THE first Club Med I ever saw was on the islands of Guadeloupe in the 1960s. At that time, some of its accommodations were cots on a white-sand beach under an open-sided tent. Nonetheless, I thought it was the most exciting tropical resort on Earth.
One of the staff members, barefoot and clad only in khaki shorts, was a former Air France executive who had discovered the company on a business trip to Guadeloupe. He resigned from Air France and said he would spend the rest of his life in paradise.
The transformation of Club Med since then from a collection of happy-go-lucky, children's-summer-camp-style facilities (doors that didn't lock; rooms without phones, TVs or fans) into a slick chain of all-inclusive resort hotels, similar to Sandals and SuperClubs, is a development that causes me sadness. It no longer offers a simple respite in the tropics. Club Med has upgraded its lodgings (locks on the doors, TVs and telephones inside, air conditioning and 300-thread-count sheets) to do battle with the traditional all-inclusive hotels. And the French resorts no longer describe themselves in ads as "the antidote to civilization."
An interesting question is whether the new policy is succeeding.
Recently, the president of Club Med for North America left the organization, and discount offers began appearing in Club Med advertisements. The most attractive is a Club Med "Family Plan" for $1,999, which allows four members of a family (two adults and two children) to have a seven-night, all-inclusive summer holiday. The special is good at Club Med in Sandpiper, Fla.; Ixtapa, Mexico; or Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.