Club Med is recasting its image and style to focus on all-inclusive, upscale and family vacations, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Ixtapa, where children are catered to as never before.
From 2002 to 2006, Club Med invested more than $160 million into resorts in the Caribbean and Latin America, introducing new upscale amenities, private concierge villas, upscale cuisine and other programs.
Club Med Ixtapa Pacific, originally built in 1982, benefitted from some $20 million in new investment. After an eight-month renovation, the property officially unveiled all 298 rooms in March.
"Until now, we have conducted only minor renovations," said Cedric Gobilliard, president and CEO of Club Med, North America. "The current renovation is a complete overhaul. We had to deconstruct many areas and rebuild from the ground up to expand rooms, balconies and improve shared space."
Club Med Ixtapa now has 60 family suites; all guest rooms are now equipped with Internet access.
In addition to its physical renovation and reconstruction, Club Med Ixtapa Pacific has introduced new services and amenities.
Among the most noteworthy changes, the resort is now the first Club Med in Mexico, and one of the few anywhere in the world, to offer programs for infants and toddlers.
"Eleven Club Med resorts worldwide offer the Baby Club Med program," Gobilliard said. "In terms of [deciding to offer] it in Ixtapa Pacific, several factors came into play. The location offers a very calm oceanfront and pristine surroundings, ideal for introducing toddlers to the beach. Our primary guests at Ixtapa Pacific are American and Canadian families from the West and Midwest with young children, and they expressed a strong demand for this type of program."
The property now offers a variety of programs for different age groups. Baby Club Med is for infants age 4 months to 23 months, with a staff-to-child ratio of 1-to-4. Children at Baby Club Med are divided into two groups, with activities designed to suit different physical abilities. The youngest children learn games, watch puppet shows and have snacks in their own private dining area, where a chef prepares fresh baby food daily.
There is also a 24-hour convenience store that offers sterilizers, blenders and bottle warmers, and additional amenities, including strollers, cribs, changing tables and high chairs, are available for parents to use for an additional fee.
Children ages 2 and 3 may participate in Petit Club Med, which has a staff-to-child ratio of 1-to-6. Activities in this program include games, art classes, nap time and sporting activities.
Older children have their own programs, with Mini Club Med for ages 4 to 10 and Juniors' Club Med for ages 11 to 17.
The resort also has a new restaurant for children, called Sirena, which is part of the new Mini Club Med facility. Here, kids ages 4 to 10 can enjoy live entertainment with every meal.
The resort has three additional restaurants, a spa, a rock-climbing wall, a weight room, tennis courts, an archery range, water sports and a trapeze and circus school.
According to Gobilliard, Club Med's Ixtapa property targets a slightly different clientele than the company's other Mexico property, the Club Med Cancun Yucatan, located on the Caribbean coast. "Ixtapa Pacific, with its family suites, offers an even more upscale family experience than Cancun Yucatan," he said. "Ixtapa Pacific also offers programs for children 4 months to 17 [years] and a more pristine Mexican experience.
"Cancun Yucatan offers a variety of rooming options, including suites at the Jade Villa for romance vacations, or standard rooms for discovery travelers who plan to roam the Yucatan during most of their stay."
Cancun Yucatan offers programs for children ages 4 to 17, and the resort's Club Med Passworld offers activities for kids ages 11 to 17.
As Club Med hones its product in Mexico, it has sold the collection of five small villas that it operated for more than 20 years, near several cultural and archaeological sites. The goal now is to focus on all-inclusive, upscale and family vacations.
Islander Collection, a Mexico-based hospitality company, acquired the former Club Med villas last year for an undisclosed sum and has relaunched them with the brand Villas Arqueologicas.
For Club Med, expansion is under way elsewhere in the Americas. The company is currently building its fourth Brazilian hotel in Buzios, a 300-room property set to open in early 2009 on 74 acres along the Pacific coast. Gobilliard said the company is also considering development in Costa Rica.
This year, Club Med is offering a Family Escapes promotion, which includes seven nights for a family of two adults and up to four children. For Ixtapa, prices start at $4,499 for visits from June 11 through Aug. 29 and $2,999 from Aug. 30 through Oct. 31.
At Cancun Yucatan, prices start at $4,999 from June 11 through Aug. 29 and $3,499 from Aug. 30 through Oct. 31.
Both properties are also offering a Couples Escape, which includes seven nights for two adults. At both Ixtapa Pacific and Cancun Yucatan, prices start at $2,099 from June 11 through Aug. 29 and $1,599 from Aug. 30 through Oct. 31.
For more information about Club Med, call (888) WEB CLUB or visit www.clubmed.com.
To contact reporter Mark Chesnut, send e-mail [email protected].