Young families continue to seek out international destinations. // © 2016 iStock
Feature image (above): Millennial families make up 31 percent of the family travel market. // © 2016 iStock
There’s a new generation in town, and they’re taking the family travel market by storm.
Although millennials have long been influential in the adventure and solo segments of travel, the members of this generation now make up 31 percent of the family travel market.
And in this sector, they’re making the move from children traveling with parents to parents traveling with children. With more than 80 million members, this growing generation has become the largest in the world and will continue to grow until its youngest members turn 18 years old. That’s why millennials were the topic of this year’s fourth annual Family Travel Summit, held April 17-19 at Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa in South Walton, Fla.
The three-day conference, hosted by Travel Media Showcase (TMS), in conjunction with Family Travel Forum and Taking the Kids, was themed “Connecting With Millennials, the New Family Traveler.” Approximately 30 attendees representing media, suppliers, tourism boards and industry analysts were in attendance.
Following is what agents should know about this dynamic group of families, according to research presented at TMS by Ed Tapan, head of industry, travel, for Google; Steve Cohen, vice president of research and insights for MMGY Global (MMGY); and Jeffrey Eslinger, senior director of account services for D.K. Shifflet & Associates (DKSA).
Traveling Far and Wide
Early family vacations in the U.S. began when 19th-century, upper-class families “took to the waters” as an escape from the grind of daily chores, according to Kyle McCarthy, editor of Family Travel Forum, and Eileen Ogintz, editor of Takingthekids.com. Now, more than a century later, millennial families are increasingly interested in jetting off to far-flung destinations with their kids in tow.
Research presented at the summit by Google reveals the top five destinations for these families: Osaka, Japan; Bangkok, Thailand; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Bordeaux, France; and Athens, Greece.
But perhaps the real surprise is not in the destinations themselves, but in the age of the children who are traveling there. According DKSA’s Eslinger, 62 percent of traveling millennials have children who are under the age of 5 and are not yet constricted by the limits of a school calendar.
Moreover, MMGY reports that 64 percent of these families took at least one international vacation in the past year, and they are more likely to visit a new destination than singles and couples in the same generation.
That’s not to say that domestic vacations have become passe. DKSA research reveals that the main mode of transportation for the majority of millennial families is still by car, and popular destinations within the U.S. include California, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee and New York.
The Importance of “Bleisure”
According to Google’s Tapan, millennials take an average of 2.6 leisure vacations per year, compared to 6.8 trips taken for business.
Because of this, he says, it is important to consider trips that incorporate a healthy amount of “bleisure,” which refers to the practice of incorporating both business and leisure activities into a single trip.
Millennials are experts in this type of travel, with more than 80 percent of these travelers using their vacation days as add-ons to either end of a business trip, compared to 56 percent of Generation Y and 46 percent of baby boomers who choose to do the same.
Tapan noted that travel businesses would do well to position their brands and offerings to take advantage of this unique approach to travel, citing the “Stay Inspired” campaign from Conrad Hotels & Resorts, which suggests nearby activities for travelers based on how much free time they have in between meetings.
Travel brands and travel agents can capitalize on this trend by viewing these clients as “explorers,” not “tourists,” Tapan added, reiterating that families crave personalization and will be attracted to unique, customizable experiences within a destination.
Calling All Travel Agents
Although some travel professionals may feel that this mercurial group of travelers has remained somewhat elusive in years past, there is significant potential when it comes to securing the business and meeting the demands of this growing group.
The relationship between travel agents and millennials has changed over the years, but results from MMGY’s 2015 Portrait of American Travelers, which evaluated how often each generation plans to use a traditional travel advisor, are promising.
MMGY’s Cohen added that millennial families often believe that travel consultants will have the best deals, and recent data reveals that families are more loyal to travel brands than couples and singles.
Although the mature generation is in the lead when planning for the future use of an agent (23 percent), millennials are in a close second (22 percent). Generation X follows (15 percent) and baby boomers are last (13 percent).
“Travel agents are experiencing a resurgence,” Cohen said. “People are booking with agents unlike they have in the past, primarily millennials.”