In these uncertain times, who wouldn’t want to reduce unwelcome surprises and enjoy seamless planning for a return to in-person events? All-inclusives may just be what you’re looking for.

In the latest Smart Meetings Accelerator “Expert Tips for Maximizing All-Inclusive Events,” three leaders in the hospitality industry expounded on the benefits of all-inclusives, top destinations and what’s changed in this industry segment in response to COVID-19.

Ease of budget, value, flexibility, no financial surprises and overall experience for attendees are some of the incentives you and your attendees could enjoy at all-inclusive properties.

Not to mention that attendees can easily make their visit a staycation. “People that are very busy don’t have time for a vacation,” says Janek Rattinger, corporate director of group sales at Blue Diamond Resorts. “This is the perfect time to enjoy extra days at the hotel.” He points out that busy attendees can bring their family and be charged at the cheaper group rate.

Top Destinations for All-Inclusives

There are numerous all-inclusive destinations worldwide to choose from. Some of the most popular for the North American market that John Gaca, president of DMI Hotels, sees currently are Mexico, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and Cuba. Top destinations for stays of four nights or more include Caribbean locations, such as Saint Lucia, Antigua, Grenada, Barbados, Tobago and Saint Martin.

“We discourage our clients with three-night programs or less to go to the [Caribbean] destinations because of the amount of time it takes [to get there]. They don’t get to maximize time on the island,” he says.

What’s Changed Since COVID-19?

All-inclusives, like hotel and resort properties everywhere, have put a lot of structure and rigor around prevention of COVID-19. And, of course, national and local governments throughout the world have established their own regulations and restrictions, which change frequently. As a meeting planner and attendee, you must keep up to date with these—and mindful that where you’re coming from may affect your ability to be admitted at all, or without quarantining.

All-inclusives are also seeing virtual site inspections gain popularity. “Sometimes, people don’t have the ability to travel down to our destination, especially those that need to stay overnight,” Rattinger says. “We normally invite the general managers to conduct the virtual site inspection, and this can be live or even recorded, and it will always be [tailored] to the group needs. It will not be a generic inspection. It will be strictly to the points that are of interest to the group.”

Another change these resorts are currently seeing is room butlers and possibly other staff staying overnight to limit outside exposure. “We have high-level clients. They don’t want to interact with people who are interacting with people outside the hotel, so hotels are being proactive. These staff members are not on a 24-hour call right now, but they will be available from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., or whenever it is required,” Rattinger says.

Pre-COVID, all-inclusive resorts typically offered multiple dining options every day. Many resorts are now alternating opened restaurants so they can properly clean and sanitize those that are closed.