The demand for grandtravel isn't coming solely from grandparents. The majority (56 percent) of kids ages 6 to 17 say they â€œwould really like toâ€? vacation with their grandparents.
Doting aunts and uncles are also adding to the single-adult travel trend. Almost 1 in 7 singles (15 percent) have been on a vacation with their nieces, nephews or other young relatives in the past year.
The housekeeping staff at Travelodge has had to make a lot more beds lately. Last fall, the national hotel chain introduced â€œfamily suitesâ€? â€” extra large rooms that include more bedding options than the traditional two double bed layout. The additions â€” from day beds to pullout sofas â€” were a response to a flood of calls to the company's central reservation office over the past couple of years. About 25 percent of Travelodge's customers today ask for a setup other than the typical two beds to accommodate their various family getaways â€” from grandpa joining the party for a reunion, to a single aunt traveling with her three nieces. Says Teri Danahey, vice president of marketing for Travelodge: â€œWe've even had more requests to accommodate Fido. If it wasn't for all those calls to the reservation center, we'd never have known of the demand.â€?
Shifts in demographics and lifestyles have broadened the definition of â€œfamilyâ€? in this country and, as a result, have changed how we travel with our loved ones. The percentage of traditional nuclear families is, indeed, quite small: only 24 percent of all U.S. households today are â€œmarried with children,â€? according to Census 2000 data. Yet open any travel section of any newspaper and the vast majority of family vacation ads depict a traditional, handholding, heterosexual, two-parent/two-child family. Even Travelodge's summer ad campaign this year features a little girl clutching a teddy bear, with mommy and daddy on either side. Danahey says the company considered adding a grandmother, or even a single adult with a child, to illustrate different needs of different families, but once again, tradition won out.
After all, sticking with conventional family travel images does make sense: 73 percent of married-with-children adults have gone on a vacation with their spouse and kids at least once in the past year, according to an exclusive, nationally representative study of 1,247 adults in the U.S. conducted by Zogby International for American Demographics. However, these families by no means make up the bulk of American family travelers. Of all adults who took at least one vacation with a family member in the past year, just 30 percent fit the married-with-children mold.
There are many overlooked and underserved niches within the family travel market, the biggest being grandparent/grandchild travel, multigenerational travel, and single-parent travel. Gay/lesbian family travel extended family member travel (such as aunts and uncles taking trips with their nieces and nephews) and even pet travel, are also emerging trends. These nontraditional family groups may not be reason to overhaul entire marketing strategies, but designing specialized offers and facilities for them may help fill extra beds in off-peak months and during slow economic times. And, tailoring offers to these niche markets may even boost year-round sales with increased loyalty and repeat business.
Multiple Generations Traveling Together
Grandparents are hitting the road with their grandkids in record numbers. Twenty percent of grandparents have been on a trip with their grandchildren in the past year, and an additional 12 percent have been on a trip with other children in their family without another adult present, according to our Zogby survey. â€œGrandtravel,â€? as it is referred to in the industry, represented one-fifth (21 percent) of all trips taken with children in 2000, up significantly from just 13 percent in 1999, reveals another study of family travelers conducted by the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) for Meredith Corp. Demographic trends seem to predict more grandtravel in the years to come, as the 77 million active, healthy Baby Boomers head for grandparenthood and retirement. Boomers already constitute almost half (46 percent) of the total family travel market and spend more on their family vacations than any other group ($1,200 per person per trip), according to Meredith.
Some in the travel industry have had incredible foresight in targeting this market. Helena Koenig, a grandmother and certified travel agent, started a company called Grandtravel, based in Chevy Chase, Md., 16 years ago. â€œI noticed the grandparent population growing, and that we are living more nutritionally sound and aerobically fit than ever. Suddenly, I had a business,â€? says Koenig, whose programs have increased in number from four to 20. Grandtravel, which offers national and international excursions â€” the most popular being a safari to Kenya â€” has seen an increase in business in recent years.
Elderhostel, well known for its educational senior travel programs, also offers intergenerational plans. Interest in the company's offerings has grown, especially to faraway places, so it began offering trips to international destinations in 1999. Ellen Hoover, 74, from Lakeville, Conn., is a long-time Elderhosteller who's taken three intergenerational excursions with her grandchildren. Last summer's trip to London with then 11-year-old Samantha, was especially memorable, giving Hoover an opportunity to teach her granddaughter some important life lessons. â€œShe lives in a very rural area and I wanted her to see the world and know there are different kinds of people out there,â€? says Hoover. â€œShe loved it. And we got to spend some one-on-one time that we don't often get at home.â€?
In fact, demand for grandtravel isn't coming solely from grandparents. The majority (56 percent) of kids ages 6 to 17 say they â€œwould really like toâ€? vacation with their grandparents, according to a recent nationally representative study of 424 children of that age group by travel marketing firm Yesawich, Pepperdine, and Brown (YP&B). The little ones are the most enthusiastic of all: a full 78 percent of kids ages 6 to 8 say they'd like to travel with gram and gramps. (For more on tapping the kids' travel market, see sidebar page 54.)
Aside from Grandtravel and Elderhostel, which cater specifically to the senior niche, the general travel industry has been slow to acknowledge this trend. America West Airlines is one of the few major players riding this new wave; it now offers a â€œSenior Saver Packâ€? to fliers 62 and older that provides discounts for travel with grandchildren. Loews Hotels also jumped on the trend last summer, when the company introduced three year-round â€œGeneration Gâ€? packages at each of its 16 properties in the U.S. and Canada in an effort to â€œfacilitate bonding among the junior and senior generations.â€? The packages, which vary by site and location, offer activities and accommodations sensitive to the ages of the grandchildren. For instance, the â€œIn Grand Style Packageâ€? for teens and older grandchildren includes a suite to give privacy and space, as well as spa treatments and behind-the-scenes tours of sporting or cultural events.
Fueled by the same aging population demographics, and an increased separation anxiety among family members sprinkled nationwide, multigenerational travel is also a fast-growing but incredibly overlooked market. â€œSo many families are scattered all over the country these days that they are looking for more mini family reunions,â€? says Peter Mason, director of Meredith Travel Marketing, a division of Meredith Corp., based in New York City. In fact, 19 percent of all adults have been on a vacation with more than one generation of their family at a time in the past year, according to our Zogby study. And Meredith's survey revealed that about 4 in 10 family members (38 percent) who have traveled with three generations on the same trip in the past year say they will take more vacations with them over the next five years, up from 30 percent who expressed that intent in 1999.
Changes in the country's ethnic and racial composition may also increase demand for multigenerational travel. â€œIntergenerational travel is extremely common in Hispanic countries,â€? notes Sarita Skidmore, principal at Menlo Consulting Group in Palo Alto, Calif., a research and consulting firm that covers the global travel market. â€œFamilies in Latin America, for example, tend to travel with their kids, their in-laws, everyone. In fact, the size of traveling parties there are at least double the size of those in America. And Hispanics living in the U.S. are the same way.â€?
As the Hispanic population continues to grow in this country, more multigenerational travel packages and bigger room accommodations at vacation destinations may be needed to cater to this market. There may be opportunities to reach the other fast-growing ethnic groups in the U.S. as well. About 13 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander children and 11 percent of black children lived in multigenerational households in the U.S. in 1996, according to the most current census data available, compared with just 4 percent of non-Hispanic white children. Additionally, a separate YP&B study of 1,299 pleasure travelers found that 60 percent of blacks and 51 percent of other nonwhites (including Hispanics and Asian Americans) plan to take at least one family vacation with children in the next 12 months, compared with 35 percent of whites.
Broadening the Definition of Family Travel
Lifestyle changes have also altered the composition of today's families and their travel habits. Divorce, for example, has increased the number of single-parent households in America. There are 27 percent more single mothers in the U.S. today (7.6 million) than in 1990 (6 million), according to Census 2000 data. The number of single dads is also on the upswing. While information on this group from the latest census figures has not yet been released, the Census Bureau's March 2000 Current Population Survey found that there were about 2 million single fathers last year, or about 1 in 6 single parents, compared with 393,000 single fathers, or 1 in 9 single parents, in 1970. The composition of travel parties has changed accordingly: The percentage of all trips taken with children that consisted of just one adult chaperone has jumped from 30 percent in 1991 to 38 percent in 1999, according to the TIA. However, the travel industry has yet to acknowledge the changes â€” perhaps due to sheer economics. â€œIt is widely believed that single parents don't have as much money as two-parent families, don't travel as much and don't spend as much,â€? says Ruth Sharp, vice president of analysis at NFO Plog Research, a Los Angeles-based travel market research firm.
While it may be true that single parents, on average, have less money than two-parent families, Monica Gerand, a single mother of two from Hewlett, N.Y., doesn't see that as a reason to ignore the segment. â€œSure, money can be a bit of a hold back for many single parents, but no one can count your dollars for you,â€? she says. â€œI'm willing to give up other things to give my kids a great vacation, and other single parents are too.â€? In fact, Gerand usually travels at least three times per year with her kids, Daniel, 11, and Ally, 9, and is frustrated by hotels and resorts that fail to accommodate the special needs of her family. â€œMany hotels make single parents pay for being single and it's really demeaning,â€? says Gerand. â€œThe ads might say â€˜kids stay free,â€™ but if you read the fine print, you see everything is based on two paying adults.â€?
A few resorts have started to offer special pricing to accommodate single-parent families. Two properties run by Splash Resorts â€” Club St. Lucia, in the Carribean, and Splash Resort Caraco, outside Playa del Carmen, Mexico â€” announced in May their â€œSingular Sensation Parent Promotion,â€? which waives the standard single supplement charge and allows the first child to stay free, at least through December. And tour agency Islands in the Sun's packages to Tahiti and Fiji have changed their standard â€œfamilyâ€? pricing to include just one adult and one child, in response to â€œan increase in the number of inquiries,â€? according to a spokesperson.
For Ned Scharff, of Greenwich, Conn., who is going through a divorce, bonding time with his two boys â€” Alec, 18, and Ted, 21 â€” has become more important than ever. â€œYou don't sit around having heavy conversations about divorce with your kids,â€? says Scharff. â€œSo you have to find frequent and engaging ways to just have fun with them and reassure them that you care.â€? That's why he turned to GORPtravel (www.GORPtravel.com), an adventure travel agency, to book a weeklong trip to the Amazon. Dave Wiggins, vice president of GORPtravel, says he's seen an increase in the number of single parents like Scharff who are interested in adventure travel because it facilitates a â€œwe're in this togetherâ€? kind of bonding that they can't get at resorts with separate kid and adult activities.
On the other hand, parents traveling without partners are also yearning for adult interaction. Single father Richard Schwab, a doctor from Wycoff, N.J., travels with his kids, Allie, 7, and Grant, 6, about five times a year, and says that while his kids' enjoyment is his first priority, he wishes more vacation destinations offered activities for single parents to get to know other vacationers. In December, he took his children to Club Med Sandpiper, near West Palm Beach, Fla., and while the kids had a blast, there was no way for him to connect with other single parents. â€œAt a minimum, all family resorts should arrange for single parents traveling with children to meet each other at a designated place and time,â€? suggests Schwab. â€œIdeally, such resorts could have special weekends for single-parent families.â€?
Sharyn Saffon does one better. Her Commack, New York-based Quality Time Travel is devoted solely to organizing group trips for single-parent families. She negotiates special rates at all-inclusive resorts, and throws in get-to-know-you parent cocktail parties and parent-child tournaments. Marketers should also take note that not all lone adults traveling with children are single parents. Because many married couples today are two-income households, it is not always easy for the entire family to get away at the same time. According to our Zogby study, 17 percent of married-with-children adults have taken a trip with children, sans spouse, partner or another adult in the past year. Doting aunts and uncles are also adding to the single-adult travel trend. More than 1 in 7 singles (15 percent) in our survey say they have been on a vacation in the past year with their nieces, nephews or other kids in their family without another adult. Deborah Donovan, from New London, Conn., is a marketing executive and single aunt to 16 nieces and nephews ranging in age from 5 to 26. She takes them (not all at once) on as many trips as she can manage and finds it frustrating that she is unable to get a family rate when she takes them to museums at which she has membership, for example. â€œSome places have â€˜grandparentâ€™ admissions, but other types of families end up getting the short end, as it were, and paying full freight,â€? she says.
While there is still some uncertainty about the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) families in the U.S., this is yet another nontraditional family group for the travel industry to take note of. Bob Witeck, president of Witeck-Combs Communications, a marketing firm in Washington, D.C., that specializes in reaching this segment, estimates that 20 percent of the gay population, or between 2 million and 3 million LGBT Americans, are currently raising children. Jerry McHugh, director of customer service for Gayjet, an online gay travel mall and agency (www.gayjet.com), estimates a more conservative 3 percent, but still is bracing for future demand. â€œI've been pleasantly surprised by the number of requests we've had for this kind of vacation in the past few months,â€? says McHugh. â€œWe've recognized that the nontraditional gay and lesbian family with children is a growing market segment and that these families are seeking safe, fun, affordable vacations.â€? In response, Gayjet is organizing a cruise to Encinada, Mexico, from Los Angeles in December tailored to LGBT families, complete with welcome party and onboard guide. Next year, the company plans to offer at least two other vacation packages geared to this group.
Debra Semans, a vice president at The Brand Consultancy in Washington, D.C., advises travel suppliers to wake up to their customers' changing needs, and like Travelodge, alter their room accommodations accordingly. When traveling with her mother and a cousin to New Orleans last year, for example, Semans says the hotel had to give them a room normally reserved for the physically disabled because no other would comfortably accommodate three grown adults. They also had to call down to the desk every day for extra towels and a third cup for the coffee machine.
Semans, who was a vice president at Holiday Inn for 10 years, also advises the industry to pay more attention to who's really sitting poolside and to use those images in their advertising. She says that companies need to tweak their ads and marketing messages to more accurately reflect today's changing families â€” perhaps illustrate a father and son or a multigenerational group â€” rather than perpetuating the antiquated nuclear ideal. In fact, over a third of Americans (35 percent) in our Zogby study agree that when they see a travel ad that shows a young married couple and two kids, they assume the destination would not suit them, since their family situation doesn't fit that mold. Says Semans: â€œThis industry is filled with hospitality people, travel agents and hoteliers. They are not demographers or strategists, and like all industries, they are slow to recognize demographic changes and put them into effect.â€?
But Steve Rosa, president and chief creative officer of Providence, R.I.-based ad agency Advertising Ventures, says that travel advertisers don't necessarily need to produce multiple creative executions to effectively reach these niche family markets. Instead, he recommends that advertisers steer consumers to the Web, where special pricing or packages targeted to specific groups can be promoted more easily and cheaply. In print and television ads, you can't be everything to everyone, so less is always more, says Rosa. As an example, he points to Aruba's current print ad featuring a peaceful blue sky, aqua water and sandy beach with the tag: â€œWhere Happiness Lives.â€? â€œIn advertising you always run the risk of alienating someone,â€? says Rosa. â€œSo instead, sell the soul of the place and focus on things that everyone, regardless of who they are traveling with, will appreciate â€” sun, surf, good food and togetherness.â€?
Eighty-one percent of blacks and 70 percent of Hispanics in the U.S. are in the market for travel packages that cater to different kinds of family groups, such as brothers and sisters or mothers and daughters, compared with 58 percent of non-Hispanic whites who require such services.
|PERCENT WHO STRONGLY AGREE:||TOTAL||HISPANIC*||WHITE||AFRICAN AMERICAN||OTHER|
|I wish there were more travel packages available for other kinds of family groups such as sibling or mother/daughter trips||61%||70%||58%||81%||61%|
|Traveling with my family has become more important to me over the past five years||71%||80%||69%||80%||73%|
|Time is so scarce these days; traveling with my family gives us much needed time to bond||80%||84%||79%||82%||82%|
|*HISPANICS MAY BE OF ANY RACE||SOURCE: AMERICAN DEMOGRAPHICS/ZOGBY INTERNATIONAL|
ALL IN THE FAMILY
In the East, 26 percent of all adults have taken a trip with their siblings in the past year, compared with just 18 percent of adults in the Central states who have done so.
|Spouse/partner and children||38%||43%||41%||35%||34%|
|Spouse/partner without children||36%||39%||30%||34%||43%|
|Any children in family, without another adult||13%||15%||14%||9%||16%|
|More than one generation at a time||19%||21%||18%||17%||19%|
|SOURCE: AMERICAN DEMOGRAPHICS/ZOGBY INTERNATIONAL|
Forty-one percent of 18- to 24-year-olds are interested in traveling more often with their siblings, while 37 percent would like to travel more with their parents and about a quarter (24 percent) would like to participate in more multigenerational travel.
Q: WITH WHICH MEMBERS OF YOUR FAMILY WOULD YOU LIKE TO TRAVEL MORE OFTEN?
|Spouse/partner and children||34%||55%||55%||40%||21%|
|Spouse/partner without children||39%||43%||46%||54%||37%|
|Any children in family, without another adult||15%||22%||25%||14%||17%|
|More than one generation at a time||24%||26%||23%||21%||12%|
|N/A=NOT APPLICABLE, SAMPLE SIZE TOO SMALL||SOURCE: AMERICAN DEMOGRAPHICS/ZOGBY INTERNATIONAL|