Transformative Travel: I look at how travel can change lives.
Club Med VP of marketing Sabrina Cendral takes off on a double trapeze.
PHOTO COURTESY OF SABRINA CENDRAL
Gone are the days when mom and dad left the kids at home with the grandparents or a nanny so that they could travel the world in style. The Millennial generation is coming of age and traveling in droves. And guess what? They’re taking their kids along for the ride. A recent study showed that Millennials are traveling with their children in record numbers, with 44% bringing the whole family on vacation. According to the Family Travel Association, Millennial families are also more diverse, more likely to travel farther, more likely seek out new destinations and more passionate about exposing their kids to new travel experiences.
An integral part of the reason? This generation grew up traveling and recognizes the powerful and lasting impact that seeing the world can have on a child. "Vacations as a child play a role in transforming and developing you as a person," says Sabrina Cendral, North America’s VP of marketing and digital for Club Med, who credits her own career success to the travel she experienced when she was young. In fact, you could say that Cendral grew into her job. Cendral was born in France and raised in Holland by her French father and British mother. When she was young, their vacation of choice was the French-owned Club Med. "I was an only child and my parents wanted to travel, but they also wanted me to be around other kids, around other cultures," she says. "So Club Med seemed like a good answer. We would go once a year either to a beach resort or to a ski resort."
A family in Taco Arte, the restaurant at Club Med Cancun Yucatan.
PHOTO COURTESY OF CLUB MED
During those vacations, Cendral pushed her limits in ways that continue to have an influence on her today. "I learned to fly on the trapeze. I learned to ski. And the shows I did as a kid helped me overcome being shy and come out of my shell," says Cendral, who explains that these experiences provided the building blocks that helped her grow into a strong leader. "My parents kept coming back to Club Med because they wanted to keep developing that."
Cendral didn’t stop there. As a teenager, she took a job as a circus instructor in a Club Med resort, followed by an internship with the company during business school. Later, she went to work at one of the resorts in Turkey doing trapeze instruction. "I’ve always wanted to work for Club Med," says Cendral. While the all-inclusive brand has undergone a massive transformation in recent years, shifting to a more upscale product, opening luxury properties around the globe and pouring $1.5 billion into renovations, the core beliefs have remained the same: delivering an immersive travel experience that can impact families in profound ways.
Here, we caught up with Cendral and got her insight into how travel can shape children and turn them into future leaders.
Travel broadens your horizons. It’s no surprise that travel expands your horizons—especially when you’re young. Apple founder Steve Jobs often said that a trip he took to India as a teen was a life-changer. "Kids who have traveled and who have been in contact with local cultures, with local people, with local communities, are very open and very creative," says Cendral.
An all-inclusive ski vacation with Club Med.
PHOTO COURTESY OF CLUB MED
Travel makes you open-minded. After years of taking his daughters Malia and Sasha on trips with him around the globe, President Barack Obama has become a big supporter of traveling with kids. "There is something spectacular about seeing a new place, being exposed to new ideas and experiencing a new culture. Travel makes you grow," says Obama. Cendral agrees that in addition to exposing children to other cultures, travel provides a different and unique perspective. "Being open to new perspectives and being able to integrate that helps as a leader," she says. "In France, we call it being a sponge, being able to absorb all of that, digest it and build it into what you’re doing in your work."
Travel builds your confidence. Travel can build a child’s confidence in myriad ways, and for Cendral, she recalls preparing for the kids shows at various Club Med resorts. "The height of the week was when we had prepared this show every day in the kids clubs. I would get on stage and I would be so nervous and I would get up there and I would overcome my shyness and my parents would be crying in the audience," says Cendral. "That helped make me more confident in the decisions I make and more relevant as a leader. It’s a big responsibility, getting people on board with your vision, and I learned these tools through my travels."
A circus area at the Club Med Punta Cana designed by Cirque Du Soleil.
PHOTO COURTESY OF CLUB MED
Travel makes you fearless. "Travel encourages children to overcome fears and not to be put off by something that’s different or that seems scary," says Cendral. An example she uses is Club Med’s trapeze program. "I saw this when I was teaching kids—the shy kids who were scared. They have to climb up the ladder. It’s really high. So, there’s a journey to get there. They need to overcome their fears and then there’s this phenomenal revelation when they jump and they’re literally flying. It’s like that at work: The sense of seeing the end goal, achieving things and realizing that the boundaries that you think you have are not that real and that you can actually fly."
Travel teaches you to try new things. Going on vacation creates a world of opportunity, from trying new activities to sampling new flavors. "Travel encourages boldness," says Cendral, who points out that kids can even explore this in an all-inclusive setting like a Club Med. "We have chefs from all around the world. They circulate between our resorts so that in one given resort, we’ll have chefs from 15 different nationalities. We’ll have a Turkish pastry chef; we’ll have an Asian sushi chef. Kids are encouraged to taste new things. They don’t have to eat it all."
Travel creates independence. Another important thing about travel is that it brings out independence in children—especially at a place like a Club Med. "It’s a safe environment and as young as eight years old, the parents can give the authorization for the kids to wander around as they please. Kids really love that because they can’t do that back home," says Cendral. "Suddenly, they’re in a safe environment where they can pick and choose their activities, then head out of their room in the morning and say, "Bye mum, bye dad. I’m going to the kids club."
Travel facilitates collaboration. The simple act of traveling as a family creates a sense of teamwork. But so does sending children to a kids club at a resort. "What we encourage with the kids clubs is all about collaboration. I remember being taught silk painting by the GOs [the Club Med staff]. I’ve always been very much of an introvert, which surprises my team. But it’s about how you help kids come out of their shell. That’s what happened for me at Club Med. I felt stimulated by the GOs, by the staff and by being in a safe environment. That’s when the magic happens."