Travel Trends 2000: The Coming Family Vacation Revolution - My Family Travels

Trends Report – December, 2000: A changing family structure influences travel trends just as the year 2000 marks a huge upsurge in vacation plans.

[Editor's Note: To mark the millennium, FTF reviewed the current family travel marketplace and where it's headed. We felt the following excerpt from "Travel Forecast 2000," provided as a courtesy by the Canadian Tourism Research Institute of the Conference Board of Canada, would be of great interest to our readers, who have defined themselves by their love of travel with children, rather than by notions of the traditional family.]

It may appear that we spend a lot of time at the Canadian Tourism Research Institute gazing into a crystal ball. What we actually do is study numbers… lots of numbers. And trends. And the effect the trends will have on the numbers. Then we produce reports, such as Travel Forecast 2000, which looks at everything from changing demographics to how travel agents will have to become "Superagents" to survive the technological revolution. This section describes how the changing family structure will influence the travel industry as we enter the new millennium.

The Changing Family Structure

In both Canada and the United States, family structures are changing rapidly. North American sectors of the travel industry that market to "traditional families" are finding more competition than ever. It's no surprise — it's simply becoming a smaller demographic group. Increasingly, families are more diverse and less child oriented.

Family households whose head is less than 35 years of age will make up just 15 % of family households by the year 2016. This represents a decline from nearly 26 % in 1991. "Young family" households will decline from 1.9 million to 1.5 million during this time period.

Families with children represent a declining percentage of the total. Therefore, protecting market share and generating loyalty will be of paramount importance for operators catering to this market.

Most important will be the need for travel and tourism operators to differentiate themselves from their competition in the travel products they provide. As just one example of this, the Holiday Inn chain has developed products such as "Kidsuites" and "Teensuites" which clearly differentiate them from most of the competition. Holiday Inns that cater to the kids market have reserved a section of their rooms for kids that are designed with special motifs such as a fort or an arch. The area for kids has colorful bunk beds as well as separate TVs, VCRs and video games.

Empty Nesters are Looking for Adventure

The year 2036 marks the time when the trailing edge of the baby boom reaches age 65. Until the year 2016, the baby boom generation will move from the "young family" part of their lives to becoming "empty nesters." Mortgage- and kid-free, this group will number nearly 34 % of family households by the year 2016. Already numbering 1.5 million today, empty nesters will grow by nearly 35 % to the year 2016.

The travel industry will be fighting over this lucrative and fast-growing market. Known for their hedonistic ways — pleasure and happiness rule — and willingness to travel afar, this market will be spoiled like never before with a deluge of new products and services to make travel more convenient, affordable and exciting.

Having followed an hedonistic lifestyle, these aging baby boomers will expect travel experiences which are not only hassle-free but which add value to their lives and experiences. Romantic, cultural, educational and adventuresome experiences will appeal to them. The "been there, done that" syndrome will drive tour companies to design more exotic and unusual travel adventures.

The 65+ Population

The population over 65 will grow from 3.2 million in 1991 to 5.9 million by the year 2016 or by 84 %. This compares with an increase of only 25 % for population under 65 years of age. The largest growth in the 65+ population will be in the 85+ range. Between 1993 and 2016, this age group will more than double to 798,000. With an imbalance between the sexes, companionship issues are of some concern for this segment of the population. The travel and hospitality industry will face major challenges in providing opportunities for the elderly and their families to come together and enjoy themselves.

U.S. Family Population Parallels Canada's

As we enter the next century, there are already more family households without children than there are with children. This trend will accelerate over the next two decades as the baby boom population in the U.S. ages.

  • Families with children under 18 will decline by nearly 2 % between 1996 and the year 2010.
  • Families without children under 18 will grow by 26 %.
  • Non-family households will grow by 24 %.

In the next millennium, the family with children market will still be an important market but it will be smaller than in previous decades.

As in Canada, tourism operators catering to this shrinking market will have to differentiate themselves in order to compete. The era of getting a piece of an ever-growing family with kids market has ended.

Key travel markets in the U.S. and Canada that will grow are empty nesters, singles, childless couples and extended families. Each of these markets differ in their product and service requirements and their media habits. Club Med is one of the companies that has developed a diversified product line which caters to not only singles and families with children, but to single parents and other more non-traditional family markets.

Like Club Med, tourism operators who want to be successful in the new millennium will have to develop specific product lines for different segments of the market and make a concerted effort to differentiate themselves from their competition.

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