Beth Jinks and Catherine Yang, Bloomberg
Hong Kong/Bangkok: Club Mediterranee SA, Europe’s largest resort company, said it’s seeking sites to build resorts in Asia, its fastest-growing market, in nations including China and India.
“We’ve doubled the market in Southeast Asia since about two years ago,” Caroline Puechoultres, Club Med’s regional chief executive, said in an interview in Hong Kong today. “We’ve identified 1 million to 2 million potential users in places like China, India and even Southeast Asia.” Resorts in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos are also being considered, she said.
The number of people that visited another country increased 4.5% in 2006 to a record, the World Tourism Organization said in January. International tourist visits rose to 842 million last year and may exceed 1.56 billion by 2020, fuelling demand for hotel and resort services, it said.
About 200,000 of Club Med’s 1.6 million members worldwide are in Asia and that number is expected to double in the next few years, Puechoultres said.
Club Med has nine Asia resorts in Japan, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Maldives and Polynesia. It takes up to three years to build a new Club Med village “from scratch” and costs between 50 million euros ($67.7 million) and 100 million euros, Puechoultres said.
Terrorism and recent natural disasters in the region continue to deter some tourists, she said.
Southern Asia is still rebuilding after the December 2004 tsunami killed hundreds of thousands along coastlines. Countries, including Thailand and Indonesia, are tackling terrorists who have targeted tourists in bombing attacks and much of the region is dealing with avian influenza.
While Club Med’s Thailand resort in Phuket has “completely recovered” from the tsunami after a 5 million euro renovation and repair, political instability, an escalating insurgency in the south, bombings in the capital Bangkok and martial law across part of the kingdom since the 19 September coup have taken a toll, Puechoultres said.
Indonesia’s resort island of Bali was hit by bombings in 2002 and 2005, killing hundreds of tourists and locals.
Industrywide, 481 hotels are under construction or planned for China and 198 in India, up from 316 and 161 last September, Lodging Econometrics, a consulting company in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, estimated last month. Another 283 hotels are under development in the rest of Asia.
“Asia Pacific will more and more come back as a really growing destination for tourism and Southeast Asia will grow probably the fastest,” Puechoultres said. “The cost of operations is quite low in the region and the sites are just wonderful.”