PHOTO: The survey found that millennial and gen-x parents see less separation between activities for kids and those for adults.
The general impression for some time now has been that the luxury family travel market is flourishing – yet there has been a dearth of research to corroborate that perception. Until now.
Carmen Sognonvi, founder and publisher of the online resource Top Flight Family, created a survey to profile affluent family travelers, including their travel habits, preferences and spend.
The findings paint a picture of one of travel’s fastest-growing segments, said Sognonvi, who launched Top Flight Family last spring as a resource for affluent parents who travel with their children. “There have always been wealthy families who take vacations, but what’s new is the tremendous growth in the amount of luxury family travel,” she said.
The survey, conducted online between Oct. 8 and 24, 2016, is based on responses from 362 residents in 42 states with children under the age of 17 years and household incomes of more than $100,000 a year.
It found that respondents spent about $1,500 per person per vacation. With an average household size of 3.9 and an average of 4.1 trips taken per year, this means affluent households spend more than $23,000 per year exclusively on family travel.
Several factors account for the surge in luxury family travel. “Generally speaking, parents are having children later in life, and by the time they do have kids they are a little more affluent than their own parents,” Sognonvi said. “They don’t want to compromise their lifestyle.”
Sognonvi also cited the influence of millennials. “A lot of millennials are parents now and they value experiences over possessions,” she said. “Being able to travel with their kids and expose them to those experiences is something they value. Millennials’ budgets might be smaller but as more have kids and get older, their mindset and value system will carry over into the luxury space.”
Additionally, parenting styles of millennials – as well gen-xers – are a factor. “There’s a real change in parenting styles,” Sognonvi said. “Generally millennial and gen-x parents see less separation between activities for kids and those for adults.”
Although beach vacations ranked high with affluent parents, at 24 percent, they were nudged out of the top spot by activity and adventure travel, at 27 percent; followed by visiting family, 18 percent; visits to major metropolitan cities, 9 percent; and camping, 8 percent.
“I suspect the older the kids, the more adventurous the family can get,” said Sognonvi. “An interesting challenge for travel agents is how they can incorporate more adventure, even for families with younger kids. It doesn’t have to be a full-on safari, for example, it could be ziplining.”
Among the survey’s other findings:
The most popular reason for traveling with kids, at 35 percent, was to bring families closer, followed by enrichment education, 23 percent, and visits to relatives, 20 percent.
Hotels, at 60 percent, were the top choice for vacationing families, and affluent parents also aren’t afraid to book high-end properties. Nearly half, 43 percent, have had their child stay with them at a five-star hotel or resort.
Not surprisingly, domestic destinations accounted for the majority of affluent family travel, but as family income increased, so did the number of international trips. Families with household incomes of $400,000 and up were seven times more likely to travel internationally than those with incomes of $100,000 to $149,000.
International travel was also more common for parents with older children. Parents with kids 13 and older were twice as likely to travel abroad as those with children 5 and younger.
The survey’s takeaway for agents?
“Luxury family travel is potentially a very lucrative market and it’s poised to grow, so if you can make it one of your specialties and master what affluent parents are looking for, it’s a great way to grow your business,” said Sognonvi.
For a copy of the survey, go to topflightfamily.com/luxuryfamilytraveler2016.htm.
VIRTUOSO’S TAKE ON THE LUXURY FAMILY TRAVEL MARKET
Family travel is a powerful trend for agents who specialize in luxury travel.
In Virtuoso’s Luxe Report, luxury advisors placed multigenerational travel as the No. 1 or No. 2 top trend for the past three years, while travel with the immediate family was in the top six trends, according to Cece Drummond, managing director, destinations and experiences, for the luxury travel network.
“Luxury family travel is definitely a growing segment for our advisors,” said Drummond. “Time is not a renewable resource, so luxury travelers want leisure time to spend with loved ones. It’s not about things; it’s about valuing experiences rather than objects.”
Drummond pointed two compelling concepts related to family travel from Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch. Upchurch’s “Journey to Global Citizenship” promotes travel as a way for parents to forge family bonds and transform their kids into global citizens by exposing them to other cultures.
His “Return on Life” concepts asks why advisors shouldn’t provide a future travel plan for consumers in the same way that financial planners map out their future finances. That means parents with newborns can formulate a family travel plan for each stage of their child’s life.
“With long-range plans, parents have something to dream about and plan for, while advisors have the opportunity to make life-long clients,” Drummond said.