Club Med has vowed to crack down on agents that discount its product by refusing to offer them marketing support.
UK trade sales manager Yann Richard said that discounting was a “huge problem” in the sector and that he had seen some agents discount by more than their commission level.
“It’s devaluing the product,” he insisted. “We can help trade partners offer more value, including items such as ski hire for free, but we will not do joint marketing activities with those who discount.”
Richard admitted he was unable to prevent agents from discounting “behind the scenes”, but revealed he had had to insist that at least one agent remove a discount offer from its website. He said Club Med had begun a “new chapter” in its trade strategy since he came to the UK 16 months ago.
The number of agents Club Med works with has since increased from around 20 to more than 300, while the number of agents who do more than 20 Club Med bookings a year has risen from 5 to more than 15.
Shopping around Richard explained how the operator used Waitrose supermarket locations as a way to identify travel agencies most likely to have the right customer demographic. “We identified 16 agencies that were in Waitrose areas and probably had customers with money, but were not currently working with Club Med,” he said.
“Then we focused on engaging and training those agents.” Club Med has also been working more closely with agent consortia, having “barely had a relationship” with them before. It recently sponsored the Travel Counsellors and Freedom/Copta conferences, and will host the Freedom/Copta conference at one of its French resorts this year.
Advantage has been the top-performing consortia, with a special override in place which awards Advantage members an additional 1% commission if they sell Club Med to a first-time customer. “We’re confident that once we’ve got them to try us, we’ll keep them,” said Richard. “Many agents haven’t been to one of our resorts so we focus on explaining the concept and challenging misconceptions.
“Sometimes we are perceived as having too many French guests, but actually the French are not the main clientele and it is not the main language spoken,” he pointed out. He admitted Club Med’s package prices were more expensive compared with some competitors, but insisted Club Med’s wider inclusions offer better value for money.
“Lift passes can be €200 for a week, and a beer on the mountain is €7 each time. If you add up all the elements we include, including entertainment, it’s actually less expensive than our competitors,” he argued. Commission gains
The fact Club Med offers commission on everything except taxes and membership, including commission on equipment hire and spa packages, makes Club Med the “obvious choice” for agents, according to Richard.
He added that commission was also generous: “It’s around 13% in the UK which is a huge point for us. In France, agents get less than half of that.” A drive to let agents experience the product for themselves has seen the number of agents visiting on fams and their own holidays double between 2014 and 2015, hitting 400 last year.
He reminded Abta agents they were entitled to a 15% discount, which can be used on top of Club Med’s 15% early booking offer and on which they can still claim commission.