The situation in Greece is very grim, with economic output more than 20% below its 2007 level and one in four workers unemployed. The Syriza party which won power on 26th January was reported to be considering banning all-inclusives. Tsipras, now Prime Minister, had said in early December, that “We don’t agree with establishing an ‘all-inclusive’ resort model, which to a great degree cuts off tourism from local economies” and he was reported as favouring a growth in domestic tourism, difficult to achieve in a recession. Tourism employs one in five Greeks and accounts for a fifth of the economy, making it a political issue.
There is a growing market for all inclusive holidays and plenty of supply – banning them may merely result in the business being displaced elsewhere. Elena Kountoura, the new Greek tourism minister from the right-wing Independent Greeks party in Tsipras’s coalition, told reporters on 29 January “There won’t be any action against all-inclusive holidays… “On the contrary, further upgrading the quality of these packages will boost and extend benefits in local markets and communities.”
Despite the recession in Europe and the fall of living standards across the EU the numbers of people taking holidays abroad has held up well. As a consequence of falling or stagnant living standards and the rise in the cost of heating and running a car household discretionary spend is under considerable pressure. It is a mark of how important an annual holiday has become, now seen by many in developed economies as a necessity, and by some as an entitlement. This is a major achievement by the industry – people now expect to take a holiday away from home, often abroad, and they will cut back on other spending when necessary to have that week or two away.
However, money is tight, people have less to spend and they are insecure in their jobs. Consumers are averse to the idea that they might find them spending more than they planned on food and beverage or on activities and fearful of the impact of a fall in the value of their discretionary spending money. In these circumstances an all-inclusive package becomes very attractive, particularly if it includes the ice-cream and children’s activities. It avoids the parent-child arguments about what they can and can’t have, priceless.
So it is not surprising that the 2008 crisis had a big impact on the number booking all inclusives. In the four years 2007 to 2010, the market share of all-inclusive doubled from 17% to 34% in the UK. And from April 2012, First Choice became an all-inclusive brand and Holiday Village and Splashworld hotels have become all inclusives.
70% of those surveyed by Tourism Concern had been on an all -inclusive holiday, and of those holidaymakers, 32.8% reported that they never left the resort to visit a local restaurant, and 34.47% never went on an excursion outside the resort. Tourism Concern reports that 55% of respondents to a survey felt that the shift towards all-inclusive holidays is a negative development. However, 42% of the those surveyed reported that they are likely to go on an all-inclusive holiday in the next two years.
ODI conducted research for TUI in 2011-12 on three First Choice Holiday Village hotels, in Turkey, Greece and Tunisia. They found that “The amount of produce sourced in-country by the hotels differed dramatically across product categories, and was largely driven by national policies on importing food and the availability and competitiveness of the country’s supply chain. In Greece, much of the produce used in the Holiday Village originated outside of Greece but was from within the EU, as was the case generally across the region. The proportion of imported produce used in the Holiday Villages in Turkey and Tunisia was much lower, in line with availability and with the national policies of those countries.” The challenge is for Greece to work with the all-inclusives to increase the amount of local sourcing that is possible and to increase the linkages into the local economy.
We should be judging tourism on its impacts rather than just its form.