Inclusion…

Or, How The Holiday Industry Is Killing The All-Inclusive

Not long ago, All-Inclusive holidays were a new and interesting take on board and accommodation. Eat what you like, when you like – usually from a buffet, soft and basic drinks included in the price and, for the occasional change from the buffet, a couple of a la care restaurants you could book once or twice a week. Above all, the price was fixed and final. You didn’t need to spend another penny if you didn’t want too, and you could manage your holiday budget to the £.

They opened up areas for tourism that otherwise wouldn’t have had the infrastructure to support tourism; once the novelty and inevitable orgy of all-day drinking and drunkenness had worn off, drinking became largely responsible; for families with kids, the ability to feed them juice, ice cream and water whenever they wanted was a huge cost saving; for there to be a buffet with a fighting chance of finding something the kids would eat was a godsend.

It helped the industry and the hotel too – it was more expensive and you paid up front. More revenue and better cash flow is a good combination…

The model looked like it was working, but then the industry rushed in. Suddenly whole brochures are offering only All-Inclusive options. You can hardly book anything else. Read the small print, though. Many hotels have no A la Carte at all, or only one, or one with very limited use, or (the ultimate anti-AI step) ones with a £15 per head “booking fee”.  These aren’t All-Inclusive in the original sense, they’re Full Board with free booze and juice, which is NOT the same.

The change is partly because older hotels aren’t designed for AI – which needs a large dining area and several smaller dining rooms. You have to build your resort to be AI rather than trying to squeeze it back into a single-block hotel. But the industry is demanding hotels provide AI, so they have to do it. And they’re going to kill it.

Full Board failed because people didn’t want to eat a set meal in the same restaurant every day of their holiday. So they did B&B and went to the local restaurants in the evening. Then the Euro crisis made eating in Zante and Mayfair about price-equivalent, so the AI model arrived in Europe from the remoter locations it had grown up in. Choice was available in the hotel, so you didn’t need to eat out. You spent £50 over your whole holiday, and then only if you tried hard.

Now the assumption seems to be that you’ll pay for 14 days “all-inclusive” but will address your boredom by heading out of the hotel twice a week in search of something else. Great value for the hotel – you’ve paid them for food but aren’t going to eat it – and the local restaurants who must have suffered badly in the first wave of AI, but really bad news for you. It’ll cost you a few hundred quid for meals on top of what you’ve paid, and that kills the idea of it being “All Inclusive” or being able to budget.

So, you won’t pay the premium associated with going AI and will start to drift back to the  B&B – because the Tavernas will be dropping their prices to entice in the bored AI customers and you’ll reap the benefit without having to pay the AI price.

It’s a shame, because a good AI holiday is superb. Relaxing, convenient, safe (no money to carry around) and predictable. I hope the industry gets it’s act together and works out that there’s a place for everything, and limits AI to resorts that are capable of delivering that experience and which justify the resultant price premium.