All-inclusives: Why they’re more popular than ever

There has been a big rise in hotel owners and operators embracing all-inclusive – Cosmos, Thomson, Thomas Cook, Airtours, Sunset, Manos, First Choice and Hayes and Jarvis are among the increasing number with all-inclusive brochures.

According to market research company Mintel the sector has grown by an estimated 32% over the past five years, with mid and long-haul travel driving the market – Turkey, Egypt and Mexico are the highest growth destinations.

Traditionally expensive destinations such as the Indian Ocean, where food and drink costs are high because so much is flown in, have become accessible through all-inclusive deals, and in many cases it makes better financial sense to book all-inclusive rather than half-board.

Niel Alobaidi, head of commercial at Hayes and Jarvis, says: “Customers want to exercise stronger control over their spending budget. Booking an all-inclusive provides them with the reassurance of knowing what their holiday will actually cost. With this in mind it is not surprising that resorts providing an all-inclusive option are picking up more bookings than competitors who do not.”


The cost factor

Of the 32 hotels in Red Sea Holidays’ 2010 brochure, 18 are all-inclusive. Sales director Jason Hilton says: “The concept remains particularly good for families who feel comfortable that everything has been budgeted for up front, but the improvement in the model over recent years means all-inclusive is attracting visitors for whom quality and choice is as important as budget: a number of our hotels offer up to seven restaurants.”

In the past two years, Planet Holidays has seen a 150% increase in its all-inclusive bookings to Cyprus, Greece and Egypt. Thomas Cook recently introduced All-Inclusive Plus to highlight the best hotels and resorts on offer. Each property has at least six different restaurants, 24-hour all-inclusive service and premium drinks as standard.

Tara Bradberry, marketing manager at Longwood Holidays, says: “All-inclusives are selling very well on the Egyptian Red Sea. This is not necessarily an indicator that people are looking for a cheaper holiday, but that people are budgeting and finding known costs more attractive.

“As well as increased business at hotels sold on an all-inclusive basis as standard, we’ve also seen a lot of people choosing to upgrade at upmarket hotels that offer the option.”


Cruising for a saving

Floating your boat is another cash-conscious option. Latest statistics from the Passenger Shipping Association (PSA) show 1.53 million Brits took a cruise in 2009, a 4% rise on 2008, and it’s predicted the figure will rise to 1.65 million this year.

Further inland, river cruises offer an excellent way of seeing Europe, and long-haul destinations such as Russia and China, without having to worry about paying for meals and excursions.

According to PSA director Bill Gibbons: “Much of this success can be attributed to the all-inclusive nature of cruising and the very high standards of quality and service.”

Steve Williams, managing director at Fred Olsen Travel, the main UK agent for AMA Waterways, adds: “Compared with the cost of travelling in Europe by air, rail or road, and the high costs of hotel internet and entertainment facilities, city tours, excursions, and eating and drinking, river cruising offers cost advantages.”



New offers and openings

Malta and Gozo specialist Belleair Holidays has seen an increase in all-inclusive sales and for travel in September and is offering seven nights at Malta’s Qawra Palace with flights on Air Malta.

Balkan Holidays has increased its all-inclusive portfolio to 63 properties, with 50 available in Bulgaria. It offers three levels of all-inclusive, with the plus/ultra option including à la carte restaurants, mini-bar drinks and entertainment.

Further afield, Sandals Emerald Bay recently opened in the Bahamas, offering the brand’s Luxury Unlimited experience, which includes gourmet dining and premium brand drinks.

The Calabash Hotel and Villas in Grenada and Young Island in the Grenadines are offering all-inclusive packages this summer. The former features Gary Rhodes’ only overseas restaurant. Tropic Breeze, Caribtours and Carrier are among the operators featuring both properties.

St Lucia’s only member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Cotton Bay Village, has unveiled its new Fully Loaded all-inclusive concept. Sovereign Holidays offers seven nights from £1,499 in June, including meals, drinks, water sports, use of the spa, crèche and children’s club, and flights.

Even relatively inexpensive destinations such as The Gambia now offer all-inclusive options. The five-star Sheraton Gambia Hotel Resort and Spa (pictured top) introduced the option in January and it’s being offered by Cosmos from £925 per person for winter, including flights from Gatwick.

Other operators featuring the resort include Serenity Holidays’ specialist brand The Gambia Experience.

A lesser-known all-inclusive destination is the East African island of Zanzibar. Some 25% of Zanzibar properties offered by Somak are all-inclusive, including the new four-star plus Diamond Dreams resort.

Bookings for seven nights or more at Sultan Sands Island Resort, which leads in at £1,355 in July, include a free overnight stay in the island’s UNESCO-listed Stone Town. Zanzibar is also one of the new destinations featured by Hayes and Jarvis in its All-Inclusive Collection brochure.

Of interest to solo travellers will be the first stand-alone, all-inclusive programme from specialist singles tour operator Just You. The 2010 programme includes the Indian Ocean, the Caribbean, Kenya, Egypt, Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria with eight days leading in at £599 for Turkey and Bulgaria, including single occupancy rooms with no supplement payable.

Finally, Almond Resorts has created an online training course giving agents a simple, flexible way to learn about the company’s five four-star premium all-inclusive resorts on Barbados and St Lucia.

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