Taking the family to Marrakech is child's play
Club Med has re-styled a hotel in the Moroccan city as a family-friendly resort. Kate Simon reports
Sunday 12 April 2009
My nine-year-old son Quincy is clinging to my arm. He stopped holding my hand in public some time ago, but today he's taking no chances. We are walking around the Jemaa el Fna square in the centre of Marrakech, where Mikey, a friend newly made at our hotel's kids' club, had a snake dumped on his head just the day before.
Mikey visited in the morning, but we are in the medina just before dusk, when the world appears to turn out on this ancient marketplace, so we're not such a target. Still, Quincy is unimpressed by the sideshows, recoiling from the Barbary apes spinning at the end of their masters' leashes, the Berber dancing boys, and the women armed and ready to pipe henna in intricate patterns on the skin.
So we retreat to the roof terrace at Club Med's La Medina hotel on the edge of the square, where the atmosphere may be enjoyed at a snake-safe distance. As guests of its sister resort in the Palmeraie district, to the east of the old city, we are able to drop by, even stay for dinner, before returning to our lodgings on the free shuttle bus, which makes the short, 15-minute journey throughout the day and evening.
It's a convenient arrangement, especially for the growing number of people wanting to visit this traditionally adult destination with their children. The grown-ups can explore the Moroccan city's exotic side while being within sanity-preserving reach of the hotel for when the children inevitably weary of sightseeing.
That's good news for Club Med, because it has just restyled the hotel in the Palmeraie as a family resort by launching a mini club to make it even more appealing to this market. Club Med has plenty of experience hosting families, they make up more than half of the guests staying at its 80 "villages" around the world, attracted by the hassle-free, all-inclusive packages offered and the extensive childcare available for kids aged four months to 17 years. The rebranding of Marrakech La Palmeraie takes the number of Club Med's family resorts to 45.
The Moroccan hotel's new club accepts children from the age of four. It is capacious, designed as a miniature riad, with a swimming pool and well-equipped, age-appropriate, indoor and outdoor play areas. There's even a small patch of land where kids can indulge in a little light gardening. And the hotel's vast lawns offer plenty of space for supervised games. Open during the day and in the evening, parents can even leave the grounds while their children are being cared for, creating the possibility of child-free excursions to the souk or beyond the city limits to the High Atlas mountains.
Children are looked after by GOs – "gentile organisers" – who are required to have some knowledge of the English language. Club Med prides itself on its multinational appeal, claiming its staff come from more than 100 nations, speaking upwards of 30 languages. That's one of the reasons why the company is confident it can increase its UK market, which currently accounts for only a small percentage of annual guests. At this Moroccan resort, the aim is to increase the number of British families visiting by 20 per cent, year on year.
Yet, while Club Med's operation is a slick one and the idea of making it easier for families to visit Marrakech is a winner, one problem needs to be addressed: the lack of competent English speakers in the kids' club. British visitors will enjoy Club Med's Gallic bias – particularly the high standard of food on offer. But more staff with good English will inevitably need to be hired to convince us linguistically-challenged Brits that this is a truly family-friendly destination.
How to get there
Kate Simon travelled to Marrakech with Club Med (08453 676767; clubmed.co.uk). Seven nights costs £749 per adult and £559 per child aged three to 17 years, including return flights with Royal Air Maroc and full-board accommodation.
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