Making Travel Easier...
For Family and Special Needs Travelers...
As first seen in Insider Travel Report 2/22/21:
Post-COVID travel may look different than before, but will likely keep travel advisors busy, says Rainer Jenss, founder and president of the Family Travel Association (FTA). I recently sat down with Jenss, who spoke about how the virus is reshaping travel, common misconceptions about family travel, what’s spurring growth in this niche, and the latest trends travel advisors should keep on their radar.
Jenss: “We’re seeing more multi-family travel, where families are vacationing with other families."“We’re seeing more multi-family travel, where families are vacationing with other families,” Jenss says. “They’re traveling together in ‘pods’—meaning groups of friends who spend time with each other at home and are now going out on the road together too.“
“For years, tour operators have brought different families together, but this is the first time we’ve seen proactive booking of such groups,” Jenss says. “There’s more of a trust factor between people who know each other, a way to better control [their] environment.”
According to Jenns, one of the more interesting and innovative developments has been [the rise of] resorts catering to families who want a “workcation,” a chance to leave their homes but still work or study remotely. Jenss pointed to the Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort, in Solvang, Calif., which, like many destinations and hotel chains, targeted this market in 2020.
“They transformed their kid’s club into a virtual learning space called Alisal Academy,” Jenss says. “It’s a way to work while still enjoying activities like horseback riding in beautiful surroundings, a great distraction or departure from the monotony of being home for so long.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has also spurred on additional interest in vacationing outdoors with loved ones. “We saw a similar boom in post 9-11, a heightened appreciation for family,” Jenss says. “Now it’s particularly acute, especially among those who have lost family members and are therefore particularly appreciative of spending time together. Let’s face it, Zoom calls are great, but can only do so much.”
Jenss says that KOA stays and RV travel are booming because they allow you to keep a safe distance from other travelers. Glamping (glamorous camping, where tents and sleeping bags are already set up), while not a huge niche, is also growing in popularity. Popular in Europe and the U.K., it’s not always expensive, and it’s now available in the Adirondacks and the Berkshires, among other places. How are travelers booking these vacations?
“We’re seeing a resurgence in consumers consulting with travel advisors, which goes against the conventional wisdom that everyone books directly through websites,” Jenss says. “They’re realizing that post-COVID, no one is better equipped and ready to handle their bookings than travel advisors, which like insurance, add a level of protection that more and more families will be looking for.”
Jenss also redefines what family travel really is. “We have to remember what ‘family’ means,” he says. “The way we define it at the FTA is really one family member traveling with another member of the family. Most people think of the traditional nuclear family as mom and dad and two kids, the iconic scene of families on the beach, running up and down the surf. But the industry is now responding to the unique variations on families of various shapes and sizes, such as multi-ethnic families. One of our members, R Family Vacations, caters to LGBTQ families.”
Jenss says what really generated the growth in family travel, at least pre-COVID, is multigenerational travel: three generations traveling together, including parents, grandparents, and children. “The grandparent demographic has been growing, both in size and in age,” he says. “People are living longer and healthier. And what’s trending is Skip-Gen, which is a new term referring to grandparents traveling with grandchildren.”
“It’s an outgrowth of a demographic reality: couples are having children later, often in the prime of their careers when the children are growing old enough to travel,” Jenss says. “It’s also due to a shift in the mindset of grandparents. They’re no longer just concerned about leaving inheritance, gifting money, and wealth, but gifting experiences.”
“And for seniors, there’s so much more accessibility now,” Jenss says. “Take safaris. Twenty-seven years ago, when we went, you wouldn’t see so many older people and children on safaris. Now you see lots because the tour companies are now catering to families and the older generation.”
Jenss says that In 2021 the FTA will be establishing standards and guidelines for what it means to be family friendly. “We will also be creating a certification program that will help consumers and travel advisors identify those organizations that adhere to those criteria,” he says.
.My name is Dawn M. Barclay. My parents were owners of Barclay Travel Ltd. and later, Barclay International Group, and I basically grew up in the travel industry. Along with stints working with both companies and a few other travel-related firms, I've served as a senior editor/reporter at Travel Agent Magazine, a contributing editor at Travel Life, the meetings/incentive editor at Travel Market Report and now, the Contributing Editor for Family Travel and Special Needs Travel at Insider Travel Report. My articles have also appeared in the pages of Jax Fax, GoNomad, and Successful Meetings Magazine. I also write psychological thrillers and romance as D.M. Barr.
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