As the demographics of families change, agents need to adjust their approach to planning travel. // © 2017 Getty Images
Family travel is a bright spot in today’s leisure travel market. According to MMGY Global’s 2017-2018 “Portrait of American Travelers” study, millennial families are expected to spend 19 percent more on travel over the next year, while overall leisure travel spending will drop one percent from the industry’s 2016 high. Also, these young families will travel 36 percent more during the next 12 months compared to a 6 percent increase for all other U.S. travelers. Millennial families are more likely to vacation internationally too, with 25 percent of their trips outside the country.
It therefore comes as no surprise that millennial family travel is seen as a gold mine. However, to tap the right vein, agents must factor in another key consideration: the face of family travel is changing. Significantly. It’s no longer enough to focus on typical two-parent families with two children. Today, additional niches within the family travel market offer strong sales prospects. Travel agents who understand this are positioning themselves for the greatest growth.
Millennial families might include traditional two-parent households with little ones, but they may also be blended families with children of widely varying ages; families with same-sex parents; multiracial/multicultural families; and families with special-needs children. Each of these groups has unique requirements and motivations, necessitating specialized vacation assistance.
“Travel agents who specialize in family travel need to be prepared with the right products, documentation and empathy to assist all types of travelers,” said Sally Black, founder of travel agency Vacationkids.
Moreover, millennial families enjoy vacationing in extended family groups, helping to fuel the increase in multigenerational travel. Family-focused tour operators are seeing as much as 20 percent increases in multigenerational bookings for 2018.
“Older travelers are healthier and more active than ever,” said Dan Austin, founder and president of Austin Adventures. “In addition, grandparents realize spending precious time on vacations with family members is very rewarding, and they are open to footing the bill.”
Demographic shifts are creating opportunities for agents, as well. According to U.S. census data, millennials are waiting longer to marry, and more than half of today’s 25- to 34-year-olds are single. This is driving growth in single-parent vacations, travel with adult millennial children and aunt/uncle trips. And these nontraditional family travelers are seeking new options to meet their needs.
“Thomson Family Adventures’ itineraries designed for parents vacationing with millennial children are a huge hit,” said Moo Bishop, manager of sales and alumni relations for Thomson Family Adventures.
Experienced travel agents who recognize and respond to the diverse faces of family travel can generate more bookings, higher sales conversions, stronger client relationships and greater repeat business. It gives a whole new meaning to “family values.”