Multi-generational Travel

I hear from our readers again and again that their multi-generational travel business is increasing steadily. From grandparents to great-grandchildren, clans of all shapes and sizes are stepping out together to enjoy their vacations. If you are hoping to benefit from this trend, it's important that you are able to service this market correctly in order to receive their lucrative repeat business.

Children's Programs

For starters, it's not enough to determine that a hotel simply has a children's program. Some of these are no better than rooms filled with crayons and coloring books. Is the program an interactive one that will actually enrich the children's experience while away from their parents?

While we're at it, what are the ages of the children traveling in the group? It's not safe to assume that the program in question takes kids of all ages, in fact, many do not take children under the age of four. If you're sending a weary couple away with their active three-year-old, you'll want to be sure said child isn't turned away at the door of the kid's center.

Ah, Youth!

Now, for those teenagers: It's safe to assume that they will get bored on vacation—unless their five favorite friends are joining them. And they will feel hostile that they're being taken away from their pals, who will be doing much more interesting things than spending time with their parents. For this reason, it's vital that the hotel you choose for your clients has high-speed Internet access so they can e-mail back home to get a constant update on what's going on in their absence. It might even be worth checking to see if more than one connection is available, in case their parents also need to have access to the Internet.

Activities for teenagers must typically be exciting, enticing and exhausting. The Four Seasons has a teen concierge in some locations who is completely in the know in terms of what's fun and exciting to do in a given area. If you're not booking one of these properties, seek out a destination management company that knows the area well; they have likely already accommodated the traveling-family trend on their own.

Older Family Members

Great-grandparents of course need to be accommodated properly as well. In many cases, they are treating the entire family to the vacation you're planning, so you want to be sure they're pleased with their leisure time. Hint: If these clients are the self-sacrificing types, they'll tell you they don't need to be accommodated with special activities "as long as everyone else is happy." Don't listen to them; ensure that there is plenty to keep them occupied. If they are truly older, they may have difficulty getting around, so they may not want to be trekking around all day with the rest of their kin. Does the hotel they are visiting provide more restful activities, such as a garden tour? The Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Arizona has just added a natural history walking path to its offerings, which could be an ideal diversion for someone who wants to be outdoors. If the resort has a full-fledged library or serves an upscale afternoon tea, your client might be delightfully relieved to be able to take it easy and be entertained at the same time.

Active Adults

I'm not leaving the parents and the grandparents out of the picture. If they're active, they'll want to be enriched by their travels. They'll want to "touch" the destination and be touched by it. If you can provide them with any insider access to attractions and activities, they'll be delighted. Sometimes it's not even that difficult to scope out special activities. Museums often have classes that cater to families. On the third Sunday of every month, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art serves up "Family Studio" programs that are included with the price of admission to the museum.

Family Travel Web Site

By the way, I recently met Amie O'Shaughnessy, a travel agent in Oakland, CA who founded Ciao Bambino!, a company that scouts out the best hotels accommodating families with children; she even has categories that range from properties that are ideal for infants, up to those that will suit 13- to 18-year-olds. The site's focus is on Europe, which is helpful, as many properties abroad are not branded and so do not offer standard amenities that can be expected in every destination.

 

Get into the Niche!

There's no denying it: Families do intend to travel together. According to the just-released AAA Memorial Day Travel Forecast, 57 percent of households nationwide with children under 18 will bring the kids along on their Memorial Day vacation this year. If you do your homework, you'll be able to cash in on this potentially profitable niche!

Ruthanne Terrero, CTC Editorial Director rterrero@questex.com