Portugal travel agents go for non sustainable tourism

It was with great sadness and frustration that I read the conclusions and recommendations of the XXXVI Congress of the Portuguese Association of Travel Agencies and Tourism, held in Funchal, from the 27th November to the 2nd December 2010, specially the 1st recommendation:

The Congress recommends the offer of all-inclusive units, should be seen as another factor for business improvement and that the Government and Public Administration include this on the national strategic plan for tourism.

In my humble opinion this is totally the wrong way and these are my arguments:

  1. Spending an all-inclusive holiday was the consumer trends of 30 or 20 years ago. Today tourists want to experience everything in a tourism destination and not staying at the hotel, sunbathing, drinking, eating and getting fat all day… All-inclusive is long gone and now people are looking for outdoor experiences.
  2. If Portugal’s competitors are the destinations that sell all-inclusive accommodation, it means that Portugal is no longer a safe destination as, for what I know, these all inclusive hotels are usually situated in beautiful places but not so safe and so guest are not recommended to leave out of the hotel property.
  3. All-inclusive hotels do not allow the development of other tourism activities in a destination. It takes customers out of restaurants, bars, excursions or any other leisure activity in that place because once its all paid to the hotel, people will not spend any more money on the destination. This is not sustainable tourism!
  4. Economically speaking, this is also bad for a tourism destination as money goes just for 1 company and so the multiplier effect of tourism expenditure is minimal since money circulates much more when there are large interconnections between several economic sectors.

Unfortunately this movement towards all-inclusive resorts already started in Porto Santo Island with a big hotel chain “innovating” in that way on this seasonal tourism destination with a 9km golden, sandy beach and only 5000 habitants…