As leisure travel continues to rebound, family travel is showing impressive growth potential, according to several travel advisors — and cultural experiences are an especially attractive fit for this lucrative market.
“We are seeing a huge family travel uptick as the world reopens,” says Holly McGuire, CEO of Hi Ho Vacations in Greenfield, Indiana. “Families have a renewed appreciation of travel that may have been taken for granted.”
Pam Forrester, president of The Magic for Less Travel in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, also reports a surge in family bookings. “We see an increase in families looking for opportunities to travel together,” she says. “Many guests want to step outside of their homes and the destinations that they know to experience the world.”
Cultural travel is particularly appealing for families, according to both advisors. “Now more than ever, venturing outside of what’s familiar is held in high value,” says McGuire. “The places you go and the experiences you share shape your children’s perspectives of not only your family but of the world.”
For Forrester, Adventures by Disney is a top-selling supplier for culturally oriented family vacations. “Adventures by Disney takes you to incredible destinations around the world and helps you to personally experience the story of that destination,” she says. “You are experiencing the locations, the people, the food and the stories, and you are doing it all together.”
Cara Goldsbury, president and founder of Glass Slipper Concierge in San Antonio, Texas, also names Adventures by Disney as a favorite for family-friendly cultural experiences. “We find that families are willing to travel again because they know they will feel safe and secure anywhere Disney is concerned,” she says. “Parents want to experience other cultures with their children, and Adventures by Disney is the perfect way to do so.”
What Families Look For
When it comes to travel preferences, “families are not just looking for a return to ‘normal,’” according to Forrester. “They are looking to recapture some of what they may have lost during the pandemic. They are looking for authentic experiences that are challenging, new and exciting. They are looking to learn more about our world and the stories of the people [in it].”
McGuire agrees. “Families want to be immersed in a culture,” she says. “Experiencing new foods, listening to different languages, learning about customs and traditions is what most are after.”
As families seek out enriching cultural activities, they’re considering a wide variety of destinations, according to McGuire. “Our high-active families really enjoy Costa Rica and Peru — adventure travel that keeps them moving,” she says, adding that older families with teenagers like Italy and multigenerational families favor European river cruises.
Forrester reports interest in an equally diverse array of destinations. “We have families looking to experience the great parks and destinations located in the United States and also looking to experience classic European destinations as well as European river cruises,” she says. “We also have many guests coming to us specifically looking for bucket-list trips in destinations like Egypt, South Africa, Peru, the Galapagos and Antarctica.”
Goldsbury, meanwhile, says that Adventures by Disney itineraries in Italy and Costa Rica are especially popular. “So many families are looking to travel to places they have yet to discover,” she says.
As with any other market niche, qualifying clients is crucial. “Discussing mobility expectations, sample activities and reviewing what vacations they have enjoyed in the past is usually a good start,” says McGuire. “Bucket-list trips are very popular right now. Those families come to us with a destination in mind but need guidance on how to make the destination fit their adventure level. Families are ready to get out there again — and going big. It’s an exciting time.”
Goldsbury uses in-depth qualifying questions to inspire even more travel ideas. “A great way to narrow down the field is to inquire about their ancestry, to see if families are interested in exploring their roots,” she says.
Given the more complex realities of travel today, travel advisors must also be ready to address pandemic-era questions and concerns. “Everyone needs to gauge their own comfort with travel, and a travel advisor can help guide people through new restrictions and changes to the booking and travel processes,” says Forrester. “Families will benefit from working with a travel advisor who can share first-hand experience and knowledge.”
Goldsbury notes that as the definition of family travel evolves, advisors may find more sales opportunities. “The dynamics of what it means to be a family have changed as the world reopens,” she says. “Due to pandemic restrictions, the term ‘family’ is evolving to be more than the traditional core family of parents and children. Instead, it has also expanded to include those we feel a special bond with, those with whom we have chosen to spend quality time.”