Q&A: More to Offer

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More to Offer

Say the name ‘Club Med’ and images of pristine white beaches and leisure holidays spring to mind. But, the hotel group believes it has more to offer, particularly to the business traveller or entity operating in the MICE space, as managing director Stuart de Bourgogne explained in a sit-down with Business Traveller Africa.

In what African countries does Club Med have a presence? 
We currently have 12 resorts on the African continent in Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Senegal. We also have two resorts in Mauritius.

Explain your star or ‘trident’ system and do you have properties across the range in Africa? 
Our resorts are classified by Tridents, and we have a range of resorts in Africa from 3 Trident through to 5 Trident. The Trident level is based on a variety of criteria, including overall comfort level of the resort, choice of accommodation on offer, variety of sports and activities, and the presence of branded spas and services available. Our resorts are positioned as 3 Trident for comfort, 4 Trident for premium and 5 Trident for luxury. We also have a villa offering in Mauritius, which provides our more discerning clients the privacy of a two, three or four-bedroom villa, and full access to the services, restaurants and bars available at our 5 Trident resort, La Plantation d’Albion. 

At a glance, Club Med appears to be completely leisure travel-focused. What role do you play in the business travel space? 
We have a dedicated groups team – Club Med Business – which is an important part of our activity in South Africa. We are able to organise anything, from small groups with dedicated activities, to total privatisation of our resorts – from incentive travel to conference. The all-inclusive aspect of our product, with a set standard across the board, appeals to companies, as it allows them the ultimate peace of mind with full budget control.

Have you seen an increase in MICE activity in the last six months to a year?  
Definitely and mainly for incentive travel. Whilst we have many advanced registrations already for 2013, we have also seen a last-minute trend, as our team is still busy quoting for departures within the next two months.

Where does the majority of your MICE business come from?
Club Med Marrakech La Palmeraie in Morocco is very popular, as it provides dedicated meeting rooms and amphitheatres. It attracts a large portion of guests from France and Belgium. For the South African market, our two resorts in Mauritius are favourites for incentive reward programmes. Companies like the convenience of its location, and Mauritius remains an exotic travel destination.

What’s the most important thing to get right, in terms of your MICE offering?  
A wide portfolio, which we have, with over 80 resorts around the world. Secondly, an all-inclusive package, which can offer companies a total solution to their needs, full budget control, and a fantastic product that is massively appreciated by their employees. Finally, total flexibility is necessary.

In your opinion, what’s the current state of the African hospitality industry?  
Certain countries in Africa remain popular among international leisure travellers, as well as travellers from South Africa. Many South Africans choose to travel across the continent before deciding to go elsewhere around the world. It’s an attractive continent to visit, and with most countries providing opportunities to explore Africa’s wild side in terms of game drives and safaris, travellers flock to these areas for the experience. It’s not only the wildlife that attracts visitors – it’s also the beaches in places like Mozambique and cultural excursions in Morocco and Egypt that attract interest as well. I strongly believe that the hospitality industry in Africa remains strong and will continue to do so, especially with the large number of hotel chains investing in the continent.

How have hotel guests’ expectations changed in the last 15-20 years? 
Customers are looking for better value and quality products, and they are prepared to pay a little more for items that suite their requirements. With regards to rooms, they certainly want more comfort and the option to tailor their stay to their exact requirements.

What, for you, are the most pressing African travel issues for 2012? 
Africa continues to see economic growth. However, it has faced several challenges, with political instability weighing down economies in North Africa. Unrest in established economies like Malé earlier this year has also caused concern, but fortunately, it did not affect travel to the Maldives. Travel into Africa is also pricey for South African travellers, and with the increase in oil price, airline fares continue to soar.