To Tip or Not to Tip? by Ron Pradinuk

Confusion regarding tipping at all inclusive resorts, as well as in countries around the world, lead to numerous questions to me on a regular basis as travellers seek advice on the subject. There is no one simple answer as cultures and customs vary from country to country. Not long ago, and still in some all inclusive properties, staff could be fired for accepting a tip. Today that, for the most part, has changed. In many European countries a tip is automatically added. Some countries expect tips even though there is no place to add it onto the credit cards while the culture of other countries is such that they genuinely do not expect to receive anything more for exemplary service. Interestingly, even the currency you should tip in varies. Some, particularly in Mexico and some of the Caribbean countries prefer U.S. dollars, while other regions prefer to see tips only in their local currency.

The servers at many Mexican resorts receive a small amount of extra pay, depending upon the number of people staying at the resort

Q. Should we be tipping at an all inclusive resort since presumably it is included, and does the staff actually get any additional `tip’ dollars from my booking?
A. I had this question last year and was not able to give a definitive answer on the second part of your question. However, I have since been able to find out what some properties do for their staffs in this regard. Most of the workers at many of the resorts in Mexico do not make much more than $3-4 a day. At one of the high end resorts I researched they do in fact process tips to the staff on a scale depending upon the job performed. A bellboy might get an additional dollar fifty for each room they take luggage to and from. Waiters will get a similar amount for each table they serve. The maids are on a different scale as are the other workers. At the end of it all they don’t make a lot of money, and while the cost of living is certainly less than it is here, to have any decent standard of life what they earn from their hospitality jobs is still not all that great. It is perhaps the reason you now see more and more people tipping the person who brings beverages to those lying on the beach or beside the pool or for the person who does carry your bags for you or a small leave behind tip for the maid service. I have heard stories where some service personnel at resorts indicate, in more than subtle ways, that they expect a gratuity of some kind. That has not been my observation, and I am amazed at how friendly the staff is regardless of whether their service is recognized with a bit of a tip. The places we choose to escape to each winter are usually countries who are developing nations at best. I have come to realize that the little extras we leave behind won’t hurt most of us financially very much but can have a significant impact on the lifestyle of the people we choose to reward.


Q. How does tipping in Europe and other countries vary from what we do in Canada?
A. You really need to examine your bill closely when it comes as each country is different. In France and Italy a service charge of 10 to 15 percent is usually, but not always, added on to your bill. Japan is one of the countries where tips are not usually expected at restaurants but are appreciated. In most countries the idea of tipping the people who take your luggage is common and often expected. Local currency is best in developed nations while our U.S. greenback is much more appreciated in third-world countries. The Euro has really gained in acceptability even though it has suffered a setback during the current economic crisis around the world. I was surprised on my recent trip to Playa del Carmen to see prices quoted in U.S. dollars, Euros, and Pesos. Perhaps this is because that area has succeeded in attracting so many European tour operators who are filling their resorts. At the Royal Resort where we stayed I can safely estimate that there were nearly as many Dutch and Italian guests as there were Canadian and American. Going forward, I believe the Euro will regain much of its impetus it had before the current economic meltdown.

Q. I heard that even older people can now book into what we knew as youth hostels a number of years ago. Is that correct?
A. It definitely is, and during these tougher economic times you will see more and more people using them. Even before the current economic global meltdown, bookings by North Americans were increasing. The image of the old youth hostel is gone as many hostels around the world have changed to target travelers who want a higher standard of accommodation without the high prices the typical hotel property charges. While dormitories were the way of life in a hostel in the past, today you can find quaint places with private rooms for couples. Some even have an unheard of service in the past, an actual restaurant instead of the usual shared kitchen. In Europe and other parts of the world you will find hostels near some of the best beaches, some of the most commanding sights, in converted old castles, and apparently even in former prisons

Pelicans feed on the extra and offer no tips for the extra personal service they are receiving.