Authentic, Experiential… All-Inclusive?

KayakerAll-inclusive vacations have come a long way from the long buffet lines and less-than-stellar accommodations of twenty years ago. The all-inclusives of today provide everything from great food to romantic getaways to family friendly fun – with the ease and convenience of having everything at one price, and usually one place. The hottest trend in the category, though, goes in a surprising new direction – by getting travelers off the resort.

While certain brands, particularly Sandals, have long offered excursions into local areas for an additional fee, the new trend is building experiences right into the price. For example, the Unico 20°87° resort in Riviera Maya Mexico offers select local tours in the all-inclusive rate that focus on destinations where locals are more likely to be found than tourists. Hotel Xcaret, also in Mexico, offers access to its eight eco-parks as well as immersive experiences into local Mayan culture – at no additional cost to the guest.

These examples prove that the industry is finally acknowledging that travelers have more complex needs than they’re often given credit for. While all-inclusives typically cater to the “fun in the sun” crowd, and experiential travel companies focus on high-octane adventures, many travelers are actually craving something in the middle. In fact, this new model fits the needs of nearly every major travel segment, from millennials to boomers to solo travelers. Here’s how:

A recent survey from Airbnb that polled millennials from the UK, US, and China confirms what is commonly known. At least 81% from each geography said they were “looking for an adventure” while they traveled and were “looking for a unique travel experience.” They don’t want cookie cutter experiences. At the same time, it’s well known that millennials often seek the help of travel agents to make their travel decisions and are embracing the ease of cruise travel. Any company that can combine adventure and convenience is likely to attract members of this financially significant cohort.

Gen Xers, on the other hand, will find different benefits to these new types of all-inclusives. Gen Xers are likely to be traveling with their families, and they also likely to spend more on travel than other generations. A recent survey showed that 62% of GenXers were interested in going to an all-inclusive resort with their family in the future. Resorts with unique experiences built in will provide the additional draw of giving the whole family a trip to remember, while providing essential conveniences for traveling with children, such as on-site dining.

Baby boomers, perhaps are full of the most surprises. A recent report shows that boomers are beginning to shift away from traditional relaxation vacations and more toward those with some adventure aspects. Some 38% are still seeking relaxation, though, so a resort that offers both could be very appealing. All-inclusives also meet the mark on providing peace of mind about the total cost of the holiday.

And finally, experiential all-inclusives fill a need for travelers who want to be more adventurous but don’t yet have the confidence to go it completely alone. Solo travelers, particularly women, may find such resorts a good starting place for getting their feet wet in more adventurous pursuits.

As the travel market continues to evolve, one thing is clear: travelers don’t always fit into one mold or another. Travelers have complex needs and often want to balance both relaxation and adventure. The growing popularity of experiential travel, along with the parallel growth in all-inclusive holidays, perhaps provides a glimpse not into two unique sets of travelers, but into different aspects of travel that the majority are seeking – and now finding.