Travel Trends 2004: FTFc Examines State Of The Family Travel Market - My Family Travels

Trends Report – January 2004: Family Travel Forum's consulting division examines the hospitality industry's awareness of the Family Market and its needs. Trends Report – January 2004: Family Travel Forum's consulting division examines the hospitality industry's awareness of the Family Market and its needs.

(New York, NY)  FTFc, the consulting division of Family Travel Forum, Inc. has found that the hospitality industry, while acknowledging the importance of the family travel market, is not quite in step with what today’s families want. Although the majority of the hotel chains surveyed offer “Kids Stay Free” policies, “Children’s Menus” and Welcome Gifts, a much smaller segment attempt to satisfy parents’ desire for spacious accommodations, improved childcare and meaningful experiences.

The key points from the survey, a comprehensive analysis of the 20 major North America-based hotel and resort chains marketing to families (representing nearly 9,700 properties worldwide*) conducted between April and November 2003, are: 


FTFc’s analysis reveals that 90% of the major chains allow children under 18 to stay free in the same room with one or two paying adults when using existing bedding.


According to FTFc research, 65% (13) of the chains studied promote “Children’s Menus” which typically offered lower rates for “child-size” portions, age restrictions on use (usually to age 12) and a selection of junk food entrees. Additionally, FTFc found that these Children’s Menus were often the foundation of seasonal “Kids Eat Free” promotions. Although FTFc research affirms that value-conscious parents appreciate discounts, there is universal interest in more healthful food choices.


In an age of online rate haggling, family consumers expect a great price and a value-add. FTFc found that “Children’s Welcome Gifts” were given to guests under 12 years on a seasonal or year-round basis by 55% (11 of 20) of the chains studied. The most common items were backpacks, sport-top beverage bottles, movie or character-themed souvenirs, T-shirts, small toys and snacks.


From its online consumer surveys, supported by the growth in the all-suite, condominium rental and vacation ownership markets, FTFc found that today’s families are looking for lodging that provides space and privacy for children and extended family. However, FTFc research indicates only one-third of the chain hotels surveyed offered a second room discount and only a few industry pioneers (Holiday Inn Family Suites Resort and Club Med, among them) were actively renovating properties to create larger, family-together accommodations.

As seen in the accompanying chart, 65% of the chains had no corporate discount policy for a second or family room; 20% of the chains offered a 50% second room discount on a seasonal or promotional basis; and 15% of the chains offered variable discounts on a promotional basis.


Nothing relaxes parents like time alone — together. “When it comes to childcare, parents will find higher babysitter and kids camp rates and a decline overall in the number of facilities,” notes editor and consultant Kyle McCarthy, “primarily due to staff cutbacks throughout the industry.”

“On a positive note,” she continues, “we are finding that the front line of family travelers, the affluent and educated, have a stronger desire to share meaningful experiences together with their children and their parents, a desire which travel can satisfy.” FTFc notes the recent online efforts made by Hilton ( and Hyatt (Adventure Hyatt search on to pair accommodations with “experiences” (attractions and adventures at each destination) will begin to address this need.

However, as long as the established family market leaders such as Sandals Resorts, Club Med, Carnival Cruise Lines and Disney continue to upgrade their product with family suites, enhanced nursery and childcare facilities and increased learning activities, hotels will have to be more aggressive and innovative with child-friendly amenities, adult-friendly services and family-friendly facilities to catch up with the tough competition in the leisure segment. 


About FTFc:

FTFc’s parent, Family Travel Forum Inc, publishes, a subscription site serving frequent family travelers, travel professionals and the estimated 30% of Internet travel bookers who travel with children. is winner of the National Parenting Center’s Seal of Approval in 2000 and 2003, Condé Nast Traveler’s “Essential Web Site” award, and the prestigious Forbes Favorite honor in their “Forbes Best of the Web” issues for 2001, 2002 and 2003.

Launched in 2003 in response to travel industry demands for proven strategies in catering to the fast-growing family market, FTFc makes the insights and expertise of Family Travel Forum’s staff, market specialists and journalists available to the trade.


To arrange an interview with FTFc specialists, contact Kyle McCarthy at Family Travel Forum Inc.


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