Analyses - March 13, 2006



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March 2006


Print Customer segments,

Family travel and Generation X parents

In the last few decades, family realities have changed dramatically. While amenities popular with children (like a hotel pool) are still very important when planning a family vacation, the demand for family travel has been affected by the fact that parents from Generation X now head young families. Having had their children much later in life, this new generation of parents has different values and concerns than their predecessors.

Families look for interesting activities and appropriate services

According to recent findings from Shell Hospitality, owner and operator of a dozen or so resort hotels in the United States and Canada, the top three decision factors in planning a family vacation are the following:
According to recent findings from Shell Hospitality, owner and operator of a dozen or so resort hotels in the United States and Canada, the top three decision factors in planning a family vacation are the following:

  • Location: the destination must offer fast, easy access to a variety of family and recreational activities (amusement parks, visitor attractions, beaches, ski hills, etc.) or be located near the homes of friends and family.
  • Room size: rooms must be spacious enough to allow multiple family members to relax. Families increasingly appreciate amenities like kitchenettes, video games and internet access.
  • Hotel services: naturally, a pool is still the most popular attraction. However, game rooms and fitness facilities are also desirable features. Finally, when the group involves more than one family, teens want their own room; if grandparents are also part of the group, it is vital to be able to reserve neighbouring rooms.

A Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) study confirms that programs for children are very popular with families. Special children’s menus (41%) and hotel discounts for families (30%) are the most popular features, while the availability of toys and video games (22%), supervised activities (13%) and babysitting services (6%) are also well liked by families.

Although an average 60% of families take advantage of these types of services when they travel, Generation X parents are more likely to do so, with 71% of those aged 35 44 using children’s programs. This is the highest proportion among all individuals who travel with children.

Who are Generation X parents?

Generation X covers individuals born from 1965 to 1980. Even though the oldest of these are already in their 40s, many are parents of young children.

In Canada, it is estimated only 17% of Gen Xers have had a first child by the age of 25, while this percentage jumps to 29% among Baby Boomers. In 2002, four out of 10 children (40%) were born to parents aged 30 to 39, compared to 34% in 1991 and 24% in 1981.

Looking for work life balance in a race against time

For Generation X, happiness depends primarily on successfully balancing one?s personal and professional responsibilities. To this end, 80% of parents in this generation would like to spend more time with their families even though, on average, they already spend more time with their children than their parents did.

Shorter, more frequent trips

According to a Spring 2005 survey conducted by the US website, family travel is following the trend towards shorter, more frequent trips. In fact, 35% of those surveyed reported having taken two family vacations during the year, while another 35% reported having taken three or more trips. This frequency had an effect on the duration of family vacations: 75% of them were for a week or less, with 35% of all trips lasting only 2 to 5 days.

Torn between their personal needs, their desire for time with their spouse and the importance attached to family time, Generation X parents are creating a new demand for family travel. Although both leisure and business travel afford opportunities for personal relaxation and rejuvenating time for couples, they are also becoming ideal occasions to spend quality time with the children.

Family responsive vs. family friendly

Family travel was long defined as travel for children, while today it is defined as travel with children. The nuance is important for companies who must become responsive to the needs of both parents and children; traditional family friendly outfits, like theme parks and zoos, must now think about the type of experience available to parents so that visits are enjoyable for every member of the family.

At the same time, to respond to these various needs, some tourism based companies with primarily adult clientele are starting to experiment with new services to show that their facilities can offer everyone, children included, a fun vacation. Last December, Air Transat launched its Kids Club (ages 2 to 11), which provides a number of services and privileges (priority boarding, games, special meals, etc.) to make a family vacation more fun and enjoyable for everyone. Currently, children represent 6% of all Transat Holidays customers.

Resort complexes in southern destinations were among the first to develop mini club services to offer parents a family vacation experience that cleverly combines time with the children with time alone. Club Med remains a leader in this type of approach, breaking down its various children?s programs according to age: Baby Club (4 to 23 months), Petit Club (2 to 3 years), Mini Club (4 to 10 years) and the new Junior Club for teens (11 to 17 years).

Major cruise ship companies quickly adopted this model to attract families. By offering adapted facilities (family staterooms) and appropriate services (organized activities for kids, a water park, arcade, etc.), cruise ships are positioning themselves as the holiday solution that promises something for everyone. And the approach seems to be working: 525,000 of the 3.3 million passengers travelling with Carnival Cruise in 2005 were children.

In Quebec, family friendly initiatives have sprung up recently at spas, country inns and business hotels. These include activities aimed directly at children, babysitting services, supervised game areas for both younger children and older children and family suites furnished specifically for the comfort of children and parents.

In conclusion, in the era of Generation X parents, family travel is no longer defined solely by the preferences of children; parents want to have fun too!


– “Cruises: All in the Family, Oceans of Fun for Families,” Family Travel Files Ezine [], September 2005.
– Désiront, André. “Partir avec les enfants,” La Presse, February 13, 2006.
– “Kids Want Goodies, Teens Want Adventure: Resort, Airlines and Cruises Cater to All Ages,” Calgary Herald, February 25, 2006.
– “Press Release Family Vacation Survey 2005,” Family Travel Files Ezine [], June 2005.
– “Shell Hospitality Reports Trends in Holiday and Family Travel,” Travel 2006 [], December 9, 2005.
– Vailles, Francis. “Société : Famille X (2),” La Presse, May 8, 2004.

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