By Kupluthai Pungkanon
For most busy parents, a holiday is as much about spending quality time with the kids while also having the space to relax as a couple secure in the knowledge that the little ones are being kept safe and occupied.
While most hotels these days do offer facilities for the younger members of the family, the French holiday villages run by Club Med take the concept a step further with premium all-inclusive holidays at destinations throughout the world. The company’s chief executive Henri Giscard d’Estaing recently took time out from his busy schedule in Bangkok to chat with The Nation about the future direction of the tourism industry. Excerpts:
Club Med Tomamu Hokkaido meets the increasing demand for quality ski holidays in Asia.
WHAT ARE CLUB MED’S ACHIEVEMENTS AND ITS MISSIONS OVER THE LAST |60-PLUS YEARS?
It is 66 years exactly. We have two goals: one is to create exceptional holidays for our clients by creating amazing experiences. That means giving guests the opportunity to try, for example, sports they would never have dreamt of doing. The second is to remain the global premium all-inclusive experiential holiday provider for families and active couples.
We are on the right track. We now operate in more than 30 countries and we can only go up from here. After a profound transformation of Club Med to make it more upscale, more global and more digital, I believe we are in a position to become the global leader.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE CLUB MED |EXPERIENCE THAT MAKES IT STAND |OUT FROM OTHERS?
First, the physical factors. We are located in the most beautiful places in the world. We are extremely strict in our choice of locations to make sure that they are always exceptional. Second, Club Med Resort has a minimum size of 15 hectares, while normal hotels have a third of that. Space has become luxury now that we all live in cities. And then of course we have the GOs, (Gentils Organisateurs or Gracious Organisers). We have about 100 of them at each resort and their jobs involve looking after the kids, giving them wide array of learning experiences, helping them to discover the cultures of the countries where they are staying and take part in sports activities. Our GOs come from about 20 countries and are young and talented. And lastly, each of our resorts has a wide array of activities.
Club Med Resort in Phuket, is a paradise for children and adults alike.
HOW ABOUT IN THAILAND? |WHAT IS YOUR FUTURE DIRECTION?
We have been in Thailand a long time. Indeed, one of our first resort properties was in Phuket and we proud to have helped turn the island into a global destination. We believe that Thailand is a very promising destination for the tourism industry and are planning to expand here. Indeed, we are currently working on two specific projects but for now this is still a secret.
We welcome affluent customers mainly from Europe and especially from France. We have a lot of Chinese and South Korean customers too.
WHAT IS THE GLOBAL TREND OF TRAVEL INDUSTRY? WHAT CHALLENGES IS THE HOTEL BUSINESS FACING THESE DAYS?
The travel industry is facing major changes and no more so than in the expectations of guests. Ten years ago, people were looking for big rooms and traditional luxury. Today, they want something they can share on the social media with their friends. In China, the changes show a move from the traditional style of going to one place, taking a photo and moving on. Today our Chinese customers prefer to stay 3 or 4 days with us and they really want to enjoy their holiday. They want to disconnect from their hectic lives and reconnect with themselves. Hotels and resorts must adapt to that.
The digital revolution is also a major challenge for the hotel industry and we have worked hard to upgrade our presence on the Internet. We use visual reality to allow potential customers to experience their holiday before they go. Digital is changing the way of booking and sharing the holiday experience with others.
One of the major trends is Asia is snow and ski holidays. It’s akin to beach and ocean for Europeans and Americans. You want to experience something you don’t have. We have now four ski resorts: two in Japan, where we are opening our second next winter, and two in China.
Club Med’s Finolhu Villas and Kani Resort, in Maldives is very popular with European travellers
AS A FAMILY MAN, HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE THE FAMILY VACATION? WHAT ARE |THE EXPECTATIONS?
The successful family vacation is to make sure every member of the family is happy. If you go to the fun park, the kids will be happy but parents will be exhausted. If you to a luxury retreat resort, the parent will love it and the kids will be bored. And if one of the family is unhappy, the whole family will not enjoy the holiday. Young, teenager or adults all need the freedom to do anything they want and enjoy new experiences. Give them that and you create the opportunities for the whole family to reconnect. The “must-do” and “must have” at Club Med is the freedom of choice and that covers everything from food to all-inclusive activities.
WHERE IS YOUR DREAM DESTINATION?
As I travel a lot, my dream destination is the next one, the one I have not yet discovered. I tend to be extremely excited to see the new resorts in Hokkaido, Japan and Bali, Indonesia, and the future one in Thailand will be exceptional.