Friday, 8 April 2011

First Choice go All-Inclusive only, but is paying upfront the "devil's work"?

Booking your holiday will get slightly easier next summer when First Choice starts selling nothing but all-inclusive packages.

That’s flights, transfers, accommodation, three meals per day and your fill of local drinks for a one-off fee.

First Choice will be the only mainstream travel company dedicated to the all-inclusive, which they claim knocks about £500 off a family’s total holiday spend.

Whether the saving rings true or not, the move simplifies things for holidaymakers and travel agents – First Choice will be first choice for value for money all-in holidays.

Their Summer 2012 brochure will sell all-inclusive packages to 33 destinations, in three bands of affordability: silver for premium properties; orange for great value village-style resorts and jade for standard.

Well over half of First Choice holidays are already all-inclusive and demand for them has been on the rise for the last five years.

First Choice said: “All-inclusive holidays enable people to enjoy the best of both worlds – a unique feeling of indulgence combined with practical control over their holiday spending.”

When asked how hoteliers who don’t already offer all-inclusive felt about the move they said: “Those that don’t are particularly excited at the prospect.
“We will be working closely with them and offering them all the support they need to convert.

“A small number of properties will not be able to convert and where possible these will continue to be offered under other TUI brands such as Thomson and Skytours.”

Simon Calder, travel editor for The Independent, told the BBC that: "All-inclusives are the devil's work.

“They dampen the appetite to explore – because as soon as you step beyond the walls the meter starts running and you're incurring extra costs. Therefore you're not getting the range of experiences you would find if you simply used the hotel for sleeping in, and explored the options in the area."

Obviously all-inclusive holidays aren’t for everyone. Discovering the fantastic shops, bars and restaurants that line local piazzas, high streets and harbours is a major reason many of us go away at all.

However, all-inclusives can offer the most relaxing weeks of your life.

There's no need to penny pinch, and cool drinks, snacks and meals are, at most, a flip-flopped wander away from the poolside. That’s why frazzled families, honeymooners and workaholics snap them up in droves.

The change at First Choice might be a sign that the all-inclusive is gobbling up customers who used to while away their evenings in local tavernas. Time will tell.

It is, however, a sensible consolidation and re-branding exercise that puts the all-inclusive eggs of parent company Thomson in one well-established basket.

Are all-inclusive deals the devil’s work or the most sensible way to stay on budget as you relax?

Photo by rachelcoyne

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Spot the landmark, win KLM flights to 20 Secret Cities

SERIAL CITY BREAKERS and armchair urban explorers can win KLM flights, just by identifying the location of a mystery landmark.

But it's not as easy as it sounds, and that's what makes this travel contest particularly addictive.

Every day at 4 pm (GMT) until April 24 the Dutch airline will tweet (from @KLM) a link to photos of mystery landmarks. Then you have to recognise the landmark and plot its Secret City location on an integrated Google map.

The day's winner is the person whose little red flag is plotted closest to the landmark.

What can you win?
A pair of return flight tickets to one of 5 secret cities featured each week. You choose from the 5 cities.

Last week's winner chose Santa Monica from Cape Town, Santa Monica, Prague, Singapore and Goteborg.

He tweeted: "Guess I'm a bit overexcited now, but c'mon…I WON! And look how happy he looks about it.

Here's more
Don't expect to see the Eiffel Tower or the Leaning Tower of Pisa just yet. So far these photos have been tricky to identify, even for self-proclaimed city experts. me. I've edited city guidebooks and travelled around to see, climb and photograph urban architecture, everywhere from Cairo to the bell towers (or as historians tell us, penis extensions) built by the wealthy during the Italian Renaissance.

But, I sucked at yesterday's mystery landmark. My guess (and I'm too ashamed to tell you what it was) turned out to be 2710 km from the correct location!

Now I'm determined to guess today's Secret City correctly. Roll on 4 pm.

How to win
Most importantly follow KLM on Twitter @KLM.

When @KLM Tweet at 4 pm the race begins. Hit the link to the Secret City page. Identify the landmark. Plant your red flag on the Google map where you think the building is.

The beauty of Google maps being that you can zoom in until your flag sits directly on top on the landmark (assuming you've guessed the correct location).

To move the flag click elsewhere on the map - no dragging necessary.

Make sure you guess all 5 cities every week, from Monday to Friday. The person closest to the landmarks everyday of the week will win.

What if more than one person guesses correctly all week?
Then the winner will be the person who planted their flags the fastest.

Phone a friend
Or in this case Tweet a friend to help you guess the secret city, by clicking the Tweet button below the photo.

How to be disqualified
By entering from multiple Twitter accounts.

Happy guessing city breakers. I'll be trying again at 4pm today!

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