Club Med expects next winter to be its most successful season

Club Med expects next winter to be its most successful ski season ever, as its UK boss warned agents to book quick before the all-inclusive specialist “runs out of products to sell”.

Estelle Giraudeau, managing director for the UK and northern Europe, told Travel Weekly that Club Med’s ski bookings for next winter are currently 50% up on 2019 levels.

She reported sales on the first day of the programme going on sale last month were up 133%, and last week saw a 73% week on week rise.

Giraudeau said most of the bookings were at the premium and new resorts, such as Val Thorens and Arc Panorama in the Alps.

“Sadly the ski lifts in France haven’t reopened for this season, and it’s unlikely that they will reopen,” she said. “That was obviously bad news for us because ski is a big part of our business.”

However, she noted that Swiss resorts had remained open and were a “big success” for guests arriving from France, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium, despite British skiers being unable to visit.

“Despite the fact that it’s bad news, it hasn’t hit us badly, because it’s an assumption we had made,” Giraudeau explained.

She said the operator expects 2021-22 to be its most ski successful season ever, due to pent-up demand after skiers missed opportunities to travel in the last two winters.

Most bookings were at premium and new resorts, such as Val Thorens and Arc Panorama in the Alps, she added – saying Club Med’s position as a premium all-inclusive brands will help it as the travel industry starts to recover from Covid.

“We are in a premium position in the UK market and we’re very happy to see the upscale strategy paying off,” said Giraudeau, who noted that higher spending clients have typically chosen to upgrade this year due to having not spent money on a holiday in the last year.

She also added: “Because a lot of people have saved, they have extra money to spend – and want to spend it on experiences.”

Giraudeau also reported a trend in bookings from multi-generational families, adding: “A family of four are opting to bring their grandparents – that’s happened a lot.”

She was also happy to report a rise in new clients, bookings from which were up 127%.

“It’s early to say if this trend is going to last,” Giraudeau added. “But the assumption is that demand will shift from self-catering chalets to our premium all-inclusive offering.

“A lot of chalets have similar price points but a lot of operators have decided not to operate or will reopen at much smaller capacity next season and sadly the Covid crisis made some operators make some tough decisions.”

Giraudeau said Brexit has “accelerated” the issues British ski operators in Europe face as a result of Covid, explaining: “It’s not easy for UK operators to hire people to work the season in France. The issue is the costs are not workable.”

She added that many operators who employ young British workers to do seasons in chalets have decided the model will be “unprofitable”.

Giraudeau said agents had identified Club Med as an alternative to self-catering chalets given the lack of availability.

But she encouraged the trade to secure early bookings to avoid disappointment for their customers, noting “capacity has shrunk” due to social distancing measures.

She added that some resorts were 72% booked already for next winter, with bookings only currently open to the UK, German and Brazilian markets. “So if our trade partners want to ensure their clients can book, they have to go quickly,” Giraudeau explained.

“At some stage we are going to run out of products to sell – and I expect people will book earlier than before because of the missed ski season and the fact that ski customers are generally loyal.”

She said that was particularly likely for winter ski bookings because they were far enough out to offer certainty over vaccination programmes, though she expects “this summer people might wait until the last minute to book”.

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