TORONTO — Family travel is shaping up to be a driving force behind travel’s recovery once these (hopefully) waning months of COVID-19 are behind us.
That’s certainly the case in the U.S., says Rainer Jenss, Founder, Family Travel Association.
Coming out of the pandemic, “all the trends are predicted to be led by family travel – and I’m not surprised one bit,” notes Jenss.
Pre-COVID, one in three trips taken by an American was done so with a child 17 years of age or younger, he added.
Jenss was on hand to introduce – virutally, of course – the recent Family Travel Xpo, by XpoPRO Mobile, a division of TravPRO Mobile.
“You’re here because you’re deeply committed to children being able to see and experience the world,” Jenss told Family Travel Xpo attendees, inclduding travel advisors and other stakeholders in the travel industry.
TPI travel advisor Clara Power, who is based in Toronto, offered her Canadian take at one of the Family Travel Xpo panels, ‘Family Travel Trends, an Advisor’s Perspective’.
Power was joined by Protravel International travel advisor Garey Bell, based in Westbury, NY and specializing in luxury travel. Moderating the panel was JJ Villani, VP Sales and Business Development, TravPRO Mobile.
While the U.S. travel industry is mostly full speed ahead these days, Power pointed out that Canada is still dealing with its long list of travel restrictions.
Asked about booking windows at this point in the pandemic, Power said: “Up here in Canada we still have a lot of travel restrictions and most of our travellers are not really going to get going until Q4. So we’re looking at November, December and beyond. So that’s a major shift. When people may have booked 3 months in advance, now they’re looking at six to 12 to 18 months in advance. There’s a longer booking window.”
But both Power and Bell say that regardless of when travel is being booked, family travel, especially multigenerational travel, is extremely strong. Families travelling together is also popular. “Because in Canada we have been separated for so long, [with an] inability to get together to celebrate holidays, there’s been a bigger shift to larger group travel, whether it’s multigenerational, or multi families getting together – they are all headed together in large groups,” said Power.
The groups are big, but the resorts they’re choosing are not. Power says she’s seen a notable trend away from mega-resorts. “People are avoiding the mega resorts,” she says. “People don’t want that 8,000 – 9,000 [guest scene], but 300 – 400 is fine. There are still a lot of requests for villas, anything that’s a little bit more private, but still accessible with amenities. Families want to be in a villa to have that privacy, to have that distance, but they still want those amenities.”
Bell says his multigen and multi-family bookings are skyrocketing too. “A lot of people who had to cancel their trips are rebooking,” he said. “ I think everyone is eagerly ready to celebrate, whether it’s a anniversary, 50th birthday, girls’ getaway … as soon as the borders started to open, the influx has been significant.”
Another difference Power is seeing is the need for the highest level of flexibility, when it comes to bookings and cancellation policies. “The biggest question I’ve been getting is flexibility. Before it was, ‘we’re going on this trip no matter what’. Now it’s, what are the terms, what are the conditions? These are the fine-tooth questions that people didn’t ask before. That’s a big shift over the last while.”
Travel insurance is a much more present conversation, especially CFAR (cancel for any reason), added Bell. “We as advisors have had to become a lot more educated on policies,” he said.
‘REFERRALS ARE STILL MY BIGGEST SOURCE OF QUALITY LEADS”
A travel advisor’s skills, knowledge and resources have never been more valued than during the pandemic, and that will continue long after the pandemic is done, as the retail travel industry proves its worth and forges lifelong bonds with clients.
Power says her clients depend on her now more than ever. “I think a lot of people are scared, they’re afraid to make mistakes, and that’s why they’re flooding to travel agents, because they need that helping hand to get through this. It can be overwhelming, it can even for us be overwhelming, because it’s changing every day.”
While Power says referrals are still her biggest source of quality leads, she’s also getting a lot of leads from her Instagram presence, which she has built up with careful planning and strategy. “I do find that my Instagram leads have grown significantly,” she says. “I get a lot of leads from there, pre-COVD but even more so now. And as well, I positioned myself over the past year, year and a half, as that expert on social media, and when people come across it, it’s like man, that person who really knows her stuff. You become that expert.”
Adds Bell: “It’s all referrals. It’s crazy. It’s booking one trip for someone who has a huge network and it’s just a domino effect. Some repeat, clearly, but those clients share with someone else, they post on social media. I do ask my clients if they’re taking a trip and they’ve had a great experience to share that online, and most are happy to do so, and it’s crazy. The minute those things go live … opportunities are just nonstop.”
1,000+ ATTENDEES AT THE FAMILY TRAVEL XPO
According to Dean Jacobberger, Vice President, XpoPRO Mobile, there were over 1,000 registered attendees for the Family Travel Xpo. “The show is live and available on demand for the next 30 days at www.familytravelxpo.com,” says Jacobberger.
Overall the event was a success, he says, adding that agents were excited to attend and shared lots of positive feedback: “Thank you for this brilliant expo!”- Georgia Bryden, R & G Travel Services; “I have got a lot from this. Great ideas for family requests” – Cindy Huckins, A.C.T.I Travel; “I learned so very much attending this and am very excited to be able to pass what I learned along to my clients” – Matt Brown, Voltaire Travels.
Asked about the key takeaway from the Family Travel Xpo, Jacobberger had this to say: “Family Travel is ready to make a rebound, as restrictions are lessening, more and more destinations are ready to welcome families back! Travel agents and advisors are excited and ready to sell more family travel, and the Xpo gave them many great takeaways to help them do so. Learning from their peers during the Family Travel Trends breakout session was one of the most popular takeaways.”