Club Med Embraces the Responsible Vacation Trend (or, At Least the Labels)

In the 70's, the words "Club Med" and "responsible vacation" wouldn't have appeared in the same sentence. Opened in 1950, Club Med was the world's first all-inclusive vacation, and it was all about excess: food, drink, and, eventually, sex. The Club attracted mostly young couples  and singles, and it grew up smack in the middle of the sexual revolution.

The days of excess and Club Med success ended some time in the 1990's, when revenues began to decline. Imitators had taken over a corner of the market, and responsible vacation goers sought more sophisticated accommodations and diverse experiences. For years, Club Med appeared to be slipping off the map. However, in 2002, Henri Giscard d’Estaing became CEO, and he turned his attention to upmarket vacationers. In 2005, Club Med began to turn a profit. Club Med launched a colorful (and sexy) new campaign: "Where Happiness Means the World" in 2008.

Over the past decade, Club Med has begun to consider the happiness of the world, most likely because their marketers are aware that their clientele will seek out responsible vacation options. So, Club Med suggests that they've always cared about sustainability, and calls itself a leader in "labeling and certification of our Resorts". Sadly, being a labeling leader isn't the same as being a leader in sustainability, and labels alone aren't going to save the environment.

The "labels" that Club Med totes around include the EarthCheck Certification, which is in place at the following resorts: Ixtapa, Cancun, Columbus, Cherating. However, this particular certification suggests that Club Med's sustainability initiatives are being monitored, but it doesn't necessarily mean they are actually reducing waste or saving energy. As long as EarthCheck gets their check, Club Med gets their certification.

Another responsible vacation "label" that Club Med works with is the Green Globe Certification (note that EarthCheck software was once used to underpin Green Globe). Yesterday, Club Med announced a ten-year partnership with Green Globe. Ms. Agnès Weil, Club Mediterranée Director of Sustainable Development said, "With 11% of our village portfolio already eco-certified, we are convinced that these actions are useful, not only in terms of environmental and societal issues, but also in terms of economics and team motivation." Nice way to tie the environment to the bottom line (Green Globe also also offers a generous "marketing component"), but only a small handful of Club Med resorts are certified. And, again, what are they actually doing to reduce their impact on the environment? Good question.

In June 2010, Club Med launched their first Eco-Nature Resort in Malaysia, and they have since launched a few others. These eco-resorts offer responsible vacation goers some downtime and "privileged contact with the natural environment".  Unfortunately, today, clicking on the link "Discover the Club Med Resorts committed to an active policy of environmental stewardship" leads to a page that says "Sorry our website is temporarily unavailable." Well, kudos to the company for trying to up their eco policies with Green Globe; perhaps, soon, Club Med will show us if they're really going green behind all those labels.

photo credit: Ed Yourdon