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Jade Mountain Resort

At one of Mexico’s newest all-inclusive resorts, you won’t find any bland buffets, crowded pool bars or fire dancers. The property’s restaurant offers a menu-less dining experience, in which every dish (enjoyed whenever and wherever you want) is tailored to your tastes. Even the wristband has gotten an upgrade: Here it’s a wooden beaded bracelet that doubles as an electronic key to your tented suite.

The adults-only, Naviva, a Four Seasons Resort in Punta Mita, which opened last year with 15 safari-style tents on 19.5 hectares, is one of many new all-inclusive properties refreshing the model. While packaged vacations have been around since the 1950s, when Club Med first introduced the concept in Spain, the appetite for them has surged in recent years. Hospitality companies are building to meet demand, but this time, it’s luxury travellers driving the new wave of properties – which means the conventional offerings aren’t going to cut it.

“Rather than a traditional resort experience, our all-encompassing stays evoke the feeling of staying at a friend’s home,” says Eduardo Sampere, Naviva’s resort manager. Rates start at US$3,950 a night and include food and alcohol, daily activities, wellness classes, one spa treatment per guest and “unscripted experiences” such as impromptu wine tastings or surprise stargazing sessions.

In Punta Mita, discover five-star tent life and fine dining

From January, 2023 to March, 2023, the demand for luxury all-inclusives in North America increased by nearly 20 per cent in comparison with the same quarter in 2019, according to data from CoStar, a global provider of real estate data, analytics and news.

Jordana Manchester, a B.C.-based luxury travel adviser with Tripzter Travel, began noticing the shift last year. “I’ve never sold so many packages in my 21 years in the industry,” she says. “My clients with families are seeking a relaxing, uncomplicated vacation, but with enough options to keep their busy kids occupied. My adventure clients who aren’t quite ready to travel further afield after the pandemic have realized all-inclusives can be customized and offer upscale offerings, and there is still plenty of adventure to be had off-resort. They just get the benefit of unpacking once and having a home base for the week.”

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The Westin Porto de Galinhas.Tadeu Brunelli/TBFoto/All-Inclusive by Marriott Bonvoy

Unsurprisingly, independent and big-name hospitality brands alike are responding. Hyatt became the world’s largest operator of all-inclusives with the acquisition of the Apple Leisure Group in 2021. By the end of this year, it will have more than 120 resorts in its Inclusive Collection.

Marriott, which had just seven all-inclusive resorts at the beginning of 2021, has since more than quadrupled its portfolio of such properties in the Caribbean and Latin American regions. The hotel giant will continue to lean into the category with more openings, including the first Marriott-branded all-inclusive resort in Cancun and a W-branded adults-only all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic.

“I call this new generation of travellers the ‘subscription generation,’” says Brian King, president of Marriott International’s Caribbean and Latin America region. “They have grown accustomed to the payment and fulfilment ease of Amazon Prime, Netflix and premade meals from Hello Fresh, so all-inclusive follows that model. These guests want no surprise bill at the end.”

Even with inflation, affluent travellers are willing to pay extra for ease, convenience and unique experiences. Virtuoso, which has a few hundred all-inclusive hotels within its luxury network, reported that year-to-date sales have surpassed those of 2022 for the same January to June timeframe by 37 per cent, and 56 per cent over 2019.

While loyalty programs drive bookings with larger brands, specialty experiences draw travellers to boutique resorts, says Cory Hagopian, Virtuoso’s senior vice-president of sales and partnerships.

As resorts move away from cookie-cutter experiences, many are now differentiating themselves by being family-focused or adult-focused (and also offering activities and amenities that cater to solo travellers). In the process, they’re addressing some of the previous flaws with the all-inclusive model.

Enhanced culinary offerings

Today’s most in-demand properties offer Michelin-level dishes with local ingredients and options for almost every dietary preference. “Sending a guest with celiac disease or a dairy allergy always felt like a gamble, but not now,” Manchester says.

At Jade Mountain Resort, an adults-only luxury property in St. Lucia, about 70 per cent of guests choose the all-inclusive meal plan. In addition to a culinary program developed by chef Allen Susser, winner of a James Beard Award, the resort’s regenerative farm anchors its menu offerings.

Other hotels, such as TRS Ibiza Hotel, the first adults-only all-inclusive hotel in Ibiza, Spain, have partnered with top-rated local restaurants to allow guests to use their dining perks off-property. Minibars are also seeing an overhaul, with properties such as the Caves Hotel in Negril, Jamaica, stocking theirs with snacks and beverages from the area.

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The Westin Reserva Conchal.Alejandro Ariel Rodriguez/All-Inclusive by Marriott Bonvoy

Multigeneration vacations

Travel agents have also seen an uptick in large families booking all-inclusives that cater to varying interests, mobility levels and ages. Club Med is one of the major players improving its multigenerational offerings. Earlier this year, it announced its refreshed brand identity, L’Esprit Libre (the Free Spirit), which aligns with its new Exclusive Collection portfolio of five-star resorts, villas, chalets and even a yacht. Its Canadian ski resort, Club Med Québec-Charlevoix, is among its top-end properties that attract skiing families by including lift passes, lessons and child care in the room rates.

Immersive wellness

Spa treatments, once considered pricey add-ons, are now often included in many packages. Some properties, including Miraval Arizona Resort and Spa – which offers more than 100 classes and activities – have taken the approach one step further by operating as all-inclusive wellness retreats. Others, such as Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge on Vancouver Island, have found success with nature-based wellness experiences that invite mindfulness (think a glacial plunge in the Bedwell River or a heart-pumping canyoning adventure that tests travellers’ nerves and agility).

Aerial, BVI, a luxury all-inclusive private island resort founded by philanthropist Britnie Turner in the British Virgin Islands, has launched a program geared toward helping veterans recover from physical, mental and emotional stress. On the menu is red light therapy, acupuncture and equine therapy on a ranch with rescued horses.

Cultural experiences

Similarly, resorts are putting more thought into their cultural programming and off-site adventures. “These newly minted resort-goers have stalked the Serengeti or hiked the Inca Trail, but they’ve never strolled the streets of Santa Domingo or had a cooking lesson in Tulum because they think of these excursions as all-inclusive adjacent, and therefore, not ‘real travel’ experiences,” Manchester says in Vancouver.

As travellers’ tastes evolve, all-inclusives are increasingly exploring creative ways of partnering with local businesses.

“There is a new set of consumer priorities around connection, wellness and authenticity,” Virtuoso’s Hagopian says. “Post-pandemic, guests are looking for more – culture, food, convenience and service – and are willing to pay extra.”

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Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa.JAMES BAIGRIE/Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa


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