As vaccinations continue, worries begin to diminish, and life inches closer to a better version of the new normal, travel advisors are reporting bookings are also on an upward climb. The news is encouraging industry-wide, but particularly for all-inclusives in Mexico and the Caribbean, which continue to top the list of preferred locations among travelers these days.
When the pandemic hit, suppliers and resorts throughout the travel industry were forced to pivot to not only ensure the safety and wellness of their guests, but also maintain the pleasure points that have been the reason all-inclusives have long been in demand. Their efforts have paid off in spades, with travelers still choosing this type of getaway above all else.
That trend shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon, as families, friends, and wedding groups flock to these resorts to make up for milestones missed and celebrations long overdue. Travel Market Report decided to revisit this inclination towards all-inclusives by speaking with travel advisors about what they’re seeing and hearing in the market and how that feedback is impacting what they sell and to whom.
Jonathan Pilkington, an advisor with Pilkington Travels in Atlanta, admits that all-inclusives were not on his radar at all prior to COVID-19. In fact, before Pilkington would even consider selling an all-inclusive to his clients, he made it a point to visit several of them in 2020. “I would have been a lot slower in learning about what all-inclusives have to offer if it weren’t for COVID. But after going myself, I realized they provide you with your own little travel bubble where you don’t need to worry about going anywhere beyond the property itself.”
Safety Is Still the First Priority
There are so many reasons why all-inclusives are the preferred choice for vacationers these days and safety is high among them.
The layout and size of most all-inclusive resorts lend themselves to social distancing. Add to that controlled capacity; a climate that caters to providing dining, entertainment, and activities outdoors; and exceptional attention to sanitation and safety protocols, and it’s no wonder travel advisors are inclined to book these properties.
“Safety is such a huge factor right now,” said Ellen Geissel, an advisor with Mouse World Travel in Scotch Plains, N.J. “My phone is ringing off the hook because the vaccine is making people feel safer. And now they want to go away and relax, enjoy good food and adventures. All-inclusives take care of every aspect of a vacation and you don’t have to worry every night when you go to dinner if the restaurant will be observing protocols because your resort IS your dining venue. Staying at an all-inclusive eliminates that stress and allows people to just enjoy.”
Cruisers Are Converting
With cruising on hiatus for the past year, one of the most notable movements witnessed by the travel advisors we spoke with has been the wave of conversion of cruise clients to all-inclusive clients. According to Beverly Brown, owner of Cheesepeake Travel in Great Mill, Maryland, the transition was logical and smooth, primarily thanks to suppliers and resorts who quickly upped their game on cleanliness and instituting protocols that made clients feel safe. The value doesn’t hurt either.
“When you can price somebody to go to an all-inclusive resort on a Caribbean island or to Mexico and it’s a fraction of the cost of going to Florida in peak season where they would still have to buy their food and beverages, it’s a no-brainer [to send them to an all-inclusive],” said Brown. “Plus, the practices that were put in place made it really easy and safe for us to offer this option to our clients.” Like Pilkington, Brown decided to put these resorts to the test. She has been traveling since October and sharing her comfort level first-hand with her followers on social media.
Chuck Anderson, owner of Adventures by Anderson in Arvada, Colorado, reported that 90 percent of his business is all-inclusive resorts currently and he attributes it all to COVID. “Europe is off the table right now and people want to travel. All-inclusive resorts are available and well-priced. My cruise clients who would normally sail are very much enjoying being stationary on the beach.” Like his peers, Anderson has been traveling throughout the pandemic, posting his personal pictures and videos to inspire people. “I figure if they are unsure and they talk to me or any other travel advisor that has been there, they will gain the confidence to go. These resorts are going out of their way to make you feel safe.”
Groups are Ripe for All-Inclusives
From multi-generational families to clusters of friends, travel advisors report seeing more groups booking than usual this year and into 2022. Their motivation to finally travel again ranges from making up for lost time and milestone celebrations to those that feel they deserve a break after a year like no other. Geissel said she had a client whose husband originally wanted to get a house at the beach for their vacation. “But she told me she was tired of taking care of everyone in her house and she didn’t feel like making beds or cooking meals anymore. I convinced her to book an all-inclusive instead and now someone else will be taking care of her and her family. I’m really excited for her!”
Anderson shared a similar story, noting he currently has five families traveling in Cancun who are all friends. “They picked the same resort so they could be together finally. I think people are just dying to travel to be honest. I understand that it’s a personal choice still but the safety protocols these all-inclusive resorts are undertaking are far beyond anything I’ve seen in the United States. Once you go and see it for yourself first-hand, you are less afraid.”
Pilkington said the all-inclusive market for him runs the gamut. “I have honeymooners, trips for bachelors and bachelorettes, and people celebrating birthdays. I have clients in all those categories right now. The past few weeks have been significantly busier and the vaccines have helped change people’s mindsets to a feeling of hope.”
Brown added that if your clients are still nervous about traveling alone, consider going along with them. “It’s just an added level of comfort for some people. It means they’ve got someone who they can look to who’s in charge and is their point of contact. Showing them that you know how to navigate the travel regulations now and then guiding them through the process can make a world of difference.”
Don’t Forget to Upsell & Offer Incentives
For a multitude of reasons, many travelers are also not afraid to splurge a little for their long-awaited getaway, so don’t be shy about offering them options to upgrade when possible.
“People are more willing to spend now than they were before COVID,” said Geissel. “Many people who didn’t go anywhere last year have saved that vacation money and want to step up to a swim-up room or suite. I think there is a whole ‘I deserve it’ vibe going on. I don’t think advisors should be afraid to approach them about it.”
Also, keep in mind that many all-inclusive resorts offer programs where kids (and in some cases, even teens) stay free. Travel advisors agree these types of incentives can be a deal maker for sure.
All-inclusive resorts are ticking all the boxes these days … it’s time to inform your clients why!
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