In destinations where visitors feel safe, all-inclusive travellers will venture out of their hotels and spend money in communities, newly retired secretary-general of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation Hugh Riley has declared.
Citing Barbados as an example, Riley said visitors to all-inclusive properties can be tempted to participate and spend more money on food and other products and activities outside the hotel because they feel comfortable.
Riley was responding to a question from the audience as he joined fellow panellist Dr Justin Ram Friday for a Sagicor Cave Hill School of Business webinar titled Perspectives on Economic Growth.
Riley explained: “All-inclusives make the case, which is testable, that they tend to consume larger volumes of product and the argument is that those should be local products.
“All-inclusives by their very nature have to make large amounts of product available because people who have paid for an all-inclusive vacation they expect that when they walk into the facility and they pull a machine, out will come milk or juice… or whatever they are looking for.”
According to Riley, all-inclusive operators argue that their value chain is much longer than regular hotels.
All-inclusive properties also tend to employ more people than standard hotels, he said.
“You have to have a different staff-to-guest ratio than if you are running a property where people are just buying accommodation and basic facilities and then disappearing for most of the day,” he told participants.
At the same time, Riley conceded that there were some legitimate arguments against all-inclusives, noting that the subject continues to be a controversial one across the region.
He said: “The countervailing point is if you keep people ensconced in a particular area all the time, never getting to escape and enjoy the facilities of the rest of the destination, they won’t interact with the element that makes tourism in the Caribbean so powerful and so magnetic – the people.
“Some of that is true depending on the particular destination. But all Caribbean countries are not the same. There are countries like Barbados . . . where I’ve seen people come out of all-inclusive hotels in and do all kinds of stuff across the country because there is a sense of freedom and safety. . . . If you are in a country that allows you that kind of facility, then people will take advantage of it.”
Riley contended that the informal accommodation sector across the region was thriving.
“That is why people were starting to convert part of their houses into separate apartments… that is why people became involved in making a dollar from the tourism sector,” he said.
“In some parts of the Caribbean, community tourism is alive and well. You will not see me in Barbados on a Friday night unless I am at Oistins. This exists all over the Caribbean.”