Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Death of Club Med

I got the scoop on the closure of Club Med. Laurel was kind enough to drive me to the bank to get some cash when she had to pick up the kids from school. Because we had to go about 1/3rd the way around the island for this errand this allowed us some time to chat and get to know each other a bit better. Plus, I was afforded the opportunity to ask her some questions regarding the local area as she has lived here for 10 years. Because she is in the travel industry AND she is married to a “local” (although I believe James is actually from Marquesas Island), it was a topic close to home for her.

The land Club Med was situated on is owned by 8 different families on Moorea, including a large portion by James’ adopted family. James left home at a very early age and was taken in after coming to Moorea by a local family. They have been his adopted family ever since. Anyway, the land was leased to Club Med by these families with the restriction that the resort would only grow so large. Unfortunately Club Med continued to build bungalows well beyond what was agreed upon with no increase in rent, so the families simply pulled the plug and kicked them out. Just like that.

Here’s the thing about how that is not a big surprise in French Polynesia: the Tahitians are NOT at all motivated by money. It is entirely about family. Once they felt taken advantage of the families decided that Club Med was no longer welcome without regard to the loss of money. Unfortunately, the local economy did suffer because of this decision. Laurel stated that approximately 100 people lost work and the area shops and restaurants fell on hard times. 100 people does not sound like much, but when you are talking about an island population of several thousand people, it really is substantial. She also stated that no one really seemed to be effected by the change either. The locals were happy for the families to have reclaimed their land.

From a traveler’s and travel industry point of view, it was a big loss. Laurel stated that she had the pleasure of staying at that particular resort at one time and it was really quite nice and a really good deal. Also, the club still sits rotting on the land nearly 10 years later. Other area hotels have great interest, but the families have no intention (at least at this point) to pursue that venture again. And it is a bit of an eyesore. But she can really see both sides of it, and it was interesting listening to her talk about it, especially from the local/family perspective.

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