There are hotels on the French
Riviera (among other places) that, in addition to the premium
nightly rates they charge, ding guests with fees to use their pools
and beaches. Breakfast included? Dont even ask.
I suspect that even
the uber-wealthy resent seeing these charges on the bills. On the
other end of the hospitality scale are the all-inclusives, which,
over the years, have included more and more options for whats
included in all.
Especially in the
last year or two, all-inclusive companies have made specific
attempts to appeal to a higher and higher economic demographic.
Sandals The Butler Did It campaign indicates that the types who
might normally spend a week in St. Tropez are targeted somewhere in
that companys business and marketing plans.
The nature of
all-inclusives also has evolved in other ways. When they first came
to notice, all-inclusives were about brands rather than
destinations. You were sold on the concept of Club Med, Sandals or
SuperClubs as much as the destinations where they arose.
But that, too, has
changed, most noticeably in Cancun. There, the destination and the
term all-inclusive have become almost synonymous. Cancun, a totally
planned resort area, wasnt developed with all-inclusives in mind.
And when they first started appearing, there was great skepticism
that they would get even a toehold in Cancun sand.
Part of that
skepticism was based on the idea that all-inclusives thrived in
places that were considered attractive but dangerous. When they
started appearing in Jamaica, the island was best-known for
beautiful beaches, Marxist politics and drugs.
enclaves where you didnt have to venture out of the gates even to
find a restaurant or souvenir store. (And by paying for everything
in advance, you werent even tempted.)
But the resort area
of Cancun has always been viewed as safe. Theres little on the
peninsula reminding you that youre in a developing country.
All-inclusives are attractive there because, it turns out, the
concept is attractive.
A critical turning
point in the concept of all-inclusives might have been reached in
2005. Every year at Travel Weeklys Hawaii Leadership Forum, I ask
wholesalers whether all-inclusives will ever take root in the
islands beyond whats found at the Kona Village Resort on the Big
Island. And every year the idea has been dismissed out of
A panel of
wholesalers I moderated that included representatives from Pleasant
Holidays, Apple Vacations, Continental Vacations and MLT Vacations
did not embrace the concept of all-inclusives for Hawaii, but for
the first time they acknowledged Hawaii needs to answer the
challenge. They have seen a huge rise in their all-inclusive
business elsewhere and recognize that the islands need to
Part of their
protest that Hawaii does not need all-inclusives may be political
in nature. Hawaiians are proud of the culture and beauty of the
islands, and it would be a brave wholesaler indeed who suggests
that one property owner could successfully monopolize control over
a travelers Hawaiian experience.
But a political
shift may have already occurred. Wholesalers might be looking over
their shoulders not only at all-inclusives, but at the entry of
Norwegian Cruise Line into the Hawaiian market.
Tim Irwin, CEO of
Pleasant Holidays, wondered aloud whether NCL is primarily offering
a Hawaiian experience or a typical cruise experience. Ken
Pomerantz, MLTs vice president of sales and marketing, noted that
the question may be irrelevant -- with NCLs 100% occupancy, it is
demonstrating that theres a big market for travelers looking for
alternatives to typical Hawaiian offerings.
The evolution of
all-inclusives leads me to believe they can be viable in any
beautiful destination. And NCL has shown the marketability of
Hawaii may be more elastic than previously thought.