Matching the right client to the right all-inclusive is crucial, say operators, as the potential for complaints is much higher if you get it wrong.
The overall price tag of an all-inclusive holiday is steeper than a traditional half-board holiday and customers will feel doubly hard done by if they have spent more money and don't get the holiday they want or expect.
"When things go wrong they can go very wrong on an all-inclusive holiday as people tend to have very high expectations, particularly of the entertainment they are going to get," said First Choice head of marketing, Kyle Haughton.
The plus, however, is that popular all-inclusive resorts attract high repeat business. Satisfied clients will often choose the all-inclusive concept again and again, in many cases going back to the same hotel or another in the same group.
"Companies like Sandals have a huge repeat clientele. They have been very clever, opening resorts on several different Caribbean islands and launching a family brand, Beaches, so that they continue to attract customers looking for the Sandals experience but who want a new island or now have children and want to take them along too," explained Kuoni Caribbean product manager, Wendy Kenneally.
Better product knowledge for agents is the key to selling today's all-inclusive product, which has matured out of all recognition over the past five years.
In the Caribbean there is now an all-inclusive to suit everyone. But even in short-haul destinations operators are slowly moulding all-inclusive resorts to target different sectors of the market.
The massive growth of cash-free resorts in short-haul destinations has been mostly in the family sector. The pre-budgeting advantages of the concept, where every ice cream and fizzy drink is included in the package price, has been a huge attraction for many parents.
Mark Warner has gone out of its way to court the family market at nine of its Clubhotels in Italy, Greece, Sardinia, Turkey and Corsica where childcare for children over two and all water sports are included in the price.
For single parents, Sunworld is highlighting a number of all-inclusive properties in the Balearics and mainland Spain where it has negotiated favourable single rooms supplements or no supplements at all. "Not only are these hotels good value for money, but they are safe for single parents, usually mums, and offer excellent kids clubs for all ages," said Sunworld all-inclusive product manager, Trudy Pearce.
In the Caribbean, a number of all-inclusive companies have homed in on the family market, including Sandals, SuperClubs and FDR Resorts.
Sandals now has Beaches resorts - its family brand - in Jamaica, the Turks and Caicos Islands and Cuba. Beaches Turks and Caicos has recently completed construction of an entire Kids Village, including its own cinema, swimming pools, restaurants and disco.
FDR Resorts, originator of the 'Girl Friday' concept, this year opens its second resort in Jamaica, FDR Pebbles, aimed at adventure-loving pre-teens and teenagers.
Kuoni highlights a number of Caribbean hotels that target the family market, such as Club Rockley on Barbados, with a free child offer of £199 irrespective of length of stay.
Meanwhile, Mauritius is also trying to attract families. Sun International's Coco Beach has cornered the market successfully and Naiade Resorts' Le Tropical Hotel will become all-inclusive from November 1 and offers a Mini Club and a range of activities for children.
Industry research shows that a major reason many people choose an all-inclusive resort is because of the amount of sporting activities included in the price.
But holidaymakers who are keen to participate in sports should check the small print, as many all-inclusives include limitations, like non-motorised water sports only or one waterskiing trip per day or even per week.
Caribbean-based Sandals and SuperClubs offer the most comprehensive sports facilities. Clients can take advantage of free scuba diving and golf, as well as other sports such as waterskiing and parascending. There are also free golf and tennis clinics, often with top-class pros.
Mediterranean hotels typically don't have the range of sporting facilities found in the Caribbean but there are hotels that are targeting this market. The Forum Beach Hotel in Rhodes, for example, new to Sunworld's 2000 programme, is excellent for windsurfing.
Club Med also offer a comprehensive water sports facilities in their centres in Europe as well as Africa, the Caribbean, North America, Asia, Pacific and the Indian Ocean. New villages this season include Nosy Be, Madagascar, and Kabira, Japan. However, some water sports such as diving are at an extra cost, except in the maldives where guests get one dive a day free.
THINGS TO REMEMBER...
Agents can make hugely enhanced commission from selling all-inclusive holidays as all extras, from which they would normally make no commission, are built into the overall price.
All-inclusive clients spend a lot of time in resort as opposed to exploring the destination itself. It may therefore be better to match a client to a particular property depending on its facilities rather than by country.
Ask the client if they have any specific interests such as water sports, golf or health and beauty, and match the client accordingly.
Explain to the client exactly what is included in the all-inclusive price so they know what to expect. Some change extra for spa treatments and diving.
All-inclusives can be poor value for older clients who do not wish to drink to excess or take advantage of free water sports.
If a client wishes to budget costs, short-haul all-inclusives are ideal for parents with children who want a range of water sports, kids clubs and a short flight. Long-haul destinations such as the Dominican Republic can offer good value for couples who do not mind travelling that bit further.
All-inclusive resorts attract high levels of repeat business. Follow up the booking to check the client was satisfied. This will go a long way to get them to repeat the experience next year.
Don't forget to offer clients the all-inclusive option if they want to get married overseas. Most will be willing to pay for the extras they need anyway so it will be easier to switch-sell to a cash-free resort, where they can relax without any concerns on their honeymoon.
Sandals Resorts is launching a free weddings package for 2000 available at all of its cash-free Caribbean properties except Cuba.
The company's existing WeddingMoons package, which costs £495 per couple, will still be available, but couples staying 14 nights and booking four rooms for themselves and their friends and family will now be eligible for a free wedding.
"Because 2000 is a leap year we are sure it's going to be a boom year for proposals and therefore for weddings," explained Sandals Resorts managing director international markets, Chris May.
SuperClubs has offered free weddings at all of its properties in Jamaica and the Bahamas for some years, while Odyssey resorts in Antigua, St Lucia and the group's Mnarani Club and Turt le Bay Beach Club in Kenya feature free weddings when the wedding party includes at least eight adults staying a minimum of 14 nights.
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