School will soon be out for summer but is the travel industry ready?

Families have always been an important segment for the travel industry, but now with the fall in air passenger duty, they may be venturing further afield. Mariam Sharp reports

On 1st May, in the UK, the Air Passenger Duty (APD) for children disappeared, saving families around 5% on the tickets for children under twelve. For a family of four, two adults and two children, this could save over £100 on a long haul flight.

So will this change peoples travelling patterns?

Dimitris Hiotis, partner at pricing experts Simon-Kucher & Partners, believes that it could lead to “…a shift of holiday preferences from mid-haul to long-haul, as the latter become slightly more affordable for families than before”.

This is likely to benefit of long-haul tour operators and airlines, he says, and the trend will be magnified by the recent 0% inflation news. “More money in people’s pockets will probably translate to spending more money on ‘treats’ such as overseas holidays,” he says.

Families are an increasingly important segment for the travel industry. Indeed, it is estimated that family travel constitutes approximately one third of all leisure travel in the US. And as the majority of families with school age children travel during peak times, it is also a relatively lucrative market.

That’s led to large number of popular family travel blogs. Needless to say, one of those comes from TripAdvisor though there are others too, like this one from Red Tricycle. From these blogs, two clear trends emerge, that represent opportunities for travel brands:

  • Families face many difficulties when travelling, something that travel companies have begun addressing with new products.
  • A travel lifestyle is important and many families are really taking advantage by taking time off work when their children are under five.

For bloggers with children of school going age, the big complaint is that prices rocket during school holidays. Hiotis, recognises this concern and also suggests that the removal of APD could “help reduce the cost of holiday prices during the school holiday period, another highly contested topic”.

Having said that, he adds that “a lot of that cost is driven by demand and the underlying higher cost in the local hotels; hence, the impact will be less pronounced there”.

According to Rainer Jenss, president of the Family Travel Association, this professional network was formed to offer resources showing that travelling with kids can leave a lifelong impact, but there are also ways that travel with small children can be improved and travel companies can help. On the company’s website it has this to say: “As industry advocates for transformational – not just recreational – family travel, all Family Travel Association members are expected to meet the highest standards of quality and service.”

Given the results of a survey by Thomas Cook, which found that 50% of children determine where the family goes on holiday, it seems travel companies have cottoned onto this growing market. Below are a few examples of services being offered to families, by travel companies:

1) The blog Around the World with Kids has created a list of the best airlines. Lufthansa, Emirates, and British Airways all show thoughtful consideration of families with entertainment, special menus and resources such as cots. Virgin Atlantic and Jet Blue get special mention because their customer lounges also cater for children. 

2) In June last year Ryan Air announced their Family Extra product, offering families a range of discounts on travel and an improved service on Ryanair flights. Developed as part of their Always Getting Better programme to improve the customer experience and as part of their drive to offer “so much more than just the lowest fares.” 

3) Family holiday experts, Disney, offer special features to accommodate families with children at all their hotels, including cots and children's menus, which are available on request. In addition to this, most of the hotels have indoor children's corners and video games rooms, where children can have fun under their parents’ supervision. The reservation teams also respond to special requests and The Disney Parks Moms Panel is a forum where online ‘Moms’ (and Dads!) answer customer questions and offer advice and tips about Walt Disney resorts, cruises and events. 

4) Novotel’s family rooms are designed to accommodate two adults and two children. Accommodation and breakfast are free for under-16s (up to two staying in their parents' room). Late check out is at 5pm on a Sunday, and the kids can entertain themselves with the Cartoon Network. 

5) Close to Buckingham Palace in London, The Rubens at the Palace, has its own Director of Fun and Adventure to ensure kids have an enjoyable stay. With dedicated family wings allowing spaces of up to 11 guests, and a ‘bumper family package’ with complimentary films, as well as welcome and leaving family dinners.

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