Are you planning your summer vacation at the last moment, overwhelmed be trying to plan a big family holiday trip, having a fixed budget, or aiming at getting the most value for your money? Then an all-inclusive vacation package might be just the right option for you.
The all-inclusive travel and leisure concept takes its roots from the first package tours that originated in the United Kingdom with Thomas Cook’s idea to offer organised excursions in 1841 to expand to one of the leading travel agencies worldwide.
But it was the Americans to first implement a flat pricing for a range of travel and leisure services, as recorded in the Engin News from 1910: “The American practice of charging a blanket price for an all-inclusive service, whether on a street railway or in a hotel,..in marked contrast with the European zone system of railway fares and moderate price for a room in a hotel with separate charges for such service..as may be actually rendered.”
Yet, the all-inclusive vacation model originated in Europe, when in the 1950s the Belgian water polo national player and yoga promoter, Gérard Blitz, decided to create a vacation resort with an atmosphere of an Olympic village where different nationalities could come together and enjoy nature, sports, entertainment, food and relaxation. Following the philosophy that: “the aim in life is to be happy. The place to be happy is here. And the time to be happy is now” Blitz started the Club Mediterranée SA by opening his first low-priced summer colony of tents on the Spanish island of Mallorca where money was not an exchange option, as guests, also known as Gentils Members (Kind Members), were given strings of beads to use in exchange for drinks and services. Paris Match, 1965: “In these villages, money has no value. We are all billionaires! We live in a perfectly socialist economy, where everything is free for everyone.”
And as Paris Match was reporting on the revolutionary idea, Club Med was already operating 14 summer villages and 11 winter resorts, to organise its first cruise in 1966.
The hippy movement, followed by the wave of mass tourism and low-cost travelling shaped the further success of the low price and high entertainment all-inclusive model, where the typical profile of the early Gentil Member – young, single, open minded, looking for adventures, was replaced by predominantly couples with children looking for a vacation package to suit the needs of all the members of their family.
The 2000s brought in the luxury segment travel, followed by the versatility of the niche tourism, and nowadays, the all-inclusive holidays are reported to be the world’s most popular way of travelling, with data showing that three in every four holidays taken around the world last year were all-inclusive, with, naturally, the top place going to all-inclusive cruise vacations.
And with the increased offering, it becomes harder to clearly understand what is exactly offered and included when the term all-inclusive is used. Contrary to the etymology of the term, an all-inclusive package does not guarantee that all services and costs along your vacation are included and pre-paid, as different packages will offer a varying degree of food, drinks and facilities that are available free of charge. For example, an all-inclusive package could cover three fixed meals a day, or endlessly opened buffet options, the choice to dine in an á la carte restaurant, or a mixture of all; as for drinks – while typically only soft drinks and local alcoholic drinks are served within given hours, an upgrade might give you a 24 hours access to branded spirits. The combination of included and available at an extra cost on-site- and off-site amenities, along with activities and entertainment are unlimited, and one must carefully study all the conditions of his all-inclusive package as to know whether could freely use the swimming pool, gym, or sauna, get his pedicure or hairstyle, and enjoy an evening cocktail watching a show after a long day of scuba diving.