By Daniel Alexandre Portoraro, MBA in Hospitality Management, Canada/Italy, 2014-2016 2nd Year
In January, IMHI had the benefit of hosting Sophie Barrault, Vice President of Development and Asset Management of Club Méditerranée, pioneer of the all-inclusive resort model. Over the course of the evening, Madame Barrault spoke of her career at the hospitality group, and what led her to it.
A journalist and economics teacher prior to taking on managerial roles in operations at a variety of Club Med resorts, Madame Barrault stressed how her communication (honed from her time as a journalist) and explaining abilities (developed over the course of her educational career) allowed her to move up the corporate ladder.
But the majority of the evening focused on Club Med itself. And why shouldn’t it? Once the vanguard of all-inclusive resort experiences tailored for mature audiences, the French company has gone through numeral changes over the past several years. Maybe most striking was its acquisition last year by Fosun International, a Chinese investment firm based in Shanghai. Part of the wave of Chinese hospitality acquisitions, Barrault discussed the solid fit between these two firms: Club Med’s growth strategy is focused in the Far East (where communal, all-inclusive experiences are well received), and Fosun can help them navigate the complex market. Furthermore, as part of Club Med’s rebranding campaign to move away from the image lent to it from films such as Les Bronzes, and to an upper-upscale, sometimes even luxury brand, Fosun is also on board. This stands in stark contrast to the strategy proposed by another courter of Club Med, Andrea Bonomi, who sought a strategy based on midscale growth centered on Europe. In a key strategic move, Club Med aligned itself with an acquirer which agreed wholeheartedly with its rejuvenation strategy. As simple as this may seem, it’s often impossible for firms to grow when there is a discrepancy between viewpoints of the executive committee and buyer.
As part of this new initiative, Club Med is determined for the strong majority of its properties to become upper-upscale resorts. Furthermore, as a testament to its commitment to the Chinese market, Club Med has also developed the Joyview brand, which acts as an introduction to Club Med for this key growth market.
Perhaps most interestingly, however, while Madame Barrault is the VP of Development and Asset Management, a large part of the evening focused on the operations of the firm’s products, and the habits of its customers. This just goes to show that while development and asset management may often appear to be a numbers game – one predicated on the analysis of financial statements – one must keep in mind that behind all these numbers are the actions of men and women on the field. Needless to say, if there’s one major take-away from the evening, it’s that the human component of the hospitality industry can never be discounted, no matter where one may be perched on the corporate ladder.
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