Any time a country or region imposes any sort of visa stipulation - even if it’s a waiver - the travel industry sighs a collective groan, knowing the obstacles and headaches to come.
This story originally ran in the November 1, 2018 issue of Travelweek magazine. To get Travelweek delivered to your agency for free, subscribe here.
TORONTO — Last year was all about solo travel, and the year before saw millennials make a big push in the travel industry. This year, the spotlight is back on family travel, with new research by GlobalData showing exponential growth among families.
It’s not just a passing fad either, says the data and analytics company. The family travel market is expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 4.6%, from 300 million trips in 2017 to 376 million in 2022. This represents a whopping 25% increase in just five years.
The company’s latest report, ‘Key Trends in Family Travel’, says that family travel accounts for 30.8% of outbound tourism and will retain its hold through the forecast period.
For Canadians in particular, GlobalData has sized the 2017 outbound Canadian market at 33.0 million trips, of which family travel accounts for 6.9 million.
On its upward trajectory, Sara Grady, Head of Travel & Tourism at GlobalData, tells Travelweek: “Family travel is the second most common type of outbound travel in Canada – behind couples – and its overall share is expected to remain steady at around a fifth of travel. Contrastingly, couples travel will fall in share slightly, while group travel will grow.”
Grady says that the increase in family travel is a product of both changes in the marketplace, and the evolution of family dynamics. “The increasing affordability and accessibility of travel means that it has never been easier (or cheaper) to take your family to more exotic or far-flung destinations. And the industry is certainly making the most of this by offering more curated family travel products.”
She adds, “At the same time, you have both older families whose parents may have already retired and are looking to rekindle their family relationships, and at the other end of the spectrum you have a wave of millennials becoming parents.”
So where are all these families going? Are the tried-and-true beach locales still tops among parents and their little ones?
According to GlobalData, families are becoming more adventurous in their travel decisions, with Japan, Cuba, Iceland, Chile and Indonesia seeing the most proportional growth in terms of family arrivals through to 2022.
In terms of the sheer numbers of family arrivals, Spain, Mexico, Japan, China and Germany are expected to see the biggest increases. “These are established, traditional holiday markets in many places, so they are favoured for offering a ‘known’ product,” says Grady.
This same trend is also being seen by Tauck, whose land journeys and river cruises have proven popular among families. Julia O’Brien, Director of Brand Management, says that although the U.S. National Parks remain solid favourites, the company is also seeing growing popularity in destinations that are farther afield.
“We first saw that with our itineraries in Europe, but we’re also seeing it now on our Bridges safari in Tanzania, on our expedition cruise in the Galapagos, and in our explorations of Peru and Costa Rica. And while river cruising is more of a travel mode than a specific destination, we’re also seeing continued growth there as well,” she says.
O’Brien, who says Tauck has “absolutely” seen an increase in family bookings in the past few years for both land and river cruise product, adds that the trend is moving away from parents wanting ‘alone’ time on vacation, and instead towards family togetherness.
“We’re seeing families who want to use travel as a means to reconnect and share meaningful experiences, rather than shepherding children off to their own dedicated ‘kids area’ of a cruise ship or all-inclusive resort,” she says, adding that Tauck’s Bridges trips have been designed with a philosophy of ‘shared enrichment’. “We’ve also seen growth in true multi-generational families travelling together; since 2014, we have seen a 50% increase in this segment travelling on our Bridges trips.”
Amelie Brouhard, Marketing & Communication Director, Canada at Club Med, also reported an increase in family bookings, with winter 2019 looking very promising at +19% versus 2018. The increase, she says, is largely due to families needing to unplug from their busy schedules and create family memories.
“They want a transformative experience that will make them reconnect with themselves and with each other,” she says. “Travelling to Club Med is the guarantee that each of them will live a personalized experience and also share ‘reconnexion’ moments all together.”
Brouhard cites a long list of included offerings at Club Med that’s designed to foster togetherness, such as sports (about 10-15 at each resort), healthy dining options, dedicated kids programs for four month olds and up, and Creative by Cirque du Soleil, which the entire family can enjoy.
The model for success that both Tauck and Club Med follow is in line with the findings in GlobalData’s global consumer survey Q4 2017, which showed that there is a general trend towards families choosing destinations that offer a complete holiday solution. What this means, says Grady, is that parents are more likely than average to choose things like wellness trips, adventure or sports destinations for their next holiday.
So no longer are family vacations all about buffets and beaches. Like families themselves, the family travel market has evolved into a much more diverse offering to cater to varying ages and special interests. And if increasing booking numbers are any indication, it looks like diversifying was the right way to go.