When you leave the arrivals gates at Sangster International Airport in Jamaica, to your immediate left is a wood-paneled porch featuring the Sandals Resorts International logo. Moms and dads in tropical print shirts hang by the front door, cocktails in hand, waiting for their transport to the ubiquitous all-inclusive resort, about a 15-minute drive away.
This is what we often picture when we think of all-inclusive resorts: post-retirement parental units in sensible swimwear with a strong rum cocktail, protected from the booze-fueled ruckus of spring breakers, free to do the conga and ask for seconds at the buffet at all hours — because heck, you’re on vacation!
Not shockingly, this is not appealing to many Millennials. While experts predicted that the all-inclusive industry would see a rise in business come 2017, consider this: What are the resorts doing appeal to the non-Boomer traveler?
In shedding the polarizing label of “budget travel,” all-inclusive resorts are changing up their offerings to be as appealing and accommodating to 20-somethings as they are to families of four. They’re ramping up their luxury amenities, exclusivity, and, yes, even their cool factor.
They’re getting you off campus
A big concern for some young travelers is expecting an all-inclusive to have a similar vibe to a cruise ship: There’s no reason to ever leave during the duration of your trip — and in some instances, you just plain can’t.
At the Moon Palace Jamaica Grande, which sits along the largest private strip of white sand beach in Ocho Rios, guests are encouraged to explore the neighboring sights. Excursions like horseback riding through Papillion Cove and visits to Konoko Falls in St. Ann can be arranged (with transportation) through the hotel’s concierge. And there's a great new way to get there: Delta just launched a new nonstop route from Boston to Montego Bay.
Meanwhile, somewhere like Blackberry Farm — an alternative all-inclusive that trades sun and sand for Southern charm in Walland, Tennessee — offers special sportsman weekends taking guests on a three-day hunt (with meals and lodging included, of course) at Alabama’s Sawtooth Plantation in the company of their staff — providing the comforts of their inclusive offerings, with the excitement of off-the-beaten-path travel.
Premium culinary offerings
Adults-only, all-inclusive UNICO 20˚87˚ Hotel Riviera Maya rotates celebrity chefs through its kitchens, with Christian Bravo of “Top Chef Mexico” arriving this month. The resort’s all-day dining concept will be accompanied by beachside pop-ups like a paletas stand or hand-delivered oyster and Mezcal shots.
At Moon Palace, the premium dining experience includes the recent addition of Certified Angus Beef throughout their culinary program, which varies from hibachi to 24-hour room service — 2 a.m. craving for jerk chicken? Also on site is the Parisian-inspired Boulangerie, where latte art and pristinely made sweets are served through the night. Check out our making-of video featuring one of their signature cocktails:
Moon Palace is, as the name suggests, palatial, but it also wants you to feel at ease. The signature scent pumped through the hotel immediately registers as Le Labo’s unmistakably cool fragrance, Santal 33. (It’s not — their team calls it a mixture of aromatherapies, but it’s damn close.) And especially important to the brand-conscious set, gone are the generic dopp kits (each room comes with a CHI straightener, plus heat-protectant products to save your hair from all those pool and ocean dips) and mini bars for sensible boozing with four full-size top shelf bottles, refilled daily.