30 OCT 2018: What do Jim Carrey, the late Alan Thicke and the song “Hands Up” all have in common? The first two starred in a comedy movie, Copper Mountain, produced in 1983, that featured the Club Med Copper Mountain village (no longer exists). “Hands Up” was the catchy tune that was heard repeatedly on radio stations and on Club Med TV commercials back in the late 1980s. That tune, not the panned movie, resurfaced in my head 30 years later when I boarded my flight to Florida. Destination – Club Med Sandpiper Bay, less than an hour’s drive from West Palm Beach. Staying at a Club Med was virgin accommodation territory for me. Has Club Med changed over the years?  

Back in 1988, I wrote an article for a travel trade publication on Club Med’s popular “Hands Up” campaign. I interviewed at that time, Victoria Dinnick, Club Med’s marketing and PR manager in Canada. It was interesting to read that article again 30 years later.

Dinnick said, “We’ve been getting a number of letters thanking us for the ad campaign, saying it has given them a mini vacation.” Letters? Who writes those anymore! Travel agents enjoyed the ads saying they were very “catchy” and like the “soft sell approach.” Business back then was booming with many Club Med villages being sold out in Mexico and the Caribbean by Europeans and North Americans but some like had to close due to hurricanes. Some things don’t change.

CHALLENGES AND CHANGE

Club Med was top of mind during the 1980s and going into the 90s but then were off the vacation radar for many years with travel agents and consumers, at least here in Canada. The Paris, France based company, which began in 1950 and was seen as creating the all-inclusive concept, has gone through many changes – its target markets, expansion, ownership and branding. There are now more than 70 properties worldwide.

Club Med also faced new all-inclusive brands on the scene like Sandals, Bahia Principe, Paradisus, Zoetry, Couples, Barcelo and many more. Competition was fierce and many of the other brands were raising the bar. In Europe and in Quebec, there was more loyalty to Club Med by consumers and agents but in English Canada it was fleeting. Club Med’s heavy advertising campaigns became less so after the 1980s.

Times have changed in the last few years and Club Med has stepped up its Canadian consumer marketing as well as created various tools and programs to assist agents in selling to their clients.

Club Med recently launched a new “I-frame” online tool. Basically it allows the travel agency to incorporate Club Med content on a dedicated webpage. It would feature up-to-date information on Club Med Resorts and any offers but always direct back to the agency for call to action. Once installed, Club Med handles all the updating seamlessly – the agent doesn’t have to do anything. Agents like that.

HOLIDAY TRAPEZE

Club Med’s Sandpiper Bay property is a haven for tennis, golf, and yes even trapeze lovers. Ever had the desire to join the circus or be the second coming of Nik Walenda, the famous trapeze artist? My swinging days are long over (in all senses of the word!), but I couldn’t help but admire young kids and even adults who took up the challenge and trained with Club Med’s trapeze team and put on an entertaining performance the last night I was there.

A safer bet for me was the golf course. It was great to just walk 150 metres from my room to Club Med’s on-site golf course. Golf instruction and club rentals are available and it’s a very playable course for all levels and popular with locals as well.

Club Med scores big with so many activities for all ages. Club Med Sandpiper Bay is filled with families but there are areas and a designated pool just for adults to which I made a beeline every day. Decades ago it was all about singles and couples. Parents here will appreciate the supervised AllDayKidsClubs for different age groups. Water activities abound, four pools, beach, tennis courts, games room, ping pong and many more activities will fill up the day. At night there are shows that will appeal to kids and adults and you can put on your dancing shoes and strut your stuff at the nightclub.

SPA SOOTHING

I wouldn’t be doing my due diligence if I didn’t visit their Club Med Spa by L’Occitane. Tammi, my therapist originally from Detroit, was my body saviour for the day.

After a soothing foot soak, I challenged Tammi to a wrestling match – taking hold of my back’s gnarly knots and breaking them into submission. With her skilled and deft touch and right pressure, the match was no contest.

TASTY DELIGHTS

During my visit here, a new food item I tried has reached the top of my fav list- Club Med’s white chocolate bread. The perfectly textured and baked bread is filled with chunks of white chocolate and just the right level of sweetness – Michelin star chefs couldn’t do better.

Unfortunately, I had competition from other guests who decided it was their favourite food to eat too. I was tempted to kidnap the bakers of this delicious bread and smuggle them back to Canada.

There is a large buffet restaurant which has a wide assortment of chicken, seafood, pasta, beef and vegetarian options as well as another restaurant where you need a reservation. Though plenty of dishes to choose from, this property could probably use another restaurant or two to give more choice in type of cuisine. Many of the all-inclusives offer many restaurant choices now.

THE CLUB MED DIFFERENCE – THE GOs

The G.O.’s (Gracious Organizers) interact with the guests and the term was created by Club Med. It embodies a different kind of relationship and philosophy with the G.M.s (Gracious Members/guests). Most resorts and hotels frown upon employees socializing with guests beyond their professional duties. At Club Med it’s encouraged. It took me by surprise when just sitting at one of the bars a G.O., whether male or female, would just come up and ask if they could join me for a drink or in some cases dinner. If only dating was this easy when I was single many years ago!

Club Med is making a resurgence again amongst the crowded playing field of all-inclusive brands. Perhaps it’s time for Jim Carrey to do a 35th anniversary remake of the movie and relaunch the Hands Up song again on radio, TV and social media to a new generation.

My version of the song though would be, “Hands up, baby, Hands up, gimme your white chocolate bread.”

Travel Agent Site: https://en.clubmedagents.ca/

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Chris Ryall

An industry insider with strong, outspoken opinions that readers enjoy, whether they agree, or take issue with his point of view.

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