With a plethora of new properties on the horizon, the all-inclusive proposition has never been hotter, says Karl Cushing.
Since its early beginnings in the Caribbean the all-inclusive (AI) model has swept all before it, from the package resorts of Spain and Turkey to high-end enclaves such as the Maldives where the advent of more affordable AI packages provided a major catalyst for growth by helping attract a wider audience.
The model has even taken seed in the active and adventure space, thanks in part to early innovators such as the Latin American hotel operators Explora and Tierra Hotels, who have gained popularity by bundling activities and excursions in their AI packages alongside top-notch food and drink options. These days AI breaks encompass everything from ski trips and safaris to cruise, from Regent Seven Seas’ all-inclusive Regent Experience to European Waterways’ hotel barge breaks.
Part of AI’s original appeal, of course, was its inherent value and the transparent pricing that helped travellers budget better and avoid surprise bills. Come the recession of 2008, AI breaks were a natural fit with price-savvy, value-hunting holidaymakers, not least families.
More recently, the spectre of security concerns in Europe and North Africa has massively impacted the landscape, the prolonged doldrums of Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia proving Spain’s gain. However, with all three showing signs of growth, backed by keen deals to entice back Brits for summer 2019, the battle is truly on.
Here, we look at some of the countries and resorts set to wow British holidaymakers this year.
Summer 2019 is hotting up nicely with new routes such as British Airways’ thrice-weekly Gatwick-Kos service. Others upping their game include Jet2, which has added Chania, Crete and an Edinburgh-Corfu service, and Ryanair with its new weekly Southend-Corfu and twice-weekly Liverpool-Corfu routes.
Last May saw the opening of the five-star Gennadi Grand (gennadigrandresort.com) on Rhodes, featured by the likes of Jet2Holidays and Olympic Holidays. AI rates start at £248pppn in a Double with Private Pool Sea View, based on double occupancy.
From an AI perspective, however, the most exciting mover has to be Ikos Resorts (ikosresorts.com), which opened the 411-room Ikos Dassia in Corfu last May. Selling points include its six à la carte restaurants; the Heros and Just4Teens kids clubs; and included activities, from a complimentary museum pass to the option of borrowing a Mini Cooper for a day. AI guests can also dine at local restaurants as part of their package.
Ikos Resorts is also opening the five-star Ikos Aria (ikos-aria.com) on the southwest coast of Kos on May 15 this year. It will feature 373 rooms, eight restaurants and seven bars.
July will see Palladium Hotel Group put its stamp on the Costa del Sol when it opens the 335-room Palladium Hotel Costa del Sol in Benalmádena. Jet2holidays has a seven-night AI Plus stay in a Deluxe Double or Twin at the four-star property for £733pp, based on two sharing, including flights from Manchester departing September 14, 2019 (jet2holidays.com).
Spanish newcomers include AMResorts (amresorts.com), which has just inked a deal to operate four former Hesperia-branded properties from next year. First out of the blocks will be Secrets Mallorca Villamil Resort & Spa, opening in March, to be followed in May by Secrets Lanzarote and Amigo Fuerteventura, Amigo being AMResorts’ new mid-market brand. Dreams Lanzarote Resort & Spa will open in November.
Other welcome strangers include all-inclusive pioneer Club Med (clubmed.co.uk), which returns to Spain in 2020 after a prolonged absence. The 486-room Club Med Magna Marbella will feature five swimming pools, a family water park, adult-only Zen Zone, and clubs for children aged between four and 17. Another selling point is the included activities, from flying trapeze and tennis to archery.
Ambitious Greek operator Ikos also plans to open a Spanish AI property in 2020, the Ikos Andalusia in Estepona.
This Caribbean gem is said to boast 365 dreamy beaches – one for each day of the year – and its expanding range of accommodation includes some solid AI options.
February sees the opening of Royalton’s new 288-room Royalton Antigua Resort & Spa on Deep Bay, near Five Islands Village (royaltonresorts.com). Operators featuring the property, whose talking points include its Score Brewhouse microbrewery and seven restaurants, include First Choice, TUI and Virgin Holidays, which has an eight-night AI break in a Luxury Junior Suite from £1,680pp, based on two sharing, including flights from Gatwick on June 10, 2019 (virginholidays.co.uk).
Operators growing their presence on the island include Elite Island Resorts (eliteislandresorts.com), which will open its fifth property on the island in mid-2019. Hammock Cove, a five-star adult-only retreat on the east coast, will comprise 40 one-bedroom villas, each with its own private plunge pool. Until then guests can choose between the operator’s neighbouring Verandah Resort & Spa, its St James’s Club & Villas, Pineapple Beach Club or Galley Bay properties. Best at Travel has seven-night AI breaks at the Verandah from £1,119pp including flights, based on double occupancy (bestattravel.co.uk).
Virgin Atlantic and Thomas Cook have provided a welcome boost by reprising the Winter seasonal services they introduced last year, from Heathrow and Gatwick respectively. Meanwhile, the impact of the new tourist taxes introduced by the government of Barbados last summer remains to be seen.
New all-inclusives include Accra Hotels’ adult-only Abidah (theabidahhotel.com), which opened in mid-December 2018 on the south coast near Oistins. All 44 rooms and suites include Jacuzzis and private balconies, another selling point being the Senses Studio Spa.
Sandals opens its third property on the island – a new 600-room Beaches Resort in the St Peter area – next year, although rates aren’t yet available. In the meantime guests can stay in St Lawrence Gap at Sandals Barbados or the Royal Barbados, which opened in December 2017.
All 222 rooms at the Royal Barbados are Butler- and Concierge-class suites and the property boasts a number of brand firsts, including its rooftop pool and bar, Lovers Lanes bowling alley and Chi Asian restaurant concept. Seven nights in a South Seas Crystal Lagoon Club Level Barbados Suite cost from £2,075pp, including flights with Virgin Atlantic from Gatwick departing June 14, 2019 (sellingsandals.co.uk).
TUI launched a twice-weekly seasonal service from Gatwick to the celebrity playground of Los Cabos in November backed by packages in San Jose Del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas, where the 639-room Hard Rock Hotel Los Cabos opens next spring. A seven-night AI stay at the Hard Rock costs from £1,500pp based on two sharing, including flights from Gatwick on November 7, 2019 (tui.co.uk).
November also saw Palladium Hotel Group (palladiumhotelgroup.com) open two adjoining all-inclusives in Costa Mujeres, north of Cancún. Adults-only TRS Coral Hotel is a member of Leading Hotels of the World, while family-friendly Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres Resort & Spa features nine à la carte restaurants.
In other news, AMResorts launched its new Reflect Resorts AI brand in the country back in July when it rebranded the three former Krystal Grand hotels in Cancún, Los Cabos and Nuevo Vallarta as Reflect Krystal Grands.
Openings set for early 2019 include the Royalton Cancún (royaltonresorts.com) with the Planet Hollywood Cancún; Hilton Playa del Carmen (a refurbed rebrand of the Royal Playa del Carmen); and AMResorts’ 534-room Now Natura Riviera Cancún, a new-build aimed at younger travellers, among those due before the end of the year.
New AI resorts pop up like mushrooms in the Dom Rep. Recent standouts include the 115-suite, adult-only TRS Cap Cana (tiaracapcanaresort.com), which opened in November in the Cap Cana area of Punta Cana. Selling points of the property, a refurb of the Tiara Cap Cana, include the Gravity Sky Lounge Bar, Zentropia Palladium Spa and ‘Ibiza-style’ beach club.
Another Punta Cana AI property to open its doors in November was the adults-only Grand Bahia Principe Aquamarine (bahia-principe.com/en). If guests at the 498-room property on Bavaro Beach ever tire of the facilities they can also use those at the three other Bahia Principe-branded properties in the complex.
Looking ahead, Lopesan will open its second AI property in the Dom Rep next year. The sprawling Lopesan Costa Bavaro (lopesan.com) in Punta Cana will comprise three distinct areas: Unique, Adults Only and Resort.
Meanwhile Club Med has chosen a 93-acre slice of unspoilt Miches, a 90-minute drive north of Punta Cana, for its latest venture. Slated to open in December 2019, the Club Med Michès Playa Esmeralda is an Exclusive Collection Resort and will feature four ‘boutique village’ areas. Caribbean Paradise and Explorer Cove are geared towards families, while Archipelago and Emerald Jungle are adults-only, the latter backed by the operator’s Zen Oasis wellness offering.