All-inclusive holidays - Excluding local people in tourist destinations
This summer, tour operator First Choice, part of TUI, switches all its holidays to all-inclusive. Thomas Cook is reportedly increasing the number of all inclusives holidays it offers by 10 per cent. But what does the resurgence of the all-inclusive model, where tourists are invited to ‘leave their wallets at home’, mean for the destinations we visit?
- Majorica – all-inclusive holidays blamed for loss of local businesses. In September 2011 local businesses organised a day of protest against the all-inclusive hotels
- Turkey – research found only 10% of tourist spend from all-inclusive holidays found its way into the regional economy, with even less reaching the immediate local area
- Mombasa, Kenya – World Bank states all-inclusive beach holidays contributed the least economic benefit
- Kenya – 87% of tourists go on all-inclusive holidays and yet over half of local people live on less than 1$ a day
- Jamaica – all-inclusive hotels attracted tourists in the short term but blocked development of other types of tourism, leading to increased tourist harassment (vi)
- Dominican Republic – all-inclusive holidays blamed for restaurant closures and increased negative attitude towards tourists
- Goa, India – ‘enclave tourism’, local taxis and guides losing business to all-inclusive resorts
Clearly, there is market demand for all inclusives: we all want holidays and in the current difficult economic times, all-inclusives offer us the opportunity to feel assured that we can afford such a holiday. When evaluated from the customers’ perspective, the guarantee of a fixed travel budget is understandable. By choosing all-inclusive travel packages, tourists know they are in safe hands and there will be a quality product for a manageable price. Operators can enhance their control over the quality of the end product, and hotels can increase their efficiency and predictability of demand.
However, the implications for employees, other local businesses, the destination economy, and the tourist experience in terms of meaningful cultural exchange, throws up some serious questions about the sustainability and ethics of this tourism model.
Our arguments are simple:
- Tourism Concern has researched into labour conditions in mainstream all-inclusive hotels that are used by all the mainstream tour operators in five different popular destinations (see: Labour standards, social responsibility and tourism). The results include failure to recognise workers’ rights to join a trade union; lack of training; being pressurised into working a considerable amount of unpaid overtime; and not earning a living wage. Tipping is an important source of revenue for people working in the hospitality business but the All Inclusive model results in fewer tips and therefore reduced income for many workers.
- A high dependency on tourism means power relations between local entrepreneurs and residents, and international tour operators are hugely unequal. Tourism Concern has received reports conveying anger, frustration and distress from mayors and hotel associations in Turkey in describing how they had to succumb to pressure from UK operators to transform their hotels into all-inclusives.
- Other local businesses, such as restaurants, shops, taxi drivers and small guest houses, all lose out to the all-inclusive model, as guests are deterred from leaving the hotel grounds. In some destinations, countless businesses have been forced to close, which in turn deters tourists holidaying on bed and breakfast packages, as the destination has less to offer. Local entrepreneurs from Spain, Crete and Cyprus, from The Gambia to Kenya, and from St. Lucia to Jamaica have all complained of being unable to run their businesses any longer because the footfall of tourists coming out of the all-inclusives is so low.
- Analysis of an all-inclusive Holiday Village in Fethiye, Turkey, found that just 10% of the tourist spend reached the regional economy, with economic benefits to the neighbouring Sarigerme village put at even less. For example, estimated average guest spend in the village shops was put at just 1 Euro per guest per day (i). In Kenya, tourist expenditure reaching the local economy is placed at 22.8% (ii). This includes in Mombasa, where the vast majority of holidays sold are all-inclusive, but where half the population live on less than a dollar a day (iii).
- Competition between the operators is so intense that margins are pushed all down throughout the supply chain. This means hotels are paid very little for each room, which means leaves them with little to pay their staff. One hotel association contact in Turkey told us that they receive €20 a night for the whole package per person. How is this sustainable?
- All-inclusives can alienate tourists from the destination they are visiting and the people who live there. This can hamper positive cultural exchange, while allowing resentment to build amongst local people who are blocked from being able to benefit from the tourism economy. This can lead to a vicious circle, in which tourism harassment levels increase (an issue frequently capitalised upon by the hotels themselves), which in turn deters people from leaving the hotels (iv).
It is true that all forms of tourism can be made more socially, economically and environmentally responsible. But these efforts need to start with the rights of workers and communities in destinations. The current mainstream all-inclusive model is perpetuating social and economic exclusion and inequality, while threatening the very character of the destination that tourists pay to see. This does not make for sustainable tourism.
Addressing these issues requires tour operators and hotels to take a rights-based approach to sustainability, and to undertake due diligence throughout their supply chains in order to identify and address the negative impacts of the all-inclusives power play, and race to the bottom that this entails (see our latest industry human rights briefing).
Tourists can also make a difference by opting for holidays that offer a fair deal for local businesses and people.
Watch out for Tourism Concern’s forthcoming briefing on all-inclusives in the coming weeks.
What do you think? Take our short survey and share your views.
(i) BBC Fast Track, 02/09/2011. Link
(ii) World Bank, 2010, Kenya's tourism: polishing the Jewel
(iii) Akama J.S., Kieti D., 2007 'Tourism and socio-economic development in developing countries: a case study of Mombasa resort in Kenya', Journal of Sustainable Tourism, Vol.15, No.6.
(iv) McElroy J. L., Tarlow P., Carlisle K., 2007 'Tourist harassment: review of the literature and destination responses', Tourism and Hospitality Research, Vol.1 No.4 pp. 305-314
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Comment by Jack Diddly - April 25, 2012, 8:58 am
All inclusive packages are the way forward. We need to get people on holiday within a budget they can afford. Local business, in turn, need to adapt to the change, ok so the restaurant they have been running for twenty years has lost customers year on year … start selling souvenirs, alcohol what ever the people want. If a family go on holiday B&B only and they cant afford to eat out then the restaurant wont get the business any way, so what's the difference? Times are changing and we need to change with the times.
Comment by Julian Zarb (Phd Student ITTC - University of Malta) - April 25, 2012, 9:51 am
The all inclusive phenomemena is again being seen as a "solution" to the negative impacts from the global economic recession!! I can only see this as a short term and very short lived incentive.....tourists want interactive and lively, authentic EXPERIENCES and not STAGED or PSEUDO itineraries!!!
Comment by Anon - April 25, 2012, 4:23 pm
believe tourists on this type of holiday actually lose out in the sense of not engaging with the local people and culture of the country they are visiting.They seem to exist in a facilitated bubble created by the hotel---in fact they are losing out in many ways as much as well as the local population is.No -one really gains except the hotel/tour company (my thoughts after seeing all inclusives on the coast of Lanzarote.)
Comment by Anon - April 25, 2012, 4:25 pm
We've been to half board club med style (sunsail) holidays and rareley been out of the complex - of course this is great with small kids - but we prefer to do more of our own thing. Self catering and more independence trying to see the local sites - suit our style.
Comment by M - April 25, 2012, 4:28 pm
It is not a straighforward issue - some all inclusives are really benefiting the local community by working with local supply chains and employing local people who otherwise would not have a living e.g Ecuador, Jamiaca and Costa Rica
Comment by Rose - April 25, 2012, 4:29 pm
I have never been on an all inclusive holiday and have no intention of doing so. In the majority of cases, they are bleeding dry the countries where they are introduced, killing local trade. At the same time, they are creating in visiting tourists a complete disregard and disinterest in their holoiday destination.
Comment by Bob - April 25, 2012, 4:30 pm
There is a demand for all inclusive holidays so you won't get tour operators to stop selling them. And the type of people that buy them I imagine want an easy life and not a huge amount of involvement outside the resort. Is there an alternative business model where the tour operators sell them at all inclusive prices to tourists yet work with local communities to ensure they get some of the benefits?
Comment by Beryl - April 25, 2012, 4:33 pm
just been on a all inclusive and will not do again due to not feeling we have had value for money when leaving the hotel for a day out excursion.
Comment by Wendy - April 26, 2012, 10:24 am
I think that during an all inclusive holiday a wall is drawn up between the (rich) tourists and the (poor) locals. The decrease in host-guest interaction could lead to increased tension. It could both irritate the locals, since they do not or very little benefit from tourism, and it can deteriorate the tourism experience for the tourists because the locals will either be distant and not willing to engage with them or they could become very pushy. One good thing could be that there is less intrusion into the local culture, possibly safeguarding privacy and authenticity of the community.
Comment by Rose S - April 27, 2012, 12:35 pm
Even wealthy people who don't book all incl hols, often prefer just sticking to the hotel's facilities not even going out to the outside restaurants or clubs, the problem is not all incl hols but the little wages paid to the locals working for big hotel chains and as mentioned before the lack of outsourced services to the local communities!
Comment by David Marchesi - May 4, 2012, 9:45 pm
"horses for courses" seems to be appropriate here. If some are basically after a virtually "British" (French/German etc) experience under a bluer sky than at home, then the all-inclusive is an answer. However, the older idea of travel as broadening the mind would go for these tourists, who would possibly just broaden their posteriors. Times are not changing by themselves, as there is always an element of will and planning- for example, if a foreign holiday is too expensive, look for something at home, even close by. At the limit, take fewer holidays (!!)
Comment by Murray Lundberg - May 9, 2012, 5:19 pm
While I understand the concerns, I don't believe that the all-inclusives are removing people who would have been in the local market anyway. They do bring new travelers out, and hopefully the views on the way to and from the resort will encourage them to seek out the local experiences.
Comment by Jamie - May 21, 2012, 4:55 pm
Equally it's about a holiday maker's personal circumstances. It's not always about authenticity. From a northern European perspective, there are times when a week by the pool/beach, somewhere warm (after a long cold, wet winter), costs all covered up front, fits the bill perfectly. The same traveller may have completely different aspirations if they travel later that summer - and may be far more interested in a more ethical, local economy orientated and educational experience.
Cost is inevitably a key driver of the purchasing decision - restaurants in Spanish, Greek, Turkish, Cypriot restaurants seem to be increasingly expensive (whereas I remember a time within the last 20 years when your holiday budget stretched much further and bought much more). Eating out today will add significantly to a family's stretched budget. This is where an all-inclusive option makes sense.
Resorts and local business communities need to collaborate to prevent the onset of 'ghost town' strips as restaurants and bars struggle to compete. Perhaps working to present local restaurants on all-inclusive 'dine around' schemes (with a la carte an additionally charged option). Revenue share arrangements hotel/restaurant to be agreed up front - get the local chamber of commerce involved.
The alternative is for restaurants to take a fresh look at their pricing. Ethical tour operators might consider doing the same if the resorts they are selling their packages in are to remain sustainable and viable (ethics over profit! We live in hope.....)
The alternative is
Maybe not a bad thing - some might argue - but a tourist based economy will need some serious re-balancing when/if that happens.
Comment by Richard - June 11, 2012, 12:55 pm
We've used All-inclusive as it eases things for us in booking and paying. We also use local facilities in addition and like to meet and be with locals. Locals need to make this attractive so that tourists don't feel they loose out if they miss meals they've paid for in the package.
If prices outside the resort are too expensive, they are too difficult to get too, unsafe, unwelcoming then people will stay in resort on on planned excursions.
People aren't daft and if they go all-inclusive to try a place out and find that it's not the best deal but they like the location they may return in a different manner next time.
Comment by lynn - June 11, 2012, 2:23 pm
I will be goingon my first all inclusive this year. Reason for this is I
Comment by B H Cuttng - June 11, 2012, 2:25 pm
Not a real holiday for most of us - we like to explore restaurants as well the country - I do not even like half board -ok if you have a specific cash limit so both will continue - I think too Companies are jumping on the bandwagon an will regret it
Comment by Nadine - June 11, 2012, 9:37 pm
As a couple we personally really dislike the whole all-inclusive thing. We love mooching round the local town/village, chatting to locals and finding out places to visit, getting a feel for a place and eating somewhere different every night. We are very concerned about the potentially disastrous effects on local economies as we do so want to see some of the beautiful places (and people) we have visited thrive and continue. I can see the appeal however, for families with young children as the cost of eating out for families of 4/5/6 can be prohibitive. I do like Jamie's idea of the collaborative model, and the dine-around options. Clearly fair wages for local workers are vital to sustain the local economy as well. I do have a small inkling of what this is like; I have lived in Blackpool all my life and as a youngster/student always had low paid tourism jobs. Some of my older colleagues with families to support were on poverty wages, and it isn't much better now.
Comment by JL - June 11, 2012, 10:31 pm
We have found all inclusive is far better resort and food wise than half board. The nice part is you dont need to worry about money unless leaving the resort. We only use 4/5 star and as yet have not had a bad experience. We have been to Turkey, Corfu and Crete and all have been great. We have also been out to local restaurants so you really dont need to stay all the time. Cost is about the same if not less than other such as B&B. A week in tenerife cost us about £100 more than all inclusive
Comment by James - June 12, 2012, 10:08 am
I agree with Jamie. We have been on all incluves for some winter sun, but not for our main holiday in the summer. Our last one was in Goa but we have been mainly to the Dominican Republic. Goa was excellent. The history from the Portuguese past was fascinating, but we also received a blessing in a Hindu temple. I am a bit of a foodie and don't mind curry three times a day. I inveigled myself into the kitchen where the team were very friendly and showed me the cooking techniques with the tandoor. For me, that was meeting the locals and finding out more of local ways. I do not know what resort staff are paid, but my thinking is that a full-time job in a resort is better than back-breaking work in a bamboo or banana plantation in the Dom Rep. In Goa we went to Mass. It was a huge church and absolutely packed, with at least 100 folk sitting outside under an awning. I would not go all-inclusive and go out and spend money in a restaurant, bit I certainly try to get out and see what is outside the resort.
Comment by Chamy - June 12, 2012, 11:34 am
The current idea of going all inclusive shows no appeal fo me having seen how it works at a resort on Corfu where we stayed as a family on a self catering basis. It draws in a particular crowd who like the idea of drink as much as you like all day, because its included and eat at regulated times normally from luke warm buffets.
The thoughts as expressed by Jamie are one that I would certainly agree with as going to local restaurants and using local services is all part of the holiday experience so to get them on board as part of a package is something that I would go for.
There is a market for all inclusive but it is to the detriment of both local services and those wanting to experience more than the pool and the four walls of the hotel. People that must eat and drink as much as they can just because it is there ruin the holiday for others so there needs to be an alternative to maintain the local economy and normal tourists sanity. Some Brits abroad on all inclusive as it is now with no limits is not a nice sight.
Comment by Steve M - June 15, 2012, 1:56 pm
I would possibly consider an "all-inclusive" trip - but only for a conference event or similar where the networking opportunities are important. Having said that I would still look to make the effort to get outside of the four walls - especially if the event was outside of England
Comment by Marzia Nicodemi-Ehikioya - June 15, 2012, 5:40 pm
I now book my own flights and hotels. I was never interested in spending time by the pool. However, I understand that families on a low budget may find all inclusive holidays more affordable and even safer for their children. The tourist trade is greedy and there will always be people who want too much profit for themselves. Tourist shops/restaurants often rip off their customers. It is a thorny issue.
Comment by johnwarburton - June 16, 2012, 7:26 am
difien allinclusive bring their currecy down so people are not trapped in their hotel in fear of over spending, freedom is the way forward not confinement like a prison thats why people are staying at home its cheaper hassle free
Comment by FRAN - June 16, 2012, 12:43 pm
In the past local tourist resteraunts, bars etc have got very greedy, and uncomfortable, the greek island of Kos in the late 70s is an example, the prices rose in the local buisinesses by about 12% evry year for about 3 years, then on the fourth year, nobody went, the local ecconomy was on its back, Zakynthos was the same, nearly all of the resort workers came from Athens, and could rip-off another next week, so hell may care, the holliday compamys are aware of this, so had to act, as for the resort machine....its their own fault, greedy, scruffy,and rude.
all the bars have sports on tv? YOB CULTURE RULES, but this is a paralell in the U.K. so ...all inclusive, or stop at home, and drink supermarket beer lol.
Comment by Ian Fowler - June 18, 2012, 6:59 pm
We have holidayed on both as inclusive and self catering in the last few years. In terms of cost there was very little difference. We are returning to the same resort/hotel this year, staying again on an all-inclusive basis. Last yeat we noticed that a number pubs and restaurants, and one hotel, were closed. . It was also worth noting there was a high number of eatern europeans working in the hotels. AI holidays kill local businesses and local economies. Tourists
Comment by Anne - June 18, 2012, 8:34 pm
A holiday is exactly what you want it to be. My husband and I and two friends have travelled all inclusive every year since 2006 as when you staying at fairly remote hotels it is important to know that all your catering requirements are already taken care of. But this never stops us from
Comment by nick - June 19, 2012, 12:26 am
all inclusive is for scared boring people......oh...where shall we eat???...thank goodness we can eat in the hotel....er ...excuse me ...there are loads of fascinating cafes/restaurants out there with so much character....run by local peeps......all inclusive is just run by the local sleezball who has run a deal with the tour companies for mass sales....i have stayed in an all inc hotel...but not al in...and the food looked absolutely crap....nothing more to be said
Comment by carl fletcher - June 19, 2012, 7:58 am
I wondered for some time what all inclusive was about, after experiencing it all I can say is never again....
Snotty nose kids running all over the place, whilst their parents were getting drunk on this so called free booze...
having to stand in line for your meals with these unruly children and their parents who clearly have not showered and changed before entering the dining room, and then when you do get to the food, its substandard, luke warm, desperately repeated each day.
In the long run I found the whole experinece more expensive as I was going out to eat any way, because of the unbranded alcaholic drinks and the dreadful food.
Local business is also losing out due to this al inclusive trend as no one is going out to the restaurants and bars keeping them afloat.Do you not go to these places because you like that particular area? what makes it so appealing ? the whole ambiance surely, which includes the bars and restaurants etc, but if your not supporting these there will be none of them left, and who wants to go on holiday to a ghost town?
Comment by K - June 19, 2012, 9:36 am
I personally love all inclusives. For me and my husband it works. In previous years we always ate out all the time even on Self catering holidays. The cost of holidays has went up dramatically over the years with this year being the worst by far. We unfortunately dont have an endless supply of money to fork out on meals and drinks at ridiculous rates when we go so knowing what you are paying before works for us. I understand everyones views however maybe something should be done about the prices of flights and taxes in order for the actual cost of a holiday to come down. Everything has a knock on effect on the local businesses however i think the flights seem to still be the major cost.
Comment by Antonis Petropoulos - July 13, 2012, 3:40 pm
An important parameter is who owns the all-inclusive. Is it a tax-evading/avoiding multinational giant, the army in a dictatorship, shady investors, or a municipality, a local cooperative or a workers-managed entreprise. Hopefully more holiday makers will care to research this in the future.