The expression all-inclusive is often used in promotional literature from resort hotels, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing to everyone.
“It’s sometimes a misused term, as some places are more inclusive than others,” Martha Scott, manager of Glendale Travel, said.
In the past, hotels more isolated than others tended to offer all-inclusive programs. Now the trend seems to be for more hotels, isolated or not, to offer some form of an all-inclusive package.
Hotels, naturally, want to keep people on their premises. The more inclusive the program, the more guests will stick around. On the other hand, belatedly discovering extra costs can dent any wallet.
“Club Med was the forerunner,” Scott said. “Then these programs became very popular at some Jamaican hotels. Now more properties are experimenting with offering so-called all-inclusive programs, or making their all-inclusive programs even more inclusive.”
Barbara Campbell, director of sales and marketing at the Kona Village Resort on the Big Island of Hawaii, said: “We began our all-inclusive program more than 20 years ago when we were only accessible by air or sea, but we’ve continued it now when we’re not so isolated because our guests like not having to make all those daily decisions.”
The hotel also plans to expand its program by including airport/hotel transfers later this year, Campbell added.
The bottom line for travelers, of course, is to find out just what the hotels provide.
“Consumers shouldn’t labor under the misconception that an all-inclusive package is just that until they or their travel agent has looked into the specific program,” Scott said. “Some brochures do a good job in spelling out precisely what is included, but others don’t.”
For example, excluding air fare, all-inclusive programs include rooms. But which rooms? Are they on a run-of-the-hotel basis, which means that you can be placed anywhere, or rooms in a special section, such as those facing water or mountains?
Another word used frequently is deluxe. But does deluxe describe the room or is it the name of a separate room category? Also, not all rooms in a deluxe hotel are necessarily deluxe, and what is considered deluxe in one part of the world may not be deluxe elsewhere.
Some hotel all-inclusive plans offer all beverages, including alcoholic drinks; others may just provide wine at meals.
Similarly, hotels may offer use of all facilities and equipment. However, with such activities as tennis, snorkeling, scuba diving and wind surfing, the price of a room may or may not include instruction. Some properties allow unlimited use of facilities and equipment, others a limited amount of time.
Some properties include transfers from the airport to their site. Others charge for the ride.
Options on Tips
Other points to check might be whether tips, service charges and taxes are included in the final bill. Some properties offer tip options. “Guests can choose whether to tip on their own or to automatically have 15% of food and beverage charges added to their bills at checkout,” Campbell said.
If the hotel offers any sightseeing excursions, such as shopping on land and glass-bottom boat cruises at sea, do they come with the all-inclusive price? Is all live entertainment, including discos, gratis?
With the on-going fitness trend, an increasing number of hotels have health centers. If this is an amenity you might want to use, find out if it’s part of the package.
Some hotels offer guest privileges at local golf courses. Check if such privileges come free with your type of stay.
Tour operators also differ in what comes in packages dubbed “all-inclusive.” Some packages include daily breakfasts, but not all meals.
The future appears likely to include more all-inclusive programs for travelers.
“The trend is growing as more people become aware of the concept, and cruises have helped educate consumers to the all-inclusive idea,” Campbell said.