Bite with the Ed­i­tor

Business Traveller (Africa) - - CONTENTS - Olivier Han­naert MAN­AG­ING DI­REC­TOR: SOUTH­ERN AFRICA – CLUB MED

Olivier Han­naert – Club Med

Club Med was ar­guably the pi­o­neer in the pre­mium all-in­clu­sive hol­i­day space, but it has also come to play a sig­nif­i­cant role in the MICE in­dus­try. It al­ready has over 70 all-in­clu­sive re­sort vil­lages in a num­ber of ex­otic lo­ca­tions around the world, and now it is look­ing at where its growth is go­ing to come from. To this end, it was good to catch up with the Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of the South­ern Africa of­fice, Olivier Han­naert, over a cof­fee in Johannesburg.

When I ask Han­naert how he would de­scribe the Club Med of­fer­ing, he doesn't miss a beat.

“We are there to rein­vent hap­pi­ness and it's im­por­tant that we keep com­ing back to it,” he says. “At the end, it's im­por­tant not just to sell a prop­erty or a hol­i­day, but it's to en­sure our clients ex­pe­ri­ence hap­pi­ness.”

No big sur­prise, con­sid­er­ing Han­naert has been with Club Med for over 20 years and con­sid­ers the group part of his DNA. He's been man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the South­ern Africa of­fice for the past two years, giv­ing him in­sight into the in­dus­try in this part of the world, and some of his ob­ser­va­tions are rather in­ter­est­ing.

“South Africa is a re­ally dig­i­tal coun­try, with agility and a de­vel­oped on­line space with good apps, but the travel in­dus­try is not at the level of other in­dus­tries like the bank­ing in­dus­try, for ex­am­ple,” he says. “The real chal­lenge for the South African travel in­dus­try is to have a dig­i­tal mind­set. It's maybe a bit of an ‘old school' in­dus­try.”

So, that's the travel in­dus­try as a whole, but what about the niche that Club Med oc­cu­pies within that in­dus­try?

“The all-in­clu­sive el­e­ment is the core of our busi­ness, and we cre­ated the con­cept,” says Han­naert. “It's one of our main strengths, and when we say ‘you don't need your wal­let', we mean it, which is not nec­es­sar­ily the case with some of our com­peti­tors.

Ev­ery­thing is in­cluded – drinks, ac­tiv­i­ties, kids en­ter­tain­ment etc. For the South African mar­ket, tak­ing into ac­count the ex­change rate, it's very at­trac­tive, and you know ex­actly what you're in for.”

Han­naert be­lieves the same ap­plies to the MICE in­dus­try, a seg­ment he iden­ti­fied as an area of op­por­tu­nity when he ar­rived in Johannesburg two years ago. The same prin­ci­ple ap­plies, even if you're deal­ing with groups of 400, 500.

“For cor­po­rates, it's im­por­tant for them to know ex­actly what they are go­ing to pay at the end of their stay,” he says. “There are no sur­prises and the qual­ity of the prod­uct is there.”

Club Med's ex­ist­ing African pres­ence is made up of re­sorts in Sene­gal, Tu­nisia and Morocco, with a new project in Benin in West Africa also cur­rently in the works. Ac­cord­ing to Han­naert, North Africa was pre­vi­ously a big part of Club Med's busi­ness, but that the events of the past few years and the in­sta­bil­ity in that re­gion had changed the group's mind­set and forced it to look at the rest of Africa.

Club Med plans to open a new re­sort in the Sey­chelles next year and is re­fur­bish­ing and ex­tend­ing its Sene­gal prop­erty, but the big, new de­vel­op­ment could be found fur­ther south. Han­naert con­firms that Club Med is at an ad­vanced stage of look­ing at a new re­sort in Dur­ban, South Africa.

“It could be a beau­ti­ful

des­ti­na­tion for the Euro­pean and Chi­nese markets, as well as the do­mes­tic mar­ket, in­clud­ing our at­tempts to grow our MICE busi­ness in South Africa,” says Han­naert. “We need to en­sure the lo­ca­tion is a fit for the re­sort and it will be a green­field project, be­cause no-one was able to pro­vide us with the ca­pac­ity we need, which is a re­sort open all year and with the po­ten­tial for 400 beds. As soon as we've signed the agree­ment, there will be two years of work.”

Han­naert says the fore­cast is for 40% do­mes­tic and 60% in­ter­na­tional busi­ness, but that the vi­a­bil­ity of the project is largely de­pen­dent on South Africa's so­ciopo­lit­i­cal is­sues.

“Next year's elec­tion is im­por­tant for this project and what we can ex­pect in the next few years, along with po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity, the Rand etc,” he says. “All these fac­tors are im­por­tant and will im­pact on the pro­posed open­ing of this prop­erty.”

That aside, what does Han­naert be­lieve Club Med needs to be in the South African mar­ket?

“We need to be the leader in the all-in­clu­sive mar­ket, be­cause there is a lot of ‘copy and paste' out there,” he says. “I think the un­der­stand­ing, knowl­edge and brand aware­ness is there. We don't need to rein­vent the wheel, but rather fo­cus on the ba­sics, such as en­sur­ing a seam­less ex­pe­ri­ence to cus­tomers book­ing with us.” ■

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