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In recent decades, all-inclusive hotels have become the dominant resort format in Cancun, Mexico’s biggest tourism destination. The undeniable convenience of having accommodations, food, drinks and some activities included in one price is certainly a great fit for many vacationers.
But there are obviously times when properties with rates that only include accommodations and, perhaps, some amenities — also known as a European plan (EP) — are the best choice. Cancun still excels at offering outstanding EP experiences, and at a variety of price points. But when is an EP hotel better than an all-inclusive (AI)?
Patti Casas, a personal luxury travel consultant at Ohana Escapes in High Point, N.C., said that an EP property is an ideal option for several types of Cancun vacations.
This is an instance where qualifying your client is imperative.
“An EP resort can be a good choice if clients don’t plan to be at their resort all day, every day,” she said. “Also, for shorter stays, this may make financial sense, too. They have more control over how much they spend on food, especially if they’re not big eaters or foodies, and particularly if they’re traveling with children who don’t eat a lot or are picky.”
Hope Smith, an agent at Born to Travel, a Montecito Village/Virtuoso affiliate in Sierra Madre, Calif., agreed that the EP concept appeals to certain types of travelers.
“One of the questions that I ask is, ‘How much drinking do you do?’” Smith said. “I hate to say that, but some people do go on vacation because they like to have their cocktails at the pool and drink quite a bit. Even bottled water can add up if you’re not getting it for free. If you say to me that you don’t really drink and aren’t a big eater, then an all-inclusive might not be right for you.”
Another major factor to consider is whether the booking is for a family, a solo traveler or a couple.
“I don’t do tons of families, but when I do have families, many of them want the all-inclusive option,” Smith said. “My biggest market is couples, and EP hotel Nizuc Resort & Spa is a huge seller for my market in Cancun.”
She said her clients like Nizuc’s “hip and trendy” ambiance.
Smith noted that even with EP hotels, savvy agents can still get extra perks for their clients.
“Plus, if you book with a consortium such as Virtuoso, Signature or American Express, you’re probably going to get breakfast included,” she said.
In addition to Nizuc, Smith noted that top EP hotels in Cancun include the Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun; The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun; JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa; and Marriott Cancun Resort. Value-priced brands such as Aloft and Holiday Inn offer brand-name EP options in a more economical price category.
Casas said that certain characteristics are especially common among travelers who choose EP in Cancun.
“My clients that have chosen to go EP over AI are the types who want to get out and completely immerse themselves in the destination,” she said. “I would have to say that the majority of them have been couples or families with teens. There are many great restaurants and cultural events that could be missed by staying only at the resort.”
So, how do agents determine which way to sway a client who’s not familiar with the differences between EP and AI hotels?
“This is an instance where qualifying your client is imperative,” Casas said. “You have to really listen to what they’re telling you and read their body language if in person, or their vocal inflections if by phone.”
If they want to get out of the daily grind and be pampered, an EP may not be the right option for them, she says.
“If they’re telling you that they want to do things off the property, asking about safety, considering renting a car, etc., then going EP may be a good option for them,” Casas said. “Clients of mine had previously done an AI a few times, but with what they were looking to do on their next trip, an EP resort was a better fit for them.”