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Warning: Many 'all-inclusive’ holidays don't include everything

Warning: Many 'all-inclusive’ holidays don't include everything
Emma Lunn
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Emma Lunn

A study by Which? found that holidaymakers on “all-inclusive” breaks are routinely spending hundreds of pounds extra on food and drink.

The consumer champion found some tour operators were neglecting to include the basics, such as soft drinks and local alcoholic drinks, in the headline price of all-inclusive holidays.

Which? surveyed nearly 2,000 holidaymakers about their experiences of all-inclusive holidays in the past two years. Researchers asked them to rate their provider on seven categories including customer service, accommodation, how well the description matched the reality, included benefits and value for money.

Paying for extras

The study found that many all-inclusive holidays were far from all-in, with survey respondents paying out an average of £258 a week extra.

More than one in 10 (13%) people across the survey reported having to pay extra for local soft drinks on their “all-inclusive” break as they were not included in their package, while almost a fifth (18%) of people reported having to pay extra for snacks.

Just 79% of respondents reported having local alcoholic drinks included. For branded and premium alcohol the percentage fell further still, with only four in 10 (43%) respondents reporting these were available at no extra charge.

Two-thirds (67%) of holidaymakers found cocktails were included in their package, and half (51%) could get a bottle of wine at no extra cost.

The best and worst all-inclusive holiday companies

When Which? looked at individual holiday companies, it found stark differences between what was and was not included.

Those who booked via Expedia ended up spending the most on extras on their all-inclusive holidays, with an average reported spend of £165 per week in the hotel/resort, and £228 outside of it.

Only about four in 10 (44%) Expedia customers reported local alcoholic drinks were included, dropping to a quarter (25%) for branded alcohol. Even local soft drinks were missing for many – just under three in 10 (29%) reported having to pay extra for these.

Customers rated the firm just two stars for the range and quality of extras that were included in the price, and were far from impressed in other areas, with an overall customer score of 67% placing it firmly in the bottom half of the table.

The worst performing company overall was Lastminute.com with a customer score of 63%. Although it scored three stars for value for money, it managed no higher than two stars in any of the remaining categories, including customer service, accommodation and included benefits.

Just under two in five (39%) customers reported local alcoholic drinks were included, and less than a third (32%) could access branded alcohol at no extra cost. This could explain why its customers had some of the largest extra spends at an average of £128 in the resort, and a further £238 outside.

Loveholidays customers were close behind in terms of their average extra spending, splashing out a further £328 per week. Almost a quarter (24%) of guests reported having to pay extra for snacks and local alcoholic drinks in the resort, and almost four in 10 (38%) had to pay more for cocktails.

Some guests also encountered some unexpected hurdles when it came to dining – one said that “meals were served cold and you had to reheat them in the microwave in the dining room.” Overall, the firm took 14th place in the rankings with a mediocre customer score of 69%.

At the other end of the table, Which? Recommended Provider Jet2holidays took top spot with an impressive customer score of 82%. It scored four stars for value for money, transportation, organisation, how well the description matched the reality and customer service.

Most travellers found everything they expected, with almost nine in 10 (86%) reporting that local alcoholic drinks were included, and almost eight in 10 (78%) finding snacks available at no extra cost.

Luxury operator Kuoni came a close second, with a customer score of 81%. Though it too scored a raft of four-star ratings, including for customer service and included benefits, its three-star rating for value for money meant it missed out on a coveted Which? Recommended Provider badge.

Over-50s firm Saga came third with an overall customer score of 80%, and was the only other firm to be awarded the prestigious Which? Recommended Provider badge.

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “When budgets are tight, all-inclusive holidays surge in popularity, seemingly offering people a straightforward way to keep holiday costs under control with food, accommodation and drinks all wrapped into the price.

“However, our latest research has found that some all-inclusive holidays are far from being ‘all in’, with some unfortunate guests finding that even basic items like soft drinks weren’t included. If you’re thinking of going all-inclusive for your next getaway, it’s worth taking the time to research what’s on offer – check the terms and conditions carefully to see what’s included, and read reviews from other guests to make sure you won’t be left out of pocket.”