Anyone know about inclusive resorts and their effects on the local economy and culture?

So, my boyfriend and I want to take a week long trip somewhere hot and on the beach this winter. Neither of us travel much outside of the US and Canada and those trips are pretty limited to visiting friends, family, and work related things. So, young, not experienced travelers, and we are mostly looking for a relaxing, warm (see Canada mentioned above) and low key environment (as in we are not looking to party).

We have been doing a lot of research on price and location, and he would like to stay at a resort, but I have some pretty strong reservations (haw haw) about the whole thing. Mostly it comes from political and social beliefs –the whole anti neo-colonialism spectrum of arguments of privilege and power in the west and how people underplay or are totally ignorant of the issues that arise from the western idea of “vacation”. I don’t want to contribute to that cycle.

I’m also worried I’d feel claustrophobic and unhappy staying in a big resort and go on tours with a bunch of strangers who fulfill the very thing I’m dreading–consumerism, escapism and ignorance about the culture they have temporarily invaded. This isn’t to say I wouldn’t enjoy parking my ass on a beach for 5 days and drinking and eating a lot, as well as taking in a bit of the local goings on and going on a hike or something. That’s what I want out of a vacation. I just don’t want to buy into big business that doesn’t give back to the community it’s sitting on.

So here is the question: how do we rectify my SO’s desire to stay in a vacation where all aspects of the trip are taken care of and my political views? I presented renting a beach house somewhere but then we are probably looking at a lot more in terms of cost because then we plan the activities and feed ourselves which would cut into our funds considerably. We decided no more than a grand each would be feasible.

Alternately, can you convince me that an all-in resort isn’t what I’m imagining? That they help community development, the locals aren’t full of resentment, local business doesn’t struggle for it and the resorts aren’t actually filled with douchbags? Experiences, or examples?


  1. I watched the all-inclusives RUIN Ocho Rios Jamaica. There used to be hundreds of little shops selling the same crap, and offering hair braids, but employing a handful of people in each one…modest pressure to buy. Now that the AI dominate the beach with their fake shops and braiders, and their “don’t go outside the gates, it’s scary” bullshit, there’s 10 percent of the shops and they are 10 times as energetic/pushy in selling technique. Brutal. I stayed at the YMCA in Montego Bay and had a BLAST. Rent a house in Lucia and buy food at the grocery. You’ll save a bundle, make friends, be safe, and starve “the man”.

  2. I’ve always been a traveler – living in Morocco, backpacking in Europe – staying in hostels – taking pride in living like the locals.

    But I went with the in-laws for the first time to a big hotel / resort in Cabo San Lucas Mexico. It’s basically a big hotel, on the beach…

    So – here’s my take. If you want “traveling” – to experience the local culture, meet regular people, take buses and trains and taxis around – don’t stay in a resort. For me, traveling is exhilarating but it can also be exhausting.

    For 100% relaxation, – just lying on the beach and not worrying about anything – a resort is nice. It’s not really travelling – but it’s not meant to be. It’s a chance to have very little standing between you and the beach / sun. (as for the people around – most seemed extremely relaxed and pretty mellow).

    For a compromise, I’m sure there are websites that list socially-conscious resorts — so your boyfriend could get his relaxation, and you could feel good about not exploiting anyone.

  3. Here’s my take. The most important thing for me not to choose to stay in a resort is that (usually) most of the money you’d be giving to them go outside the place you’re staying in, into some big company’s account. This happens especially in a less developed countries, because resorts are owned by Western companies. Not to mention they often have secured a section of a beach, so that not even the locals can use it anymore. That’s so wrong in many levels. If you stay in a beach house, hostel or similar, you’re supporting the locals much more.

    The second thing is that you’re inside a complex full of customers who definitely “know” exactly what is right for them, and if something doesn’t fit their plans, they become obnoxious and complain about everything. Sometimes you’ll be stuck with them for a full day, example on a tour. This happens much less in lower style accommodations, as it attracts different type of travelers.

    I guess what I’m saying is that I can’t convince you to like all-in resorts. I haven’t been in them too much, but enough to know how freakin’ boring and waste of time those are. I once took a 5-day Caribbean cruise and almost went crazy because all I could hear everywhere was complaining after complaining, not to mention the stops at tropical islands were set up so, that there were tour guides tearing us apart trying to sell their tours.

    Fiji was by the way one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been in. I stayed in a shaggy hostel in a small island without any general stores or ATM’s, but it was probably the best time of my life. I didn’t even know how much one can get relaxed. It wasn’t a round-trip though, so I can’t comment about plane ticket prices, but staying in Fiji was extremely cheap.

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