The mention of ‘all-inclusive’ properties a few years back might only have spurred the singular image of sun-soaked leisure travelers lazing along a sandy beach.
Today, however, these properties have become popular sites for meeting travelers, and have branched out from the beach to the deserts, mountains and beyond—offering a gamut of options for planners seeking a wallet- and worry-free setting for their groups.
Here’s a look at some news, trends and tips from all-inclusive resorts ranging from Mexico to Alaska.
Tom Carr, a longtime authority on all-inclusive travel, shares a tempting tip for groups heading to the Riviera Maya—and some insights on the current waves in the arena.
“At the El Dorado Casitas Royale, there are sections of casita suites that feature a swim-up bar with a bartender and poolside wait staff for each ‘pod’ of suites,” explains Carr, president of All-Inclusive Outlets and a consultant for El Dorado Resorts. “Groups can reserve ‘sections’ or ‘pods’ of Casitas, so a group of 40 might reserve one pod and larger groups could continue to block out additional sections to accommodate larger groups.”
Grills also are set up throughout the day, with food and drink provided. The approach allows for groups to maintain their own level of privacy without taking over the entire property, and—according to Carr—“makes for a very unique experience where the group can have a place to congregate.”
Carr adds that with the evolution of all-inclusive vacations to include every kind of visitor, from budget to high-end, he sees demand for all-inclusive properties growing on a daily basis.
“High-end chains like Fairmont have recently experimented with a form of an all-inclusive package, while The Ritz-Carlton in Jamaica has offered all-inclusive options for years,” he remarks. “It isn’t just about buffet and cheap booze any more. This is the direction that hotels are moving in.”
At the renowned Arizona Grand in Phoenix, the economic strain some groups are under prompted the offering of an essentially all-inclusive small meetings package a little over two years ago, for groups of 10 to 50.
“What prompted the move to do this was the fact that in 2009 we were seeing an influx of smaller meetings that were on tight budgets due to financial constraints on spending within various companies,” Julia Austin, executive meetings manager for the Arizona Grand, explains. “This option gave them the opportunity to offer a full day of meals, AV, meeting space and upgrades at a more affordably packaged price.” The hotel features 740 guest rooms along with 117,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space.
Group Lure in Alaska
For planners seeking adventure in an all-inclusive setting, Alaska’s Waterfall Resort offers the chance to experience not just a resort but a destination. Nestled on Prince of Wales Island—a short distance from Ketchikan—the property offers sport fishing for all levels and has attracted countless groups from sectors such as the automobile industry, the tire and battery field, and pharmaceuticals, as well as the beer and spirits industry, according to Marketing Director Chuck Baird.
“Most come with a common motivational thread: ‘What is the next level of reality travel experiences that I can offer my employees and clients to achieve our goals?,” Baird says. He adds that with corporate travel being viewed as an unreasonable perk by some individuals, the resort has launched a corporate social responsibility platform helping groups co-op their incentive trips with a worthwhile charity.
Among the resort’s numerous unique elements are an on-site Alaska Airlines agent for departing guests, from whom they actually receive a boarding pass and seat assignment and check their luggage before being whisked away to nearby Ketchikan aboard a floatplane.
And for groups actually looking to get some business done, an AV-ready conference room for up to 40 attendees can be found on-site. The Waterfall boasts 44 guest rooms that include eight suites, along with 1,500 square feet of meeting space.
The IACC Perspective
With the International Association of Conference Centers (IACC) offering its own form of “all-inclusive” stays—in the form of a CMP (complete meeting package) or MMP (modified meeting package)—Meetings Focus West checked in with Chris Kenney, a regional vice president of sales and marketing with Destination Hotels & Resorts.
The company manages a number of IACC properties, including Skamania Lodge outside Portland, Ore., and Kenney offered up some insights on the current pulse of all-inclusive meetings, and the properties that accommodate them.
Regarding some of the most appealing aspects of all-inclusive IACC meetings for planners and groups, he says the inclusion of AV, ergonomic seating and endless access to buffets and break stations are among the highlights.
“I think that you will see more properties try to offer ‘all-inclusive’ packages but the challenge for these properties is, do they completely understand what a CMP or MMP is and do they embrace the full concept?” Kenney remarks. “Additionally, do they have the proper equipment to provide the product?”