Club Med – “The Club” was started in 1950 by former Belgian water polo champion, Gérard Blitz. The first village opened on the Spanish island of Mallorca. The original villages were simple with members staying in unlit straw huts on a beachfront, sharing communal washing facilities. Over time such villages have been replaced with modern blocks or huts with ensuite facilities.
The club joining fee was set at 300 French francs and the cost of a two-week vacation at 15,900 francs.
The number of villages increased greatly under the leadership of Gilbert Trigano, Blitz’s business partner, from 1963 to 1993. Winter villages, providing skiing and other winter sports tuition, were introduced, starting in 1956 with the village at Leysin, Switzerland. In 1955 the first club outside the Mediterranean was opened, in Tahiti. The North American market was later entered with an “American Zone” of villages in the Caribbean and Florida where English rather than French was the main language of communication.
The target clientele has also evolved over time. Originally mainly attracting singles and young couples, the Club later become primarily a destination for families, with the first Mini Club opening in 1967.
The Club has also ceased to be a club in the legal sense, changing from a not-for-profit association to a for-profit public limited company (French SA) in 1995. The concept of membership has been retained with each customer charged a joining and annual membership fee.