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Club Med puts its money on Miches, a Dominican hideaway

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Club Med is betting big on Miches, an ecotourism destination in the Dominican Republic, with plans for what it said will be the first resort in the area when it opens this year. 

Set to welcome guests Nov. 30, the all-inclusive Club Med Miches Playa Esmeralda will take up 93 acres near popular day-trip sites such as the Laguna Limon nature reserve, the Samana Bay whale-watching hot spot and Montana Redonda, a mountaintop known for its unobstructed panoramas and Instagram-ready photo ops. 

"It's interesting because we were already doing day excursions to many places close to Miches from our resort in Punta Cana," said Xavier Mufraggi, CEO of Club Med North America and the Caribbean. "But Miches was two and a half hours from the airport, too far for a resort. Then three or four years ago, the government announced a plan to build a new highway, which would pass within two kilometers of Playa Esmeralda, making it just around an hour and a half from Punta Cana. When we realized that, we jumped."

The $100 million project will offer 335 guestrooms split across four "villages." They include the 111-room Caribbean Paradise, which will be open to any traveler type, and the 158-room Explorer Cove, which is designed for multigenerational families. The property's two adult-only villages -- the 48-room, wellness-themed Emerald Jungle and the 18-suite Archipelago -- offer a quieter, more intimate atmosphere. 

Mufraggi said the resort's smaller villages format helps plant Miches Playa Esmeralda firmly at the high end. The property will be the first Club Med resort in the Americas to join the brand's Exclusive Collection of high-end offerings. It will also be its first new resort in the Caribbean in 25 years.

"We've looked at many trends, and we believe the future of luxury all-inclusive is not about towers," Mufraggi said, adding that the resort's ecofriendly ethos also aligns with current luxury trends. "We have a strong belief that you can't really say you are luxury when you have a 16-story building. It's not really a chic or luxury concept if you're on the beach and the only thing you see is the huge tower of the big hotel. To be luxury, you need to respect your environment, and a big part of that is low density."

Meanwhile, with the vast majority of rooms at Club Med Miches Playa Esmeralda set to be family-friendly, the property is positioned to capture a growing demographic of millennial parents looking for a more all-inclusive experience.

"Around 40% of millennials now have families, and in a few years, that number will likely hit around 70%," Mufraggi said. "Millennials are very committed to travel, and they don't want to leave their kids with the grandparents. 

"They also see all-inclusive very differently and view it as more of a convenient base for experiences, so at Club Med Miches, they can choose to do some excursions with the kids and then later leave the kids at [the children's club] and do excursions on their own."

While Club Med is touting Miches as a destination largely untouched by development, the region is likely to lose some of that off-the-beaten-path cachet very soon. Miami-based developer Cisneros Real Estate has unveiled plans for Tropicalia, a sustainable luxury resort and residential complex in Miches that will be anchored by a 169-room Four Seasons. That project is expected to be operational by 2021. 

Mufraggi said Miches Playa Esmeralda is in talks to partner with Four Seasons on an initiative to source local food.

"Our goal in the coming years is to have at least 50% of our food and beverage coming from the region, he said. "But that's a huge project, and it makes sense if we partner with the hotels that are coming up."

He added that while future development in Miches is inevitable, he hopes that fast growth doesn't come at the expense of exclusivity and natural charm. 

"Now that we've arrived, people are interested in the land," he said. "But we hope to have hotels and real estate that really respect the positioning of Miches as more affluent and upscale and respectful of the environment. We really want this to be an eco-chic luxury and experiential destination."

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