Club Med has seen greater growth in sales through the trade than it has via its other channels.
The all-inclusive specialist, which is expecting its best-ever season this winter as pent-up demand is released, told Travel Weekly it had seen triple-digit growth of sales via travel agents against the same time last year.
This compared with a 67% rise in bookings via its contact centre, which includes some calls from agents, and a 25% growth in online sales – which are direct customers only.
UK and northern Europe managing director Estelle Giraudeau said: “The trade has been extremely supportive. With furlough, it was hard to reply at the same pace – but agents understand and have supported us with bookings.”
She explained that the top three to five selling agencies in the UK had “changed” during Covid, partly driven by partners who had always sold Club Med’s ski holidays differentiating to also sell its summer product – a process she said was “accelerated” because of the crisis.
Giraudeau also reported a “good balance” between new bookings and rebookings of cancelled holidays that were due to go ahead in 2020. She said the split was roughly 50-50.
She said Club Med, which put its winter 2021-22 programme on sale last month, has seen sustained demand following a first week that was 133% up on 2020 – and added that Boris Johnson’s roadmap announcement on February 22 “helped as well”.
“It feels like we are really seeing the end of the tunnel in terms of confidence and demand,” said Giraudeau. “Going on holidays is a reality now. Everything at the moment is based on confidence – and now we have facts rather than wishful thinking. Demand has been transformed into bookings.”
The ski specialist also has summer resorts and Giraudeau reported “a lot of traction” for dates in August, and October half term. This compared with a “small increase” in bookings for May half term, as uncertainty remains over the earliest possible restart date of international travel, which could be May 17.
Turkey is Club Med’s top-selling summer destination from the UK, Giraudeau confirmed, adding that sales to resorts in Greece were “growing” and Portugal and Sicily were performing well.
“Greece has positioned itself early as willing to accept vaccinated British people,” she said. “Spain is similar and Turkey has the same intention but is not having to go through the European Union so can make its own decisions.”
Giraudeau noted that France, Club Med’s home country, has been slower to commit to taking international visitors, but she said European tourism “cannot live without the British this summer” and predicted “Greece will be the big winner”.
In terms of long-haul bookings to Club Med resorts such as the Dominican Republic, Maldives, Seychelles and Mexico, she said there was “some” bookings from August onwards, but few for summer dates.
Giraudeau said Club Med resorts would abide by health and safety protocols in the country they are based, whether that is capacity limits, Covid testing, social distancing measures, or the requirement to wear face masks. She said it was an “obsession” of Club Med’s to “deliver safety to our customers” and that “flixibility will be really important” in the recovery from Covid.
“We used to make decisions in three months and they would last a year, now we make decisions in 48 hours and they last two to four weeks,” added Giraudeau.
“At the same time, most of the experiences at Club Med are outdoors. People feel safer outdoors – and they don’t feel like they’re in a hospital.”