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All-inclusive-light: Maybe it’s a way forward

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The fuss made about alcohol restrictions at all-inclusive hotels in specific areas of specific resorts (for the record, Arenal in Llucmajor, Magalluf, Playa de Palma and Ibiza’s Sant Antoni) has spawned some odd observations.

One of these is a view that it’s only British holidaymakers who crave all-inclusive and therefore book it. It’s arrant nonsense, as can be seen, for example, from numerous German reports – ‘Mallorca All-inclusive-Angebot verboten’, ‘Kein Party-Tourismus mehr auf Mallorca’. Bild, never reticent in whipping up a sensationalist storm, did actually manage to locate the ban (more or less) – ‘All-inclusive – Bier-Verbot in Ballermann-Hotels!’ – giving it some oomph with the obligatory but redundant exclamation mark but at least pinpointing the ban to the Ballermann area of Playa de Palma. German holidaymakers, therefore, couldn’t have been under the impression that there was Bier-Verbot in Cala Ratjada or Paguera.

All-inclusive attracts holidaymakers of all nationalities, yet the British do of course, or as implied by British media, seem to have had the worst of the consequences of the Balearics tourism of excesses decree. Passed in January 2020, only now is it really having an impact. Or seemingly so, hence misleading reports which can intimate that there is a limit on drinks (there is no ban as such) across the whole of Mallorca and indeed the whole of Spain. It’s just Mallorca’s fortune (or perhaps misfortune) that the island commands the massive interest that it does and can therefore be confused with an entire country while at the same time being the focus of the endless quest for clickbait drama.

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In Playa de Palma, some 75% of hotels that come under the local hoteliers association are affected by the tourism of excesses decree – eighty of them, not all of which will have had an all-inclusive offer. In Magalluf and Palmanova, because the hoteliers association covers both resorts, there are 39 hotels – 44% – and again not all will have been all-inclusive.

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The greatest impact is therefore not being felt in Magalluf, because there are fewer hotels in the restricted area, i.e. the area to which the limit on all-inclusive alcoholic drinks applies. The president of the hoteliers association in Playa de Palma, Isabel Vidal, has said that the tourism of excesses decree pretty much affects the whole of Playa de Palma and that it has made the marketing of all-inclusive “very difficult”.

The problem is that if the offer states all-inclusive, the assumption will be that this means an all-day bar, when this clearly no longer applies – maximum of three alcoholic drinks with lunch and three with dinner; others have to be paid for. A way of dealing with this has been to publicise the all-inclusive-light offer. In Magalluf, the Hotel Samos is one establishment which does this and explains the three plus three drinks rule on its website. On marketing channels, such as Booking.com, this rule is also explained, albeit one does have to check “the fine print”.

In Playa de Palma, hoteliers are suggesting that all-inclusive-light or indeed going to half or full board is not creating great problems. They also deny that customers are not being informed, concluding that there will be a change as a result of the decree – all-inclusive will disappear in the area. One hotelier, inclined to agree with the government’s regulations, says that there will be hotels with an all-inclusive competitive advantage in the area not covered by the decree. But he’s relaxed about this. Some customers have been replaced by others.

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Perhaps there may be a trend and hotels in different parts of the island decide to go down the all-inclusive-light route. It would be ironic if government regulations that don’t apply to them nevertheless lead to the establishment of a new type of offer. But it is the marketing of the offer which remains problematic. It’s not half board, it’s not full board, it’s not all-inclusive, or all-inclusive as it has come to be accepted.

A strange thing is, though, that there has always been all-inclusive small print. Typically, this has highlighted hotel facilities that are not included. No one ever made a fuss if a session in a spa had to be paid for separately. But when it comes to alcohol, a fuss can indeed be made.

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