TOURISM MATTERS: Ideal for ‘budget-conscious British holidaymakers’
Since British travel firm First Choice recently announced that it will make all its holidays “all-inclusive” from next year, claiming it will save consumers money, there has been an explosion of discussion on the subject.
Like it or lump it, all-inclusive is a significant market segment within the various tourism product offerings and it is not likely to go away.
However, there are many contradicting views on just how fast this sub-sector is growing or declining.
Experian Hitwise, the leading global online competitive intelligence service, concluded that First Choice may be investing in a shrinking market that has seen a 31 per cent year-on-year decrease in all-inclusive holiday Web-search volume.
“In January 2010 First Choice received seven per cent of all its traffic from searches for all-inclusive holidays. A year later that number had fallen to 5.5 per cent.”
Howevern TUI, the parent company of First Choice, said its research had shown “that demand for all-inclusive holidays had grown by 32 per cent in five years”.
Their managing director, Johan Lundgren, cited price as the reason to offer only all-inclusive packages from 2012, stating “it is marketing all-inclusive deals as suitable for budget-conscious UK holidaymakers”.
Ploughing through all 292 pages of their current Tropical brochure, the only Caribbean destinations featured are Cuba, Dominican Republic, Aruba, Jamaica and, stretching a point, Costa Rica.
So unless Barbados is added, it will not have a direct effect on us other than influencing a destination choice with lower prices in these competing areas.
And there is the problem – because almost without exception, the competition mentioned above has substantially lower operating costs and taxes.
First Choice’s decision has not been without its critics. The Independent newspaper’s veteran travel editor, Simon Calder, is quoted as saying, “All-inclusives cut off a number of the pleasurable things to be experienced on holiday – and did nothing for local trade.
“From every point of view, except perhaps the holiday company shareholders, all-inclusives are the devil’s work.
“From the holidaymaker’s perspective, they dampen the appetite to explore – because as soon as you step beyond the walls, the meter starts running and you’re incurring extra costs,” he added.
The chairman of the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO), Derek Moore, said: “It is extremely disappointing for many destinations. A local restaurant outside the gates of an all-inclusive hotel might as well put up the ‘closed’ sign right now.”
In a statement, AITO said the whole point of sustainable tourism was “to support the roadside food stall, local restaurant or soda seller on the beach. All will be squeezed out as big travel businesses attempt to keep control over their customers”.
Clearly, operators of all-inclusive hotels will have their own views and perhaps now is the time to share their thoughts, so there is absolute balance in any debate.
How dependent is Barbados on the all-inclusive product and equally important, is it more likely to attract returning guests?
Using TripAdvisor as a barometer for visitor satisfaction, only four – or 20 per cent – of our 20 highest-rated hotels are all-inclusive.
Is that about the right proportion in the eyes of our various markets?