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The theme of the Fourth annual Family Travel Association (FTA) Summit, held Oct. 7-10 at Fairmont Southampton in Bermuda, was
“Innovation,” and many of the companies and travel agents who were featured at the event are certainly innovators. The 150 attendees — made up of suppliers, media and agents — heard from a wide range of businesses, many of which have creative and unique visions of family travel.
Summit topics included presentations on travel for families living with autism; servicing LGBTQ families; and creating voluntourism/special-purpose itineraries for families. While it may be tempting to call these topics “niche,” many of the speakers pointed out that there are huge numbers of travelers — and large potential markets — outside the traditional target audience.
“The Summit provided us with a terrific platform to showcase the innovation happening in our industry that makes travel more accessible to families of all types,” said Rainer Jenss, president and founder of the FTA. “By highlighting the great work our members are doing, we hope the media and travel advisor communities will get the word out and inspire more families to travel.”
One of the highlights of the conference was hearing from Gordon Hartman, founder of Morgan’s Wonderland, a waterpark built specifically for families with children who have special needs. A true trailblazer, Hartman shared his reasons for creating the park and some of the challenges he faced — emphasizing that everyone deserves the opportunity to experience the wonder of travel.
The theme of innovation also related to changes going on within the FTA itself.
For advisors, Jenss announced the FTA’s Travel Agent Initiative, which includes a training and certification program — launched in partnership with Northstar Travel Group (parent company of Family Getaways) — as well as increased advocacy for agents across all of FTA’s platforms.
The FTA also announced plans to revamp its media center, including the recent launch of Family Travel Radio, a podcast focused on family travel. And Jenss announced the launch of FTA Europe, a European-focused affiliate of the FTA that will host its first event next spring in Portugal.
Attendees at the summit also received a preview of recent family travel research, conducted by the FTA in partnership with New York University’s Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality and supported by Travel + Leisure. Among its findings, the annual survey of consumers shows that nearly 80 percent of parents plan on taking a family vacation sometime in the next 12 months.
Finally, the summit also saw the first FTA Honors program, recognizing the work of six individuals and organizations. Kristin Karst, co-owner of AmaWaterways, was selected as the 2018 FTA Person of the Year for her vision and commitment in opening the river cruising category to more families and for her role in developing key family-related initiatives. In her acceptance speech, Karst talked about how the strength of travel is its focus on personal relationships and the way people connect with each other.
“Material things change. Rivers change. Maybe even ports change,” Karst said. “But it’s the human connection that will never change.”
The DetailsFamily Travel Associationwww.familytravel.org