Travel Agent magazine hosted a summit on multigenerational travel at the Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago recently to determine the latest trends in this thriving niche market. We brought together an exclusive group of 15 suppliers, hoteliers and travel advisors.
Our findings showed that many consumers are trying to create their own multi-gen travel trips, ranging from an annual big family gathering to large celebration travel events. This means there is an abundance of opportunity for travel advisors in this sector.
We examined the mass market and luxury ends of the spectrum, and so products discussed ranged from sun-and-sand all-inclusives to European villas that were rented for an entire month by grandparents who hosted different family members each week.
Here is an exclusive video of the roundtable, with our transcript below.
Launching the discussion was Lindsey Ueberroth, president of Preferred Hotel Group, which last year did research and published a white paper on multi-gen travel.
Lindsey Ueberroth, Preferred Hotel Group: We defined the “multi-gen traveler” as anyone who had taken a trip with three or more generations in 12 months leading up to the survey. We surveyed 2,500 adult U.S.-born travelers, so it is a very U.S.-centric survey. If you look at the statistics in the breakdown, 55 percent are women, 45 percent are men, 75 percent are married and there is a very high percentage of well-educated career people. Not quite half represented household incomes of $100,000 or higher, and the median age was about 47. To quantify what the marketing opportunity is, 40 percent of all the active leisure travelers that we surveyed have taken at least one multigenerational trip in the year leading up to the survey. That represents 20.8 million households alone in the U.S. that are actively looking to travel in this segment.
|John Stachnik, Mayflower Tours; Jill Taylor, Jetset World Travel; Galen Matthews, Royal Caribbean International; and Kristine Rose, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts|
What is happening that could be driving this? Extended families are living further and further apart [than they did generations ago]. My parents live in Paris, my brother and sister-in-law live in South California, I live in Chicago. So when we’re trying to get together, we have to travel to do so.
Secondly, we live in a fast-paced, highly digital world; tell me the last time you had a dinner or a weekend that didn’t involve [an iPhone, BlackBerry or Android]. Travel is one of the few experiences that really provide families with that relief, to get away. Finally, the baby boomer generation is just growing and growing. They’re turning 65, and they’re healthier, wealthier, and more active than any other generation in our history. And travel is on the top of their list. We showed that 26 percent of all leisure travelers are now grandparents, and one-third of that group wants to travel with their grandchildren.
We also found that 77 percent of multi-gen travelers had been planning, and/or were planning, a vacation around a milestone event. (See chart below.) We see [this] as one of the greatest opportunities for this industry.
So where are they going? This is a group that definitely wants to travel internationally, but the trend was definitely geared heavily toward Europe. What’s happened in the last 12 months has skewed that a bit, so keep in mind the survey was over a year ago. But 33 percent reported that they had visited Europe in the past year, and 60 percent had hoped to visit, or planned to visit Europe in the next two years.
We asked what were they looking for in terms of location, features and activities when they travelled. Perhaps the most notable among the list is, “a place they’ve never visited before,” scoring at 83 percent. Most interestingly, what scored better than any other physical activity out there was just “having enough time to relax and unwind,” at 88 percent.
We wanted to know how they are booking their trips and where are they going to get their information from. What’s driving their purchasing behavior? Twenty-three percent purchased a travel service as the result of an unsolicited e-mail. That just goes to reinforce the fact that e-mail marketing is a means of communication that isn’t going to go away, and those that do it well will succeed.
We also found that 37 percent have visited online communities and travel blogs with TripAdvisor being at the top of the list at the time we did the survey. When asked where they get their travel ideas and inspiration, “friends and family” scored the highest at 59 percent.
Preferences of multi-gen travelers on the next page.
We found the results of this study to be very, very encouraging for the traditional travel advisor. Almost 20 percent of this market had used a travel agent in the past year and we’re just talking about the mult-igen segment, not all travel.
They reported that they trust the advice of their travel advisor, and that their recommendations on vacation packages and tours were extremely influential in their buying decisions. In addition, they’re 13 percent more likely to use a travel advisor than a non-multi-gen traveler.
I’ll sum it up with our conclusion, which was that multi-gen travelers are typically a larger group with a lot more moving parts and a lot more age groups. This group is really looking for turnkey services that provide value, and a unique experience [and] they want us, as the hospitality industry and travel advisors, to provide them.
What this means for travel advisors on the next page.
Ruthanne Terrero, Travel Agent magazine: That really lays out the landscape perfectly. Let’s start with the same question for everyone. What are your observations on multi-gen travel?
Sharon Symons, Globus family of brands: We are continuing to publish our multigenerational travel brochure. What we are finding is that the clients are finding us and that the need is really driving our demand. It should be brought to the table that the consumer is looking for something that’s all-inclusive and all-packaged, simple and easy so they don’t have to run around with two teenagers in a car doing London, Paris and Nice. What we’re also finding is that grandma and grandpa want to stay at the hotel and have a nice lunch out on the veranda, but the two teenagers want to go out and do their own thing. This type of package (with Monogram) really allows that.
Our multigenerational brochure has been out for the last five years and I can say that the travel advisor can sit down with a client and say, “Okay, this works 100 percent for sure” because we’ve designed the amenities in there to be conducive for multigenerational travelers.
Peter Carideo, CRC Travel: I look at it in a different way. It always seems to be that the birth of a grandchild starts this thought process. Originally it was a lot of cruises. But next week, I’ve got a family of 22 leaving for Italy, and what started out as a week has branched out into three weeks, because everybody’s doing different things. Typically, the grandparent is running the show, since they’re paying for it.
I’m not buying a package, I’m putting it together, because I want to make certain that I have complete control over every piece. Thinking of what I’ve got on the books right now, it is a lot of villa stuff. This way I can control everything, and make money on it.
Victoria Boomgarden, Best Travel Gold: We’re seeing that the grandparents will rent a villa for a month, and then each family will come in for a week at a time because you don’t necessarily want to be with your entire family the whole time. The challenge is everybody wants to do a week in the villa and then go off on their own to do an FIT.
Peter Carideo, CRC Travel: But that’s the fun of it.
Amy Weyman, Abercrombie & Kent: We’ve always had multigenerational travel as a cornerstone at Abercrombie & Kent and we’ve seen a 50 percent growth in the last two years in multigen travel, so almost 20 percent of our bookings now are family- or multi-gen-related. About one quarter of those are for parties of six or more. We cater to them in two primary ways. We have small-group journeys that are customized for families that include child activity leaders, with lots of things for the kids to do to make it a really rich experience. We tend to get grandparents just taking grandchildren on those, or all three generations going on those trips. They tend to cater a little bit to younger-age children, and then as the children get older, the multigenerational groups are more interested in completely customizing the trip. For us, destinations like Africa are at the top of the list, as are the Galapagos and Antarctica, places where there’s a lot of nature and wildlife and culture. Europe is another key place. Because of the villas, Italy is a top family destination as is France, for river cruising.
Claudia Kozma Kaplan, The Leading Hotels of the World: We’re very focused on multigenerational travel and have been for years, not only from a client perspective, but our own hoteliers; it’s one of our differentiators. Our hotels are independent and many are family-owned. We feature them that way in our directory. So it’s appealing from a marketing perspective, because families can relate to that, they’re staying in another family’s home. For many years, we’ve had a product called Leading Villas. We’re also seeing that more and more of our new hotels are specifically carving out space on their properties for independent villas, because families want not only the right configurations, they want their freedom, without being worried about disturbing other customers. Villas come with kitchens and you have the amenities of a hotel, but you still feel that you have some privacy.
We’ve seen that people, particularly after the financial crisis, are taking stock of what’s important in life. They really want to spend time with their families and money is no object but they want an enriching experience, and, as the research shows, they want to see a place that they haven’t been to.
Warren Wilkinson, Choose Chicago: Chicago, historically, has not really marketed itself as a leisure destination and we’re just starting to really push that. We see the potential of attracting an older clientele in the winter to take in the culture in Chicago, and then bringing their family during a warmer period of the year. There’s something for everybody here. So the older generation could go and experience the museums with their children and grandchildren, and then give them the excitement of going out on a Segway tour by the lake, or going to check out Lou Malnati’s Pizza or American Girl, which is an amazing multigenerational experience.
Jill Taylor, Jetset World Travel: I’ve just recently moved to Chicago and I have had more visitors since I’ve moved here. We also have suppliers and hoteliers coming in and everybody loves Chicago. You have all the business travelers coming in from all over the world and they find Chicago to be amazing, and then they want to bring their families. There’s growth here because everybody loves it.
Steve Gorga, Travel Impressions: Our group department about three years ago had 12 people in it. Now we’ve got 50. And it’s mostly destination weddings and family travel to our traditional destinations. They’re mostly to Mexico, the Caribbean, some Hawaii, some Europe.
I’ve been with the company for 11 years, and since then I’ve seen incredible building of fabulous resorts all throughout Mexico’s Riviera Maya and parts of the Caribbean, and they’ve all built their resorts with the intention of family travel, and multigenerational travel. All-inclusives over the last few years have become very popular.
Destination weddings are also really important for us and are probably the ultimate in multigenerational travel. They cost a lot less, the experiences are incredible; some of the hotel partners are offering free weddings. And then you also can catch the family when they return for the first anniversary and the second anniversary.
The discussion continues on the next page.
Ruthanne Terrero, Travel Agent magazine: Destination weddings are such a natural multi-gen product for sure. And as you said, the agent can capture them through celebration travel, then you have all of their details for the coming year. Victoria, what are you seeing in this niche?
Victoria Boomgarden, Best Travel Gold: Big celebration travel has always been there, but it’s changing. People are saying, “My money is not worth anything anyway, I just want to spend it on my family, we want to be together,” so they’re going.
When I look at just what’s on the books right now, we’ve got the traditional group of 11 going to Hawaii, we’ve got a family whose daughter works in Jordan and another one who is a sportscaster somewhere and they’re all meeting at Le Maurice in Paris. There’s a huge opportunity of people who are looking for those experiences. We’ve got the Italian villa with the mega-family for a month with people coming and going for a four-week period doing all sorts of things. It’s extremely complicated. We’ve got a woman who had been through a divorce and wanted to combine two families for holiday travel. She wanted Costa Rica and she didn’t want to make any decisions or to be left alone at night with these new kids whom she didn’t really know and to have to come up with things to do. The Tauck Bridges product actually worked really well for the Costa Rica experience.
Patrick Mitchell, Club Med: Club Med, about seven years ago, completely repositioned the brand. You might be surprised to know that today, 65 percent of our business is families, and 10 percent of our business is singles. So our marketing is almost entirely dedicated to families, and while we don’t specifically segment out multigenerational families, when you’ve built a product, as Steve has talked about, around families, you’re naturally going to attract multi-gen families. And, and as others have said, it’s largely driven by grandparents who are seeking an opportunity to create an experience for the kids.
We found in talking to some of our reservation agents out in Phoenix, that, for grandparents, there are two generations of kids that they’re thinking about. They’re thinking about their grandchildren, but they’re also thinking about giving their own children an opportunity to get away from the day-to-day grind of taking care of the family. One of the things that we’ve seen change most recently is that there’s less interest today in finding a place to stick the kids and keep them entertained when you’re on vacation, vs. now creating activities to integrate the whole family.
Don’t think that your very wealthy clients don’t have an interest in all-inclusives. I’ll share with you a statistic that blew my mind. Twenty-four percent of Club Med guests have a net worth over $2 million, vs. the U.S. population, which is at 4 percent. So, Club Med guests are five times more likely to have a net worth over $2 million. To me, that says that while they may have the budget for a very exclusive villa experience, it’s important to ask what they really want in a vacation. Because it may be that less planning and more relaxing is more important, regardless of how much money they have.
Ruthanne Terrero, Travel Agent magazine: Patrick, do you find that the kids become loyal to the Club Med brand? Do kids play a big part in the decision-making for the trip?
Patrick Mitchell, Club Med: We do and we found in some of the research I had the marketing team do for us is that multi-gen families are more loyal to the brand, and are more likely to travel more frequently than non-multigenerational families.
Ruthanne Terrero, Travel Agent magazine: Thank you. Carole, how about multi-gen travel for India?
Carole Cambata, Greaves Tours: We are seeing a rise in family travel (to India); clients are taking their children. Normally they’re with their older children, and sometimes they’re married and they’ll go with their spouses. But conversely, what we’re seeing is that the grown children are taking their parents, too. They want to do it for a special occasion, an anniversary or for some sort of celebration; a vow renewal, for example. We have it on the itinerary, and so many people are interested in going over there and having a blessing done on an anniversary. It’s really sort of taken off.
For children, we do have a multigenerational group tour. It’s a maximum of 12, although it can be made larger if more family members want to go. We make sure there are lots of fun things for the children to do. As Amy said, you have to keep the children engaged. A couple of things that we do for the children, which the grandparents and parents love, is henna painting and to show them how to wear a sari, and for the boys, how to wear a turban. They all get a kick out of it and have lots of photos taken.
We did take a group of 11—it was multigenerational—over to India last year. And they were very, very conservative, and they just wanted to do all of the safe things and they didn’t want to do anything out of the ordinary. I said, “You’re going to India; you’ve got to experience the colors and the sounds and really embrace it.” We finally convinced them and said, “We’ll just put on this evening, and if you hate it, you know, we’re really sorry, but just give it a chance.” We were in Udaipur, and there was the Udaipur Palace. It has an outside eating area; the restaurant is really lovely. We put on music and at first they were all sitting there and then gradually they all started dancing, and they wore saris or scarves and the guys wore turbans. They really, really embraced it, and had an absolutely marvelous time.
So you have to think about how you’re going to deal with the multi-generational families, about what’s going to appeal them.
Jill Taylor, Jetset World Travel: Victoria and I were lucky enough to travel with Carole, and it was 12 women, age 25 to 70. We all were so engaged with everything. That could’ve been a multigenerational trip, in the sense that the age difference was so spread out. And we all loved it.
John Stachnik, Mayflower Tours: I should be here as an observer rather than a participant. We’ve taken families in our programs for years and years, but we’ve talked about now going a little bit further…to the point where, this Sunday, I will be leaving on a shakedown tour. We’re taking 30 family members to Salt Lake City, the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore. Families are coming from Florida, from Michigan, from New Mexico, from Wisconsin, from Chicago. And we feel that this is an excellent way for us to do a little hands-on research.
The market is there. A lot of times you don’t have the opportunity to interact with your clients or your travelers, especially the children, but since I’m a grandfather, I have been interacting with grandkids and they are more excited than the parents, which I find remarkable.
The big questions at Mayflower Tours are, do we want to include these people on existing programs? Do we want another brand? We have to look at the modes of transportation. Can we mix and mingle disparate families into a single departure, or do I have to keep each family individual and arrange for different modes of transportation for these people? Those and 100 other questions are what we’re going through right now.
Jill Taylor, Jetset World Travel: Jetset started off with destination weddings and honeymoons—and now as we’ve grown, we’re doing the babymoons, the one-year anniversaries, the five-year anniversaries; now we’re doing the 30th (40th and 50th) birthdays and second weddings for the same clients. But we’re also seeing that people aren’t waiting until they retire to travel. They’ve seen that their parents have lost the money so they want to experience things now.
We’re seeing a lot of Africa, but it’s one of those trips that people assume is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, so our challenge is to tell people that Africa, and Australia as well, aren’t just once-in-a-lifetime trips, that they should take their children when they’re young and they’re going back over and over again. I’m seeing a lot of Australia and New Zealand because the grandparents are really active and want active adventures.
Just as Peter said, it’s a challenge to put 20 people together; everybody wants to have their own say in what happens. So it is challenging, but it’s also fun, because you get to engage with your clients. What’s also great is the family that goes then tells all of their friends and family, and the referrals come back to you.
As an advisor, it’s important for us to ask for those referrals too. Like, “Hey, what are your parents doing when you’re off in Europe?” Or, “Have you thought about having a family reunion?”
Sharon Symons, Globus family of brands: There are a lot of very successful boomers and a lot of them are single women. What we’re seeing is, the boomer is now taking the grandparents or, their parents. So, we’re talking about the reverse.
Steve Gorga, Travel Impressions: The other part of family travel I was going to just open up is that since I’ve had kids, I’ve always said, once a year, no matter where we are, we have to all get together for a family vacation. So we’re not celebrating anything, it’s not really a reunion, because we do it every year. But when I say this to people, a lot of other guys say to me, “I do the same thing with my family.” I don’t know if the guys don’t talk about stuff like that, but in general, it’s out there. Then, as the kids get older, the daughter wants to bring a friend, the son wants to bring a friend, and it grows to a bigger and bigger group.
Jill Taylor, Jetset World Travel: You just brought up a point; what’s amazing to me is that when we talk to new clients that find us, they’ve been doing it themselves. I’m like, “You’re doing this yourself?” We do this every day and it’s challenging. There’s such a huge room for errors or problems.
Ruthanne Terrero, Travel Agent magazine: They’ll learn by burn. Galen, I know Royal Caribbean is very entrenched in the multi-gen market.
The discussion continues on the next page.
Galen Matthews, Royal Caribbean International: We were one of the early adopters of multigenerational and families cruising altogether, but overall, cruising is one of the biggest untapped markets out there. Multigenerational cruisers have found that there’s such a value in cruising that they’ve really adapted to it, and as a result, our business has increased for this type of travel. And what’s interesting is, 31 percent of our guests are traveling with at least one child of 18 or under, and 40 percent of our guests onboard are traveling either with children, or with extended family members. So, what’s nice about this is, there is this pent-up demand. And we’re able to tailor their experience exactly to what each of the generations is looking for.
Kristine Rose, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts: One of the trends that we’re finding is that there are a lot of families going on vacations with the sole purpose of social responsibility. So, they want to go, say, to Mexico as a multigenerational group and they’ll want to volunteer, in an orphanage for one or two days of their vacation, and then they tack on the other five or six days as their leisure travel. As we’re learning more about it, we think it’s a great way to sell different packages, or different destinations, than the typical hanging out at the beach. The grandparents get to experience the chance to give back with the kids.
|Sharon Symons, Globus family of brands; Peter Carideo, CRC Travel; Amy Weyman, A&K; Claudia Kozma Kaplan, The Leading Hotels of the World; Warren Wilkinson, Choose Chicago; and Steve Gorga, Travel Impressions|
Tom Baumann, Travel Leaders: About a year ago, we really made a big effort to pump up our marketing in the multi-gen sector. We surveyed a couple hundred of our travel agents a week or two ago, and the responses that came back were interesting. We had 30 percent of the agents say they were selling more multi-gen travel today than they were a year ago, and 50 percent of them say that they are selling substantially more multi-gen travel than a year ago. That’s a good sign for us as an industry. The other thing that I thought was interesting is, 95 percent of those said that it was cruise and all-inclusive travel. They also said that the grandparents wanted the all-inclusive pricing; that was very important to them. They were terrified of having a group of 24 family members, and then they’d have to pay $12 for a cup of coffee, times 24.
To Jill’s point earlier, the biggest thing is getting people to ask existing clients for that opportunity to take a multi-gen trip. We recently had an agent who was booking Mr. and Mrs. Smith, those are fictitious names, who are very, very wealthy clients, and they’re always booking top suites (on a luxury cruise line). One day, the agent took it upon herself to say, “You know, Mr. Smith, I think you ought to take your whole family on a cruise.” He was like, “No, no, no, I have four kids and 300 grandkids. I can’t do it, it’s too many people…” Long story short, she ended up convincing him and he bought out all the loft suites on the Oasis of the Seas for $330,000.
So, that’s just a very strong case to say to the frontline folks, “Look, you may have clients you’ve serviced for years, but, but bring this out…ask them what their thoughts are.”
Ruthanne Terrero, Travel Agent magazine: And that’s the whole point of involving a travel professional, because it is complex. Lindsey, we started with you, after listening to everyone, is there anything that you would like to add?
Lindsey Ueberroth, Preferred Hotel Group: I’m glad to see that the study resonated with everybody here and the trends were aligning. After we did the research, we wanted to dig a little deeper, and we went out and started talking to our hotel partners, and then the actual travel advisors. We found for the travel advisors that it’s really hard, especially with the hotel segment, to determine how to trust this “family-friendly” concept. What does “family-friendly” really mean? That really drove us to launch a certification program through which our hotels go to a pretty lengthy process to get in. It focuses on age group, it’s the amenities, and it now allows you to search and sort for all the criteria that your family wants for that trip. You put all those in and it might filter down to five hotels if you want to do that trip for that breadth of a family experience.
Full list of participants on the next page.
At the Table:
Tom Baumann, president, Travel Leaders Leisure Group: “We do a pretty large amount of multigenerational travel and are always looking to grow it because it’s a very profitable, very good business for us.”
Victoria Boomgarden, president, Luxury Division Best Travel Gold: Boomgarden is also a partner in the agency. “We’re an entirely employee-owned company. I run the luxury division. It’s been 11 years since we came together, and it’s been successful beyond all of our expectations.”
Carole Cambata, president, Greaves Tours: “We are a small, family-owned business; we sell to a luxury market of India and the Indian subcontinent. The family is originally from India, which is why we decided to focus on this destination. We have our own private plane, so we’re very excited about that.”
Peter Carideo, president, CRC Travel: CRC Travel, based in Chicago, is 100 percent high-end leisure. “Typically [for multi-gen travel], the grandparent is running the show, since they’re paying for it. Sometimes they give up some of the power to the kids…but typically it’s fairly structured.”
Steve Gorga, president, Travel Impressions: “Travel Impressions is a wholly owned subsidiary of American Express. We work with about 2,400 hotels all over the world, and we also run American Express Vacations. The Travel Impressions brand just sells to travel agents.”
Claudia Kozma Kaplan, VP/CMO, The Leading Hotels of the World: “Our properties are extremely independent. We’re very proud to have some of the most iconic hotels in the world—the Ritz Paris, and Villa d’Este, and the list goes on and on.”
Galen Matthews, director of sales/central region, Royal Caribbean International and Azamara Cruises: “Multigenerational cruisers have found that there’s such a value in cruising that they’ve really adopted it, and as a result of that, our business has increased for this type of travel.”
Patrick Mitchell, VP, USA sales Club Med: “We’re responsible for sales marketing operations for eight resorts in North America, but we also sell all 80 of our resorts globally…You might be surprised to know that today, 65 percent of our business is families.”
Kristine Rose, VP, brands for Hyatt House and Hyatt Place, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts: “We have seven different brands…we’ve just started talking about multigenerational travelers; obviously with a lot of leisure business it’s part of our communication.”
John Stachnik, president, Mayflower Tours: Mayflower is considering breaking out this niche. “We’re an escorted tour operator; we specialize in North America and the world.”
Sharon Symons, director of travel industry sales, Globus family of brands: “I am director of sales for all of the brands for Globus, including the river cruise line, Avalon Waterways. Multigenerational is very important to us, in fact we broke out this segment about four years ago.”
Jill Taylor, senior advisor, Jetset World Travel: “We’re a small travel agency with six women. Most of our clientele…is under 50. As our clientele is growing older, we’re getting more multigenerational travelers, the grandparents who are interested in everybody coming along.”
Lindsey Ueberroth, president, Preferred Hotel Group: “Preferred Hotel Group is a family-owned and operated business. We provide sales, marketing and technology services to independent luxury hotels. We have seven brands, a portfolio that’s meant to cater to a variety of travelers across their travel needs.”
Amy Weyman, VP of marketing, Abercrombie & Kent: “We have 50 offices worldwide…at A&K, we’ve seen a 50 percent growth in the last two years in multi-gen travel.”
Warren Wilkinson, CMO, Choose Chicago: “Choose Chicago is a new marketing and sales organization formed from the consolidation of the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau and the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture. Our goal is to take visitation from 42 million to 50 million by 2020. In the last seven months we’ve opened offices in Sao Paulo, Mexico City, Toronto, Japan, Frankfurt, London, Beijing, Shanghai, and I think we’re going to open up one more in Paris.”