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‘‘Indians are turning experimental and are opting for offbeat destinations’’

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What are the new business expansion plans of Club Med in India and abroad?

Vijay Sharma

In India, Club Med is looking to expand its customer base by becoming more visible and accessible to its end users. We are looking at an aggressive distribution strategy by which the brand will be available through multi outlets. We are working towards creating Club Med specialists with our preferred travel partners who are counselling their customers about our unique holiday offering. Currently, we are looking to consolidate our position in the three main metros – Mumbai, New Delhi and Bengaluru. Opening of a resort will be the next phase of expansion once we have established a good distribution network. We will shortly expand our reach to Tier-II and Tier-III cities.

With you on board as the new country head, what would be the strategies of Club Med to work closely with the travel agents in India?

In India, the core objective of our promotional strategy will be to increase concept awareness in defined markets and business volume by expanding through a strong distribution network of travel agents. We are looking at an aggressive distribution strategy by which it will be available through multi outlets and also working towards creating Club Med specialists with our preferred travel partners who will counsel their customers on our unique holiday offering.

With the drop in rupee and the current market scenario worldwide, what are the challenges that Club Med faces? Have you seen a drop in the number of bookings for your properties?

The fluctuating value of the rupee has an adverse impact on outbound Indian travel. The trouble with depreciating rupee is that travel products like hotels, transportation, etc. become more expensive for Indians when they travel abroad. Although, the depreciating rupee has not encouraged many holiday cancellations, travellers are now looking at cheaper options to cut down travel costs; what the travel trade is seeing from Indian travellers is replanning of holiday itineraries rather than overall cancellations.

Outbound business growth is actually one of the only growing sector in spite of a recent economic slowdown. FIT (Fully Independent Traveller) business is booming, as more and more travellers are opting for self styled shorter holidays to nearer destinations in Asia.

Club Med had the best summer season this year since its inception in 2009. The main drivers were our tremendous value for money packages which were effectively distributed through our PSAs. There is a definite slowdown in confirmation of bookings in the current backdrop of escalating US dollar value, however, the real impact can be verified only in winters which is the next holiday season for families.

What have been the significant travel trends in India and abroad?

The most important travel trend worldwide is that independent-minded, digital savvy 20 and 30 year old people are emerging on the travel scene and are eager to travel across the world. Catering to this phenomenon, traditional luxury tour operators are rolling out more affordable and casual lines of trips.

  • India has emerged as the world’s fastest growing outbound market and numerically it is second only to China. The number of Indians travelling overseas is set to rise from around 15 million today to 50 million by 2020, which will mean a big growth in spending overseas. Few of the other trends include:
  • The process of tourism has gone digital, with Indians increasingly using the mobile platform to plan their travel
  • Now with direct flights to a number of foreign tourist destinations, Indians would rather spend their extended weekends overseas
  • More and more globetrotting Indians are turning experimental, looking to customise trips, opting for offbeat destinations and newer experiences
  • Joining the large number of outbound tourists are single women and senior Indian citizens over 65 years.

Which segment-leisure/ corporates comprises majority of clientele?

Families with kids and honeymooners are the major customer segments for Club Med in India. Of all outbound trips, most of them are for the purpose of leisure due to the inherent nature and location of our properties, although we do get our fair share of clients who have come from business purposes.