Thought LeadershipSponsored by IBEROSTAR Hotels & Resorts

Something for Everyone

Something for Everyone

How do you book a vacation for a group of 15—or 30 or 40—and please every traveler, from infants and children to teens, adults and seniors? An increasingly popular option is all-inclusive resorts, especially for those interested in the Caribbean or Mexico, thanks to an expanding range of property offerings for every age, interest and desire. 

Multigenerational travel has been on the rise for several years now, and shows no sign of going out of fashion. The 2017 Virtuoso Luxe Report listed multigen travel as the top trend for the year, and the company’s 2016 Travel Dreams Survey revealed multigenerational vacations to be the number-one bucket-list experience craved by the network’s travelers. 

“Demand for multigen vacations is really increasing overall,” says Steve Simmons, a travel advisor with Honeymoons, Inc. “We’ve been getting much bigger family groups, and they are taking an incredible range of ages.”

John Long, vice president of sales and marketing for IBEROSTAR Hotels & Resorts, has seen a significant uptick in the market as well: “Last year, we saw a trend where much more multigen travel came during the summer; I’d say almost 40 percent of the travel that we had at our resorts from the U.S. market in Mexico, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic were multigenerational families. And we’re seeing that same trend already for this coming summer as well.”

In addition, a 2016 study from the Family Travel Association (FTA) reported that 87 percent of respondents believed the family travel market will grow robustly or moderately within the next three to five years, indicating an ongoing opportunity for agents to book immediate and extended family vacations of all kinds for the foreseeable future. 

But despite all the business prospects created by multigen travel, this market segment presents challenges as well: With so many people traveling together, so many ages represented in the groups and so many individual needs to meet, what’s the best way to cater to both the overall crowd and each of its members? 

Many agents are finding that the answer to this question is the all-inclusive resort, especially for travel to the Caribbean and Mexico. This market has undergone drastic change in recent years, adding a huge array of resorts, brands and on-property options for accommodations, dining and activities that appeal to a broad range of ages and interests. In short, the resorts are ready and willing to cater to every requirement within the group, creating satisfied clients and a host of opportunities for agents to earn repeat business and referrals. 

“All-inclusives are cost-effective and keep everyone happy,” says Lisa Russo, co-owner of Millennium Travel. “Grandparents, parents, children, friends—the resorts offer everything for everybody.”

Multigen Motivations
So what exactly is inspiring all these multigenerational vacations? According to the same 2016 FTA study, chief motivating factors for family travel include the desire to spend quality time as a family, the expanding range of family travel products offered by the industry and multigenerational travel initiated by grandparents.

“What they want to do is bring the family together,” says Maria Thomas, co-owner of Judy & Maria’s Travel, Inc. “The grandparents are living longer, they’re healthier and they want to see the grown children along with the grandchildren, who have limited time to get away and see each other. They’re making up for long-distance loved ones.”

In addition to bringing families together, multigen travel is also a way for them to share unique experiences together, adds Russo: “Multigenerational groups are pretty much going everywhere,” she says. “It’s because they want the experience together, and they want to make memories.”

What’s more, the appeal of multigen travel is resonating across generations—the AARP 2017 Travel Trends report indicated that most Baby Boomers are looking for a laid-back trip that lets them spend time with friends and family, while the AARP 2016 Travel Trends survey revealed that more than four in 10 Gen Xers were planning multigen trips involving three or more generations of family.

For many families, the cross-generational desire to spend time together is motivation enough to plan a multigen vacation. For others, special events are frequently becoming the catalyst for trip planning. “Celebration travel” made Virtuoso Luxe Report’s top trends list this year, encompassing anything from weddings and vow renewals to family reunions, milestone birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and more—and such events are increasingly motivating extended families to celebrate together on a special vacation.

“There’s usually at least one anniversary, one birthday or one special occasion that groups are trying to celebrate during their vacation,” says Long.

“We’ve seen a big increase in birthdays and vow renewals,” agrees Simmons. “And we’re finding that it’s not even just for milestones like 25 or 50 years—it can be 12 or 16. A lot of times they went to a destination wedding and saw everybody there together having a great time—and now they want to get everybody back together again, so they’ll do it around one person’s birthday or something else like that.” 

Family Values
Whatever the reason for the trip, many advisors are finding that all-inclusive resorts are among the best ways to book multigenerational groups, as the properties become increasingly adept at handling the varying needs of this demographic.

For one thing, geographically diverse families often need a destination everyone can reach without too much trouble or expense. Mexico and the Caribbean are ideal options, with easy and affordable flights from all around the U.S.—not to mention an abundance of all-inclusive resorts. 

“Our resorts are in locations that are easy to get to, like the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Mexico,” says Long. “Families are spread throughout the United States, but they can come from just about any part of the country to one of those destinations.”

These conveniences have not gone unnoticed. According to the FTA’s study, the most popular destination for family travel is the Caribbean/Central America region (slightly beating out Europe), and U.S. News & World Report’s “6 Family Trends to Watch in 2017” revealed that families want to visit the Caribbean and Central America this year.

“For multigen groups, the number-one destination is Mexico, probably Riviera Maya,” says Judy Heydt, co-owner of Judy & Maria’s Travel, Inc. “Number-two is Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, and number-three is Jamaica. You get too far and the flight is too long or too expensive for some of the families.”

Not only are the destinations themselves affordable, but so too are the all-inclusive resorts—which draw multigen travelers with “the value offered for the price,” according to Long. “With all-inclusives, you pretty much have one budget. All your tips, all your meals, all your activities—everything is included, so it takes the hassle out.” 

Long also points out that families traveling during the off-season can often take advantage of promotions that offer even more value. For example, “depending on the season, we have comp ratios where every eighth traveler is free,” he says.

All-Inclusives Accommodate Everyone
Perhaps the biggest hurdle to overcome when booking any group trip is finding a place that meets the needs of the group as a whole, but still caters to the individuals within the group. 

This becomes even more important for multigen families, as different generations have varying ideas about how to vacation. AARP’s 2016 Travel Trends survey revealed that Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and millennials all want to travel, but have differing tastes and ways of making trips their own.

That’s where the all-inclusive resort comes in. With a variety of included on-property activities, dining choices, and both shared and exclusive spaces for all ages, the group can spend as much time together as they want, yet still pursue their personal vacation interests in smaller groups or on their own. 

“They’re all getting a vacation, they’re all together, but you also have your private time,” explains Russo.

Just a few of the many opportunities for shared time and personal enjoyment include:

* Relaxing at the beach or pool
* Meals all together or in smaller groups (or romantic meals alone for couples)
* Non-motorized watersports included at the resort 
* On-property golf courses and nightclubs for older guests
* Small water parks and kids’ pools for younger guests
* Cooking classes, arts and crafts, games and other activities hosted by the property
* Evening shows for all ages
* Kids’ clubs (often segmented into specific age groups)
* Teen clubs with age-appropriate offerings
* Trips to the spa (usually at an additional cost)

“There’s so much that these resorts offer for everyone and every age,” says Thomas.

Depending on group members’ interests and budgets, agents can further customize the all-inclusive experience for individuals by selecting different levels of luxury and service to meet various needs. Those with a tighter budget can opt for basic packages at a lower cost, while luxury-seekers can book bigger suites and pay for added services and amenities.  

And if members of a group have vastly different budgets or want different environments, the multi-property resort complex is an ideal solution, offering a range of the all-inclusive company’s properties—usually representing different brands, levels of luxury, target markets and prices—along with a variety of shared and exclusive areas. So couples and luxury-seekers can book at an upscale adults-only property and visit the family properties where travelers with children are staying; guests can also meet up at shared facilities on the property (such as a golf course or water park) and return to their individual hotels to spend time on their own.

“We’ve had fabulous success with multi-resort complexes,” says Simmons. “You have an adults-only luxury brand, a middle property where everything is upgraded and then next door you have the very affordable resort—and everybody’s happy.”

All-inclusive resorts are perfectly set up to accommodate event travel as well. In addition to offering dedicated venue spaces and planners for weddings and large events, the resorts can often help groups celebrating a smaller-scale event such as a birthday or anniversary arrange celebrations and activities right on the property. 

“Groups often want to celebrate an occasion with a special dinner at one of the à la carte restaurants where they can all be seated at the same time,” says Long. “Sometimes they want to have a photographer do a group portrait, and we have great photographers on site for that.”

Simmons adds that once his destination wedding groups start arranging private events, they often find they want to do even more of them—and the resorts are ready to oblige. “We’re seeing our guests set up a lot more private events,” he says. “You can do almost anything—even last-minute—because the resorts are so well-equipped. So if you’re at an all-inclusive and it’s noon, and you say, ‘I want to set up a cocktail party for 5 o’clock,’ they can do it for you.”

The Agent Opportunity
It’s true that multigen groups can be a complicated clientele to please. But when agents hit the mark, the benefits for their business are near boundless.

Busy travelers often don’t want to deal with the logistics of organizing a mass-scale trip or figuring out what to do if something goes wrong. So the door is already open for travel agents to step in with their resort knowledge, in-destination contacts and problem-solving skills. 

“They don’t want to organize these trips on their own,” explains Russo. “Especially when you have people traveling from different cities to meet up—it’s too confusing. On top of that, they don’t have time to research on the Internet. It takes hours, and then they’re still not sure what they’re getting. And then later if there is a problem, they know we’re there. We give our cell phone numbers when clients are traveling, and if they need anything, they call us.”

“If you don’t book with a travel agent, taking care of all those arrangements is going to be a lot more time-consuming,” agrees Long. “If you deal with a travel professional who already has a relationship with the hotel, they know exactly what to ask for, what to look for, and what the hotel can and can’t do.”

And as important as it is for agents to remove the stress of planning for the group, it’s imperative that they properly qualify all the clients in the group to make sure that everyone’s needs are being met, and that they are matched with the right property or complex. 

“When I’m qualifying the family, I want to know: Are you beach people or pool people? Are you a foodie? What activities do you like to do?” Russo says. “I can send them to a beautiful resort with five great pools, but what if they’re beach people and the beach isn’t that nice? I have to really speak to them to know which resort is best for that family.”

All that work may take time, but it can pay off in a big way. Groups who have a great experience are not only likely to want to take more trips together, but individual members will often return to agents to book other trips as well—from couple’s escapes and girlfriends’ getaways to destination weddings, solo travel and smaller family vacations. 

“We get so much repeat and referral business off the fact that the all-inclusive resorts cater to the multigenerational families so well,” says Simmons. “They have such a great experience when they go, and it leads to a lot of business for us.”

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