Are All Inclusive Resorts are changing from catapillars to butterflies?
That’s what some are saying as all inclusive resorts have been evolving in direct response to what travelers want, expect and desire.
It’s time to reexamine what we think we know about all-inclusives. With resort-within-a-resort concepts, a range of new dining options, adults-only hideaways, and a newfound focus on health and well-being, the all-inclusive product has changed dramatically over the years.
People have attended “destination weddings” at an all inclusive resort and like what they experience. This has generated a significant amount of new guests becoming fans of the all inclusive vacation experience.
A large part of the appeal is an ever-increasing focus on singular built-in entertainment options that can only be found at such properties.
Guests can safely experience everything from cigar rolling to molecular multi-course meals to ancient Mayan rituals. Many of these options are often included in your price, especially if you are lodged in a higher room category.
There are water parks on site for children of all ages and adult-only resorts that provide a quiet, romantic setting. The great thing about both of these options is that the majority also include top-shelf liquor, offer reservation-free dining in specialty restaurants and provide some of the best service you may ever experience.
All-inclusives also continue to be at the forefront of developments that tap into other travel trends, ensuring that both first-time and repeat visitors are wowed by the vacations. Here’s a look at some other forces that are driving the changes in all-inclusives.
Courting the High-End Traveler
According to Tourism Economics data measuring outbound flights, growth in luxury travel slightly exceeded that for overall travel from 2011 to 2015. The demand for luxury travel has remained constant despite testing economic times—and many all-inclusives have taken note, refining their product to attract discerning travelers who might not have thought about taking an all-inclusive vacation in the past.
Travel advisors are uniquely positioned to educate high-end travelers about the features and amenities they’ll find at luxury all-inclusives, from the soaking whirlpool tubs, gourmet in-room coffee and high-end toiletries they’ll find in guest rooms to specialty restaurants, activities that are on trend, such as tequila tasting or afternoon Zumba, and swanky nightlife settings.
At an even more exclusive level, resort-within-a-resort concepts help attract high-end travelers who might be new to the all-inclusive product. In these more exclusive settings, travelers can expect special treatment such as attentive butler service, exclusive restaurant access and invitations to private parties and events.
Boutique properties within a larger all-inclusive also promise a higher level of service as well as lounges and pool areas that are off-limits to guests of the larger resort.
High-end all-inclusives are also appealing to travelers who might not always vacation in the luxury category, but are celebrating a special event, such as a proposal, honeymoon, anniversary or destination wedding.
All-inclusive resorts appeal to such travelers with rose petal-strewn beds and daily bottles of champagne, but most also offer additional personalized services and amenities—all travel advisors have to do is request it.
Targeting the Wellness Travel Market
According to the Global Wellness Institute, wellness tourism is currently a $494 billion business and is expected to jump to $680 billion by 2017. The significant majority of wellness tourism trips (87 percent) and expenditures (84 percent) come from travelers who seek to maintain their health and wellbeing or participate in wellness experiences while taking any kind of trip. That means travel advisors have a unique opportunity to appeal to the average client’s desire to stay fit and healthy when they visit an all-inclusive—especially when it comes to balancing out ever-present indulgences at the resort’s specialty restaurants and swim-up bars.
The 2016 Virtuoso Luxe Report identified the most sought-after wellness aspects as massages and other treatments, healthy cuisine, fitness classes, environmental beauty and sports activities—all areas in which all-inclusive resorts have heavily invested.
In Mexico’s Riviera Maya and Pacific Coast, for example, guests can get centered during an all-inclusive yoga retreat, learning about the history of yoga, meditation practices, the yogi diet and breathing exercises. For those who don’t want to go all-in, but would like to try practicing yoga for the first time, most all-inclusives offer yoga classes for beginners, some that welcome the sunrise at dawn, while others are hosted at the beach or other scenic locations.
Even spa treatments are inspired by the backdrops of the Caribbean islands and landscapes of Mexico. For a total bliss-out experience, all-inclusives now offer spa treatments right in the heart of nature. Guests can listen to the crashing waves while getting reiki on the beach or breathe in the sweet scent of endemic flowers while enjoying a tropical garden couples’ massage.
Guest rooms, too, feature a new emphasis on wellness. Look for such wellness-focused amenities as soaker tubs and Jacuzzis, rain showers, special beds and sheets with high thread counts to ensure a good night’s sleep.
Feeding the Cuisine Craze
Equally important, the quality of food has skyrocketed at all-inclusives as travelers crave healthier options. Other trends include special menus that offer dietary accommodations and focus on locally sourced foods.
You will find gluten-free, vegetarian and dairy-free dishes offered at all restaurants. The staff makes sure to ask when you are first seated if you have a food allergy or sensitivity. This information is passed on to the chef to ensure your needs are met and some of these resorts even have their own gardens that provide fruit and vegetables for the whole resort. Others have a facility where they make all the bread, pasta and desserts from scratch.
While most all-inclusives continue to offer a large and varied buffet that guests can enjoy at almost any hour of the day, creative dining options can include anything from Benihana-style teppanyaki shows and wine tasting events to cooking classes that celebrate local traditions.
Diversifying for Multigenerational Travelers
Family travel is still a critical segment of the all-inclusive market, and millennial families (particularly those with young children, unrestricted by school calendars) present yet another selling opportunity for travel advisors.
“We’re seeing more millennials interested in the all-inclusive product simply because that demographic is all about experiences,” says one expert. “We have also seen more mutigenerational family travel come into play, such as when grandma and grandpa are paying one big tab for that once-a-year fantastic trip.”
Thankfully, larger all-inclusive resorts cater to hard-to-please teens and tweens with themed programming, entertainment and hangout areas just for them. Oftentimes, this means the latest and greatest video games at their fingertips, fast and free WiFi access, movie nights, trivia contests and organized beach excursions.
For younger children, kids clubs have evolved into experiences that center around the unique locale of the resort. And family members of all ages can enjoy the lazy rivers, water parks and other creative pool designs that are becoming increasingly popular.
Indeed, the key to matching the right resort to multigenerational clients is to evaluate each family unit individually as there is no one-size-fits-all approach. What follows are a few critical questions to ask the group.
* What’s the makeup of the group?
* Do they want to stay near local villages and attractions or would they prefer to centralize their stay on property?
* If there are children, how old are they and what are their interests?
* How big do the clients want the property to be?
* How many rooms will they need? Will they need connecting rooms?
* What level of privacy are they seeking?
* Is it important to have on-site theme parks and water slides? Toys for the children?
* How important is food and local cuisine to the group?
* Do any members of the group have dietary restrictions or food allergies?
* Do they prefer a la carte menus or is it okay if meals are all served buffet-style?
* What kind of activities do the adults see themselves doing while on vacation?
* Is there a special occasion for the trip? Any notable celebrations?
* Does the group want to give back to the local community or do good for the environment while they are on vacation?
* Are the grandparents or child free adult family members interested in a resort that offers a separate adults-only section?
* And of course, what’s the budget? Is there any flexibility within that budget?
Some families view themselves as explorers who crave local experiences, while others dream of kids’ clubs and babysitters. In the case of all-inclusives, travel advisors must first listen to the family’s specific needs and then spend time educating them on the range of options available.
A Fresh Approach with Blue Diamond Resorts
With 34 properties and more than 13,000 hotel rooms spread across six countries, Blue Diamond Resorts is one of the fastest-growing all-inclusive resort chains in the Caribbean. The chain features a number of all-inclusive brands, each designed with a specific market in mind.
Royalton Luxury Resorts are known for the ultra-inclusive All-In Luxury® concept, which includes unlimited a la carte dining, free resort-wide WiFi access, 24-hour room service, programs for kids and teens, and the brand’s signature Dreambeds™ with high thread count sheets.
“We are true leaders in multigenerational travel,” says Jordi Pelfort, managing director of Blue Diamond Hotels and Resorts, Inc. “We are already home to the largest, most extensive water park in the Caribbean with Royalton Punta Cana and Memories Splash Punta Cana’s shared facilities. In fact, all of our all-ages resorts have some form of water features available, which cater to young and old alike.” The new Royalton Blue Waters—located in Montego Bay, Jamaica—features a lazy river to accompany an impressive waterpark shared by both Royalton White Sands and Blue Waters.
For an even more exclusive experience, Hideaway at Royalton Luxury Resorts are a resort-within-a-resort experience, where adults can unwind in a sophisticated and upscale environment. The all-suite resort offers a private pool and beach area with waiter service, access to a lounge area, complimentary five-minute massages by the pool, mixology classes, champagne toasts, an elevated room service menu and several other exclusive perks. Each suite features aromatherapy, an oversize Jacuzzi tub for two and a minibar stocked with premium spirits. Hideaway truly offers the best of both worlds—guests enjoy an exclusive enclave while also having complete access to the restaurants, pools and facilities of the main property.
CHIC Punta Cana brings Royalton’s high-touch service and a certain South Beach flare to the Dominican Republic, making it a hot spot for discerning adults. CHIC Punta Cana caters to adults looking for an all-exclusive social experience. With daily parties and events, this resort is the ultimate adults-only experience—plus, guests get the same level of luxury they expect from a Royalton resort.
Expect creative dining concepts, such as homestyle Italian cuisine, Middle Eastern dishes paired with belly dancing, creative sushi and ceviche, and more. Beyond the private beach and lively pool, guests can opt for a number of upgraded experiences (additional cost), such as chilling in a private cabana, taking a dip in the Mermaid Pool, rejuvenating at the onsite oxygen bar or indulging in a multicourse chef’s table experience.
With all-inclusive properties in the Bahamas, Cuba and Dominican Republic, Memories Resorts & Spas cater to multigenerational travelers with daily entertainment and top-notch dining experiences. The Memories Fun Club offers kids the opportunity to participate in supervised activities and games, hosted by popular kids’ club characters, Toopy and Binoo™. Teens also have their own lounge for socializing, playing video games and bonding over a game of ping pong.
No kids? No problem. Memories Caribe in Cayo Coco, Cuba, has recently repositioned itself as an adults-only all-inclusive property—joining the ranks of Memories Jibacoa and Grand Memories Sanctuary in Cuba.
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