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Bigger families, more experiences: what the latest trends in family beach vacations mean for travel advisors. Sponsored by Palladium Hotel Group.
Family travel isn’t what it used to be, and neither is the strategy for selling it—especially when it comes to beach vacations.
Multiple reports from Virtuoso over the last few years confirm the ongoing popularity of the family beach vacation concept, yet point out that travelers’ changing tastes apply specifically to this market. A 2018 Virtuoso family trends report, for instance, noted that while “sun-and-sand trips” were on the rise, “these are not the traditional fly-and-flop vacations. Families seek beach resorts with plenty of activities to keep the entire group engaged.” The 2020 Virtuoso Luxe Report, meanwhile, revealed that the top travel trends for 2020 include multigenerational travel, active or adventure trips, family travel and celebration travel—all of which can easily be built into a beach vacation.
The evolution of the family beach vacation is due in part to general societal changes, according to Latrise Hunter, owner of LH Fun Travel in Fort Mill, South Carolina. “As a whole, people are wanting to travel more as families,” she says. “So much is going on in the world that people want to become closer, and they see travel as a way to bridge the gap. People are starting to travel more with younger kids and expose younger kids to different cultures.”
When it comes to sun and sand, families are traveling to a wider range of destinations, looking for more unique things to do and bringing more people along, says Megan Hill, owner of Destination Fun Travel in Louisburg, Kansas. “We’re seeing a lot of multigenerational trips, where you have the grandparents, parents, children/grandkids and even some great grandkids,” she says. “We’re seeing much more demand for larger suites and accommodations. Also, people increasingly want travel experiences, rather than just a vacation.”
All of this is good news for travel advisors looking for new sales opportunities. But what’s the best way to address this evolving market niche?
“Our approach has changed to accommodate and enhance the vacation experience concept,” says Hill. “We focus on creating lifetime memories with beach vacations.”
To create a truly memorable family getaway, travel advisors must first recognize that not every destination, hotel or family are the same. Qualifying family travel clients is especially important, since family members often have vastly different interests and needs, according to Paula Killion, owner of The Travel Center, a Frosch Company in Hanover, Massachusetts. “The first question I ask is ‘What do you want out of the vacation?’ ” she says. “We have a lot of options now, so you really have to know exactly what their expectations are.”
Something for EveryoneTravel advisors already know that a family beach vacation should be designed to satisfy every family member. What might come as more of a surprise is just how much power a family’s youngest members have when it comes to travel plans. According to Expedia Group Media Solutions’ Generation Alpha & Family Travel Trends study, Gen Alpha (those born after 2010) “is showing more signs of influencing family travel decisions and planning than previously thought”—and that means advisors must view children as their clients, too.
“Oftentimes, the kids are the family members who influence where the family will be going, so ultimately the resort needs to appeal to all ages, particularly the younger generation,” says Hill. “We want to be sure that the resort has lots of activities for the different ages of the children—a teens’ club or children’s program, and a great water park is always a plus. A perfect cabana or shady spot for grandma and grandpa is important. Dining options are also an important component of choosing the right resort to appeal to all ages.”
When it comes to beach destinations that offer a top range of resort options, Killion points to “Jamaica, Mexico and the Dominican Republic” as having “so many family-friendly resorts.” Hill also heartily recommends the Dominican Republic as “a great family destination with some top family resort options and choices,” and notes that the destination is picking up for 2020.
In addition to finding appropriate accommodations, advisors must also be adept at matching diverse groups with off-property experiences they’ll all love. And according to findings from Virtuoso family trends reports in 2018 and 2019, advisors should be looking for active or adventure options, touring, cultural immersion and educational opportunities—all listed as top trends for this market.
“We’re seeing a lot of private tours and excursions, including excursions that are about the island experience,” confirms Hill. “For example, in Turks and Caicos, there are tours to find live conch, which is fun for the kids and parents as well.”
Killion’s clients often ask for fast-paced fun—and they increasingly want her to book the activities in advance, which creates more sales opportunities for her. “My clients are active,” she says. “They want to go ziplining in St. Lucia, they want to hike in the rainforest. I do a lot more planning for excursions and daytrips than I ever used to. People used to go and just wing it. Nobody wants to wing it anymore.”
Who’s TravelingToday’s average family beach trip is likely to involve more people than in previous years, according to Pilar Arizmendi-Stewart, Vice President of Sales & Marketing for the Americas at Palladium Hotel Group. “One of the most interesting evolutions of the family beach vacation concept is the shift to the multigenerational travel segment—larger in size and, many times, with widely varied age ranges,” she says. “The multigen segment is interested in having shared experiences that foster family bonding and learning.”
Hill says that bringing the grandparents is one of several growing trends within the family travel niche. “Multigenerational travel is especially popular right now, along with mother/daughter and father/son experiences,” she says.
Other types of family getaways are also trending this year: Booking.com’s 2020 travel trends forecast points to the rising popularity of skip-gen vacations, which involve grandparents traveling with their grandkids, while Frommer’s Top Travel Trends for 2020 report indicates that an increasing number of adult children are traveling with their parents.
Another hot motivation for family travel is special events, which are an especially big catalyst for family beach vacations, according to Hunter: “Everyone wants a birthday trip or anniversary trip, and they want everyone to come along,” she says.
Special events are a big seller for Hill, too. “Celebrations and milestones are a large market and are a great reason to take a vacation and celebrate with family and friends,” she says. “Destination weddings and honeymoons have, and will continue to be, a large segment, but we are seeing growth in vow renewals, birthday celebrations, graduation celebrations and more.”
Selling UpTravel advisors looking to sell upgraded experiences in beach destinations will find plenty of opportunity in the family market, especially when it comes to larger groups.
In destinations like the Dominican Republic, for instance, resort complexes can offer higher-end or adults-only properties that may appeal to grandparents or adults without children, while still offering access to neighboring family-friendly resorts where those with kids can stay.
Even a single property can offer a myriad of opportunities for upgrades that can be a selling point for larger families, from adults-only sections and romance suites for the adults to connecting rooms and family suites for the group members with children. Some resorts even offer service upgrades dedicated specifically to families, with offerings around the property as well as special amenities right in their rooms.
“You can have people within the group on different budget schemes,” notes Hunter. “You may have some who are more high-end than others. I’ve had groups who are looking for different levels of service.”
The Importance of PartnersHaving an inside connection is an advantage for selling any kind of travel. And it can be especially crucial when satisfying the more complex needs of family groups.
“As travel agents, we’re only as good as our suppliers,” Hill says. “Although I feel this relationship is important with all segments of travel, family travel is more involved and detailed. Our end goal is that we want every trip to be amazing and memorable, and we want our clients to return and refer their family and friends to us. We would not be able to do that as effectively without the support of our travel suppliers and partners.”
Killion relies heavily on her hotel connections, “especially if I have more than two or three families, or adult brothers and sisters,” she says. “I’ve had quite a few of these trips, with three, four, five rooms. I don’t rely on a tour operator. I go directly to the source, to the hotel, to say, ‘I have 15 people coming in, can you support me by finding the best activities for them? It’s a 50th anniversary, it’s a birthday, or whatever.’ You need that relationship, whether it’s the head concierge or the general manager or the sales manager. Then I know that if there’s an issue, that’s the person I can go to.”
“I’m in touch with my hotel partners before anybody even gets there,” Hunter confirms. “I have a select chain of resorts that I sell and have a good relationship with. I know if I need something, they’ll be there for me.”
Palladium Hotel Group Helps Advisors Create Enhanced Family Travel Experiences
Lots of resort brands say they’re family friendly. But Palladium Hotel Group is backing up that claim by actively catering to the evolving family market—and serving as an ideal partner for travel advisors looking to sell more to this lucrative niche.
The company is uniquely equipped to address the changing needs of families on vacation, according to Pilar Arizmendi-Stewart, Palladium Hotel Group’s Vice President of Sales & Marketing for the Americas. She points to the array of weekly events, age-appropriate activities and clubs for children and teens—as well as high-quality entertainment and cuisine for adults—as proof of its appeal for families with all different age groups. In addition, the Grand Palladium Bávaro Suites Resort & Spa, part of Grand Palladium Hotels & Resorts in Punta Cana, was recently named one of the best family-friendly resorts in the destination by Forbes.
“Today’s family travel plans must include not only a beautiful white-sand beach, but also interesting and engaging activities,” Arizmendi-Stewart says. “For example, TRS Coral Hotel (part of the luxury TRS Hotels brand) and Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres Resort & Spa in Mexico offer travelers the Rafa Nadal Tennis Centre.”
Grand Palladium Hotels & Resorts in Costa Mujeres and Riviera Nayarit also offer Family Selection, an option designed to provide guests with personalized service, premium products and specialized amenities, many of which are targeted at what the company calls the Family Boss: the children.
“The enhanced personal services start upon arrival,” Arizmendi-Stewart says. “Families will also have access to a private restaurant and a bar, new entertainment units, a separate pool with waiter service and a reserved area on the beach. The Family Boss guests will receive in-room amenities such as mini bathrobes and slippers, a prepared bubble bath with water toys, cookies-and-milk turndown service, a personalized minibar with special beverages, in-room video games upon request and more.”
Because Palladium Hotel Group understands the importance of their travel advisor partners, agents will find a variety of sales and marketing tools when they work with them. “Through the Palladium Connect rewards program for partners, we offer agents complete access to all marketing materials and up-to-date information on our brands, as well as access to our Pro-Learning Program, where they can become Palladium Academy Graduates,” Arizmendi-Stewart says. “We also have a convenient, user-friendly digital asset library accessible online 24/7. A team of specialists is available to assist, and we also have a user-friendly app available for both Android and iPhone users.”
To learn more about Palladium Hotel Group’s vast range of offerings for modern family travel, visit PalladiumHotelGroup.com.