June 29, 2021
By Juliana Hahn

Every year, many travellers compare various board packages when booking their trips. Depending on the hotel, they have lean options like breakfast only, or richer choices like half board and full board.

Let’s take a closer look at the commonly offered board packages. Why would someone book half board vs full board? And how can hotels use flexible meal plans to drive extra revenue? Here's everything you need to know.

Half board vs full board: What's the difference?

The first inns resembling the hotels we know today popped up around Europe in the 11th and 12th centuries. They offered room and board, meaning a place to sleep and eat. According to some sources, the term "board" referred to the physical board that served as a table to serve a meal on. While our dining setup has become more refined, and hotels now offer various board options, this traditional terminology has stuck.

Hotels still rely on bookable dining packages for their guests for two reasons. First, it helps them plan operations and manage costs. Second, it allows them to provide flexible and relevant options to their guests. For example, city hotels most commonly offer bed and breakfast, or room-only deals. Resorts add a few more options like half board (HB), full board (FB), and all-inclusive (AI).

Half board: The convenient, flexible option

What is half board?

Half board includes two meals. One of them is breakfast. The other is lunch or dinner. Dinner is most common, but many hotels are flexible if guests ask to switch to a midday meal. Most properties will even offer a take-out option for those on a long outing.

In many cases, half board meals are served as buffets. Sometimes lunch and dinner are in the form of a set menu with two options for each course. Drinks are generally only included with breakfast (e.g. coffee, tea, and juice). For other meals, guests usually pay for drinks separately or book a package.

Why might guests choose half board?

Half board is good for guests who leave the hotel during the day and return for dinner in the evening. If someone doesn’t want to keep looking for new restaurants, or nearby options are limited, half board works well, too.

Guests who know they don’t have a large appetite and can survive without three meals do well with half board. However, if they do opt for an extra meal, they might end up paying comparatively high rates.

With half board, hotels can offer some flexibility. You can create a snack menu for guests who get peckish during the afternoon but don’t want a full meal. This is a great chance to drive extra revenue for your hotel while catering to your guest’s needs. Also consider offering different drinks packages to go with meals, like soft drinks, light alcohol, or cocktail options.

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Full board: Covering all the bases

What is full board?

Full board includes the three main meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner, which are usually served as buffets. If hotels have multiple restaurants, they’re generally not included, or guests have to pay to dine a-la-carte. As with half board, drinks are usually only part of the deal for breakfast. During lunch and dinner, one beverage may sometimes be included. In other cases, all drinks are a-la-carte or available as packages. If your guests are going on a day trip, allow them to get their meals packed as a courtesy service.

Why might guests choose full board?

Full board is especially popular among leisure guests who want to stay and relax at the hotel the whole day. Most mid- and upscale beach hotels and secluded resorts offer this option. Knowing that meals are covered and there will be few extra charges (usually only drinks) is an advantage for guests. However, they risk paying for a service they don’t use if they don’t want all meals every day.

Again, hotels can be flexible here. Allow people to take meals to go or let them transfer "meal credit" to your specialty restaurants. If your full board option doesn’t include drinks, consider beverage packages to drive extra revenue.

All-inclusive: The name says it all

What is all-inclusive?

As the name says, all-inclusive includes all meals and drinks throughout the whole day. This usually encompasses the main buffet restaurant, specialty venues, snack bars, room service, and so on. Travellers sometimes confuse all-inclusive with full board, so be clear about inclusions when you’re promoting your offers.

Why might guests choose all-inclusive?

All-inclusive is popular among guests who stay within their resort for most of their trip and enjoy the facilities. The benefits are clear: Guests know exactly how much they need to pay ahead of time and there will be few extra costs. Once they're at the resort, they can take advantage of all dining venues without having to worry about add-on fees.

However, depending on the deal, guests may face some disadvantages. For example, if a package includes alcoholic beverages, but guests barely order any, they pay for something they don’t use. As a hotel, it’s best to create a variety of drink options. This makes pricing fair and transparent for guests and adds value to their stay.

Opportunities to use board packages to drive extra revenue:

At first glance, these board options may only seem applicable to leisure guests. However, they can be interesting for business travellers as well. For example, how about offering half board or full board options to guests in-house for multi-day events?

Dining or add-on beverage packages can be great opportunities for upselling as well. For this, make these options bookable via an upselling platform or allow guests to opt-in during check-in. Certain seasons lend themselves well to selling board packages, too. Think of a half or full board deal for Christmas, New Year’s, or Valentine’s Day weekend, for example. It’s a great way to get guests to spend more time (and money) at your hotel. It also gives you extra chances to wow them with your fantastic service and make their stay more special.

Finally, make it easy for guests to find and compare your board packages. Use filters on your website and sourcing channels such as the Cvent Supplier Network and clearly explain what’s part of each option and what’s not. That’ll save your guests time and make them more likely to book and avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Now you know all about half board vs full board!

Up next, it’s time to work on promoting your packages so your guests can find, book, and enjoy them, and our complete guide to hotel digital marketing is a great place to start. 

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Juliana Hahn

Juliana Hahn is a content creator and copywriter specialised in the hospitality and tourism industry. Before diving into the world of copywriting, she studied hotel management and worked in hotels around the globe. Today she leverages her industry experience to craft engaging content for hospitality tech companies, hotels and online publications. She also offers tutorials and resources on copywriting to help hotels boost direct bookings.

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