Last updated: 01:19 PM ET, Mon May 18 2015

Making Europe a Family Affair

Destination & Tourism | James Ruggia | May 18, 2015

Making Europe a Family Affair

PHOTO: A new map unlocks Helsinki for families. (Courtesy of Visit Helsinki)

Increasingly, destinations and suppliers are reaching out to the very lucrative family market. Family travel breaks down into two main markets; those that feature a few generations descended usually from hosting grandparents, and smaller nuclear family units. A series of products have recently come out on the market designed to appeal to that second group of family travelers. We are used to seeing hotels, cruise lines and tour operators design product for these travelers, but the market is big enough that even an airline like Etihad is now weighing in after training more than 1,000 Flying Nannies to assist families on flights across its network.

The Kulm Hotel St. Moritz and its sister property, the Grand Hotel Kronenhof, Pontresina are reaching out to families this summer with the launch of the VIK³ program, which stands for “Very Important Kulm & Kronenhof Kids” for kids between the ages of 3 and 12 years old. A Kids Concierge learns the children’s preferences in order to tailor a program to meet their needs. The concierge also presents the kid with a T-shirt, a gym bag and an all-important bracelet, allowing free ice cream and iced tea in all the hotel’s restaurants.

In addition to the Kids Concierge, there will be a Fun Activity Ambassador standing by in the height of summer (mid-July to mid-August) to organize activities for children aged between 8 and 12 years. These will include a couple of golf lessons per week, tennis lessons, mini golf, high rope courses, a weekly barbecue, a picnic outing after a short hike, and pizza and cookie baking classes.

For families who want to stay together, there are themed hikes of varying lengths and difficulty, the chance to swim in mountain lakes, over-sized scooters for trails, boat trips on Lake Sils, and visits to the petting zoo and National Park. Both the Kulm Hotel St. Moritz and Grand Hotel Kronenhof have put together three-night Fun for Kids & Co package priced from CHF835 ($909) per person .

London’s Milestone Hotel is offering "To the Manner Born," a two-night etiquette package with the goal of teaching children and teens contemporary English manners. Located opposite Kensington Palace, the package reflects its neighborhood.  

A team of etiquette consultants “give children and young adults the chance to gain valuable etiquette training to develop their confidence in social situations.” Lessons include how to shake hands correctly, which knife to use when dining, appropriate use of cell phones and the pros and cons of social networking sites. The sessions, geared towards younger children, will focus on understanding the importance of considering others and appropriate behavior, while older children will learn skills to ease the transition into adulthood.  

The package includes two nights in two connecting rooms or a suite for a family of up to four; full English breakfast for up to four guests; afternoon tea for two adults and Little Prince and Princess afternoon tea for two children; one two-hour etiquette session for two children; and dinner for up to four guests at Cheneston's Restaurant. The package is priced from £2,198 ($3,270), based on a family of four with one etiquette session for two children. Additional etiquette sessions can be included at a rate of £180 ($270) per session and extra nights can be added from £868 ($1,280) per night (with full English breakfast).

Visit Helsinki has teamed up with Bella-blogit to produce the new “Helsinki for Kids” map that helps families enjoy their stay. It features tips on everything from playgrounds and swimming locations to restaurants and skateparks as well as kid-friendly restaurants, activities and shopping areas. The contents of the map were produced in cooperation with “Riikka’s blog,” which can be found on the Finnish blog service Bella-blogit by Riikka Sipilä, who has written a lot about family tourism in and around Helsinki. The map also provides tips about museums and events. The “Helsinki for Kids” illustrated map includes special offers and discounts. The map can also be downloaded in electronic format from the Visit Helsinki website.

Two British hotel groups are promoting a variety of family attractions. Connoisseurs Scotland’s member properties offer amenities for babies, kids programs and extensive outdoor activities for families. The Torridon Hotel’s Activity Center, for instance, offers a wide variety of outdoor activities for families. The Old Course Hotel in St. Andrews has a Luxury Kids Program. It begins with a customized check-in just for children, where they’ll receive a welcome pack complete with coloring book and pens. Once in the room, kids get the Old Course teddy bear and a full toy chest. Parents with babies will have luxury amenities like a massaging cot with changing sheet, baby bath set with thermometer and robe, and in-room bottle warmer. Older kids can even try golf lessons at The Duke’s if they meet the height requirement.

This summer, Northern Ireland’s Hastings Hotels (HH) group is expanding their family offering. The re-opening of Gobbins Path and Mount Stewart will allow families to venture a short distance to these locations while staying at the Culloden Estate & Spa or Ballygally Castle, which recently underwent a £3 million refurbishment. HH has six hotels across Northern Ireland, including Ballygally Castle, Culloden Estate & Spa, Slieve Donard Resort and Spa. From golfing to “haunted hotel rooms,” cycling and croque, the range of family activities on offer are truly diverse.

The Gobbins Path, located 30 minutes from Ballygally, is a cliff path in east Antrim, once more popular than the Giant's Causeway until its closure in 1964. This year it is to be restored to its former glory, complete with visitor center, café, playground, a tubular bridge and a 25-metre suspension bridge. Professionally guided tours that detail local history, heritage and culture will also be on offer, providing stunning vistas of Belfast Lough and the Causeway Coastal Route.

Ballygally, which dates back to 1625, is said to be haunted by a friendly ghost and guests can visit the “ghost room” in one of the towers to see for themselves. Carrickfergus Castle, the Glens of Antrim and the Giant’s Causeway are all close at hand. The walks to be found in Carnfunnock Country Park are within walking distance and there’s a beach opposite the hotel. 

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