It happens every year. As temperatures drop in the north, the allure of a luxurious, sun-soaked all-inclusive vacation grows stronger. This year, of course, the urge to get away is different, as travellers and the tourism industry adjust to the "new normal" of travel during the pandemic. But surprisingly, new protocols can actually enhance the all-inclusive experience, as hoteliers up the ante with new services designed to keep guests comfortable and safe.
What to Expect
Vacationers will notice extra care as soon as they arrive at their destination. Sunwing Travel Group, for example, not only flies its own planes, but also operates ground transfers using its own vehicles, following guidelines from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control. It provides a seamless, safe, airport-to-airport-to-resort experience.
All-inclusive hotels have rolled out a variety of new practices to protect guests and staff. Upon arrival, guests are now greeted with hand sanitizer and a quick temperature check. In some locations, they may also step onto a sanitizing doormat and have their luggage sprayed with disinfectant. Guests and staff alike are required to wear masks when moving around most all-inclusive properties, and hand-sanitizer stations are placed strategically throughout hotel properties. Social distancing is encouraged through signage, including in elevators, which now have capacity limits.
Guestroom Cleaning & Sanitization
Guestrooms undergo a thorough cleaning and sanitization between guest stays. For example, at Meliá properties, rooms must be vacant for 24 hours before the next guest can move in. Rooms at Meliá, Hyatt, Hilton and several other all-inclusive properties even place a seal on the door to indicate that the room hasn't been disturbed since sanitization took place. Many hotels now provide some kind of sanitation kit in the guest rooms, complete with hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and a mask. Travellers also have the option to request that no housekeeping staff enter without permission.
Technology is a powerful tool for creating safer hotel stays. Many all-inclusive hotels have eliminated or reduced the amount of printed material, inviting guests to access menus and other hotel information via a hotel app or easy-to-scan QR codes. This is especially handy in restaurants, where socially distanced seating is the norm, and some properties have expanded their outdoor seating options. The buffet concept has changed a bit, too, with staffed food stations now the most common set-up, so that guests don't have to handle any high-touch utensils.
Guests will still find nearly all of the usual activities and diversions at all-inclusive hotels in Mexico and the Caribbean, with a few health-minded changes. Children's clubs, for example, tend to offer more outdoor activities, while gyms may require reservations or have capacity limits. Travel advisors are an excellent resource to help travellers learn more about the latest protocols.
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Words From the Experts
As the number of visitors to all-inclusive resorts continues to grow, the concept's appeal is more apparent than ever, according to Paula Miller, director of sales and marketing at Majestic Resorts. "People looking for outstanding quality for value are still choosing to travel to luxury all-inclusive resorts like ours," she says. "It truly is a luxury to stay at a 24-hour, all-inclusive resort with room service, golf, unlimited a-la-carte dining and premium alcohol all included for the price of what one night at a European Plan hotel would cost in Toronto or Montreal — not to mention that our resorts all offer unlimited luxury in our oversized suites and junior suites." And Majestic Resorts, not only follows a new health and safety protocol called Majestic Mission, but it also now provides free travel insurance for all guests
Be Live Hotels
With COVID still very much on the minds of travellers, resorts have adopted new procedures to create safe bubbles where guests can just chill and enjoy their stay without worry. "Staying at an all-inclusive resort is still the most affordable and comprehensive experience when vacationing in a sun destination," says Francisco Gamez, business development manager in Canada for Be Live Hotels. The all-inclusive experience may be different, but it maintains all the things that guests love. "Travellers can still have a great time," he explains. "The quality of the accommodation and the gastronomic services has been preserved. The main changes are related to the international safety protocol compliance."
Meliá Hotels International
Indeed, all-inclusive hoteliers follow a wide range of pandemic protocols, including both government regulations and corporate initiatives. Many companies have partnered with internationally recognized organizations to devise their policies to ensure high standards and consistency. Paradisus, ME and Melía hotels have a Stay Safe with Meliá program in partnership with Bureau Veritas, a renowned inspection and certification company.
Meanwhile, Secrets, Dreams and Now properties has developed a CleanComplete Verification program with help from Cristal International Standards. "By committing to our guests' safety throughout their stays, we're ensuring they can relax and enjoy an unforgettable vacation at a picturesque tropical destination," says Erica Doyne, senior vice president of marketing and communications at AMResorts.
Playa Hotels and Resorts
Protocol programs are also extensive at Playa Hotels and Resorts, which includes brands familiar to travellers, like Hyatt Ziva, Hyatt Zilara, Jewel Resorts, Sanctuary All-Inclusive Adult Resort and Hilton All-inclusive Resorts. "These are well-known brands that can be trusted when it comes to setting high standards for guests and resort associates," says Rose Cosentino, Playa's vice president of sales for Canada. "We've always been known for service. That's one of our core strengths, and we've upped the game."
Favourable Booking Conditions
In many cases, travellers may even find more favourable booking conditions, thanks to greater availability, extra perks and more flexible cancellation policies at many properties. Royalton Resorts, for example, has removed its single supplements, making it more affordable for solo guests to enjoy a getaway. And limited-time promotional rates are making all-inclusive stays even more attractive to travellers who want to stay at a five-star resort on a four-star budget.
Content courtesy of Ensemble Travel Group