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A New Era of All-Inclusive Resorts

Luxury amenities and elevated experiences are bringing the all-inclusive resort to a new level

by Todd Plummer

March 6, 2024

Locally sourced fare at Hemlock Neversink, New York / Photo: Courtesy of Lake Austin Spa Resort

In the past, “all-inclusive” had something of a tough reputation. The term brought to mind low-budget beach vacations drenched in booze, replete with overly indulgent buffets at every meal, and defined by sprawling, fortress-like resorts with very little charm or sense of place. For a long time, the all-inclusive felt like a category for the tourist, not the traveler.

“All-inclusive have been around for decades, and the people who loved them loved them, but you didn’t get a lot of new people testing them,” says Nicole Tilzer, Hilton’s vice president for all-inclusive and resort strategy. That might be why the category felt so misunderstood. “But now, we’re seeing both the product and guest perception improve.”

This month marks a major milestone for Marriott, which reopens its iconic Marriott Cancun (a flagship within the region) after a yearlong closure. The formerly à la carte resort will now operate with an all-inclusive model. Marriott is also in the process of developing the first all-inclusive resorts for The Ritz-Carlton and W Hotel brands, and opened the first Westin all-inclusive in Brazil in 2022.

Locally sourced fare at Hemlock Neversink, New York / Photo: Clay Banks

Accor plans to expand its all-inclusive Rixos brand by quadrupling the number of properties it currently operates. Hilton also solidifies its position in the space with the Hilton Cancun Mar Caribe, a glittering gem in the city’s Hotel Zone. Since 2021, it has also added the Hilton Cancun and Hilton Tulum Riviera Maya to its all-inclusive portfolio, as well as the Mangrove Beach Corendon Curacao All-Inclusive Resort.

And when Hyatt acquired Apple Leisure Group, it became the largest operator of luxury all-inclusive resorts in the world, taking ownership of 100 hotels and a pipeline of 24 executed deals. What this latest generation of all-inclusives seems to be getting right is aligning with a new generation of traveler. That’s why guests see better food offerings (chef-driven dinners, craft cocktails), off-site excursions with third-party resort partners, and even pickleball courts. By bringing down that metaphorical wall between “resort” and “community,” it no longer feels like you’re in some anonymous beach resort.

“There is a new set of consumer priorities around connection, wellness and authenticity, and all-inclusive resorts need to cater to these, moving beyond the original model that was geared more toward ease and budgetary needs,” says Cory Hagopian, senior vice president of sales and partnerships for Virtuoso. “Post-pandemic, guests are looking for more—culture, food, convenience and service—and are willing to pay for it.”

A more holistic approach to the guest experience—what they’re eating and doing beyond boozing and buffeting—has made the all-inclusive model thrive at the luxury boutique level. Look around, and you’ll realize that many of the must-visit travel spots from your Instagram feed are all-inclusives, from Blackberry Farm in Tennessee to the Lake Austin Spa Resort in Texas.

Hilton Tulum Riviera Maya, Mexico / Photo: Hilton Tulum Riviera Maya, Mexico

While many of those all-inclusives will seriously cost you, the model also works for more approachable rates, too. At the newly opened Hemlock Neversink, a charming 33-room property set on 230 acres in a corner of Sullivan County, New York, rooms start at $399 and that includes locally sourced meals.

“The model allows you to create a full experience at every touchpoint for the guest,” says Sims Foster, whose company, Foster Supply Hospitality, developed the property. “Guests are loving our model. In a world where we are bombarded with choices and decisions and content, it’s super relaxing to sort of give yourself over and know that these people are going to take care of all your wants and needs.”