All-inclusive hotels are vying to offer the largest range of on-site amenities and off-site excursions, says Nick Easen
Holidaying in an all-inclusive hotel used to mean a week wearing a groove between your room, the restaurant, the pool and the beach.
Now, it’s all very different, with many properties offering a mind-boggling array of on-site amenities, as well as off-site excursions.
Check in to the five-star, all-inclusive Fortina Spa Resort in Malta and you can get a fish pedicure.
Head for the Jebel Ali Golf Resort in Dubai and staff will take you out to its desert ranch where you can do a bit of ‘camel cuddling’, which involves dressing, feeding and washing the creatures.
Or, if you fancy flame throwers and acrobats to rival any Cirque du Soleil show, sign up to the Pirates Adventure theatre excursion when you check in to the all-inclusive Playa Mar Hotel in Majorca.
Juliet Darlington, Hayes & Jarvis product manager for the Indian Ocean, says: “For many holidaymakers, an all-inclusive break screams ‘save money, but stay put’.”
Some clients won’t feel the need to leave the hotel, especially if an operator such as Hayes & Jarvis books them into a property such as the Heritage Awali in Mauritius, which includes an on-site championship golf course (pictured below), water sports, spa, and even a nature reserve.
But there will always be those who want to get out and about. As a result some operators and all-inclusive resorts offer seamless add-ons where they’ve teamed up with external providers to offer off-site activities – albeit at an extra cost.
The all-inclusive Constance Halaveli Resort in the Maldives with Kuoni has tied up with TGI Maldives, a specialist dive operator. Olympic Holidays has popular pre-bookable Red Sea diving packages you pay extra for alongside your all-inclusive holiday to Egypt.
As Photis Lambrianides, commercial director at Olympic Holidays, explains: “Highly competitive dive companies keep their prices at a good level here. This is why our diving clients are happy to go outside their all-inclusive accommodation to enjoy the expertise of these dive schools. They’re the experts.”
When Funway Holidays books clients into Moon Palace Golf Resort & Spa in Cancun in Mexico it offers excursions such as horse riding (from £44) and a Captain Hook themed buffet dinner cruise (from £53) through a local operator.Yet Funway also offers resort credits to encourage clients to stay on-site. At the Moon Palace you get a resort credit of up to
$2,500, which can be used against spa treatments and dolphin swims.
Club Med has been offering resort credits recently in order to encourage bookings for Sandpiper Bay, Florida, its only all-inclusive property in the US.
Hotels make sure guests are kept notified about facilities and excursions so they can choose for themselves what to do.
The Hillside Beach Club in Fethiye, Turkey, regularly notifies guests about its sunrise yoga on-site, free sailing on catamarans or Kidside, the club for the Turkish resort’s four to seven-year-olds, or off-site excursions including cruises, cultural trips to Ephesus or jeep safaris.
Those who stay at La Source in Grenada with Virgin Holidays have an itinerary posted to their room every evening about activities, classes and social gatherings happening the following day.
On-site kids’ clubs can really sell an all-inclusive break to families – it’s why the likes of the Fujairah Rotana in the United Arab Emirates promotes its graffiti room and Flippers Kids’ Club, and why Club Med has a children’s education programme focused on nature and local culture.
Properties that divide kids by age group such as Riu Hotels’ are also advanced in their children’s offerings, as are those such as Beaches Resorts in the Caribbean with its branded Sesame Street characters, or LykiaWorld Olu Deniz in Turkey, a resort with a two-hectare entertainment complex for children.
Water parks on-site are also a big seller for families, such as the Marina Park in Majorca or the Coral Sea Splash Resort in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. The popularity of slides, pools and splashing around are the reason why Thomas Cook has its Aquamania and First Choice its SplashWorld programmes, which feature a number of all-inclusive properties.
For sporty couples and older families, some properties offer yoga and pilates classes including the newly opened Levante Beach Resort in Rhodes, offered by Mark Warner. There’s archery at Le Source in Grenada and Greg Norman-inspired championship golf at Sandals Resorts in Jamaica, Saint Lucia and Barbados.
Many properties offer complimentary shuttles to nearby towns, ports or bazaars, plus a range of excursions available as added extras.
Riu Playa Turquesa offers day-long jeep excursions into Cuba’s green interior, fishing trips, and tours of Santiago de Cuba, considered the birthplace of the Cuban revolution – suitable for culture lovers and adventurous couples.
Makadi Palace Hotel on Egypt’s Sinai can arrange a spot of quad-biking in the desert giving guests the chance to spot both Bedouin tribes and camels.
Club Med has rolled out an extensive excursion programme at all its resorts worldwide. At one of its newest properties in Egypt, Sinai Bay, there is a wide range of tours including trips to Petra in Jordan and St Catherine's Monastery in the desert.
Laurent de Chorivit, managing director of Club Med UK, explains: “We also make it easy for guests to explore at their own pace. Guests staying at Club Med Le Palmeraie and the sister property Le Riad in Marrakech can take advantage of a free shuttle service so they can experience the bustling and vibrant souk.”
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