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Trends Report – December, 2003: In 2003, statistics showed that families were viewing vacations increasingly as reunion opportunities, and that those in the travel industry were adjusting accordingly.

As 2003 scurried to a close, we received lots of news about a perceived trend called “Togethering,” which must be taking the central Florida region by storm.

The savvy pollsters Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell (YPB&R) coined this term when a survey revealed that almost eight out of ten active leisure travelers took at least one vacation with an average of seven people, usually extended family, other families or friends, during the past five years.

Why? Apparently, when asked about vacation alternatives, 69% of active travelers cited "spend time with family" as very or extremely important (up from 57% in 2000), 54% cited "spend time with friends" (up from 43% in 2000) and 35% of adults surveyed did take at least one vacation with children during the previous year (up from 26% in 2000).

Expert Peter C. Yesawich saw it this way: "Family vacations in America are now viewed as 'mini-reunions' and an occasion on which to 'reunite' family and friends, even if only for a few days." FYI, of those who “togethered” in the recent past, 82% spent leisure travel time with extended family, 68% spent it with friends, and 46% with other families.

In a similar vein, we heard from Chuck Underwood, a generational marketing expert who has studied the travel habits of Baby Boomers. He found that as Boomers become “empty-nesters,” more and more of them are vacationing with their grandchildren. His study also found that although Boomers will rough it for a wilderness experience, they want first class accommodations at day’s end. Therefore, because they have more complex demands and seek off-the-beaten-path type experiences, the travel industry is developing new vacation alternatives to suit them.

So how do “togethering” and Mr. Underwood’s study affect the travel industry? Well, over at one of our favorite hotels, the Holiday Inn Family Suites Resort in Orlando, there’s lots more news. In early September 2003, they launched a new product–their Mega Family Suites–with 2BR and 3BR units to accommodate extended family. Then they announced a new alliance with Nickelodeon, which transformed the already award-winning and family-friendly resort into the first (and now independently-owned as of 2009) Nickelodeon Family Suites

Hotel features include two water park-like pool areas, multi-bedroom Nickelodeon-themed Kidsuites (Togethering again!), Nick character wake-up calls and breakfasts and live Nickelodeon entertainment. According to owner Terry Whaples, the Family Suites will continue to not offer a supervised children's program. Why? As Ms. Whaples is fond of saying, "We don't need one. Our families come here to be together."

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