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Joining the Club

Club Med Sandpiper Bay
The 307-room Club Med Sandpiper Bay is the company’s flagship premium-sports resort.

Club Med, the iconic French brand known to a certain generation as the low-budget place for young couples coupling, has found vindication for its new upscale strategy in St. Lucie County, the out-of-the-way site of its only U.S. resort.

Club Méditerranée retreated from the U.S. after the post-Sept. 11 downturn in tourism and disappointing results companywide but is rebounding with its new strategy. The 80-resort company turned a $6.3 million profit last year.

Club Med Sandpiper Bay, which at 292 employees is one of St. Lucie’s larger private employers, was the second to the last of Club Med’s resorts in the hemisphere to be upgraded as the company targets affluent families. Club Med spent $28 million over two years making Sandpiper a flagship in its premium-sports resort segment. Among other amenities, it hosts golf, fitness and tennis academies with tennis led by Gabriel Jaramillo, who has trained a load of No. 1 players, including Andre Agassi.

Xavier Mufraggi
Xavier Mufraggi
Revenue per available room — the standard industry measure — went up 3.8% last year after the renovation, says Xavier Mufraggi, CEO of Miami-based Club Med North America.

Revenue growth “was much more than we were expecting,” he says. Particularly gratifying for Mufraggi was that industry experts have for years advised Club Med to give up on Florida because it’s not an all-inclusive resort market.

Nearly two-thirds of Sandpiper customers now are families, up from a third in 2003. Kid clubs are offered along with lessons in several sports. The new look, which harkens to both South Beach style and Florida nature, is meant to be “the right example of what Florida is all about,” Mufraggi says.