Panelists agreed that learning something new, such as a watersport, is popular among family travelers. // © 2015 Honua Kai Resort & Spa
Feature image (above): Family travelers are the most active travelers. // © 2015 iStock
In association with the Family Travel Nexus Web platform, I moderated a one-hour discussion featuring family travel experts Rainer Jenss, president and founder of Family Travel Association; Maryanne Lopez, mainland sales manager of Honua Kai Resort & Spa Kaanapali Beach; and Tom Abbott, business development manager, South Central Region of Palladium Hotel Group.
Following are key insights from our conversation of the latest trends in family travel.
Family travel is growing.
According to Jenss, 87 percent of families plan to vacation in 2015, which is up 5 percent from 2010. Jenss also pointed out that 33 to 40 percent of the $270 billion in leisure travel is multigenerational.
Indeed, the recently released 2015 “Travel Dreams” survey by Virtuoso revealed that 25 percent of 5,800 travelers surveyed plan to take a family vacation, and that multigenerational travel is a top 10 trip experience.
If agents show their value, the family travel niche can grow even further.
There is an overwhelming amount of options for multigenerational travel, Jenss said. Simplifying the vacation-planning process by educating clients on a great product — whether that be an all-inclusive beach resort or something under-the-radar — is a great opportunity for agents to show their value.
“Traveling with a family of four or reunions of 20 to 30 people can be a daunting process, so simplification is important,” Jenss said. “We want to change the way families travel and grow the business beyond how it’s already growing.”
There are many configurations of family travel.
Only about 25 to 30 percent of family travel consists of mom, dad and children, said Jenss. Do consider one-parent families, aunts and uncles traveling with nieces and nephews, group trips, grandparents and grandchildren traveling together — and even parents bringing kids along on business trips.
“On behalf of my family who has evolved along the family travel continuum, college visits also constitute as family travel,” Jenss added.
Experiential travel is one of travel’s most popular niches among families, too.
According to Abbott, it all goes back to experiences.
“People always ask, ‘Well, gee, what did you do on your vacation?” he said.
According to Jenss, a real common denominator among children is that they love animals, making Alaska, Central and South America and Africa great destinations.
He also said that children as young as 10 years old can get certified to scuba dive.
Lopez recommended water activities as well, pointing to windsurfing and whale watching during the winter months in Hawaii.
“As a kid, learning about the ocean and nature is a neat deal — but you want to be able to tie it to a cultural experience,” said Abbott, who suggests Palladium’s Punta Mita property for learning how to stand-up paddleboard and for cultural activities in nearby Sayulita.
Long gone are the days of non-adventurous eating.
A family vacation offers the right context to encourage children to try new things.
“What you tend to see too much of is parents underestimating their kids in terms of food and other things,” Jenss said. “When they’re seeing different cultural experiences, the food becomes interesting and curious.”
Lopez suggested food experiences that make kids active participants. In Maui, she recommended a new restaurant called Slappy Cakes for the fun experience of making your own pancakes.
Abbott suggested that Hawaii-bound families go to the lunch wagon along the beach, which originated in Hawaii, for local fare such as Filipino, Korean and Hawaiian food.
“It’s a really neat way to economize,” he said.
Palladium stays on trend with its various theme restaurants, but also by bending over backwards to accommodate clients with food allergies and preferences through its Food Allergy Program.
Kids come in different shapes and sizes.
It’s key that there are unique activities for all age groups. At Palladium, for example, baby clubs cater to kids ages 1-3, mini clubs for ages 4-8 and 9-12 and clubs for the 13-17 crowd, too.
Family travel is educational.
“Family travel creates experiences that you’ve never had before, so it really educates you on the culture or an activity that you possibly didn’t know before as well,” Abbott said.
Jenss agreed that family travel can certainly be educational and transformational.
Once clients understand why you should travel with kids — that it is truly educational — we’ll see a bigger growth, he said.
Accommodate multigenerational groups with separate spaces.
Remember, just because millennials and adults agreed to travel with toddlers, doesn’t mean that they want to spend every waking moment with them. Look for resorts, such as Honua Kai, that offer adults-only pools.
Also consider your rooming configurations. Both Lopez and Abbott stressed the spaciousness of their properties as well as the diversity of room configurations as reasons that their properties are good for multigenerational groups.
Family travelers are the most active travelers.
According to Jenss, families are the most active vacationers there are. And Abbott had no shortage of activities to share offered by Palladium, from tennis, basketball and soccer fields at most properties to free surfing lessons.
“Our property in Puerto Vallarta is one of the only ones in the world that has its own surf break right outside of the hotel,” he said.
Lopez highlighted the popularity of snorkeling in North Kaanapali Beach, steps away from Honua Kai. Jenss also pointed out that grandparents traveling with grandkids are more active than ever.