All-inclusive resorts, while convenient and luxurious, often take away business from local restaurants, hotels, tour operators, and shops. More often than not, these resorts are owned and operated outside of the local country and, because guests rarely leave the resort grounds, the economy suffers. Sustainable travel advocates have expressed various concerns about all-inclusive resorts, including low wages for employees, importing goods over supporting local suppliers, negative impacts on the environment, and minimal to zero interaction between tourists and local communities.
With so many boutique hotels, family-owned restaurants, and knowledgable tour guides, you can still experience a luxurious, restful vacation while also practicing responsible tourism. To help plan your next trip, we have put together some tips for finding all-inclusive alternatives wherever you're staying, eating, sightseeing or shopping.
S T A Y
Bed & Breakfasts and Boutique Hotels
B&Bs and boutique hotels offer the same comfort and convenience of an all-inclusive resort but with a quaint, charming atmosphere. Fresh local coffee alongside a hearty breakfast in bed or outside on the balcony is the perfect way to start each morning on vacation.
A smaller, inclusive atmosphere also allows for a more personable interaction between guests and staff. If celebrating romance, kindly ask if wine or champagne can be delivered to your room. If turndown service is important to you, ask the staff if it is available for an extra charge. Many B&Bs and boutique hotels have various room options as well. Splurge on an ensuite with a soaker tub or ocean view for the most luxurious experience.
Depending on where you plan to travel, many accommodations also have private beach access or small courtyard pools. Staying at a locally-owned and operated establishment gives you the ability to customize and cater your experience while also supporting the country’s economy
E A T
Local Cuisine & Family-Owned Restaurants
Skip the tourist restaurants with imported food and indulge in local cuisine. Ask the staff at your hotel about their favorite restaurants and experience the hole-in-the-wall eateries. Whether you are looking for a four-course dinner or budget-friendly street food, every city is bound to have plentiful options.
If convenience is important to you and your hotel does not have an on-site restaurant, ask if delivery from a nearby restaurant is available. Interested in bringing the local cuisine to your home kitchen? Spend an afternoon with your travel companions in a cooking class.
S I G H T S E E
Local Tour Guides
Experience the sights with those who know them best: local guides. Whether you want to explore ruins or dive deep waters, do it alongside someone who knows the secret spots. Learning about the customs and picking up a few new phrases in a new language can be impactful and a rewarding part of travel.
You don’t have to give up the romance of a sunset cruise or the adventure of a rainforest hike. By choosing to hire an independent, local guide, you ensure he or she receives 100% of the payment and continues to make a livable wage
S H O P
Artisan Goods and Local Markets
Looking to bring home souvenirs or just pick up a few forgotten essentials? Start by asking your local guide or the staff at your hotel for the best place to shop. If it’s essentials you are looking for, they can point you to a locally operated pharmacy or grocery store. If you are in search of souvenirs, they will know where to find artisan markets for fair trade goods.
A kind reminder, bartering is often expected and welcome, but consult the staff at your hotel for advice on fair prices. Bartering too low can be insulting to artisans while paying too much can raise the prices for locals who wish to purchase the same goods.