Hoteliers Must Start Reaping The Harvest Of Family Travel

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As new-generation families become increasingly learned and affluent, luxury travel is no longer a limitation

The luxury travel market is changing: Destination is not the only criterion any longer. Many travellers choose their holiday location for the themes offered: Golf, Wine, Spa, Gastronomy… and …Family!

Indeed, today, the family travel market is no longer a niche. As an example, in the United States alone, it represents some 100 million trips per year. One sees many travellers with strollers at the airports! With generous parental leave and the desire to live the experience of discovery with their children, parents very much enjoy travelling with their babies. Such trip traditions begin at a very young age.

As families travel more than ever before and are spending large sums to create unique moments, they have also developed an expertise and have refined their expectations of a hotel stay. The generation of the millennials (20-35 years) which is the one who travels the most, is also very active on social networks and respond well to tourist offers that cater to their needs.

For all these reasons, pre-schoolers and young children are key if the hospitality industry wants to create loyalty and generations of family travellers, an ever-renewable segment.

From my Asian standpoint, this appears only more obvious: Family is a core element in Asian cultures. Focusing on the services to families and their young children has become a crucial element of differentiation for hotels. Travel plans often include 3 generations – that means accommodating children’s needs and expectations is often the most important criterion and the guarantee that everyone will fully enjoy their experience.

Surprisingly, the travel industry as a whole has yet to take heed of this segment.

Travel agencies or mass-market reservation websites do not really pay attention to this market segmentation and more often than not, travellers with expectations for children-oriented services waste time on the phone or on the web trying to find the perfect place that meets their needs and their aspirations.
Even though they have not – like a handful of hotel brands – chosen as a policy to discourage the stay of children under 12 years of age, too many hotels simply ignore the family travel segment. While they welcome the idea of family travel, they will only confirm adjoining rooms ‘upon availability’ and their websites do not offer the functionality to confirm connecting rooms.

Services to toddlers and young children are mostly limited to the minimum and often offered ‘upon request’…
But these issues are sure to upset parents from the very moment of their stay and deter them from staying again. If Daddy has to sleep in one room with one child and Mummy has to sleep in another with their other child, the sojourn does not start well!

However, both common sense and many recent studies suggests that the family travel segment could be a bargain for hoteliers. Families consume more than any other customer and can generate a more significant turnover. Family travel could also be a meaningful and profitable way to differentiate an establishment from its competition and to proudly emerge from the dull sea of same-same hotel offerings, especially in the capital cities or the holiday destinations which have the strongest traffic.

Finding the right balance between family-friendly offerings and other types of clients such as couples or businessmen is generally seen as a crucial but difficult task for hoteliers (which is often addressed by letting go of the family segment). However, embracing family travel and publicising their dedicated services to this segment is a great opportunity. It is also the right way for hoteliers to respond to the new competition created by the online marketplace and the homestay network, such as Airbnb, which many see as a looming threat to their operation. The crops of families eager to travel are abundant, and clever hoteliers will seek to harvest them more proactively.

Benoit Badufle
Managing Director of Horus Development & Consulting; Luxury tourism expert; Asian at heart

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