By Loizos Sourouppis
In all-inclusive holidays practically everything is included in a single pre-paid price which includes meals, snacks, beverages, activities, entertainment, government taxes and gratuities. Cash is eliminated from the holiday experience.
The idea was first introduced in 1930 and then expanded upon by Gerard Blitz and his new Club Med tour operator in the 1950s. The Belgian entrepreneur took the all-inclusive holiday concept to another level with the opening of the first Club Med campsite on the Balearic island of Mallorca. Half a century later, Club Med offers a diverse collection of all-inclusive villages and experiences (including skiing holidays) at 80 destinations around the globe. Today, more and more hotels and resorts are offering an all-inclusive product, and a growing number of tour operators are offering holidaymakers an increasingly sophisticated and diverse range of all-inclusive holidays.
The characteristics of people choosing all-inclusive vary greatly. Experts identify two factors: time and value. Tourists do not wish to spend time calculating expenses during their vacations. Simultaneously, tourists expect the services provided to satisfy their expectations. According to tourism analyst Christina Valhouli, the biggest consumers of all-inclusive holidays are middle-income couples and families.
There are of course considerable variations within these groups; for example, all-inclusive holidays are keenly associated with destination weddings and honeymoons. They are also popular with pre-/no children couples, empty-nesters (whose adult children have left home) and retirees.
While all-inclusive holidays offer all of these groups convenience, an easier way to budget and easy access to resort facilities, this can be particularly appealing to older travellers (aged 65 years+).
All-inclusive resorts also create a significant number of new jobs in areas with some of the highest unemployment rates in the world. But it can come at a price: local taverns remain empty as do small family hotels which are not part of the all-inclusive system.
All-inclusive holiday packages first started in Cyprus twenty years ago after the Gulf war, in an effort to maintain arrivals and the occupancy of hotels. During the last decade, hoteliers have acknowledged the high growth in demand and have started to introduce all-inclusive type of holidays.
In Cyprus the tourist industry did not evolve around the all-inclusive concept only. This is in contrast to other destinations like the Maldives, a place which can only be visited using the all-inclusive concept, as it offers luxury hotel resorts with nothing else around them.
Even though our hoteliers have introduced all-inclusive holiday packages, their hotels are not designed according to the standards of international companies specialising in all-inclusive like Club-Med and Sandals hotels. This makes the hoteliers more vulnerable to tour operators that control the market.
The all-inclusive type of holiday is an international trend which will continue to grow. In Cyprus it helps hotels keep their occupancy at a satisfactory level allowing them to increase profits, make renovations and stay competitive even in the middle of a global financial crisis. On the other hand, customers who choose all-inclusive make a minimum contribution to the local economy beyond the confines of a resort. An effort should be made to promote Cyprus as an ideal all-inclusive destination but at the same time to persuade potential tourists to explore our island, meet our culture and support the local community and other businesses.
To overcome the problems associated with all-inclusive holidays the following recommendations can be made:
- Collaboration with leading companies involved in all-inclusive to provide expertise as far as the design, construction and the operation of all-inclusive hotels.
- Training and monitoring of local businesses so that they can provide high quality services. Training local entrepreneurs in providing services of a high quality will encourage tourists to try establishments and services outside the hotel.
- Development of infrastructure by improving transportation links and pedestrian roads and providing more tourism offices in tourist areas.
- Promote Cyprus in terms of alternative forms of tourism. Due to its good weather, Cyprus can attract tourists all year round. Also, it can be promoted for alternative forms of tourism such as gastronomy, wine, adventure, religious tourism and more. By doing this we will minimise the effects of the seasonality problem
- Promote Cyprus as a safe tourist destination. Safety is one of the reasons that people chose the all-inclusive holiday package and here Cyprus has a major advantage over other destinations.
- Collaboration between hoteliers and entrepreneurs which can be achieved in two ways. First, by giving vouchers to the all-inclusive customers to have one or two of their meals, out of the whole week, at a local restaurant or local tavernas. Second, including in the holiday package excursions to historical and religious sites with perhaps wine tasting in local wineries. It can also include transportation and entrance to a theme park, like the water park. Hoteliers can also allow local entrepreneurs to display their products from handicrafts to local foods within the hotel.
The all-inclusive system cannot be controlled by law due to the free market but the deputy ministry of tourism can implement regulations. These could include: disallowing the free consumption of drinks after dinner; restricting all-inclusive occupancy to 50 per cent of a hotel’s capacity, and restricting all-inclusive packages to five days out of the seven in the week
Promote an on-line reservation system through e-marketing. By doing this the potential tourists will book the type of holiday they like and not what travel agents and tour operators sell them.
Electronic screens in hotel lobbies and the main tourist roads can be installed giving information about services available to tourists. They can include restaurant and bar addresses with their menu and their prices, telephone numbers of transport offices with their pricing policies and the type of vehicles they use and maps which can show the nearest blue flag beaches, theme parks, monuments etc. Smart phone applications allowing restaurant bookings can be made available.
Loizos Sourouppis is a lecturer in hospitality and tourism at CTL Eurocollege in Limassol