Club Med Punta Cana packs quite a punch when it comes to offering a full-throttle multigenerational family vacation. Everything your clients could possibly want out of a Caribbean vacation is offered in grand style at this Dominican Republic resort that is nestled along a palm tree-lined beach on the island’s easternmost tip—and it’s all included in one price.
Now, some of you might be saying, “Club Med? Family vacation?” In fact, Club Med is all about families nowadays. The company has left its partying ways behind.
According to Patrick Mitchell, v.p. of U.S. sales for Club Med, “The challenge is travel agents presume they know what Club Med is, and they say, ‘I don’t have any customers for you.’ Then when you share what the Club Med experience is, they have tons of customers. I was with eight travel agents at Club Med Sandpiper Bay a few months ago. They all came expecting they were going to stay, at best, in a Holiday Inn. They’ve been in the business for 20 to 30 years, very successful owners of travel agencies, so they had somewhere in their history experienced Club Med in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and when they came to Club Med, they said, ‘Oh my god, this is not at all what I expected it. We can’t wait to start selling it.’”
And once you lock in that family into just one Club Med vacation, there’s a very good chance you’ll lock them in for life. During our recent visit to the 75-acre Club Med Punta Cana, we met a family from New York that included 20-something-year-old daughters and we asked them if they had been to a Club Med before and they said, they’d been coming to this very Club Med since their daughters were young children, and they had visited every year, and they absolutely loved it, even now that the kids were older.
So what’s all the fuss about? Well, there’s circus training—now how many resorts can say they offer that?—dance lessons, archery, tennis lessons, yoga, sailing, kayaking, and the icing on the proverbial cake came earlier this year when Club Med Punta Cana opened the very first L’Occitane-branded spa in the Dominican Republic. Ok, so we see a checklist forming here: little ones are off playing at being Katniss Everdeen (of “Hunger Games” fame); teens are flying through the air at the trapeze area; mom is off doing yoga; dad is taking a windsurfing lesson; and grandma and grandpa? Well, they’re the smartest in the group—they’re enjoying the new spa, of course. The best part is that in the afternoon, it can be grandma showing off her Katniss or trapeze skills with her grandkids. And that’s what’s so great about Club Med—any and all activities are for everyone in the family…everyone. The activities are all out there spread throughout the resort—creating a village environment—ready for each member of the family to enjoy as they see fit. All you have to do is book that multigenerational family at the all-inclusive resort, and voila, Club Med caters to all their needs.
“Everyone is talking about multigenerational family travel, and it’s certainly an area that we play very well in. We think we have a great product for that,” says Mitchell. “I think there are two things that really make us different from other hotel brands. One is that we are all-inclusive. For me, it’s the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, so it’s the combination of being all-inclusive, being global, being family. Sure there are global brands, but they might not be all-inclusives. There are all-inclusives that might be family, but they are not global. So you take Beaches, for example, here’s a family brand, but you can only experience it today in the Caribbean. You’ve got many of the major hotel chains, the Starwood brands, Hyatt, Hilton, Disney, and they’ve got a global footprint, but they are not all-inclusive, so for us, it’s the sum of all of those components.”
But the real success, we think, comes not from the brand being able to offer all-inclusive family vacations around the world—those components Mitchell refers to—but with the attention to detail offered at the micro-level, in the resorts themselves. And it starts with the accommodations.
let’s call it home
Club Med Punta Cana offers 553 guestrooms and family suites divided into several categories including Club Family Rooms, Deluxe Family Rooms, and Oceanview Family Suites. It’s the TIARA enclave—the 5 Trident Luxury Space within the resort—that’s the way to go for your family bookings. It offers family suites with two bedrooms (the kids’ room is off the foyer so there’s lots of privacy for the parents) and 753 sq. ft. of space, all at the ocean’s doorstep—in fact, the accommodation’s chaise longues are on the sand right in front of the suite’s oceanview terrace, and clients are literally just a few steps from the shoreline. It’s all done up with a modern flair and it’s open and airy, so guests won’t feel like they are knocking each other over. You can also book the next-door family suite so that the whole family—perhaps aunt and uncle, and their children—can all be in the same general space. TIARA guests also have access to a private infinity pool and a lounge with beverages, treats and concierge service, as well as dedicated bar service at the pool, breakfast room service, and complimentary Internet access.
‘wait for me…’
That’s what the kids will be saying as their newfound group of friends hop from one activity to another. Really the main reason to send your clients to Club Med Punta Cana, or any Club Med, for that matter, is because the barrage of activities will fill their day and make for happy kids (and parents, too). There truly is something to keep everyone busy the entire length of their stay. As we mentioned before, there is, of course, Circus School, where guests can learn to do trapeze, as well as archery (there are separate areas for children and adults), and beach volleyball, basketball, tennis, sports tournaments, fitness classes such as body sculpting, stretching, and Pilates, as well as numerous watersports such as snorkeling (starting at age 8 accompanied by an adult), windsurfing, kayaking, and sailing. Beach parties, theater shows and poker fun? They’ve got that as well. Evening turndown includes a list of the next day’s daily activities, from early morning to late night, so families can plan ahead.
Of course, there’s also a long stretch of beach that makes for an ideal meeting place. Tell clients to claim their spot in the sand early and then as everyone is running around the resort doing their own thing—hula hoop classes, anyone?—they can always come back to the meeting point for some family time together. There are also five pools, including the aforementioned infinity pool exclusively for the use of TIARA (5 Trident Luxury Space) guests and two exclusively for Mini Club Med.
Oh, and did we mention there are also excursions to choose from? Options include a lobster cruise, a tour to Santo Domingo, a Saona Island tour by catamaran, a sunset cruise, and a Wild Ranch Adventure-Eco Tourism Excursion, among others.
kids take center stage
There are kids’ clubs and then there are Club Med’s kids’ clubs. First, use of the kids’ clubs are included in the all-inclusive pricing—that’s one of the factors that makes it so successful. If it’s included in the rate, then there’s a good chance a lot more kids are going to participate, and if there are more kids participating, then that adds up to more fun and more newfound friends. They are also carefully divided by age group: 12-year-olds will not be playing with 4-year-olds or 17-year-olds, for that matter. It’s not just a kids’ club program, it’s a kids’ club program on steroids. Every child we passed that was participating in a kids’ club activity had a smile from ear to ear.
Included in the all-inclusive price is Mini Club Med, for ages 4 to 10, and that’s divided into subgroups by age; and the Club Med PassWorld for kids ages 11 to 17, which again is subdivided into 11- to 13-year-olds and 14- to 17-year-olds. Activities range from creative games and Circus School, to video editing, Petit Tennis, the Passworld teen hangout and cooking classes where kids learn how to create local dishes. As would befit a beachside resort, there are also lots of watersports activities.
The littlest ones in the family also have their own separate clubs, although there is an extra charge for those. The Baby Club Med is for 4- to 23-month-olds; and the Petit Club Med ranges from 2- to 3-year-olds. And no, they don’t stay indoors. These little ones are running around having a great time—we saw it for ourselves when we walked by the splash park and the playgrounds.
In addition to the kids’ clubs, you can let clients know that there is the nighttime Pyjama Club from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. for 4-month-olds to 10-year-olds in case parents want to have a late dinner or hang out at the bar, as well as babysitting services; both are an extra charge.
We mentioned that this property spreads out over 75 acres, and due to the vast space it encompasses, the new Club Med Spa by L’Occitane here works quite well because it’s tucked away in one of the far corners of the resort. There are 10 indoor treatment rooms, one “duo” room specifically for couples, four outdoor oceanfront palapas—two available for couples’ treatments—and a manicure and pedicure area. Recommend clients relax before and after their treatment in the relaxation area that looks out over the ocean, and, of course, a treatment in the outdoor palapa is the way to go for ultimate bliss. Treatment prices are typical of a high-end resort spa, and we highly recommend clients do not pass on a spa visit (our facial was one of the best we’ve ever had and the therapist was quite knowledgeable).
chocolate bread—enough said!
Okay, truth be told Club Med Punta Cana does not offer a feast for the high-brow culinary set, but this being a great resort for families, the buffet-style restaurants are ideal. Why? Because what kid doesn’t like going around a restaurant choosing their own food, especially when they can grab one, two, maybe three servings of white and dark chocolate bread (this is a must for everyone; clients can burn it off the next day at one of the fitness classes, so tell them to indulge). Chefs serve up a different culinary theme daily, from Mexican and Asian to fusion and seafood goodies (the daily activities list found in the guestroom at turndown outlines what type of cuisine each restaurant will be serving), and there is such a variety of food, plates come back to the tables with huge heaps of servings.
travel agents, club med wants you
In terms of selling Club Med, the role of the travel agent is critical, says Mitchell. “I don’t know of any brand in travel today that has aspirations to grow and think that they can do it without travel agents. We know that we can’t access through our own marketing efforts, the customers that many home-based travel agents touch in their own community, in their churches and synagogues, so we work closely with a number of the home-based networks so that we can reach those agents.
“The most important role that travel agents play for us is that any time you have a customer who is looking at an international destination, it can be complicated. When passports are involved, when you have family traveling, when air is involved, these quickly become high-ticket, complicated transactions, and we think that consumers want somebody they can trust to educate them and help them understand what to expect, and help them understand the value of one brand over another. And so in particular, given the level of affluence that our customers have, I think that most of those customers find value in their own time, and so they are willing to go to a travel professional to help them identify the best option for them and their family, and that’s not something anyone does well on the Internet. Customers might be somewhat educated, but they really are depending on travel agents and that’s why we really are engaging travel agents. I really believe that agents add value and we believe that they are going to be a core part of our message going forward,” adds Mitchell.
On the agent-dedicated website, clubmedta.com, you can sign up to receive advice for booking faster and at the best price; access online forms to help you with your booking; view special e-learning videos to help you develop your skills; and access the latest promotions.
rates & getting there
A basic rate for a 7-night stay at Club Med Punta Cana for four (two adults and two children under the age of 15) is $5,276, but Club Med offers sales every month, so you can expect rates sometimes almost half off these basic rates.
Travelers fly into Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ), which serves Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue, and U.S. Airways, among other international airlines.
new club med opens along turkish riviera
Club Med Belek, the brand’s newest 4-Trident property, has opened its doors offering 433 rooms, each with balcony or terrace, and 16 two-bedroom villas complete with both an indoor and outdoor pool, sauna and butler service. Additionally, the resort features eight outdoor pools, four restaurants and bars, the Club Med Spa by CARITA with Turkish baths, the Lykia Links golf course—ranked No. 1 in Turkey by Golf World in 2012—a waterpark with waterslides and a bowling alley, as well as all the usual Club Med offerings.
Club Med Punta Cana: (888) 932-2582; clubmed.us or clubmedta.com