Travelling first class? or with kids?

Blogs At Velvet Marketing

The American humorist Nathaniel Benchley pokes at the travel industry claiming that there are only two classes of travel – first class and with children; he does this to point out the burdens of traveling with children and how little the industry does in order to mitigate those burdens.

The hassle of traveling with children is often overlooked by the industry as the ‘child experience’ within tourism research is rare. Unlike the entertainment, food, and toy industry, tourism has yet to cater effectively for the children in the traveling family unit. Furthermore, tourism is yet to treat the family as a unit where the decisions and outcomes are the results of negotiated and sometimes conflicting objectives.

Holidays have a large spectrum of possibilities especially for families and the tourism industry is still treating it as a time whereby a “…radical divorced from everyday life…” (Obrador, 2012) takes place. This is probably one of the most critical factors affecting families with young children in leisure tourism, especially those who opt for a luxury stay at a four or five-star hotel. Those families are left disappointed as they harbour all the expectations and receive none of the deliverables that cater to their children. Hotels are still providing sewing and shaving kits to families who want inflatable pool toys and swim nappies.

In recent research by Khoo-Lattimore, Prayag & Cheah (2015) published in the journal of hospitality marketing & management, families interviewed want to see hotels provide toilet seats, bottle warmers, sterilisers, diapers, swim diapers, kids sunscreen, toddler snacks and drinks, inflatable toys for the pool even at a higher price. In essence, families want to travel lighter and know that they don’t have to pack the whole house before leaving on holiday…. the other end has it all.

Apart from missing the basics, it is bewildering to some as to why any hotel would fail to design a child-friendly pool as part of its offering. The minimal research that does exist on the ‘child experience’ constantly points to swimming in a pool or in the sea as occupying the first place in favourite child activity on holiday. Corporate hotels may do well for a number of years, but especially in cities that are rapidly expanding they may find themselves outshone by the new player in town, and therefore trying to target the leisure market with a less leisurely product, would it not make sense to build a pool from the onset that can accommodate families?

Food for thought:

According to travel weekly, family travel between 2001-2005 has increased by 20%. The UK holds 4th place as the most traveling nation. Almost 50% of the British population lives in a household with dependant children and according to TripAdvisor, 9 out of 10 Britons planned a holiday abroad in 2013.

As the baby boomers retire, spending money on holidays with grandchildren is also increasing, yet multigenerational travel is still overlooked. However, the leisure industry seems to have caught on with tickets to children theme parks now offering discounts for families of 7 persons and senior citizens.

Lastly, fathers have started taking a leading role in children’s entertainment on holiday, yet they are virtually nonexistent in leisure tourism research.