Wednesday, May 03, 2017

The False Claims For All-Inclusive

A ban by Mallorca's hoteliers on offering all-inclusive to UK holidaymakers. No sooner had this headline appeared than the cheers were ringing out. Salvation was at hand for bars and restaurants that have struggled under the yoke of all-inclusivity for years: too many years to mention. Such a ban would be the death knell for the all-inclusive. Its obituary was already being written. If only.

Curious things can happen which change business strategies and business marketing. An avalanche of false compensation claims for diarrhoea and gastric complaints falls into the curious category. No one could have anticipated that these claims might signal the end of the reviled all-inclusive: reviled, that is, by a section of the holidaymaking public but not by another but most certainly by the non-hotel complementary sector.

The point is that all-inclusive is not in a process of dismantlement. It would just be the British tourist who is barred from obtaining a wristband and from enjoying the dubious pleasures of endless queuing for dubious quality refreshment. And such a characterisation is itself false in terms of the whole offer of all-inclusive. Some of it is rubbish, some of it is not. It very much depends on the type of establishment, the type of establishment classification, the type of clientele, and the type of socioeconomic classification of that clientele (its money, therefore).

The delights of all-inclusive would instead be diverted to tourists from other nations. French, Swiss, Dutch will suddenly be able to indulge themselves in all-inclusive heaven. As though they haven't been able to already. The threat by the Mallorca Hoteliers Federation to cease offering all-inclusive to the UK market may not be an idle one, but its practicality is another issue. Demand may be a further one. Tour operator strategies for these alternative markets would be yet another. A swift U-turn in their product marketing will be required for 2018 if the British are to be denied their all-inclusive rights.

The UK market, in all its guises, is the second largest for Balearic tourism. It dwarfs the supply of touristic human resources from other nations. The hoteliers' threat would be difficult to follow through. It might not come about in any event if the UK justice system moves with greater alacrity than it has thus far. The threat had a sense of the good headline rather than anything definitive.

The false claims are reprehensible as well as being illegal under both UK and Spanish law. Their number, though, should make one wonder about the coherence of UK justice. Is there no database of claims? The fact that the same claim in very much the same form, directed at very much the same hotels, being made by very much the same intermediaries must surely have alerted someone to the existence of an organised fraud. Seemingly not.

This has become an issue of such significance that it has risen to the state level. The hoteliers have themselves insisted that it is a matter of state. But while far from condoning the claims, have the hoteliers not engaged in some dissembling? Reports for Mallorca as to the scale, cost and growth of claims bear a remarkable resemblance to those for Spain as a whole: the same figures in other words. Still, it's all good stuff for news management on the local hoteliers' behalf.

Is there, one might ask, another agenda: an opportunity being spied? Think of Magalluf and how there has been some jumping for joy at the fact that the resort is now less dependent on the British. The transformational process of Meliaisation has opened the gates to the resort to Swiss, Russians and others. The sub-text, barely disguised, is that these other markets will bring greater riches. The thinking, a highly generalised one, is that the British are low-rent, in addition to being drunk and almost unrecognisable because of tattooed adornment.

The false claims, targeted principally at the economy-class giant all-inclusives, just serve to reinforce this negative image of the British. They can therefore provide a means to an end, one of altering the tourism nationality marketing mix. Perhaps a post-Brexit apocalypse is also entering the thinking, but why should there be such a thing? Tourism life will continue, untrammelled by notions of what may or may not constitute freedom of movement in the future.

Brexit may, though, influence hotelier thinking regarding all-inclusive. Before the bombshell and supported by general European economic recovery, the hotels were moving away from all-inclusive. There are definitely examples of ones which have now either abandoned it, have reduced it or are contemplating doing so. Brexit, or rather foreign exchange, may just demand a rethink, hotelier threat or not; negative image of the British or not. The truth for the hoteliers is that they cannot do without the British, and they know it.

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