Family and multigenerational travel is booming, accounting for more than a third of all leisure travel in the U.S. And that's just one reason home-based travel agents would be wise to consider making it a specialty, said Rainer Jenss, president and founder of the Family Travel Association.
Jenss said that family and multigenerational travel is a $300 billion market in the U.S alone, one of the reasons that Virtuoso recently tapped the segment as one of the industry's hottest markets for its agents.
"The fact is, despite this trend, there's still lots of room for growth," Jenns said. "There's a lot of pent-up demand for family travel, particularly from those families that have done Disney, the cruises, and all-inclusive. They want to explore further and they know that access is now possible.
"That's why you see companies like Tauck offering more for families with their Bridges programs. Even dude ranches are starting to work with travel agents on commissions."
Families are a profitable market for agents, he added. "For starters, their group sizes are larger, especially if it's a multigenerational trip that includes grandparents and extended family."
There are four factors driving the growth of the market, he said. First of all, parents and grandparents want to spend more "quality time" traveling as a family; secondly, there's a desire to expose children to new destinations and cultures. A wider range of family travel products is now offered by the industry. And finally, the desire by grandparents for bonding time that create lasting memories.
However, there are challenges.
One is that families often are on tight budgets. Agents must work with the schedules of school-age children, who are often limited to school breaks, when prices and demand are high. And a big challenge is finding the right combination of destination, activities and accommodations that everyone -- both adults and children -- can enjoy.
"Obviously, travel agents can play a key role in easing and mitigating a lot of these challenges," Jenns said. "If agents want to make it a specialty, they need to start educating themselves on options besides cruises, Disney, and all-inclusive. There are tons of other options and great destinations to explore."
One focus of the Family Travel Association, a two-year old organization of suppliers, agents and family travel writers, is training agents about opportunities in the market nice, he said. The association recently concluded its annual summit, which featured seminars and a fam trip exploring Tucson, Ariz.