Sunday, May 15, 2011

For Whose Benefit?: All-inclusives

"The benefit it brought its surrounding area."

If you make a statement such as this, without qualifying it, you can bet your life that someone - me - will hunt for some qualification.

The quote is from a short piece on Saturday in "The Bulletin" about TUI conducting a pilot study of the effects of all-inclusive hotels.

The study was undertaken in Turkey. At the Holiday Village in Sarigerme. The news item gave no detail, so let me now do so.

The benefit that TUI claims relates to what the hotel complex spends within Turkey itself. 55% of its total outgoings. This is not, though, the complete story. The study found that only 11% of tourist spending benefited the regional economy, a mere fifth of which found its way into the pockets of businesses in the village of Sarigerme (not the village's actual name, but let's not worry about this) and the surrounding area. How much does this equate to? One million euros. The study would appear to have been for the 2009 season.

According to First Choice's website, the Holiday Village has 500 rooms, sleeping up to four people. Work it out for yourselves. Over a six-to-seven month period, one million euros will be spread pretty thinly; though Sarigerme is not a huge resort, it is a resort nevertheless.

The gloss in the report about the study is the so-called benefit of spending within the country. But so what? Hotels, in all sorts of places, source stuff locally, including Mallorca and including Mallorca's all-inclusives. There's nothing particularly remarkable about this. And even when stuff is sourced locally, as with the local booze that is commonly served in all-inclusives, and would appear to be at the Holiday Village, it isn't always to the punter's delight.

TUI know full well that all-inclusives have an impact. With the release of the information about this pilot study, the company is seeking to change the bad impression of all-inclusives. "Little research has been carried out" into the effects of all-inclusives, say TUI, implying that an absence of research means that the harm caused by all-inclusives has not been proven.

It is a diversion on the part of TUI to highlight matters of sourcing and employment, as it finds it hard to make a good case for all-inclusive impact on other elements of the local business scene. It is a diversion that shields behind its much-publicised and self-aggrandising sustainable tourism, of which purchasing local produce and giving people a job are two aspects.

I don't question TUI's sincerity, but they aren't being quite straight. It seems no coincidence that, a month after First Choice made the announcement that it would only offer all-inclusive packages as from next year, TUI should now wish to show how such holidays can be of benefit.

The latest announcement echoes one of the laughable bits of spin that First Choice came out with - that of excursions which will enable its guests to get a taste for their destinations and to spend some money. At the Holiday Village, the guests will be able to enjoy a "walking tour" to the local village. For God's sake.

Don't be fooled by any of this. The pilot study may be "research", it might even be good and rigorous research, but it is being done in the name of public relations. TUI have a point in that the impact of all-inclusives has not been well-researched, but the body of knowledge is growing. The company may like to know that the 11% of tourist spending is below that of 20% found by research in Hawaii. It may also like to know that Mallorcan research has revealed spend by all-inclusive guests to not just be the lowest among all categories of tourist but also over a third less than the next lowest-spending group.

But there is research and there is research, and it depends on the characteristics of different markets. Mallorca is not the same as Turkey because it is a far more mature tourism destination. The impact of all-inclusives might well be greater in more mature markets; this should be a strand of research in its own right. TUI say that more studies will be done. If so, then let them come to Alcúdia or Magalluf. Better still, give me the research spec, and I'll do it for them.

Any comments to please.

No comments: