The rise and rise of the all-inclusive holiday is often hailed as a success that had to be rescued from its insalubrious birth pangs in the Nineties.
It was then that the big sun and sand tour operators started marketing low-cost packages to the Caribbean as a way of appealing to families who wanted to fix the price of their holidays upfront. Lukewarm buffets led to outbreaks of food poisoning and unlimited alcoholic drink to outbreaks of unedifying debauchery.
In fact, the concept of an all-inclusive holiday has a venerable history. Full-board, where all meals are included (although not usually drinks) was being offered by hotels in the 19th century; it was integral to the idea of ski, chalet and house party holidays developed by Erna Low in the Thirties and Forties; and has been common for decades in old-fashioned seaside hotels in northern France. It was the package holidays of the Sixties and Seventies where B&B and half board became the norm.
But wherever you start in the long history of such things, after the Nineties the popularity and variety of all-inclusive trips have burgeoned. For Tui, Britain’s biggest tour operator, it’s central to its flagship Sensatori brand launched a decade ago, which offers 10 five-star hotels with all meals, drinks and entertainment in the price. One of its newest additions, the Tui Sensatori Atlantica Dreams Resort and Spa in Rhodes, has seven “gourmet” restaurants including one Italian, one “American-inspired” and a contemporary Greek.
Choices of that kind are vital to success at the top end of the market. Guests who are paying a premium for their holidays don’t want to be limited to a single restaurant, or to a basic selection of wines and spirits. Many top-end hotels and operators now offer remarkable variety to their clients on an all-inclusive basis.
Including your food and drink in the holiday price is not unique to beach resort packages. Many cruises, safaris, ski and adventure holidays are also effectively all-inclusive. Here are 30 of the best options for 2020.