The idea of being able to book a holiday and knowing that you don’t have to pay anything else out has a lot of appeal during these difficult economic times – and the resurgence of the package holiday has been a major trend in recent years, and shows no sign of slowing down.
In fact one of the UK’s biggest holiday companies has switched from offering flights and hotels independently to offering just package holidays from 2012 – First Choice, part of the TUI Group that includes Thomson Holidays have changed emphasis due to increasing demand.
It’s a good move in corporate terms as it makes little sense for one corporation to own two travel companies that do virtually the same thing, and First Choice offering packages only will make it quite distinctive from Thomson Holidays for the first time since they came under the TUI umbrella in 2007.
But for small businesses reliant on tourism like Menorca it’s not good news. The rise of the package holiday is hitting them hard financially, with more closing as each month goes by, while those surviving have had to cut down on the number of employees they have – leading to high unemployment in the popular holiday and surrounding areas.
The small businesses rely on tourists spending money outside of their Menorca hotels – something few people do while on a package trip – are often family run restaurants, bars, gift shops and tourist related activities such as jeep safaris, pony trekking and water based excursions, as well as independently operated island tour companies, some of whom have seen the number of tourists taking up their services cut dramatically recently.
According to an article recently in a magazine produced by the Co-operative, who as well as retail in the UK have a travel agency, they have observed a surge of people asking about all inclusive holidays in the last couple of years.
Some estimates show a rise of 50 per cent, and prices have come down as family household budgets have been squeezed during the current recession. The magazine says that a week in Menorca’s neighbour Majorca is possible all inclusive for under £400, and often it’s people who have been used to spending a lot on a holiday abroad who have been cutting back, as uncertainty over job prospects and future salaries prevail.
Expectations of what all inclusive means is unclear for some tourists, according to the Post Office Travel Services, who as well as helping to process passports provide a range of travel related services, such as insurance and currency conversion at competitive rates in branches up and down the country.
In their survey they found that four out of five holidaymakers ended up paying for things which they assumed would be included, along with their hotel and Menorca flights and transfers to and from the airport. Some of the hotels were providing buffet meals only and not a la carte, and only local alcoholic beverages – not – as many had thought would be on offer – branded drinks they would normally consume during a trip abroad.
That could be good news for bars and restaurants if four out of five taking an all inclusive trip feel disappointed, as many will then venture outside of the hotel confines and discover what local catering establishments have available – better quality almost certainly, and hopefully some local produced authentic food and drink might appeal to them, as it does to those who take Menorca villa holidays and are almost always dining out locally on a frequent basis during their holidays, as well as using the local shops.
But overall the trend towards all inclusive holidays isn’t good news for holiday islands like Menorca. tourists will be spending less, and seeing less of the island as they stay within the hotel grounds, taking away the experience of seeing some local culture and people.
For photographs of the island visit flickr.com