Forward Thinking

Kenneth Shapiro Ihave just returned from the grand opening of the new Club Med Cancun. As you may have heard, Club Med has put a great deal of time and resources into reinventing its brand, and company executives and Mexican government officials were joined by travel agents, industry representatives and

By: Kenneth Shapiro

Ihave just returned from the grand opening of the new Club Med Cancun. As you may have heard, Club Med has put a great deal of time and resources into reinventing its brand, and company executives and Mexican government officials were joined by travel agents, industry representatives and the media for the grand opening of what they are calling their flagship property. While everyone enjoyed the speeches and the fireworks, dinner and party that followed a few hours earlier another important event took place in a press conference. Cedric Gobilliard, president and CEO of Club Med North America, signed an agreement with the World Heritage Alliance and the United Nations Foundation strengthening Club Med’s commitment to sustainable tourism, conservation of World Heritage Sites and local economic development at the Cancun resort, as well as at all Club Meds worldwide.

While this partnership is likely to be a footnote in most stories about the grand opening, I believe that Club Med deserves to be applauded for its forward-thinking position. The travel industry faces a troubling paradox in that there is a growing desire among travelers to see places that are unspoiled and authentic, but in the process of bringing travelers to such spots, the sites themselves risk being harmed or destroyed victims of their own uniqueness.

There is little doubt that developing environmentally friendly tourism will be a major challenge in our industry for the rest of this century and beyond. Currently, promoting sustainable tourism may be by choice, but before too long it will be a fact of life for all resorts, tour operators, airlines, cruise lines and, yes, even travel agents.

“The agents that visited here this week were very impressed by the measures we’ve taken to ensure that the resort positively interacts with the local community,” Paula Hayes, senior VP of sales, Club Med Americas, told me. “It is something their clients are asking about. ‘Will I feel the culture of the place I’m in? Will it feel like Mexico there?’ The answer is, ‘Yes, definitely.’”

Club Med has always been proud of its progressive mindset. As one executive at the opening put it, “being respectful of the environment is part of our brand DNA.” By signing the agreement with the World Heritage Alliance, Club Med is showing it intends to live up to its progressive ideals. We can only hope other travel companies are paying attention as well. K.S.

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