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How Multigenerational Travel Is Changing

August 13, 2013 By: Bruce Serlen

family at the beach

Arranging multigenerational travel for clients has long been lucrative for luxury travel advisors. But as two veteran advisors point out, the nature of these trips has expanded during the last few years, reflecting larger societal changes.

“Typically, the story behind these kinds of trips was that grandma and grandpa were taking the whole family on vacation, often to celebrate a milestone event, whether that be a special birthday, wedding anniversary or graduation,” said Michael Holtz, owner & CEO of The Smart Flyer in New York.

“But what we’ve been seeing more and more lately is that one of the grown children is taking the family away,” he said. “So it’s not unusual for a 45-year-old who works in finance or technology to initiate the trip and pick up the tab. And the trip could occur at any time, not necessarily keyed to a family celebration.”

According to Peter Yesawich, vice chairman of MMGY Global, a leading marketing services firm specializing in serving travel, leisure and entertainment industry clients, multigenerational travel, typically involving grandparents, their children and their grandchildren, is primed for growth because the Baby Boom generation is getting older.

“There is a wonderful revenue opportunity in this segment of the market,” he said.

Destinations for multigenerational travel are less predictable than in the past, when grandma and grandpa brought the family to tried-and-true locations, notably Hawaii, year after year. “The the adult children are likely to be more adventurous in their choices, like Africa,” said Anne Morgan Scully, president of McCabe World Travel in McLean, Va.

Given the prevalence of blended families today, the number of people potentially participating in a multigenerational trip has grown considerably, Morgan Scully said. “The word ‘family’ no longer simply means the grandparents, mom and dad and the grandchildren. Now it can be all these plus the stepmom and the stepdad traveling together with all their children and perhaps the children of each of their marriages.”

In addition, in-laws and cousins occasionally are included. Another group that defies easy categorization is close family friends, who can function as surrogate family members. “You can have children calling mom and dad’s best friends ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle,’ and they want to be included,” said Morgan Scully, who earlier this year organized a multigenerational family trip to Africa for 24 people.

Considering the number of participants and the detailed itineraries of many extended international family trips, it’s not hard to see how the assignments can become quite a large piece of business for the travel advisor.

“In addition, they can be a particularly rich source of future business referrals because different family members on the trip can end up becoming clients in their own right,” Holtz said. “If they’re impressed with the job you’ve done, it makes sense that they would think of you when planning their own leisure – or even business – travel.”

Holtz said it always is important to give family members what they want while also giving them something they haven’t thought about. “It’s your way of being creative and making an unexpected contribution to the success of the trip,” he said. “Clients love that.”

As a result of working with multigenerational travel clients, Morgan Scully inherited the children of a long-time client as her own, which brought in sizable additional billings to her agency. But they first had to develop a trusting relationship with Morgan Scully on their own terms.

“At the end of the day, the children didn’t want dad’s travel advisor to know what they were doing,” she said. “Travel advisors need to remember that what they’re told by family members is sacrosanct. Repeat nothing. Your job is to develop travel plans, not share information.”            

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By Bruce Serlen | August 13, 2013
Shifting demographics and destination preferences are changing the face of multigenerational travel, according to research from Luxury Travel Exchange International.