Club Med was one of the early creators of the all-inclusive concept, starting with their first resort in the Balearic Islands in 1950. Today they operate in 40 countries worldwide, providing groups with all-inclusive stays at some of the world’s most beautiful destinations. They also operate the only all-inclusive resort in the United States: the 308-room Club Med Sandpiper Bay, Florida.
Sandpiper Bay sits along the Saint Lucie River in Port Saint Lucie, Florida. It is ideally located along Florida’s picturesque east coast, about 50 minutes from Palm Beach International Airport, where 14 major carriers fly in daily. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International is 70 minutes south.
The property is set to complete a $28 million renovation by the end of the year. One highlight is a complete redo of the resort’s 18,000-sf meeting space facilities. They are also set to debut the first L’Occitane spa in the U.S.
Sandpiper Bay features its own golf course and provides attendees access to 25 lush courses around the county. The resort recently became headquarters for the International Tennis Academy, where the same coaches who trained Andre Agassi and Monica Seles can create exhilarating teambuilding events for your group.
Robert Cao, director of groups/incentives for Club Med North America, tells us more about the hotel’s exciting new features.
Prevue: What types of groups travel to Club Med resorts?
Robert Cao: We do have a larger concentration of incentives by the concentration of the types of resorts that we are and where we are at. With incentive trips it’s all about that off-the-beaten-path resort destination that people wouldn’t find on their own. That’s what you really find with Club Med, being the pioneers with the all-inclusive concept. With more than 80 properties around the world that date to as many as 20 or 30 years ago, it puts us in a very prime location. Together with the overall concept and how it has evolved, we place a huge emphasis on the core benefit of our mission which is to provide that ultimate and unique customer satisfaction.
We have a very large selection of ‘meeting friendly’ destinations. They have state-of-the-art facilities and are great when it comes to catering to the MICE market.
Prevue: What is the value of booking at Club Med for meeting planners?
Working as a meeting planner there is a very strong commitment to delivering high customer service and good quality. You definitely want to look for quality and it is becoming more and more of a fact that corporations are embracing the value of an all-inclusive.
There’s value for the meeting planner when it comes to yielding high profits and adding simplicity to the overall and have an immediate handle on the budget from the get-go. An all-inclusive package includes everything from lodging to meals, drinks, sports, activities, taxes and gratuities.
What is your newest resort?
By far, it’s our Florida property, Club Med Sandpiper Bay. We are the only all-inclusive resort in the United States. We have recently completed a major renovation that’s come to over $28 million. We are a short 50-minute transfer from Palm Beach International Airport and another 20 minutes from Fort Lauderdale. That particular hotel is an ideal destination for both the corporate and incentive events.
Being the only all-inclusive in the United States, you can offer your clients that experience for one price so it makes planning simple. We act, in a way, like a DMC.
What are the resort’s top selling points?
The top selling points are the all-inclusive aspect of it and the location of the resort. We’re in a relatively accessible point in the U.S.; we’ve got 308 rooms and multiple room categories. And we have more than 18,000 square feet of indoor and outside meeting space.
Even with the most basic meetings and events involve more than just a bed to sleep on and continental breakfast. When you purchase an all-inclusive Club Med meeting or seminar package for the client at any of our resorts 100% of the revenue collected by us is commissionable to the meeting planner.
Our staff is very unique. From the moment you arrive you have an incredible amount of individuals that are there to really add warmth from your first welcome to your interaction the whole way through. It’s a live atmosphere so you feel like you are at a resort with a personality.
Another selling feature is that we offer so much to do on the resort grounds that the resort becomes a destination itself. For an organization, it’s highly appealing that you don’t need a passport to get to Port Saint Lucie, Florida. There’s no need for long layovers because Palm Beach International Airport is such a rich-in-traffic hub.
Is the property oceanfront?
The actual property sits on the Port Saint Lucie River. There is a large amount of the rooms that face the river. It’s a huge body of water and part of the renovation was to open that up. It still has that water resort feel to it. We do have our own beach and when you’re there you actually feel like you’re in the Caribbean.
We have all of the cool water activities like sailing, stand-up paddle boarding and boating. It is unique to arrive at a property in Port Saint Lucie, Florida and immediately feel like you’ve arrived at a Caribbean resort instead.
Can you tell us about the renovation?
The renovation was property-wide and will be completed by the end of the year. It has consisted of all the public areas, restaurants, bars and at t the end of this month all the guestrooms will be completed.
The categorization for our sleeping rooms was very basic before and today we have anything from a club room to a deluxe family room.
We’re also adding a tennis facility and building a new swimming pool. We also built an adult-only pool that has a beautiful setting on a section of the resort. It almost gives you a 360-degree view of the Saint Lucie River.
Around Christmas time we are also opening up the first L’Occitane spa in the U.S. That’s another cool thing for meeting planners to take advantage of. We’ll be welcoming meeting groups to use the spa as early as January. It is a 5,000 square foot spa and will include a fitness center and innovative yoga programs. It’ll be a whole wellness area that we’re adding to the resort. The spa and fitness center are going to definitely enhance and complement the overall feel of the property for the incentive market.
We added a second specialty restaurant. It’s an all-day dining and snack restaurant. And we did a complete renovation of the meetings facilities. With the renovation we enhanced and improved it to current standards.
The resort’s food has always been a highlight. Describe your eateries post-renovation.
We’re known for our amazing presentation and diversity of food quality. Being a French company we excel in the culinary area. On this property we have a unique approach.
Our newly-renovated restaurant is called The Marketplace. You go into this beautiful restaurant where you’ve got a marketplace concept, which is similar to buffet-style eateries, but it’s not necessarily the traditional buffet. You’ve got the chef in the cooking stations with a la minute cooking, making anything from Asian to international to American or French cooking. It’s all day dining.
The restaurant itself is a very large area but has been subdivided for groups. That was a key point in the renovation. It provides more intimacy and gives you a different experience from room to room. When we have groups we’ll reserve a section of the restaurant for the group. Each room has different capacities so we do it depending on size. The largest room can fit 124 people.
We also have Soleil, our new restaurant, which is for all-day snacking and has a lighter fare menu.
Can you tell us more about the updated meeting space?
We have the standard big ballroom which is ideal for hosting big functions. The capacity is 6,400 square feet and theater style it holds 500. Adjacent to that is the Atlantic Ballroom and it is 3,000 square feet and the capacity is 300 participants. Then we have three individual rooms—two of them are meeting rooms and one is a board room. All are within the same area and have access to the main bar. They also have access to an outdoor area called the Spanish patio, which really services the ballrooms and meeting rooms for coffee breaks or an intimate cocktail reception. That’s all within the conference center area.
We have a total of seven rooms for meetings and you can have seven concurrent meetings taking place. In addition we have a meeting room in our tennis academy.
The property itself is spread across a lot of land and we have other areas to host events. We have a more private room that’s a type of restaurant pretty much. It can be a catered-to restaurant and there’s a beautiful deck that overlooks the river. It’s the ideal place for a sunset cocktail.
What kinds of events can planners organize at Club Med?
Planners and clients can do resort buyouts. We’ve done anything from a trade show inside the facilities to a former president who took over the resort and literally used the entire resort to suit his needs. Anything is possible.
When you do an exclusive buyout you can modify your meal times and you can adjust your services offered at any given point in time.
What experiences can groups have offsite?
One of our unique points is the huge opportunity to create that off-the-beaten-path event that I mentioned earlier. We’ve come to live by these words: A little bit of creativity fuels a lot of productivity.
We’re building such an amazing facility for sports and fitness. Since we reopened we have an agreement with the International Tennis Academy, so it’s actually on property. You can build it in for your group whether it’s as a teambuilding activity or a corporate retreat. The same coaches that have trained professional tennis players are on the property.
In Port Saint Lucie, Florida the nearby availability for golf is by far unparalleled anywhere else in the U.S. We have access to 25 courses. We have our course on property but we can set up trips to the other courses for meetings or events.
We are also 90 minutes away from Orlando, which is the theme park capital of the world. We also have excursions nearby that focus on the whole ecological side of Florida. So there is plenty to do nearby.
We’ve learned from experience that groups usually do three to four nights and between their work schedule and events, it leaves them very little time to go do outside activities. This is why it’s important to have a diverse list of activities available at the resort.
How are corporate groups responding to the renovations? Have you seen more groups than before?
When you remodel it does take a little while to turn the numbers around. Nonetheless, we are way ahead of our estimations of where the business should be. We’re happy to report that we have an amazing increase in corporate groups alone. Since the reopening a little under a year ago, 40% of total groups are corporate groups.
The industry is responding and they’re seeing the benefits. The fact that we are welcoming more large corporations and Fortune 500 companies shows that positive response.