With in-room camping, themed suites and packages with local attractions, hotels are appealing to families who are looking for unique travel experiences.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—As multiple generations of family members travel together and are looking for memorable, Instagrammable vacations, hotels are responding by creating innovative packages and promotions that appeal to grandparents, parents and their kids.
According to hoteliers, these promotions are paying off in added revenues and traveler loyalty.
"More and more families are traveling with grandparents and even other extended family like aunts, uncles and cousins as part of family vacations,” said David Sangree, president of Hotel & Leisure Advisors. “As the boomer generation continues to retire in large numbers with greater wealth and health, this trend should continue in the future."
Results from the 2019-2020 MMGY Global “Portrait of American Travelers” survey showed that 43% of travelers reported taking a vacation last year with children, accounting for 29% of their total vacations. And 44% of grandparents in the survey reported having traveled with their grandchildren at least once away from home in the past 12 months, said Chris Davidson, EVP of insights and strategy at MMGY Global.
The Fontaine Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri, offers media and movie packages, and kid-inspired amenities such as games, puzzles and cookies upon check-in. These can bring as much as $200 in additional revenue per stay from families, said Rick Oberdahlhoff, director of sales and marketing.
Hotels also can offer packages bundled with discounts on local attractions to help generate family bookings, said Molly Sinclair, marketing manager for San Diego-based RAR Hospitality.
"These offers can bring a substantial amount of revenue to the properties,” she said. “Not only is the package or promotion revenue a critical factor, but you will also want to look at the extra days bringing in business to your restaurant, shops and partners.”
Hotels such as RAR's El Cordova on Coronado Island offer flash suite sales, which are perfect for large groups who prefer separate rooms and kitchens. The company’s Carlsbad by the Sea extended-stay promotion has been popular with families who want to see several sites, Sinclair said.
"While couples and business travelers often favor the weekend stay, we see families staying longer and wanting to maximize the most out of their family vacations and school breaks," Sinclair said.
To capture more family travel business, Radisson Hotel Group’s properties offer amenities to add convenience and comfort for its guests, said Catherine Higgins Whiteside, VP of marketing, Americas. Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, for instance, has a Read It & Return lending library where families can borrow a book, including titles for children and teens.
"It’s a fun surprise, and it means less for families to pack," she said.
For some properties, providing themed suites is a way to attract more family business. Hilton Hotels & Resorts, for example, has the FAO Schwarz Toy Themed Suite at the Conrad New York. The iconic toy store and the hotel partnered this holiday season to offer an 1,800-square-foot suite that has train sets, the piano floor made famous by Tom Hanks in the movie "Big," vintage toys, a holiday-themed library, and 8- to 10-foot-tall stuffed animals.
Since September, The Rittenhouse "Gramping" Package at the Rittenhouse Hotel in Philadelphia has provided an indoor camping experience that allows children to sleep in sleeping bags and mattresses in a tent and eat house-made s’mores during the hotel’s turndown service. Similar to their parent’s plush robes, kids are offered robes and slippers, said GM Reginald Archambault.
"One of the trends we are seeing is ‘skip-gen’ travel, where grandparents are taking trips with their grandchildren,” Archambault said. "This gives the parents a break and allows grandparents to create special memories with their grandchildren.
Families are looking for activities that bring them closer together, like skiing and hiking, said Alexandra Zullo, director of sales and marketing at the Equinox Golf Resort & Spa in Manchester, Vermont.
"We also offer a lineup of activities which change from season to season, from guided hikes and falconry during the warmer months, to snowshoeing and ice skating when it cools down," Zullo said.
Packaging is key to family fun, noted Julie Rogers, director of marketing at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in Michigan, which is a part of Davidson Hotels & Resorts’ portfolio. These include the resort's Grand Princess, Superhero, and Family Added Value Days packages. Rogers said guests who book with the trip packages spend on activities like afternoon tea, rental bikes and golf.
Lindsey Amador, director of sales and marketing at The Paradise Point Resort & Spa in San Diego, which is also operated by Davidson, estimated that multigenerational travelers are nearly a quarter of the property’s summer business.
For instance, the property's Paradise Fun Guide, which is included in its resort amenities fee and changes seasonally, has something for all ages—from yoga and meditation to kite flying to recreational sports. The resort also develops unique experiences, such as banquet dinners, family reunions and games or competitions.
"We’re seeing that customizing experiences helps our team to work closer to these guests,” Amador said. “This will result in a great word-of-mouth marketing for us—since most of them will likely share these memories with friends who will end up booking with us, too.”