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The changing face of an all-inclusive holiday

All-inclusives have come a long way from never-ending buffets and wristbands that allow guests access to free-flowing drinks. Charlotte Cullinan rounds up properties adding value in a bid to stand out from the crowd.

Madonna Lobby.jpg
Madonna Lobby.jpg

Charlotte Cullinan rounds up properties adding value in a bid to stand out from the crowd

Hit the right note
Direct music lovers to Hard Rock Hotel’s all-inclusive offering, where they can choose from a unique room service menu. How about a Fender guitar, amp and headphones delivered to your room, or a turntable and selection of vinyl?


Or try Rock Om – an in-room musicinspired yoga experience, complete with kit and on-demand videos.


The five resorts also have Music Labs, where guests receive training on instruments or singing, can play in a rock band, try out DJ tools and software, or star in a music video.


Book it: Travelpack offers seven nights at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana from £1,569pp, based on two sharing a Caribbean king suite, with flights and transfers. Valid for departures between November 10 and December 21, 2019.


Ramp up the experience
Audrey Hervel, head of sales at Mauritius’s Veranda Resorts and Heritage Resorts, says: “A decade ago, all-inclusive was associated with mass tourism, ID bracelets at check-in and drinks served in plastic glasses. Things have really changed, and food and beverages are not a unique component. Customers are looking for experiences that can make their holiday special and unforgettable.”


Three years ago the group introduced a premium all-inclusive package at its Heritage Awali Golf & Spa Resort, which Hervel says has proved popular.


“Our market research showed a need for an experiential package that would cover daily spa treatments, a quad-biking tour in our nature reserve and a dinner invitation to the pop-up Boma restaurant,” she says.


“Plus [there is] a bubbles breakfast and a tour to the coloured earth of Chamarel followed by lunch in a panoramic restaurant.”


Book it: Kuoni offers seven nights in a deluxe garden view room from £2,089pp, based on two sharing. Includes flights and transfers. Based on selected departures in May and June 2019.


Active pursuits
“The all-inclusive market has significantly evolved since our first resort opened in Montego Bay in 1981,” says Karl Thompson, managing director of Sandals Resorts’ UK tour operator, Unique Caribbean Holidays UK.


“Back then, our chairman and founder, Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, was one of the first hoteliers to put hairdryers in the rooms, which was seen as a luxury item in those days.”


Now, Thompson highlights, the group’s resorts include much more, from free snorkelling trips and a surf simulator at its Beaches Turks and Caicos resort to excursions beyond the resorts with sister company Island Routes and butler service for guests in over-the-water suites. Tempt active couples with Sandals Emerald Bay on Great Exuma, where they can waterski and snorkel, and explore wrecks and coral reefs on two free dive trips.


There’s an 18-hole golf course, with complimentary and unlimited rounds available. And if they stay for three or more nights, customers qualify for a free wedding ceremony and reception.


Book it: Seven nights in a beach house luxury club level room starts at £2,345pp, including flights and transfers. Valid for selected dates between August 26-October 17, 2019.


Freedom for all the family
Suggest Rixos Saadiyat Island to balance the needs of parents seeking a luxury break and kids looking for full-on fun. Billed as “the first all-inclusive, all-exclusive resort in Abu Dhabi”, it opened in October 2018 and offers a range of free activities, including beach yoga, stand up paddle-boarding and kite surfing.


The resort has its own water park – complete with a wave pool and children’s aqua park – and kids can also tackle treasure hunts and cooking classes in the Rixy Club.


Plus there’s a gym, private beach and six on-site restaurants, with only a smattering of services carrying a charge.


Book it: Seven nights in a deluxe single garden view room starts at £2,440pp. Includes flights, departing July 11, 2019.


Get personal
Sarah Gatt, Kuoni product and purchasing executive, recommends the BodyHoliday wellness resort on St Lucia, which is famed for personalising guests’ stays with everything from customised diets and nutrition advice to tailormade fitness programmes and a pillow menu.


Gatt adds: “BodyHoliday is great because all the fitness classes are included such as Zumba, yoga and dance, as well as daily 50-minute spa treatments, plus customers can take part in sailing, diving, water-skiing and other sea activities.”


During themed travel months such as September Solos (for single travellers), master classes, lessons and events are included.


Book it: Prices start at £2,449pp for selected departures in October 2019, based on two sharing a luxury ocean view room for seven nights, including flights and transfers.


Say cheers
If the alcoholic beverage selection is a deal-breaker for a couple, highlight the complimentary sommelier-led wine tastings at Secrets The Vine Cancun. With 3,000 varieties on-site, they can sample some of the finest bottles in the world, and tastings run twice a day.


Couples can shake up their own boozy creations in cocktail classes at the AMResorts’ property, and join dance, yoga and water aerobics lessons. Guests are also invited to watch baby sea turtles hatch on the beach.


Malcolm Davies, Funway Holidays product destination manager, says: “AMResorts has gone above and beyond what guests may expect from an all-inclusive, and provides experiences that give its guests the feel-good factor.”


Book it: Funway Holidays offers seven nights from £1,395pp, staying in a deluxe ocean view king room. Includes flights, departing April 3, 2019.


Local dining
When Ikos Aria opens on Kos in May, guests won’t be limited to the eight on-site restaurants, as they will also be able to dine in selected local establishments across the island for free.


While motorised watersports and the football and tennis academy incur a charge, an extensive range of facilities are included, with windsurfing, basketball, canoeing, pedalos and mountain biking on offer. Guests also have complimentary use of a Mini Cooper for a day of their stay. Alongside the kids’ clubs, families receive 30 minutes of free beach childcare each day.


Book it: A junior suite with private garden starts at £480 per night, based on two adults and two children sharing, between May 15-31, 2019.


Wildlife wonders
For an all-inclusive with a twist Melanie Burton, Gold Medal assistant product manager, recommends the Maritim Resort & Spa Mauritius.


“A stay includes the usual amenities you would expect from an all-inclusive property, but there are very few hotels in the world boasting their own giant tortoise park, farm and equestrian centre,” she explains.


There are seven resident giant tortoises on site, and Burton advises guests to visit in the morning. “That’s when they’re most active, looking for food,” she reveals. “The animal farm is home to goats, ducks, geese and dogs, and is great fun for kids. Guests can also visit the equestrian centre to horse ride along the pristine beach, with experienced trainers on hand.”


Book it: Seven nights in a privilege room starts at £1,699pp, including flights and transfers. Valid from June 5-19, 2019.


Out on the water
If customers can bear to be parted from the turquoise lagoon at the Maldives’ Oblu Select at Sangeli, they can head out on a full moon cruise on a trip to a local island or take a guided snorkelling tour of the house reef. Guests can choose one of the complimentary excursions, alongside a sunset fishing trip.


The resort opened last July and offers the premium all-inclusive Serenity Plan offering access to fine dining experiences at two speciality restaurants. Nikki Hain, product manager at Premier Holidays, says: “This brilliant new resort in North Male Atoll is premium all-inclusive bliss and goes above and beyond a regular all-inclusive package. It also boasts a number of unique features such as an overwater gym.”


Book it: Premier Holidays has seven nights from £2,199pp, based on two adults sharing a beach villa, including flights and transfers. Valid from May 1-July 15, 2019.


A cut above
Guests staying at Unico 20°87° Hotel Riviera Maya can try a range of unique activities, from hydro-Pilates and floating yoga, to learning about astronomy and sampling local tequila and mescal. For a 25% service fee they can also enjoy excursions to the likes of Mayan ruins Chichen Itza, alongside unlimited golf, and spa and beauty treatments.


Advise gents to pop into the barber shop, which has its own bourbon and beer cart.


The adults-only property also has an extensive sports offering. Tracey Dyson, UK regional sales director at owner RCD Hotels, says: “Unico 20°87° moves the all-inclusive holiday on to the consideration list of high-net-worth couples wanting the benefits of an all-inclusive package but with a more bespoke, sophisticated feel.”


Book it: Funway Holidays offers seven nights from £1,965pp, based on two sharing an alcoba room, including flights and transfers. Based on a March 14, 2019, departure.

Snow business

For an all-inclusive option on the slopes, look to Club Med. In December, the operator opened Les Arcs Panorama in the family-friendly Arcs 1600 ski resort in Paradiski, France.


All-inclusive packages include ski lift passes and ski and snowboard lessons for all levels of expertise. O the slopes, guests can try yoga, TRX, Pilates, Nordic walking, hiking and snow-shoeing.


There are activity-packed kids’ clubs, and experienced staff accompany youngsters as they learn to ski in impressively equipped snow gardens.


When selling to parents, don’t miss the operator’s new-style family restaurant Bread & Co, where children help create dinner for their family.


For customers looking to amplify their all-inclusive experience, suggest one of the suites in the 5 Trident Exclusive Collection Space, which boast a private concierge, hot tubs and champagne each evening.


Book it: Seven nights start at £4,151 for a family of four sharing a family room, arriving April 21, 2019, including flights and transfers.

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