We speak to Heidi Kunkel, CEO New Markets Europe & Africa at Club Med

What is “the Club Med way” and why do people buy into it?

Club Med started in 1950 providing a new vision of happiness. Today we still share the same values of our founders Gerard Blitz and Gilbert Trigano: kindness, freedom, responsibility, multi-culturalism and a pioneering spirit.

It’s a unique entity offering all-inclusive premium holidays with a choice of exceptional locations in 26 countries, with over 60 upscale resorts. The all-inclusive holiday element is big, especially for South Africans looking to travel to Europe and holiday without worrying about the exchange rate.

What SA travel trends are you noticing?

There is still a massive interest in sun holidays especially over the December school holiday period, but snow and ski is gaining interest which shows that South Africans are open to new experiences such as snowboarding and skiing.

Mauritius is still a very popular destination for South Africans, especially families. It’s easy to reach (a four-hour flight) and has lovely weather for most of the year. Because of its popularity among South Africans, we have introduced a “kids under 12 stay free” option for all of our Club Med Mauritius resorts, and have specific children facilities to ensure the little ones are looked after while the adults enjoy all that Mauritius has to offer.

Another trend is that many South African’s tend to visit specific places within certain regions, like Thailand if they plan to travel and explore Asia, and there has been a general increase towards other areas, such as Indonesia (Bali, Singapore and surrounding islands like Bintan Island). Some of our most popular sun resorts among South Africans are: Bali and Bintan Island in Asia; Gregolimano in Greece; Da Balaia in Portugal; Phuket in Thailand; Kani and Finolhu in the Maldives; and Mauritius.

When it comes to how South Africans are picking their holidays, word of mouth is still one of the primary sources that help audiences decide where they want to go on their next holiday. Luckily word of mouth is amplified by social platforms and sharing of experiences, which is something we focus on driving.

What are your expansion plans in Africa?

Saraba will open in Senegal this year and we are looking at opportunities in Tanzania.

Club Med’s Finolhu resort in the Maldives is the world’s first solar-powered luxury resort. Tell us more…

The villas are fueled by renewable energy thanks to the 6000 sqm of solar energy panels. They are perfectly integrated in the environment and to the site’s architecture. There’s an even more important environmental implication for this particularly sensible location. Otherwise, all resorts recently opened by Club Med are Green Globe certified.

The interior design style of Club Med’s ski resort in Val Thorens was crowdsourced by Club Med facebook fans. Are there plans to do this again?

That went well and we are very happy with the results. We don’t have any plans on doing it at the moment but it’s definitely something we could do again as it’s important for Club Med to take the client’s opinion into account – they are the ones enjoying the resorts, therefore their voices must be heard.

What new resorts will Club Med be launching in 2017?

Two new resorts in the seaside: Lake Paradise, and Rio das Pedras (a new 5T space) both in Brazil. We also have two new mountain resorts opening in December 2017: Grand Massif Samoëns (in Morillon in the French Alps) and Tomamu in Japan.

For more info: www.clubmed.com and for a virtual escape:

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