Inside Disney's New Multigen Offerings for Grandparents

Walt Disney World’s All Star Resorts, which have spacious family suites, are among the many properties participating in the Play, Stay, Dine and Save discount packages.
Walt Disney World’s All Star Resorts, which have spacious family suites, are among the many properties participating in the Play, Stay, Dine and Save discount packages.

Executives at Walt Disney Parks & Resorts have done their research on the surging grandparent-travel market as a prelude to the launch of a new multigenerational Disney vacation travel initiative called “The Grand Adventure.” While it was no surprise that Disney research confirmed grandparents as family members with the time, money and motivation to bring their immediate younger relatives on a Disney vacation, there were several eye-opening discoveries. Studying the range and sensitivities of this senior market may help travel agents qualify and sell family clients.

Amy Foster, director of consumer insight for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, recently shared some of her research team’s findings with a Grand Adventure media group enjoying some of the company’s new multigenerational theme park vacation experiences at Walt Disney World.

“We listen to our guests,” says Foster. “In studies of U.S. grandparents we have found that the majority want to vacation with their grandchildren…The majority have vacationed with their grandkids. One out of five has vacationed with their grandchildren on a Disney vacation.”

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Two non-Disney studies in recent months corroborate the potential size of the multigeneration travel market targeted for Disney’s Grand Adventure program. The AAA Travel study released in June this year, which was cited by Disney, reported that 36 percent of travelers plan to take a multigenerational trip this year, an increase from 34 percent in 2013.

A September cover story (“The New Grandmothers”) in the AARP Bulletin said that grandparents will spend $57 billion on their grandchildren this year, that 62 percent of them are still working and that 47 is the average age for the first-time grandparent.

Memory Making Grandparents

Foster noted that her Disney research group has identified a market segment called “Memory Making Grandparents” who are exclusively interested in vacationing at Disney destinations. They range in age from 45 to 64. “Their average age is 61 and Disney Parks turns 60 next year,” she says. “They were the first generation to experience Disney Parks. Memories of Disney are part of their families’ narratives that they want to share with their grandchildren.”

Other findings about the Memory Making Grandparents include:

  • 71 percent vacation with their grandchildren compared to 54 percent of all grandparents who travel with their grandchildren.
  • Four out of five vacation with their grandchildren at Disney Parks.
  • They have an average of four grandchildren, pre-school through teens.
  • Their average annual household income is $80K and they average 18 vacation days.
  • They spend an average of $3,000-plus on each vacation.
  • 66 percent are flexible on the dates of their vacations.
  • 68 percent consider themselves to be “active whenever possible.”
  • 71 percent consider it “very important” to take at least one major vacation per year.

Travel agents, who are seeking to unlock keys that motivate grandparents, and other multigenerational family planners may be interested in Disney research into why its guests go on vacation. Among the findings were that grandparent guests were looking for “a way to bond with children on their level.” Family bonds were described as “like glue” and something the family “can lean on when bad things happen” in the household. Other motivations were to have family fun, enjoy rest and relaxation, escape from the everyday world to a new environment, and create lifetime memories.

Other Disney grandparent guest comments, shown by video, were that a Disney vacation “creates [family] interaction that you don’t get just spending any day together” and “you get to experience Disney through their eyes all over again.” One motivation was for grandparents to return with family members because “we spent our honeymoon at Disney 30 years ago.”

The Grand Adventure

Thus, Walt Disney World launched The Grand Adventure to, in the words of Sarah Sinoff, the director of domestic marketing strategy for Walt Disney World Parks & Resorts, capitalize on the appeal of Disney theme park destinations as “the place where multigenerational families can come together and celebrate special moments” or just “come together and play.” Currently, the Grand Adventure site offers an introductory video, Vacation Planning and Special Offers. The latter currently touts savings of up to $600 on a five-night/six-day room, ticket and dining plan package for a family of four at select Disney Resort hotels, valid for stays most nights December 14 through December 20, 2014 and January 5 through March 7, 2015. (Must book by December 29.)

A helpful feature for clients and agents alike is the “Moms Panel” with tips and frequently-asked questions about organizing details of Disney trips geared to family-vacation decision-makers.

A few final Disney research findings may prove valuable for agents to keep in mind when approaching their clients about a Grand Adventure.

  • 65 percent of multigeneration family travelers share in the vacation planning.
  • 40 percent of those families require a group consensus on plans before booking.

The numbers strongly suggest that the notion of grandparents being too old to physically accompany their grandchildren on a theme-park vacation is an idea out of touch with today’s multigenerations.

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