Club Med brings not one, but two resorts to South Africa
The beach and bush resorts are described as setting new standards in experiential travel.
South Africa is set to receive its first all-inclusive Club Med resorts, with a R2-billion local investment in northern KwaZulu-Natal, through a joint venture between Collins Residential and the international hospitality group.
Absa, African Bank and the Industrial Development Corporation are financing the development.
Club Med, founded in 1950, is renowned as the global leader and pioneer of premium all-inclusive holiday packages. The hospitality group focuses on both leisure and meetings and events (MICE) customers.
With a presence in 40 countries, the group operates nearly 70 resorts. In Africa, Club Med currently operates eight resorts in Mauritius, Morocco, Senegal, Seychelles and Tunisia.
Collins Residential is one of southern Africa’s largest property and eco-tourism enterprises.
Construction is set to begin early next year, with the resort opening scheduled for around July 2026.
The beach resort will be built in Tinley Manor, north of Ballito on the Dolphin Coast, renowned for its bottlenose dolphins and “coastal village” holiday atmosphere. It will have direct access to a long and secluded stretch of pristine beach.
The lodge will be positioned within a Big 5 Game Reserve located in Zululand, spanning 8,000 hectares.
At both resorts, each on 32-hectare properties, all meals, beverages, activities and accommodation will be provided as part of a package deal.
The family-oriented Club Med Tinley beach resort will have 342 Premium rooms and 64 Exclusive Collection suites, with interconnecting rooms; a children’s club for ages four months to 17 years, and a range of land and water leisure activities, including a surfing school for adults and kids, padel, beach volleyball and a wellness centre.
In the Exclusive Collection space, guests will have access to a dedicated welcome area, bar and a pool. A wellness area, gourmet lounge, zen pool, adults-only bar, gym and hammam (Turkish bath) complete the facilities.
The Resort Centre will have shopping (for guests’ own account), a restaurant, an all-day dining court, a bar – with a wine corner – and a pool. The centre will also offer entertainment and live performances.
Club Med’s lodge will be a three-and-a-half-hour drive from the Tinley Beach Resort, via shuttle or self-drive, or a 40-minute flight by charter plane. The 80-key lodge will offer service on par with the resort and all-inclusive offerings: Guests will have access to game drives, guided bush walks, and all meals, snacks and beverages.
Club Med Tinley is expected to generate more than 800 direct jobs and an additional 1,500 indirect jobs, explained Henri Giscard d’Estaing, the chairman and CEO of Club Med, at a media briefing in Durban on Tuesday.
“But more than that, we will develop, create and refine the hospitality know-how of a generation that can support KwaZulu-Natal and South African tourism.”
Hailing the development as a great day for tourism in the province, d’Estaing said the tourism industry is about vision.
“It’s been a difficult sector in the past years, with so many other geopolitical events and Covid, but if you don’t have the vision, if you don’t believe that tourism is key to developing a country to grow its people and the environment, don’t do it. Tourism is important for KwaZulu-Natal and for South Africa.”
Promising to deliver an exemplary product, he said Club Med will do for tourism what it did in Cancún, Bali and Mauritius, which had no tourism 50 years ago.
“We were the first to create tourism there and to put those countries and locations on the global tourism map.”
Club Med has had a presence in South Africa for 38 years, with booking offices organising holidays abroad; this is the first time that the hospitality group has opened a resort in the country.
During construction, over 1,200 workers will be employed on the project.
Club Med aims to achieve a 4-star rating from the Green Building Council of SA for the development. All Club Med resorts are Green Globe Certified – a global leader in sustainable tourism certification.
Murray Collins, CEO of Collins Residential, said that Club Med was a massive opportunity for tourism in South Africa and the economy. The group was the first major brand to invest in Cancún in Mexico in 1976 when it was still a deserted island.
Cancún has grown into Mexico’s largest tourism resort, drawing bucketloads of tourists to high-end resorts famed for nightlife, culture and sunny beaches. It didn’t happen organically; it was meticulously planned, with the Mexican government’s involvement.
“Everyone knows what Cancún has become and what it has meant to Mexico. My hope is that even if we achieve 20% of what [Club Med has] done in Mexico, we’re [South Africa] in for a wonderful ride because the success story is second to none.”
He said conservation is the key to everything they do, whether it’s on a residential development or tourism property.
“If there is no way to enhance, rehabilitate or add value to our natural assets, we won’t do a deal. Many might say that developing a 340-room hotel can’t be adding value to the environment. Well, let me explain: On the 32 hectares of the Tinley Manor site, only nine will be filled with buildings. As it stands, this site is a moribund, defunct cane farm with little ecological significance. We’re going to be rehabilitating the property, the wetlands, redoing the coastal dunes and planting thousands of trees.”
The greater impact, Collins said, was on the game reserve, where they will be creating a Big Five reserve and working with the local Gumbi community.
He said that in Africa, there is the space and opportunity to make a massive difference to climate change.
“From a Club Med perspective, that catalytic influence of the beach resort, the bush and partnership with the Gumbi community to uplift probably one of the poorest communities in the world, is a massive opportunity to create thousands of eco-warriors with Club Med clients every year.” DM