Club Med General Manager for the Pacific, Rachael Harding, will relocate from Sydney to Shanghai to take on a more senior role and broader responsibilities with the all-inclusive holiday specialist.
Harding has been tapped as Club Med CEO of East, South Asia & Pacific (ESAP), a new business arm that has launched this month “with the purpose of providing an extra layer of functional support to bolster the region,” Club Med said.
“This is in response to the growth of APAC prior to the pandemic, and consequent demand for domestic resorts throughout the last year, especially in China, which also gains its own business unit to support its ambitious growth strategy.
As Club Med ESAP CEO, Harding will be responsible for all ESAP commercial markets with the objective to steer an aggressive rebound while seeking new emerging market opportunities within the region.
Harding joined Club Med from The Travel Corporation (after 18 years) in mid-2018. At TTC she had worked across multiple brands including the overarching company itself, Contiki as Commercial & Distribution Manager, and Trafalgar as Director of Sales.
As Club Med’s General Manager, Pacific, Harding saw the region successfully execute its premium growth strategy, established successful trade partnerships and steered the operator to dual gongs at the National Travel Industry Awards (NTIA) for ‘Best Hotel/Resort Group’ in 2018 and 2019.
From her new base in China, Harding will report directly to Club Med President, Henri Giscard D’Estaing. She will continue to oversee the Pacific and “ensure this region is fully supported with a louder voice on the global
stage,” the company said. “This will help fuel Club Med Pacific’s ambition to return to the double-digit growth they were experiencing year-on-year pre-pandemic.”
She will remain in Sydney temporarily due to COVID travel restrictions before relocating.
Harding’s ascension up the company’s leadership ladder has opened the door for Club Med’s local Head of Marketing, Michelle Davies, to step into the role of General Manager, Pacific.
Davies joined the local office 12 months ago following an earlier tenure as Club Med Marketing Director, UK & Nordics. She will lead all aspects of the commercial office across Sales, Marketing, Pricing, Human Resources and Finance.
“Davies was an integral part of the UK & Nordics market success, contributing to their record sales by anchoring Club Med as a leader in the all-inclusive ski market, while successfully driving the brand’s upscale and premium positioning, which is critical to the Pacific’s future success. Davies’ valued contribution to the brand across the Pacific, UK & Nordics makes her the absolute right choice to lead the Pacific out of this crisis and back to double digit growth,” Harding remarked.
Davies said she was excited to “accelerate the growth of this region as part of our rebound strategy”.
“Club Med Pacific provides a significant contribution to the brand globally. In 2019, this region was the biggest growth market and contributed 25% of the East, South Asia & Pacific business. These sales exceeded those of when we had a domestic resort – Club Med Lindeman Island.”
Davies continued, “Looking ahead, the future is bright for the Australia and New Zealand travel rebound mostly due to pent up demand. In our 2021 Club Med Travel Index, 86% of respondents said they would book an international holiday within 6 months of the borders opening and 83% would receive the COVID vaccine if it was compulsory to be able to travel.
“With trade representing a high weight of our sales, we know our partners are essential to our rebound strategy.”
As part of its trade specific strategy, Club Med recruited Lisa Bacon to the newly created position of Club Med Head of Sales, Pacific in February this year. Bacon is tasked with jointly growing and nurturing Club Med’s Trade and MICE partnerships.
“The team and I are committed to our trade partners and are proud to have our sales team on the road to provide support to agents with tailored approaches to meet their specific needs,” said Bacon. “We know each business will rebound differently once the borders open. That’s why myself and the team are here to help support agents as and when they need it.”
Harding says, “It’s an exciting time for Club Med in the Pacific, which has attracted such a talented team of female leaders who are driving fresh ideas and great culture during the most challenging time for the travel industry, which not only reinforces Club Med’s future but is reflective of the resilience of the Australian and New Zealand market.”