Rachael Harding, CEO, East, South Asia & Pacific (ESAP) Markets, Club Med shares her perspective on the India market
Club Med, the pioneer of the all-inclusive concept, currently operates 70 resorts globally in more than 40 countries. The company has an aggressive worldwide development pipeline with the opening of 17 new resorts and 10 extensions and renovations of existing resorts by 2025. Excerpts from interview:
How is Club Med looking at India as a source market in the changed scenario?
India is an important source market and continues to be a key focus for Club Med as India projected to be among the fastest-growing markets by 2030. In the year leading up to the pandemic, our Indian clients grew close to 5 times over the previous year and again although a slower rebound than some other APAC countries, its moving in the direction of similar volume now. This shows a strong demand for all-Inclusive resorts as well as a growing appetite for vacations overseas, including to our resorts in Europe and Americas.
Maldives has been a massive favourite amongst our Indian guests even before the pandemic as more than 50% of our business comes from here. We are now seeing growing interest in other destinations as Phuket, Bali, Türkiye and French Alps which will be our next focus.
What is the current operational profile of Club Med and what is the expansion plan in terms of number of hotels and keys in Asia?
Club Med operates over 70 resorts globally, each of them in exceptional locations, and of which 95% are in the upscale or very upscale. The strength of our business model is we operate in more than 40 countries. We have an aggressive worldwide development pipeline with the opening of 17 new resorts and 10 extensions and renovations of existing resorts by 2025.
Within Asia, Club Med Kiroro Grand with 266 rooms will be the latest jewel in the crown to open in December 2023 following the grand opening of Club Med Kiroro Peak less than 12 months ago, making Club Med the largest ski operator in Hokkaido, Japan with four mountain resorts that open in both winter and summer seasons.
Looking a little further ahead, we will soon open our first large-scale sustainably built BREEAM-certified beach resort – Club Med Borneo in Malaysia late 2024. A premium all-inclusive 400-room Club Med resort with a Club Med Exclusive Collection space (5 Trident Space), this resort is Club Med’s second resort in Malaysia, after Club Med Cherating Beach, an eco-nature getaway located in Pahang. Additionally, we do have two more openings in China later this year, Club Med Joyview Taicang and Club Med Joyview Heilongtan.
How has been the performance in terms of ARRs, occupancy and RevPar for you in the first 3 months of 2023?
The outlook for the first half of 2023 is very encouraging, following the performance of Club Med operations worldwide in 2022 which has recorded business volume of 1.7 billion euros, an increase of more than 100% from 2021 and recovering to 99% of the volume in same period in 2019.
For January and February 2023, our business volume reached historical high monthly levels, with a room occupancy rate of 77%. Bookings for departures scheduled for the first half of 2023 are up 36% compared to the same period last year while the second half of the year also recorded a 23% increase compared to same period last year. The trends are driven by the continued growth in demand for Club Med in the Americas and Europe and the “revenge travel ” in Asia.
How has the response been from the India market for you post-reopening of travel? Which segments of travellers are you targeting from India?
It has been very encouraging. We have seen more travellers from India who are travelling to long-haul destinations with Club Med and to our Exclusive Collection resorts. There has also been an increased business volume to Europe and Japan mountains in our last winter season while maintaining the growth of our Asia Sun resorts.
Over 70% of our guests in APAC are family travellers in the multi-generation travel segment, followed by couples and individuals, which is aligned with our India market. There has been a higher demand for premium all-inclusive holidays since the pandemic as the upscale Indian clientele is moving towards experiential holidays rather than just exploring a destination.
What is your marketing and promotional plan for India?
The key for us is to grow the Club Med brand by rethinking our marketing and promotions approach, which means diversifying our communication plan including driving brand awareness through sharing of real experiences via KOLs experiences and supported by PR efforts, establish Club Med as leaders in Mountain holidays, educate about the premium and Exclusive Collection Club Med resorts to engage with the growing share of High Net Worth households, continue to work with our key partners whilst diversifying and fine-tuning our distribution model and leverage untapped MICE potential that we are starting to gain traction on.
How important is b2b for you in India?
We have strong and long-standing partners in India who will remain a key channel for us toward our growth ambition. We have developed select TAs as our strategic partners who are not just selling our products but also work as brand advocates for us with their in depth understanding of our services and impeccable record of satisfied Indian guests in our resorts.
What is the digital roadmap for Club Med?
“Happy Digital” is one of our 5 key strategic pillars that help to help accelerate the recovery of Club Med. This applies to how we engage with the travellers of today – where digital consumption and presence is growing exponentially, allowing us to engage better with guests. As a part of this ‘Happy Digital’ strategy, Club Med also continues the digital transformation to innovate and offer new services in both our resorts and offices to enhance guest and employee experience, streamline operations and improve communication, by investing again in digital and technology at the same level as before the pandemic.