Every year from January to April, Canadians fly away from the unrelenting wackiness of winter to sunny spots in the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Mexico, to spend their precious vacation time and kids’ March Break at an all-inclusive. Getting away from winter sounds great, but when I hear “all-inclusive resort,” I think one thing:

It’s simple: I just don’t get the appeal. If there’s something fun or interesting to be had from an all-inclusive, it hasn’t really been explained to me in a way that makes me want to do it. To that end, I canvassed my Facebook friends for insight. While I greatly appreciated the feedback, their responses can be sorted into several categories:

  • it’s easy
  • it’s cheap
  • you don’t have to think about it
  • if you need to zone out, do this
  • everything you need is in one place
  • it’s easy (there were so many of these, it’s going on the list twice)

All-inclusive travel is no joke, economically speaking. Statistics Canada international travel summaries  from 2010 show Mexico (1.3 million Canadian visitors), Cuba (1 million), and Dominican Republic (753,000) are three of the top countries visited by Canadians each year, and a combined total of CAD$3 billion in spending while in the country.

While all-inclusive travel is undeniably popular, I have a short list of concerns about all-inclusives:

  • The local economic development impacts are not clear. Beyond waged employment, these types of enterprises are generally not locally-owned, unless they’re owned by the state, which means profits and other benefits don’t stay in the (mostly developing) countries
  • Depending on the country, the atmosphere is very contained and a traveler’s foreign experience is the act of being in the country not meeting its people or seeing anything beyond the beach. From the stories I’ve heard, it sounds like you mostly spend time with other Westerners.
  • It sounds boring. What do you do all day? Drink? Sit?

Sitting on beach sounds great for a day. But then what? Moving to the pool with a plastic bracelet on while other Canadians are woo-hooing all night? Pass.

From my friends with families, I understand the budget appeal and ease-of-use. Looking around online, I found deals that could be booked immediately, leaving on a jetplane today. For a grand total of CAD$800, including taxes, I lined up some appealing packages that included airfare, an apartment-style hotel which includes breakfast and a pool for seven days.

An apartment in a town or city with great weather is definitely more my speed. Honestly, I was surprised to find something that could get me thinking about becoming an all-inclusive convert. Every bleak winter, I hit a point where I think about it and maybe next winter this will be it.

Now, cruises, they’re another matter entirely. HARD PASS.

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