One Price to Suit All
The Phuket Gazette.
Despite a somewhat tarnished image by the recent World Cup fiasco, the French have indeed enriched the lives of many by leaps and bounds.
From top-shelf champagne and wine, to fine food and aromatic cheese. I can almost smell those wonderful breads baking as I pound the computer keys. Art has always been at the forefront of French culture, and a roll call of Renoir, Monet and Gauguin has made an impression the world over.
As we all know, the latter headed off to the tropics to live an island life of palm-fringed, white-sand beaches in Tahiti and the Marquesas. Sound familiar?
Mango culture figures heavily in the evolution of French hospitality giant, Club Med, whose beginnings can be traced back to the 1950s as the brainchild of Belgian Gerard Blitz.
Ownership of the all-in franchise was later acquired by noted Frenchman, Baron Edmond Adolphe de Rothschild.
Over the years the operating concept of a membership club, which shifted from its origins of an association into a capitalist venture, has been loosely retained.
At the height of its popularity in the 1960s and '70s, Club Med gained a reputation as a swingers' paradise for singles and couples but where no money changed hands. Instead, a payment system of beads prevailed.
In the Caribbean an entire niche market of all-inclusive resorts later evolved, including the Super-Club and Sandals resort chains, though the marketing tone for these was solidly on burgeoning hedonism.
Within two generations, from the postwar baby boomers to generation Jones, the scene wildly changed and today Club Med has firmly shifted its focus onto the family holiday and activities market. The attraction of all-in-one vacations has been firmly embraced by institutions such as Disney, a growing cruise market and even here at Laguna Phuket.
Restaurants have been a leading proponent for years on the buffet concept of one price for all you can eat, with its origins winding back to the time of the ever-popular smorgasbord.
The attraction for value today stems from the global economic meltdown. While funny money still exists, everyone including the rich, the aspiring rich and even middle and lower-level income earners all now keep a closer eye on where their money is being spent than they did before 2008.
In Phuket, the broad tourism market has seen a bulging middle tier driven by a markedly different consumer profile.
Travelers from China, India, Eastern Europe and the Middle East are increasingly taking their place on the island's collective sun lounger.
Recently Twinpalms management group, who operate the eponymous Surin resort, brewed up a new offering for their Baan Yamu operation and by year end will be up and running as the all-inclusive Clubyamu.
The cornerstone of the concept is a wide range of family activities, trips to nearby islands and the entire cost of a stay in one lump sum.
From the time you book, you know how much the vacation will cost up front, including food, drinks and tours.
Knowledge is power and perhaps all you have to do is turn to social networking sites of some of the "add on'' low-cost airlines to find just how much negative feedback is flouted by dissatisfied customers.
The bulk of the complaints stem from surcharges, extra charges and promotions that highlight one price but later inflate it to something closer in proportion with Lady Gaga's ego.
Viewing this year's crop of new visitors, as packed Pegas-Touristik buses speed along Phuket's thoroughfares, one can see beyond doubt that package tourism on a much larger scale is the flavor of the season.
True value remains in the eye of the consumer as do changing tastes and economic circumstances, but even a blind man can see that filling hotel rooms during the low – or "no" – season over the next few years is going to take imagination.
As more and more hoteliers on the island find themselves staring into the abyss of the "risk and reward" wishing well, the emerging all-inclusive market may very well incite a domino effect of more aspiring "club beds".
Now if I could just find a way to swap those beads for a bottle or two of French Margaux.