Multigenerational TravelersAugust 06, 2015
Jennifer P. Hogencamp, CPA, CHAE
A number of societal trends have combined in recent years to change the hospitality industry dynamics as Americans spend some of their leisure time differently than they once did. According to recent studies, longer, healthier lives, greater disposable income and dispersed personal networks have combined to bring more families together for multigenerational vacations.
These gatherings are not spur-of-the-moment picnics in the local park but well-planned, multi-day events that often bring together family members from disparate parts of the country to a destination resort or city – a fair amount of the time, to a foreign country. Therein lies revenue potential that the travel industry is becoming more focused on capturing. The definition of what constitutes a “multigenerational” trip is simple: one in which the participants are related people of three or more generations (typically, grandparents, parents and grandchildren, though nephews/nieces and even friends get drawn into the mix).
According to a Preferred Hotel Group survey of 2,539 American leisure travelers, 40 percent of all active leisure travelers had taken at least one multigenerational trip during the 12 months prior to the study. That percentage translates into 20.8 million households/travelers in the United States alone. Close to half, 40 percent, took that multigenerational leisure trip outside the continental U.S. Nearly two-thirds, 60 percent, are interested in taking a multigenerational trip to an international destination within the next two years.
More often now, these vacations are made to mark “milestones” – anniversaries, birthdays, weddings and other “life events.” These trips are regularly planned for spots with beautiful scenery, such as a remote beach resort and with outdoor activities in mind, such as hiking or snorkeling. Sometimes, these trips are planned with luxury in mind. Nearly 30 percent of respondents to the Global Portrait of American Travelers survey said “luxury” is an integral part of their lives.
Four Seasons is capitalizing on this trend, recently opening a resort at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Luxury travelers often look beyond well-appointed hotel suites to villas and mansions large enough to accommodate large families coming together for a vacation. Travel industry companies would do well to serve the needs of baby boomers as they spend a great deal on travel -- $157 billion annually, according to Forbes. Fitness centers, health food options, environmentally friendly services and accommodations that subtly serve an aging generation – better lighting and stylish bathtub grab bars, for instance – are all draws.
Those active boomers spur much of this multigenerational travel. The boomers serve as the linchpin for grandparents and younger generations – from Generation X to the Millennials. According to a recent AARP study, 33 percent of baby boomers planned on taking a multigenerational trip in 2015. The number is expected to grow as Gen Xers start turning 50 this year.
These days, it’s often the plugged-in Millennials doing the planning, according to Preferred Hotel Group. These young travelers draw on their technological savvy and professional training to pull off the complicated logistics of bringing together family members from different places and with different leisure-time preferences. Those planners will do their homework, visiting nearly two dozen Websites as they pin down the specifics of a trip.
Multigenerational travelers tend to use traditional travel agent services more often than other leisure travelers. Nearly 40 percent of multigenerational travelers used an agent. Hotels and resorts would do well to develop group pricing for extended families, as well as group activity packages – family-style dinners, portrait sessions and outings. Keeping memories in mind would help sell such packages as the participants typically want something to recall these singular family events. Creating the right amenities and services will draw multigenerational travelers to your business and leave a positive impact on your bottom line.
Jennifer Hogencamp has 15 years of public accounting experience and manages the Hospitality Industry Group at BlumShapiro. BlumShapiro is the largest regional business advisory firm based in New England, with offices in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut. The firm, with over 400 professionals and staff, offers a diversity of services which includes auditing, accounting, tax and business advisory services. In addition, BlumShapiro provides a variety of specialized consulting services such as succession and estate planning, business technology services, employee benefit plan audits, litigation support and valuation, and financial staffing. The firm serves a wide range of privately held companies, government and non-profit organizations and provides non-audit services for publicly traded companies.