How can properties appeal to ‘skip gen’ family groups?

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As growing numbers of grandparents consider taking their grandkids on a trip without the parents, we look at what this means for properties

In travel, traditions have a habit of fading. The types of family holidays now being sold have never been so varied, with more and more destinations establishing themselves in the market (step forward everywhere from Abu Dhabi to Costa Rica). And just as the average airport departures list has evolved, so too have the people travelling. It’s long been commonplace to see three generations of the same family holidaying together, but more interesting is the trend of grandparents and grandkids making a trip without the middle generation – something known as skip gen travel.

The term has been doing the rounds for a couple of years now, and there’s hard evidence that it has substance. Research by US-based organisation AARP – “dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older” – found that 15% of Baby Boomers were planning a skip gen break in 2019.

Photo: Rawpixel, Unsplash

Photo: Rawpixel, Unsplash

So what’s brought it on? It seems to come down to a shift in attitude. “I think it stems from a couple of things,” says Leila Al-Qattan of upscale operator Jacada Travel, which in late 2018 launched a specific skip gen holiday to Africa. “Travel is getting easier and less daunting for people of all generations, and we’re also in an era where people are moving towards experiences rather than buying gifts.”

Dyan Mackie, Family Product Manager at adventure travel company Intrepid Travel, agrees. “Grandparents have the time to invest in travel and want to spend quality time with their grandkids,” she says. “They also want to create special memories that only they share together – and travel is the perfect answer to this. Since 2016 we’ve seen an increase of 162% of passengers over 60 years old travelling on our family trips.”

The other perceived benefit of skip gen travel, of course, is that it gives parents themselves the chance to recharge their mental and physical batteries. It may even present an opportunity for them to take a separate trip – however brief. “I’m a new parent myself,” continues Al-Qattan, “and anecdotally most parents probably do think about having child-free breaks. The barrier isn’t so much the travel itself as much as it is the arrangements for the children.”

Perhaps the wisest advice is not to treat skip gen travel too differently to the more customary parents-and-kids holiday

In Mexico, the Grand Velas Riviera Mayas last year launched two skip gen packages for its guests, having noticed a spike in demand. Rodolfo Gonzalez, Managing Director, stresses the importance of keeping everyone happy in a skip gen group. “The idea is on the one hand to offer activities that foster quality time together,” he explains, “and on the other to have services and facilities that make it easy for the grandparent to have time to himself or herself while the kids are having fun. We’ve rolled out everything from baby concierges and kids’ spa treatments to high tech teens’ lounges, multi-bedroom Family Suites and microadventures to local cultural sights.”

He also touches on a point that might hold value for properties looking to attract the temporarily child-free parents. “Our sister property Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit is seeing a surge in empty-nesters, so they’ve launched a holiday for parents who have just sent their kids to college.”

Catering to skip gen travellers

So, to return to skip gen travel, what can properties do to welcome grandparents holidaying with their grandchildren? “It’s about accessibility, and making the experience easier for everybody involved,” says Jacada Travel’s Al-Qattan. “Getting the pace right on a holiday like this is super-important. And as you would with any family hotel, make them feel it’s okay to have kids there. You need connecting rooms, bigger restaurant tables and staff that understand what it’s like to be around kids.”

The earlier mentioned AARP research also found that 61% of grandparents like the idea of skip gen travel, although the obvious caveat is that not all of them find it easy to fund a break away. “Family travel remains challenging to schedule and is an expensive activity out of reach for many,” says Patty David, Director of Consumer Insights at AARP. But savvy hotels can capitalise on this in a tried-and-tested way. “Providing discounted packages and special activities is helpful.”

Indeed, depending on the age and energy of the grandparents involved – and following the logic that those opting to take their grandkids away will likely have a can-do attitude – perhaps the wisest advice is not to treat skip gen travel too differently to the more customary parents-and-kids holiday. “Skip gen is definitely a travel trend,” concludes Al-Qattan. "But I’m not sure it replaces anything else.”

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More grandparents are treating grandkids to holidays while parents stay at home
The trend taps into the modern desire for experiences and memories over material goods
The ideal skip gen package should be sensibly paced, with enough to keep kids entertained and time for grandparents to relax
Properties can appeal to skip gen groups by being as family-friendly as possible