As families grow, so do their holiday needs. Cater to both children and parents to capitalise on this lucrative sector in 2020.

Venture beyond

Last August I dragged my seven-year-old daughter on a 10-hour flight and across several time zones to discover the delights of Seattle. While this might seem like an odd choice for a family holiday – Italy, France and Spain are all arguably nearer and cheaper - new research from ABTA suggests families are looking to broaden their horizons in pursuit of added adventure. Having done my fair share of package holidays to European beaches, I couldn’t agree more.

But you don’t have to break the bank, or any carbon resolutions to discover something different – just look beyond the basic fly and flop. “Family travel is moving beyond the traditional sun and beach getaway to the creation of lasting memories,” says GlobalData’s Head of Travel and Tourism Sara Grady. “From cultural trips to activity-filled adventure, it’s essential to offer travellers something beyond the norm.”

Agreeing with this is adventure specialist Explore which has noticed an increase in families willing to invest in more immersive experiences. Demand for its Botswana and Zambia safari trip is on the up. “We wild camp in Moremi, stay on a houseboat in Okavango and visit Chobe National Park, famous for elephant, lion and cheetah sightings,” says Family Programme Manager Antony Barton.

“Vietnam, Turkey and Costa Rica are also proving popular, with each destination offering a range of exciting adventures for families to experience together.”

ABTA’s latest family market report shows classic beach and city holidays in Spain, Greece and France are still in greatest demand but members report that families are responsible for driving longer haul bookings, particularly for destinations such as Orlando, Dubai, Cancun and Barbados.

Looking for new experiences, family visits to Africa and South America are on the rise Kenya and Botswana, in particular, are popular amongst older families while Peru and Brazil are attracting younger families.

But Barton also warns families wishing to try new foods or do something out of their comfort zone to wait until their children are a little older. “Safaris are better suited to older families when kids are able sit still and appreciate the experience,” he says. “The same can be said for trips with longer travelling days and trekking.”

From babes to teens

Of course not all families are looking for adventure - Travel 2 has reported an increase in parents of younger children booking holidays based on what the hotel can offer them as a family rather than the destination itself.

“Families with babies and toddlers don’t just look for value-for-money but ways to make the experience easier,” says Product & Commercial Manager for Europe Lauren Ross. “We see a number of repeat guests to hotels like the Sani or properties like Ikos which offer a wide range of activities and dining options as well as going beyond kids’ clubs and babysitting to provide buggies, bottle sterilisers and changing mats. This makes it easier for families to travel light.”

Age can be important and Barton suggests agents look at earlier departure dates for families with teenagers doing their GCSEs, who often finish the school year earlier.

“We are offering more June and early July dates this year and take up is good,” he adds. “Avoiding peak season not only saves on airfares but avoids the crowds, too.”

Teenagers aren’t just influencing when families go away, but where. Research by Globetrender has spotted a spike in families with hard-to-please teenagers being swayed to book holidays with more of a theme, where children can learn a skill, give a possible dream job a go or prepare themselves for exams.

Budding biologists can head to Gili Lankanfushin in The Maldives for a five-night summer Educational Escape, assisting marine biologists with coral reef recovery and sea grass monitoring. Later in the year wannabe David Attenboroughs will be able to learn about the importance of rhino conservation at Kenya’s Arijiju safari lodge.

A grand old time

Multi-generational trips - where children travel with both their parents and their grandparents – are also on the rise, with Jet2holiday’s General Manager of Trade Sales Craig Davidson citing increased childcare and children entertaining one another as reasons for extended families holidaying together.

He adds: “As well as looking for more choice and flexibility outside the traditional seven-, 10- or 14-night stay, multigenerational groups are opting for all-inclusive resorts so that budgets are set, and entertainment and facilities included."

“We also find that families are more discerning on room types, with family suites and interconnecting rooms proving popular. Decent wifi is also a must.”

For families who don’t like the all-inclusive model, Jet2Villas offers families a home-from-home experience with package benefits. Properties include individual villas offering total independence with self-catering facilities and private pools; villas in a complex with a neighbourhood-style atmosphere; or hotel resort villas with access to hotel facilities and amenities.

Advice for agents

‘Families of school-aged children will always be at the mercy of high prices and busy travel periods but agents can still help.

Travel 2’s Ross suggests booking seats as soon as flights are released to save money on airfares. Jet2holidays has gone one step further and put its summer 2021 programme on sale now to give customers and travel agents the chance to book early. “Agents should use their marketing budget to promote family packages more,” adds Ross. “Look at hosting themed events.”

Explore’s Barton suggests agents frame the conversation around the value of experiences. “Things that bring children out of their shell and push the boundaries are priceless.”

ABTA members have witnessed a four-fold increase in families using social media to determine holiday choices in the last five years – showing that if agents want to get more families on board, Facebook and Instagram could be key.