With all-inclusive holidays enjoying a resurgence, Halima Ali rounds up some of the world’s best, from luxury retreats to spa breaks
The term all-inclusive used to conjure up images of travelers on tight budgets trapped in resorts among hordes of screaming kids eating tasteless food they had to queue ages for. Mercifully, this hospitality segment has undergone a makeover in the past 15 years.
Although the value benefits of the all-in-one pricing model remain, resorts now offer a much more sophisticated guest experience with amenities and services designed to cater to multiple consumer types within a single resort.
Club Med pioneered the one-price concept in Majorca in the 1950s, and the model has evolved to dominate resort areas in the Caribbean and Mexico, as well as several properties in Europe. It has also begun making inroads into Central America, South America, Asia and Africa.
The all-in-one pricing model tapped into the needs for many travelers new to international travel, with the US growing into the primary source market for all-inclusive resorts in the Americas.
“All-inclusive vacations are the trend in travel,” says Tom Carr, president of All Inclusive Outlet. “When I started in the travel industry we offered fewer than 25 all-inclusive resorts. Now we have over 400 hotel offerings in our inventory.”
What’s more, the market shows no signs of slowing down. There’s been notable growth at AMResorts — a subsidiary of Apple Leisure Group — which expects to end 2016 with a total of 40 all-inclusives, totaling more than 15,000 rooms. Spain-based RIU Hotels & Resorts has also added an all-inclusive on St. Martin to its extensive portfolio in Aruba, the Bahamas, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Mexico.
Even Hyatt, once considered too upscale for the all-inclusive model, is getting in on the action with the launch of the Hyatt Zilara adults-only resorts and Hyatt Ziva family resorts.
As for future trends, an increasing demand for luxury resorts featuring gourmet cuisine, VIP/preferred areas and experiential elements is expected to drive growth in the all-inclusive sector. Vacationers no longer want to be confined to resorts and will push for authentic cultural experiences and expeditions. Expect also to see a rise in upscale family-centric resorts, as well as premium wellness resorts. The all-inclusive has well and truly evolved.
Best for beaches
We suggest: Azul Sensatori Jamaica
Why: The first Azul Sensatori hotel in Jamaica is located on Seven Mile Beach, in Negril, on the western side of the island. With swaying palm trees, clear blue waters and nearby coral reefs, this is one of the most beautiful stretches of sand in the Caribbean. There are 130 rooms in total, all ocean-facing, with 54 set aside for adults only — these all come with inviting outdoor daybeds for lounging on the terrace, and some feature private swim-up pools. Six dining venues offer gourmet Caribbean or Italian cuisine. There are a range of options in the all-inclusive package for those looking to keep active, including yoga, aqua aerobics and dance, as well as a dedicated fitness center. Water lovers can make use of kayaks, boogie boards and canoes.
Price: Rates start at $333 per person, per night, based on double occupancy. azuljamaica.com
Where else: Palace Resorts’ Beach Palace, in Cancun, offers up-close encounters with the glittering Nichupte Lagoon. The ‘Family Connections’ program ensures kids are well looked after while parents get on with the serious task of relaxation. palaceresorts.com/beachpalace
Best for food and drink
We suggest: Sandals LaSource Grenada
Why: Sensational food is available across the board at the resort’s 10 restaurants, including Butch’s Chophouse — the first steakhouse for the Sandals brand — while Soy is great for sushi lovers, La Jardinier is heaven for aficionados of French cuisine and Cucina Romana offers exquisite Italian fare. A centrally located Culinary Concierge Desk is available to assist with food requirements. The resort, which underwent a $100m renovation two years ago, features 225 luxurious rooms and suites, as well as a state-of-the-art fitness center and spa. There are three freshwater swimming pools and two river pools, all perfect for lounging around or enjoying a refreshing dip.
Price: Rates start at $340 per person, per night. sandals.com
Where else: Sivory Punta Cana. This Dominican Republic resort emphasizes what it calls ‘art cuisine’, and the Gourmond Restaurant specializing in international cuisine is AAA Four-Diamond awarded. Other notable features include hot tubs, sauna, fitness room and decadent spa treatments. sivorypuntacana.com
Best for ultra luxury
We suggest: Hyatt Zilara Cancun
Why: Even with demand for luxury properties in the all-inclusive model growing, it still surprised many when upmarket hotel chain Hyatt made its first foray into the market with this adults-only resort in 2013. Having undergone a multi-million-dollar renovation before being incorporated into the Hyatt brand, the pristine resort occupies the widest stretch of sand in Cancun’s hotel zone. The area’s only ocean-view spa features an eco-holistic facility offering a steam hut, sauna, cold-plunge pool, waterfall features, and dual-temperature whirlpools. Fine dining is available at six a la carte and gourmet buffet restaurants, while those looking for a quiet night can enjoy 24-hour in-room dining. Beach butlers and romance concierges can be requested in advance and an unpacking service is available on arrival.
Price: Rates start at $840 per person, per night, based on double occupancy. cancun.zilara.hyatt.com
Where else: Melia Nassau Beach. This upscale resort will eventually be part of Nassau’s multi-billion-dollar luxury development Baha Mar. The property — formerly the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort & Casino — is in the midst of a $19m renovation, due to be completed in early 2016. melia.com
Best for spa and wellbeing
We suggest: Parrot Cay by COMO, Turks & Caicos
Why: This resort is set on a private island accessed via a 30-minute boat ride from the larger island of Providenciales, offering unparalleled privacy and intimacy. To truly unwind, pay a visit to the COMO Shambhala Retreat. The spa offers a range treatments, including ayurveda, aromatherapy, Pilates and other holistic avenues to mental stillness, physical wellbeing and spiritual balance. Facilities include nine treatment rooms, double massage rooms, a yoga studio enhanced by natural breezes, an outdoor whirlpool bath garden, a Pilates studio and Japanese baths — all in low-lying pavilions overlooking the North Caicos Channel and surrounding wetlands. When treatments are finished, guests can enjoy the incredible infinity-edge pool, waterfront Balinese-style villas, exceptional service, and more than three miles of pristine beaches.
Price: Rates for an all-inclusive stay start at $664 per night, per person, plus tax and service charge. comohotels.com
Where else: Secrets Playa Mujeres Golf & Resort Spa. This adults-only resort is primed for spa enthusiasts, who can enjoy endless pampering here with the ‘Spoil Yourself and Repeat’ package, allowing spa treatments two to four times a day. secretsresorts.com/playa-mujeres
From Tom Carr, president, CEO of All Inclusive Outlet.
SPECIALIZE: Focus on a select number of resorts to begin with and become a complete expert in those properties so you know everything inside out. The better you know them, the better you can sell them.
PAY A VISIT: Personally stay at each hotel and get to know the staff and management working there. Having these relationships will prove useful in the long run and give you a competitive edge.
MAKE A DECISION: Choose your ‘go-to’ room categories. An entry-level room to start, then a mid-range room, and then a ‘recommended’ suite category for higher end and upselling.
GET THE INSIDE TRACK: Offer insider tips on how to make a stay even more memorable.
DO YOUR OWN PROMO: Develop your own content for the select resorts with image galleries and videos put together from personal visits to the properties, and collect as much content and feedback as possible from past customers.