Family travel is one of the biggest segments of the tourism industry. Before Coronavirus, family trips were expected to rise by nearly 25% to 376 million trips in 2022. While the pandemic may have curtailed that momentum, families remain a key market during recovery, with many people around the globe looking forward to reuniting with their loved ones.
To help you understand what families are thinking and planning as the world begins to open up, we spoke to popular bloggers, YouTubers and family-trip organisers.
Eager to travel – but still concerned
Bébé Voyage is a travel community powered by a blog, with many new parents joining after discovering their content online. Recently, talk in their community around post-Coronavirus travel has been growing in intensity. “In the past two weeks, we've seen a flood of questions from people who are eager to start planning their summer holidays,” says Co-Founder Marianne Perez de Fransius. According to their latest community survey, these families are not only eager to travel, they’re ready to spend, with 70% indicating they want to go on a longer trip than usual after having saved up money for a trip.
Of course, this enthusiasm is tempered by the current global situation, with 97% of the Bébé Voyage community saying they’re very worried or somewhat worried about COVID-19. This may not be surprising considering many of their members are new parents, and pediatric vaccines are still in development. Then again, two-thirds of respondents report having already taken a trip during the last year. This paradox sharply highlights the current relationship between fear and desire for family travellers.
You can address this delicate balance by ensuring you indicate all hygiene-related measures you’ve taken in the extranet. You may also want to have information on hand about local healthcare options for visitors, as 70% of those surveyed by Bébé Voyage say they will prioritise destinations with good healthcare infrastructure and high vaccination rates.
How these parents use search
Other details partners can take away from the survey include a very strong desire for free cancellation in the face of uncertainty, with 89% saying they will seek out flexible bookings for their next trip. It’s safe to say that many of them will be paying attention to the fine print when browsing.
“One thing that people in the community keep asking for and looking for are family-friendly filters when searching,” says Perez de Fransius. She notes it’s easy to tell when hotels are family friendly because they’re typically standardised across a chain. “But where it gets into more grey territory is vacation rentals.” This preference is good news for both hotel and vacation rental partners on Booking.com, because our platform has a ‘family friendly properties’ filter and the app highlights ‘top picks for families’ when they search.
Domestic travel continues to lead the way
Caroline and Craig Makepeace have been travelling the world nomadically for 22 years, adding two daughters along the way. They document their enthusiastic adventures on the Y Travel blog, through their YouTube channel and most recently with a family travel podcast.
This summer, their adventures will see them exploring destinations closer to home. “We wanted to head over to Europe and start exploring with a UK and Ireland road trip,” says Caroline. “But we've realised that's probably not going to happen and we've pushed that to next year.” She thinks other families will be doing the same. “I don't think many people are looking overseas yet, and I don't think they will until next year.”
“I think road trips and camping will be the way many families go because it fits the pandemic, but it’s also cost-effective. Price is important, and always has been, for family travellers,” she says. “I think they'll offset higher costs of accommodation by going to a state or national park and doing outdoor stuff that doesn’t cost as much.”
Child rates sees added visibility
This year, the Makepeace family plans to continue their road trip adventures. In fact, they already have a trip planned. “My youngest daughter and I are going on a road trip together this Sunday, and I booked a place through Booking.com,” she says. “I only then noticed different rates for two, three or four children.”
Makepeace’s moment of attention to child rates when searching may be one experienced by other families this year. Partners who want to reach them should consider offering Child Rates, which can help families find and fit everyone into an accommodation at a price that is clearly displayed throughout the booking process.
Intrepid Travel: renewed focus on family
Intrepid Travel is known as an organiser of cultural adventures for Gen Y and Z, but over time they’ve increased their focus on families. “We launched family trips a number of years ago, and it has continued to grow into an important part of our portfolio,” says Sarah Clark, Managing Director of APAC for Intrepid Travel. That part of their portfolio is a key driver for them as demand slowly begins to return. “For families, specifically, we are seeing increased pre-booking into 2022.”
When families book trips, Intrepid looks for hotels with a local focus that align with their cultural programming. “When we're looking at accommodation for families, we want to make sure they have at least two-night stays,” says Clark. “Families look for hotels with pools or facilities for children to enjoy while they’re there, and rooms are quite important.” While Intrepid prefers to book smaller hotels over chains, it’s key for them to offer interconnecting rooms or rooms that are near each other.
Another important issue for them is making sure families have all the information they need to feel secure during the trip, as well as confidence they can return home afterward. “I think one of the key concerns is around how to access testing when in a foreign country.” This is the kind of local information partners can have on hand for families who are ready to travel internationally this year. “We know exactly where stations are to get tested so they can board their flights home.”
The increased family bookings seen by Intrepid may indicate an important post-pandemic trend – a focus on family reunions. “Intergenerational travel pre-COVID was becoming more and more popular, and we saw larger multi-generation families book as a private group, and continue to see this interest now.” says Clark. With so much uncertainty around rules and regulations, you may find success by marketing your property specifically as a place where families can offload their pandemic travel worries and stay in their own private bubble.
Clark thinks families will have built up substantial savings to spend on travel, and that this likewise aligns with demand. “We're seeing that, as soon as state borders or bubbles open up, people are ready and willing to spend money. Families are still very conscious of price points, but they're looking for value for money as well.”
- Survey results from Bébé Voyage highlight the relationship between fear of uncertainty and an intense desire to travel during recovery for family travellers
- The results also indicate a willingness to spend more this year, but they’re still looking for value – which you can provide with child rates
- The family behind Y Travel blog see lots of opportunity for families to experience longer vacations this year, particularly with cost-conscious family reunions
- Intrepid Travel is seeing increased pre-booking into 2022 and strong demand for newly added in-country family tours