Are all-inclusive luxury holidays the way forward in austere times?

Make no mistake, Britain is suffering the aftermath of recession; unemployment continues to rise as more and more high street chains fall by the wayside.  Figures indicate that a recovery is underway, but is faltering, and painfully slow, the millions out of work certainly aren’t feeling the benefits. The outlook seems gloomy, but for many, the summer holidays certainly don’t. Studies have indicated that although consumers have reduced their spending on non-essential items, most aren’t prepared to give up their week or two in the sun. An annual holiday is almost seen as a rite of passage by Brits and while we might be prepared to catch the bus to work, forego fancy restaurants and jettison the designer jackets, holidays are set to remain firmly on the menu in 2012.

Of course, the travel market is in a state of flux, firms are having to adapt in order to pander to the new cash-conscious consumer, and while there are still plenty of wealthy wanderlusters out there, the general downward-trend of the economy means that new tactics are being developed to keep consumers in this ‘must-holiday’ mindset for 2012 and beyond. Take First Choice, the mainstream tour operator recently announced with great fanfare that that all their holidays will now be all inclusive, a move that will simplify budgeting for stretched vacationers.

The current economic situation has recently been illustrated by the difficulties faced by Thomas Cook; the major UK tour operator saw share prices plummet after a poor trading period in 2011. Illustrating how the travel industry hangs in the balance in such a period of austerity, this situation is causing even high-end luxury tour operators to see a rise in bookings for all-inclusive breaks. All this begs the question; are all-inclusive holidays the answer for a travel market that’s stable, but by no means home and dry?

All-inclusive holidays offer a multitude of benefits, the obvious one being convenience, without a doubt the largest cost incurred on a typical holiday is spending for meals and drinks out. Even in a modestly priced resort one can rack up a bill for hundreds of pounds – possibly thousands with the family in toe. Not only is this type spending difficult to keep track of, who wants to be looking after the pennies and budgeting furiously when you’re meant to be relaxing?

Going all-inclusive not only makes meal-times ultra convenient, it is, on the whole, more cost effective, you’re essentially paying for all your food and drink in bulk. Meanwhile, there is still the option to venture out of the resort and visit a local bar or restaurant, should you be inclined. Here are some other benefits of all inclusive holidays which you may not have considered;

  • Planned excursions – all the organisation is done for you, all you need to do is pick a time
  • In some cases, room service is included in the overall price of an all-inclusive
  • On-site activities – some resorts offer massages and beauty treatments as part of the package
  • Genuine quality – the old perception of all inclusive resorts offering sub-standard fare has largely been eradicated, resorts booked through large tour operators offer excellent quality and service

Although ‘luxury’ and ‘all inclusive’ are two terms not traditionally considered to bed pals, recent economic shifts have meant they’ve merged seamlessly; no matter which tour operator you book with, a ‘luxury’ all inclusive holiday is more within reach of the average consumer than it ever has been before.

It is also worth noting that all inclusive holidays can have positive social and economic effects on local communities. A large resort could provide hundreds of jobs for local people and re-generate economically stagnant areas, bringing prosperity to people surrounding businesses, meaning that all-inclusives can be considered within the realms of sustainability both for the tour operators increasingly pushing them, and all their stakeholders.

Mathew Prior is MD at Hayes and Jarvis.

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