Poor pay and conditions at all-inclusive resorts

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.

The Leisure Tourism Database abstracts and indexes around 80 papers on all-inclusive tourism. Many of them suggest that all-inclusive tourists spend less than overall average tourist's expenditure per day at the destination, but spend more in their country of origin. Compared with other types of board, all-inclusive packages lead to a reduction in the destination's revenue from tourism. However, they do enable destinations to attract some tourists who may otherwise be unable to afford to visit. A selection of papers is referenced below.

References

Research note: the new all-inclusive board formula in mature destinations – from motivation to satisfaction. Aguiló, E.; Rossello, J.; Tourism Economics, 2012, 18, 5, pp 1117-1123, 8 ref. http://dx.doi.org/10.5367/te.2012.0151

Tourism expenditure and all-inclusive packages – the case of a mature Mediterranean destination. Alegre, J.; Pou, L.; Tourism Economics, 2008, 14, 3, pp 645-655, 16 ref. http://dx.doi.org/10.5367/000000008785633631

Determinants of all-inclusive travel expenditure. Anderson, W.; Tourism Review, 2010, 65, 3, pp 4-15. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/16605371011083495

Can economics explain where all-inclusive deals are offered? Bladh, C.; Holm, H. J.; Tourism Economics, 2013, 19, 2, pp 339-348, 11 ref. http://dx.doi.org/10.5367/te.2013.0209

The "all-inclusive" concept in the Caribbean. Issa, J. J.; Jayawardena, C.; International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 2003, 15, 3, pp 167-171, 5 ref. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09596110310470211

Canadians in the Caribbean: the triangle of mass tourism. Sarrasin, B.; Téoros, Revue de Recherche en Tourisme, 2007, 26, 1, pp 29-32, 15 ref.

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