The pioneer of the all-inclusive resort steps up its cosmopolitan, luxury appeal while staying true to its traditional roots.
Since its founding in 1950, Club Med has been a brand that is closely linked with European style, even as it has opened locations across the globe, expanding from the Mediterranean area that gave the company its name to exotic locations in Polynesia or the Caribbean. The resort staff at Club Med, known as Gentils Organisateurs (G.Os), are expected to pick up and move locations on a regular basis, giving them a chance not only to see the world, but also keep the atmosphere at resorts fresh and dynamic. It is fitting, then, that Mori Seguchi is at the helm of Club Med Japan: the globetrotting CEO has studied, worked, and traveled extensively overseas since he was 12.
This experience has given him a strong sense of what customers who come from outside of Japan are looking for in a vacation, and what Club Med Japan’s locations have to offer—in particular, two commodities that are quite precious in one of the largest cities in the world. “The spaces we offer give freedom and privacy, two things that are scarce in Tokyo. I think people appreciate that,” he says.
It’s a combination that has made the resorts a top choice for expats in Japan, and even more popular for Japanese nationals. The two locations offer widely diverse experiences: The spacious Club Med Kabira on Okinawa’s sunny Ishigaki is distinguished by its grand ocean views, while Club Med Hokkaido resort is a natural jewel set amidst the raw beauty of the Mount Sahoro area, which offers a variety of winter activities. A new option are the Club Med Finolhu Villas, a five-star facility on the Maldives that is a precise example of Club Med’s recent decision to offer even higher standards in luxury accommodation. As Seguchi explained, thanks to a recent boom in inbound visitors, Club Med Japan has big things planned.
In 2010, customer makeup at Club Med Hokkaido was about 70 percent Japanese, while “inbound” visitors from abroad and expats made up the remaining 30 percent. After a 2012 shift in market strategy, that ratio has been flipped on its head. “These are now the most cosmopolitan resorts in Japan,” Seguchi says. “The atmosphere is almost like that of an international school.”
To roll with the blow dealt to the hospitality industry by the triple disaster in March of 2011, Club Med Japan decided to return to the G.Os—according to Seguchi, “the essence of [the] brand”—who hail from more than 25 countries and collectively speak nearly 100 languages and dialects.
Always introduced by their first name, G.Os are the face of Club Med’s service and the reason that so many of its customers choose to return. G.Os are dedicated to providing service, whether they are leading activities and teaching sports by day or appearing in the company’s famous evening performances. “The more time people spend with us, the more impressed they are by the G.Os,” says Seguchi. Even though Japanese work culture frowns on taking long breaks, he explains that the company is trying hard to familiarize Japanese customers with the concept of the longer French vacation.
“People pay a lot for their accommodations,” Seguchi continues, speaking about the average hotel experience. “Yet so many opt to take tours and other outings.” By contrast, Club Med aims to give its customers no reason to leave by focusing on luxury and top-notch service. “Why not stay on the property and explore what is being offered to you?” he asks.
And each location has plenty to offer. The facility in Kabira Beach boasts expansive grounds where visitors can enjoy a range of activities that include transparent-bottom kayaking, tennis, and scuba diving, as well as more exotic activities such as archery and flying trapeze. For fun in the winter months, Sahoro is a must-visit. Home to some of the finest powder on the planet, the location is a skier or snowboarder’s paradise located in a part of Hokkaido that most don’t see. “Niseko is of course well known,” says Seguchi, “but Sahoro provides a great opportunity to experience Hokkaido without the crowds.”
Finolhu Villas on the Maldives (top image) offers a truly unique experience. The eco-friendly resort runs on its own solar power, and private butlers, personal pools, and attentive room service ensure that a stay at this secluded lagoon offers the ultimate escape from quotidian life.
Keeping the future in mind, Seguchi looks forward to the firm’s next step: a new location in Japan. “Our business is characterized by flow,” he says. “It’s never static.”
For more information on Club Med Japan, please visit their site: www.clubmed-jp.com