more upmarket holiday experience has also affected its branding of the Yabuli ski resort, near Harbin in Heilongjiang province, that will open towards the end of the year. 'China is the only place where the entire concept has been upmarket,' Puechoultres says.