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News Article

Poor pay and conditions at all-inclusive resorts

Tourism Concern report launched at House of Commons

A report on pay and working conditions at all-inclusive resorts was launched yesterday (24 March) at a meeting at the House of Commons, part of the UK Parliament. The research for charity Tourism Concern, which was supported by the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF), was undertaken in order to better understand more fully how the all-inclusive model of tourism impacts upon the rights of hotel workers. The report claims that all-inclusive resort staff have worse working conditions and labour rights and are subjected to more stress and longer hours than those in other hotels.

One of the reasons cited by the report is that all-inclusive properties have such tight margins, with so little paid for each room, that little is left with which to pay those at the bottom of the supply chain - the hotel workers.

Staff at all-inclusive hotels were shown to receive significantly less in tips, a perk on which they are often heavily reliant.

Because guests stay in the compound, working hours were also longer and more stressful.

The research is based on all-inclusive hotels in Tenerife, Kenya and Barbados. These destinations were chosen based on the existence and/or growing prevalence of AI hotels; the presence of IUF offices and/or local union affiliates; popularity with UK tourists and tour operators; established Tourism Concern contacts; and the existence of existing research or data into tourism and labour conditions.

Mark Watson, head of Tourism Concern, says that the all-inclusive industry is "stifling businesses outside the enclave and very few benefits are reaching local communities".

He said: "We are getting reports of tourists being told that their insurance doesn't cover them if they leave their hotel grounds and sometimes people will barely know where they are, paying to just sit by a pool in the sunshine."

On the positive side, some progress has been made since Tourism Concern's earlier published research in 2004: 'Labour standards, social responsibility and tourism'. This has come about in part as a consequence of collective bargaining, social dialogue and the enforcement of appropriate legislation, including the adoption of international labour standards. Barbados in particular demonstrated a model of social dialogue that appears to have had favourable results. And Tourism Concern acknowledges that the resorts do bring in jobs, albeit often on short-term contracts with little security.

The current report focuses on conditions for staff, but the all-inclusive model also raises other concerns. Local economies which rely on tourism are often disadvantaged by the all-inclusive model as most of the tourist expenditure is paid to the operator, and often little is spent in the host country outside of the hotel complex and chain of operators contracted by the tour operator.

All inclusive holidays began over fifty years ago with Club Med in Corfu. Today all-inclusive holidays attract millions of holidaymakers to custom-built tourist resorts around the world, where they pay in advance for everything they need. More and more hotels and tour operators are embracing the all-inclusive model and, according to market research company Mintel, the sector has grown by over 25% over the past five years, with mid and long-haul travel driving the market. Major UK operator First Choice, for example, started offering only all-inclusive holidays in 2012, and now brands itself as 'the home of all inclusive'. All-inclusive holidays are attractive to many customers as they know in advance exactly what the cost will be and so once on holiday don't have to worry about prices for food and drink. But this holiday model means great pressure to control food, drink and labour costs for the tour operator, and reduces opportunities for other local businesses to profit from tourism.

Anderson (2012) reports on the AI model in the Majorca, where at least 15% of tourists in 2006 travelled through AI tours. Noticeably, an AI tourist spends less than overall average tourist's expenditure per day at the destination, but spends more at the country of origin. Determinants of expenditure for travellers to the Balearics in the AI model are discussed by Anderson (2010), suggesting that the kind of the customers the AI tourism tries to attract make the least economic contribution to the destination. Also in the Balearics, Alegre and Pou (2008) find that: first, compared to other types of board, all-inclusive packages lead to a reduction in the destination's revenue from tourism. Second, all-inclusive packages are causing a significant change in the distribution of tourist expenditure among economic agents. In particular, compared to other types of board, spending in the country of origin is higher for all-inclusive tourists, while spending in the destination is substantially lower.

Bladh and Holm (2013) investigate why all-inclusive travel packages are offered at some hotels but not at others. It is suggested that countries with all-inclusive offers are characterized by a low price level and high corruption. In Mallorca, Aguilo and Rossello (2012) suggest that all-inclusive tourists have a lower level of spending, a lower ratio of repeat visit intention and a lower level of satisfaction. Sarrasin (2007) discuss Canadian mass tourism to the Caribbean. The predominance of all inclusive deals in destinations such as Cancun and Cuba has limited the benefits of tourism for other sectors of the local economies, and it has been argued that the negative economic impacts of this form of tourism outweigh its positive effects. In Cuba only 30-38% of tourist expenditure remained on the island in 2004.

Anderson et al. (2009) discuss motivation for taking AI holidays, suggesting that tourists traveling through all-inclusive tours attach more importance to the motivations related to convenience and relaxation, economies of resources as well as safety and security in their vacationing processes. Koc (2013) suggests that people who go on all-inclusive holidays consume more food and drinks (both in terms quantity and variety) and a significant proportion of them, though to a varying extent, continue their excessive consumption habits after their holidays. Issa and Jayawardena (2003) discuss luxury all-inclusives in Jamaica, and suggests that even though all-inclusives are sometimes criticized, they are seen as a necessary 'evil'. The paper concludes by predicting that all-inclusives are here to stay in the Caribbean and will play a major role in tourism for the foreseeable future.

Article details

  • Author(s)
  • David Simpson
  • Date
  • 25 March 2014
  • Source
  • Tourism Concern
  • Subject(s)
  • Hospitality Sector
  • Tourism