An all-inclusive resort vacation is a safe, fun way to do everything you want at an affordable price. They offer all the amenities you could find at any other hotel, including world-class dining, entertainment, and cultural activities. Everything’s included, even taxes and tips. Travelers can fully relax, knowing that when they check out there won’t be any surprises because everything is included in the upfront rate. All these reasons and more are why we love using all-inclusive resorts in our travel programs.
Nowadays, all-inclusive resorts can be found all over the world, but that hasn’t always been the case: the all-inclusive has come a long way. So today, let’s take a look back at the history of the all-inclusive resort and learn a little about how we got here.
A variety of travel industry and world economic occurrences over the past several decades have helped shape the all-inclusive resort industry to what it is today. The first all-inclusives were created by Gerard Blitz in the 1950s, whose aim was to create “a place to be happy.” The idea that life was made to be enjoyed resounded in the post-war context. People wanted an escape to be free to recharge and relax. Blitz’s goal in founding the all-inclusive company, called “Club Med,” was to “eliminate extra charges that can sour the sweetest of vacations.”
Club Med’s offerings were a bit different from all-inclusives as we know them today. Originally, guests stayed in simple straw huts clustered together on the beachfront. The menus and other literature at locations like Club Med were only in French, and on-site purchases had to be made with colored beads. Under this unique system, Club Med thrived. Over the next several decades, Club Med continued to evolve and expand with the addition of included activities and increasingly luxurious amenities.
In the 1970s, Jamaica’s Issa family was inspired by the strength of all-inclusive cruises and Club Med Villages even in difficult economic times. John Issa established Negril Beach Village with one ultimate goal: no hidden costs. The staff spoke English, activities were more flexible, dress codes were less formal, and mealtimes were longer. The resort had a piano bar that opened at 11:00 p.m. and stayed open until the final guest left for the night. Activities included free horseback riding, sailing, cycling, and evening entertainment. While at first these resorts were for singles only, couples and then families eventually followed, and so began the modern all-inclusive as we know it today.
At first, people were skeptical of this new method of vacationing, especially tour operators and developers. But the success of the all-inclusives was soon too much to ignore, and so came an influx of money towards the development of luxurious resorts worldwide that were built for the new all-inclusive model.
Major Changes to the All Inclusive
Over the past decade there have been a few different trends to emerge within the all-inclusive landscape. These include:
- The rise of family travel
- Sport and wellness tourism
- Rise of the millennial traveler, with hotels such as the Hard Rock collection focusing on a high energy vibe with global music, fashion, and lifestyle trends
- Evolution of all-inclusive food and wine, with resorts partnering with Michelin star chefs to enhance their restaurants offerings, even including interactive and educational components into their food and beverage offerings
- Rise of “voluntourism,” CSR, and community integration
- The growth of luxury all-inclusive resorts on par with top tier properties in their destination. The economic crisis from 2008-2011 created a new all-inclusive luxury seeker who wanted to be pampered in a beautiful setting with upscale dining and trending design. Additionally, to an unprecedented degree, they were also searching for the best bargains and overall value.
Today, vacationers can be guaranteed taxes, accommodations, meals, drinks, non-motorized watersports, and evening entertainment. Sometimes even scuba diving lessons, babysitting, theme parties, concerts, and classes on cooking, foreign languages or cigar rolling are included.
The biggest challenge for these resorts is the huge rise in demand for authentic local travel experiences. When you travel to an all-inclusive resort, often times you don’t want to leave. You’ve already paid for everything, after all. Because of this, there has also been a conscious effort to reimagine group travel programs, both on-property and off, that immerses guests in the local culture.
Conclusion: Looking Ahead
What can we expect from all-inclusive resorts in the future? For starters, we are starting to see the results of pent-up demand from the past two years, and many of the large resort brands are betting big on the all-inclusive experience becoming more popular. This would seem to make sense, as guests may feel more comfortable having an all-in-one experience in a single location, rather than venturing out off-property.
In addition, we can expect nuanced evolution in the overall quality of the guest experience. For example, we may see more upscale family-centric or adults-only resorts, focused luxury and wellness resorts, or expanded services, and a continued push for more locally authentic cultural experiences.
The modern all-inclusive resort provides its guests with the perfect balance of fun, luxury, and relaxation, wrapped up in one easy package for the modern traveler. It’s the kind of reward that tends to delivers awesome results, no matter who you are or what you’re looking for.
It’s been a great 72 years since the founding of that first Club Med–here’s to 72 more!