Millennials leading multigenerational travel
13 APRIL 2015 7:45 AM
Once thought of as loners seeking travel on their own terms, millennials increasingly are driving family travel. Hoteliers, meanwhile, are happy to accommodate.
GLOBAL REPORT—Millennial travelers are growing up, and they are taking their families with them.
New research suggests the generational cohort, which thus far has been characterized as individuals seeking unique experiences on their own terms, is even more interested in traveling with family members than preceding generations.
“There is no question millennials are driving multigenerational travel. By far, they prefer to spend money on experiences like travel far more than previous generations,” said Anna Blount, market research manager at MMGY Global.
The “MMGY Global 2015 portrait of American travelers” showed that millennials took an average of 2.6 trips with children in the past 12 months as opposed to 2.2 similar trips for Generation Xers and two trips for baby boomers.
Preferred Hotels & Resorts found the same. In a recent survey, the marketing collection showed an overwhelming percentage of millennials (91%) said a multigenerational trip is something they try to take every year.
Embassy Suites Hotels, which has long targeted the family market with its large suites and cooked-to-order free breakfasts, is upping the ante on marketing to capture that recent millennial-driven surge.
“We see all the trends increasing as younger people travel with their families more than their parents did. They want to provide their children with unique experiences and want them to have more than they had,” said John Rogers, global head for Embassy Suites. “With jobs and lives becoming more frenetic, time away from it all is becoming more and more important.”
According to recent Embassy Suites research, many families travel frequently, “but millennials show real wanderlust.” Nearly 40% of millennial parents travel and stay in a hotel three or more times per year with their children—a higher rate than Generation X and baby boomer parents.
The research also showed that a third of millennial parents bring family members other than their partner and/or a grandparent on vacation more frequently than Generation Xers or baby boomers.
And it’s not just millennials. Eight out of 10 parents overall, according to Embassy Suites, wish they could travel with their kids even more frequently.
To meet the demands of this growing segment, Embassy Suites has launched a series of initiatives:
- #PrettyGreat Family Travel Hacks online community: This social media platform provides tips to make traveling with children easier and more successful. There is a contest for the best tips with hotel stays as prizes.
- Staff training: The brand is adding resources, such as how-to videos featuring team members, and encouraging team members to demonstrate best practices to inspire others.
- Family-focused amenities: A variety of new family-focused amenities are being added. They range from cocktail napkins with family-friendly games, such as tic-tac-toe and Sudoku for the evening reception, to baby- and child-specific “Do Not Disturb” signs, to coloring books and crayons at check-in. A pilot program is planned to offer childcare amenities such as baby wash, wipes and other essentials at select properties this summer.
Rogers said the staff training would “let our people know how to make children feel special.”
“Travel with children can be stressful as parents worry about how children will behave or be perceived,” he said. “Our staff will have tricks up their sleeves like balloon animals, food, comic books and so forth. The fastest way to a parent’s heart is to know their kids are welcome. Within reason, we want to allow kids to be themselves.”
Variety and options
Other brands are moving to meet changing tastes and travel patterns.
“We know from our research that millennials value experiences over ‘stuff.’ We also know that they prioritize their ‘couple time’ more than previous generations. So we know that our hotels must appeal to ‘family time’ and ‘couple time,’ which may happen in the same trip,” said Lauren Chewning, VP and global lead consumer insight for Marriott International. “Most of our resorts have kids’ clubs, many with substantial programming to give parents time on their own. Big resorts very often have two pools—one for families and one for couples.
“We are flexible in that we allow our hotels to customize programming that is specific to their market and traveler base,” Chewning said. “For instance, at the Ritz-Carlton Naples we have a program called ‘Nature‘s Wonders,’ which allows children to explore the natural environment around the hotel and educates them on sea and wildlife via an eco-sanctuary with 11 aquariums. We also make sure that hotels in all markets are prepared for family travel. For example, we have a program in place, ‘Tots Travel Too,’ across our select-service portfolio that provides an enhanced crib experience (decorative cover, bath toy and extra amenities). Our full-service hotels have something similar.”
Chewning and her team are investigating in-room entertainment options, including a pilot with streaming content provider Netflix. The goal is to make the in-room experience “as broadly appealing as possible.”
Meeting the needs of family travelers all comes down to variety and options, said Pat Engfer, area VP for eight Hyatt Hotels Corporation properties in Florida.
“We are making changes in food-and-beverage options to provide different experiences for everyone. Today, there are 8-year-olds who love sushi, so we have to accommodate that,” Engfer said.
The company adapts time-tested amenities to make its guests happy, Engfer said. “For instance, we introduced a mermaid experience for kids in the pool where the girls learn how to swim in mermaid bottoms and the boys in shark fins.”
Hyatt resorts are playing host to other trends, Engfer said.
“We are seeing increases in shorter weekends because people can’t get away for longer. And we see a lot of add-on family trips after conferences,” she said. “We will even maintain the conference rate before or after the conference stay if it’s better for the guest.”