Travel guide criticised for the 'all-inclusive gap year'

Communities often resent all-inclusive tourists, who don't contribute to the economy
  • @SimonCalder

A new official travel guide has been criticised for commending "all-inclusive" holidays.

Plan. Pack. Explore, described by the Foreign Office as the "definitive guide for young travellers", is published today and suggests young people should "consider all-inclusive holidays – set your price in sterling and get meals, drinks and activities in one price".

But Tourism Concern has condemned the advice, saying all-inclusive resorts bring little benefit either to the host community or the traveller.

The charity's executive director, Mark Watson, said: "The all-inclusive model brings the least benefit to local communities. Host communities tend to resent such tourists because they don't contribute to the local economy. And for young people, part of travel is the cultural exchange – which an all-inclusive holiday inhibits."

According to Mintel, the number of all-inclusive holidays sold in the five years to 2009 increased by one-third. Many families like the concept because they help to control holiday spending, while travel firms make more money from them than from self-catering properties.

Earlier this year, Britain's biggest holiday company, TUI, made one of its strongest brands, First Choice, entirely all-inclusive. The firm tells prospective customers: "Generally, you will be given full board, snacks from morning until late evening, plus local booze and soft drinks." Holidaymakers have little incentive to dine outside the resort.

Guests are often required to wear a wristband signifying their entitlement to food and drink, and many resorts have substantial physical barriers.

Mark Watson, of Tourism Concern, said: "In the Caribbean all-inclusives create 'enclave tourism', which has stifled the development of alternative tourism models. Workers' rights are often poor, and they don't get tips."

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "The advice in 'managing money' is meant to encourage people to think about which type of holiday would best fit their budget. The guide does not endorse all-inclusive holidays, or any other type of holiday – it encourages people to consider all the options."

The section in the 72-page guide headed "Go Glocal" says: "Knowing where local people eat and drink, how they have fun and then joining them is part of the experience."