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Hundreds of the travel industry’s most-forward-thinking executives will gather for our third annual Skift Forum Europe in London on April 30. In just a few years, Skift's Forums — the largest creative business gatherings in the global travel industry — have become what media, speakers, and attendees have called the “TED Talks of travel.”
Focusing on responsible travel practices and other key issues, Skift Forum Europe 2019 will take place at Tobacco Dock in London. The Forum will feature speakers, including CEOs and top executives from British Airways, IHG, Thomas Cook, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Silversea, Uber, and many more.
The following is part of a series of posts highlighting some of the speakers and touching on issues of concern in Europe and beyond.
Part of that is no doubt due to its longevity. The company has been around since the 1950s but a decade ago the management made the decision to take the brand upmarket and look for growth in the expanding markets of Asia and Latin America.
As the all-inclusive specialist expanded into new markets, it has become particularly popular with Chinese travelers. The revamp attracted takeover interest and a protracted bidding war between Italian tycoon Andrea Bonomi and Chinese conglomerate Fosun, which eventually emerged victorious.
The company last year said that it had increased customer numbers to their highest level since 2000.
At Skift Forum Europe in Berlin April 26, Club Med’s CEO for France, Europe and Africa, Sylvain Rabuel, will talk about how the all-inclusive resort has changed and what’s next.
What follows is an edited version of a recent Skift interview with Rabuel.
Skift: How has all-inclusive at Club Med and in general changed over the last 25 years?
Sylvain Rabuel: We invented this concept nearly 70 years ago and we did a huge transformation in the last 10 years around two dimensions. The first one is to move it truly upmarket to make all-inclusive a premium concept.
In the last 10 years we turned it strongly upmarket and succeeded in making it a premium experience.
The second thing was to make it an experience. To offer a full range of various experiences included in the all-inclusive.
It’s not sitting on a beach with only unlimited drinks. And the way we succeeded in making it premium is basically to incorporating in the all-inclusive a lot of various experiences.
Skift: Club Med changed hands three years ago. Has that benefited the business?
Rabuel: No, it did not change the business focus. Why is that? Three years ago Fosun was already a shareholder of Club Med, meaning that they knew the premise especially around all-inclusives. So when they decided to take full control of Club Med it was because they were convinced about the company’s strategy.
Skift: Club Med is known as very French but you’ve developed into a more international company. Is that part of your strategy?
Rabuel: Ten years ago when we did the reset of Club Med the first decision was to move upmarket… the second key move was to become a global player. Global in terms of source market and global in terms of destinations. Today, two-thirds of Club Med is international, meaning non-French clientele. It wasn’t enough 10 years ago.
We are now fully global in terms of clientele and source markets, especially with Chinese clientele, which represent today our second source market worldwide. We are now very strong in America, especially in South America with a massive flow of Brazilian clientele and we are still very strong in Europe especially in the French speaking market but not only, for instance in the UK market we doubled our size the last two years.
The globalization of our destinations also has been key for us… Now we’re offering 70 resorts all over the world and [are] also to diversify our risk not to depend too much on one destination or one type of destination in case of political issues.
Historically, we were very strong all around the Mediterranean Sea now we are as strong in all the long haul destinations, Caribbean, Indian Ocean, south-east Asia. And on top of that where we are very unique is being the worldwide leader of mountain destinations. We have now 25 resorts in the mountains everywhere in the world – in France, Switzerland, Italy, China and and very soon Canada.
Skift: Is there any technological development or improvement you’re excited about over the next year or so?
Rabuel: The last year, the focus has been mobile and it’s still on top of our agenda to be the best performing mobile experience. Because in our industry it is for inspiration and bookings.
In the next year our priority is to leverage digital facilities at the service of the clientele staying. Meaning at Club Med we believe in the happy digital strategy, digital at the service of happiness, at the service of the better holiday experience but not digital for digital.