Not For Swingers Anymore: Grown-Up Club Med Is In Expansion Mode With New Resorts On Tap
Club Med, which in 1950 pioneered the idea of the all-inclusive resort, is in expansion mode. The company is on track to open 17 properties around the world by 2024, including its second in the United States, in Utah. It will also renovate or expand 13 existing resorts.
Club Med — which has a North American headquarters in Miami — has evolved over the years. The earliest locations in Spain and Italy were conceived as communal beachfront "villages" where families could stay in tents or huts, and play sports and do yoga together. By the 1970s, the brand was famous for freewheeling singles, according to an archived Los Angeles Times article, though the brand was attempting to switch gears to a more family-friendly format.
In 1981, a New York Times reporter went to the Club Med resort in Martinique. She found the expected slate of sports, buffets, drinks and dancing — but also wet T-shirt contests and a worker who told her he was “in charge of making love to American tourists.”
Club Med made numerous attempts at rebranding. After faltering in the 1990s, when it had 116 properties, Club Med courted families in the early 2000s. The current incarnation emphasizes kids' activities and “green” practices like a reduction of single-use plastics.
However, some longstanding aspects of Club Med remain the same. Club Med has its own rituals and vocabulary: staff are called “G.O.s” — short for Gentils Organisateurs," or "Gracious Organizers" — and are often likened to camp counselors. They live on-site and walk around the resort leading choreographed dances that travelers are encouraged to join, and nighttime shows such as skits.
Modern reviewers from Food & Wine and Forbes suggest that the company has finally largely succeeded in its turnaround, comparing it to a cruise, though not everyone is aware of its changed reputation. A Fodors reviewer in December called Club Med "the most misunderstood hotel chain in the world," lamenting that many still think of it as being for swingers.
“Since 1950, Club Med has continued to shape the all-inclusive industry by introducing new destinations and experiences to travelers worldwide,” says Carolyne Doyon, president and CEO of Club Med North America and the Caribbean.
“Throughout our 72-year history, we’ve successfully adapted our portfolio to appeal to upscale travelers and families, as well as demonstrated our leadership in the all-inclusive mountain experience," Carolyne Doyon, president and CEO of Club Med North America and the Caribbean, said in a statement.
Club Med was bought in 2015 by Fosun Tourism Group, an arm of Fosun International, the investment firm run by Shanghai billionaire Guo Guangchang, who has been called “China’s Warren Buffett.” Forbes reported that Club Med had been unprofitable in 2018, but reversed fortunes in 2019, only to get hit by coronavirus pandemic a year later. Nevertheless, it opened four new resorts and renovated four in 2021.
In Utah, Club Med is expanding a resort called Snowbasin, about 35 miles north of Salt Lake City. The new component will have 320 rooms, stay open year-round, and will be part of Club Med’s “Exclusive Collection," which includes 13 5-star properties within Club Med’s total 65-property portfolio. Club Med’s only other U.S. property is the Sandpiper Resort in Port St. Lucie, Florida. A ski property opened in Canada in December.
Club Med’s other planned developments are in Marbella, Spain; the French Alps; the Italian Alps; Greece; Phuket, Thailand; Hokkaido, Japan; and Borneo, Malaysia.