Is lunch included?
Marketing all-inclusive holidays is not easy!
If a holiday package or accommodation is marketed as being
all-inclusive, should the traveller expect that all meals,
including lunch, are included?
In the United Kingdom, the regulatory authority has recently
ruled on all-inclusive holidays. In Australia, the law
exists but there is no ruling yet.
In this article we look at the UK ruling and discuss how
tour operators in the UK and Australia should be careful in
their descriptions of meals and other inclusions in their
marketing materials for all-inclusive holidays.
The National Holidays
ruling (United Kingdom)
In early 2016, National Holidays (a UK Company) published a
holiday brochure which stated:
Santa Susanna & Costa Brava All-Inclusive. Enjoy a nine day
adventure ... WHAT'S INCLUDED? Coach travel throughout ...
Six nights dinner, bed and continental breakfast at the
The UK advertising watchdog, the Advertising Standards
Authority, was asked to rule upon whether the description
"All-Inclusive" was misleading, because lunch was not
National Holidays argued the statement was not misleading,
for these reasons:
“National Holidays said the term 'all-inclusive' was
used by many holiday companies, but believed the meaning
varied depending on what individual companies were
offering. They believed there was no accepted definition
and referred to an online dictionary description that,
rather than stating that all meals needed to be included
for the holiday to be considered as all-inclusive,
referred to “all or most meals”.
They said their own ‘all-inclusive’ packages included
more elements than the standard hotel based
all-inclusive holidays. They offered travel arrangements
throughout the holiday, drinks inclusive packages,
entertainment, excursions and most meals, but it was not
possible to include lunch because of the number of
excursions and activities they included in the package.
They had designed the package over a number of years
based on feedback from customers, who had told them that
the excursions were more important than including lunch.
National Holidays said the brochure itemised what was
included in the package and lunch was not one of the
meals listed. They believed that it was clear from the
list what was included in the package and customers
would know exactly what was available to them before
they chose to book.”
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) did not agree, and
gave these reasons:
“The ASA understood that “All-inclusive” was a widely
used term to describe holiday packages or resorts where
the lodging, meals, soft drinks, most alcoholic drinks
and gratuities were included in the holiday price. We
considered that consumers would therefore understand the
claim “All-inclusive” to mean that all their meals,
including lunch, would be included in the package.
We acknowledged that the holiday description stated
“WHAT’S INCLUDED?” with a list of what was available in
the package price. Although dinner and breakfast were
the only meals mentioned, we considered that it was not
sufficient to remove the overall impression or
expectation created by the “All-Inclusive” headline
claim that all meals would be included and therefore
contradicted, rather than clarified, the claim. We
concluded that, because lunch was not included, the
claim “All-Inclusive” was likely to mislead consumers
about the type of holiday package on offer.
Ruling: Complaint Upheld. The ad breached CAP
Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading
advertising) and 3.9 (Qualification).
Action: The ad was must not appear again in its
current form. We told National Holidays not to use the
claim “All-Inclusive” unless all meals were included in
the holiday package.
The ruling was made on 1 March 2017, and appears on the ASA
The Australian Consumer
The Australian regulator, the Australian Competition &
Consumer Commission (ACCC), has been more concerned with
ensuring that the travel industry uses all-inclusive pricing
in its advertising and in its printed and digital marketing
than with ensuring that the description of the items
included in an all-inclusive holiday is not misleading.
The ACCC outlines its policy in its publication - Travel &
accommodation - an industry guide to the Australian Consumer
Law (published 16 August 2013). The ACCC gives this example
in relation to all-inclusive pricing:
“A travel business advertises an overseas package
holiday (flights and accommodation) for $1990. In fine
print at the bottom, it states this price excludes
airport taxes. These are known costs totalling $250, and
should therefore be part of the total price.
The total price of the holiday ($2240) should have been
displayed as prominently as the $1990 package price,
because the total price was quantifiable.
While what is ‘prominent’ may vary on a case-by-case
basis, you should consider factors such as the size,
placement, colour and font of the price, as well as the
background of the advertisement.”
By analogy, if a holiday is advertised as ‘all-inclusive’,
then the ACCC will require that what is included (and
excluded) should be prominently displayed where
‘all-inclusive’ is displayed.
The Australian Consumer Law contains consumer guarantees,
including the obligation not to make false or misleading
representations as to a particular standard, quality, value
or grade of services supplied (section 29(1)(b)).
The test is: whether when viewed objectively and in the
context of all of the circumstances, the conduct in question
has misled or deceived or is likely to mislead or deceive
reasonable members of the class of persons to whom the
representation is made.
This is an ‘overall impression’ test, which is the same test
as the ASA used in the National Holiday ruling.
What National Holidays failed to realise that by describing
lunch and dinner as inclusions, and by failing to clarify
whether or not lunch was included in the “What’s included?”
list, is that they gave the misleading impression that lunch
What they failed to do was to insert a qualification such as
“(lunch is not included)” in the ‘WHAT’S INCLUDED?’ text or
to add an asterisk and insert a disclaimer at the foot of
the page that “*lunch is not included”.
In Australia, the ACCC is likely to take the same view as
the ASA that the representation made was misleading, because
it creates an impression that lunch might be included.
The ACCC would go one step further than simply making a
ruling (as the ASA does) because of its statutory
responsibility for enforcing the Australian Consumer Law.
It could ask the tour operator to take corrective action; it
could require the tour operator to sign a court enforceable
undertaking not to mislead consumers in this way; or if it
is a serious matter and involves a large company, it could
issue an infringement notice or institute civil penalty
proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia for the