PHOTO: John Diorio, Regional Director of Sales-West/Mountain Region for Funjet. (Courtesy Mark Travel)
A 2015 study by the Family Travel Association and the NYU School of Professional Studies Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism found that family travel is on the rise and, in fact, is one of the industry’s fastest-growing sectors.
We sat down with John Diorio, Regional Director of Sales – West/Mountain Region for Funjet Vacations, to talk about what’s behind this trend and how Funjet can help agents with this lucrative market.
TravelPulse: What do you see as the driving force behind multi-generational travel?
John Diorio: Geographically as a society we live farther apart from our families than we used to. You don’t live where you grew up so from a generational side it’s a way to bring families together without having to go back home. If you’re going to make that effort and bring four or five family members together, why not go somewhere where you can have fun. It makes sense that you use this opportunity to meet in the middle and make it destination related.
TP: How do the needs of multi-generational travelers differ from those of other groups? Are there particular challenges involved?
JD: It depends on the age group, so if there’s a big range then you have to accommodate everyone. I think everyone has unique challenges whether multi-generational or not, it’s just how you cater to groups. When you think about challenges, you have people coming from all over the place and meeting in Cancun, for example, and that’s not so much a challenge because we’ve got great ground transportation services that will take care of everybody. But when you look at the hotel side, the questions become “Are we are all on the same floor? Do we want to be in the same room? Who wants to be by the elevator?” For agents, it’s making sure the accommodations best reflect the generations.
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TP: What, if anything, do agents need to do differently when working with multiple generations?
JD: I think first and foremost you need to understand the clients. You need to have a dialogue with everyone in the family so you understand the needs and expectations and which properties can cater to that. You have to know the differences between kids’ programs and babysitter services–are they staffed on-property or outside? How are they vetted?
When you talk about the multi-generational side of things, we worry about coordinating flights and the hotel but the one thing that gets overlooked is how to sell families things that are off-property. Agents lose sight of getting the generations engaged with what to do once they get there. Eighty to 90 percent of people want to do an activity when they get to Cancun, so agents shouldn’t forget to ask clients about swimming with the dolphins or snorkeling. It’s a good reminder for agencies to not lose sight of additional booking opportunities.
TP: What advice does Funjet have for agents looking to break into this market?
JD: First, I would say agents should leverage their own experience in travel. They’ve traveled with families before whether it’s their own or they’ve been part of a group that goes together. In terms of breaking into the market, they need to do a better job of mining the database of their previous customers. The one thing agents can do is ask clients for advice. There’s no harm in asking what’s worked and hasn’t, whether they’ve booked through you or not. Put it up on Facebook. If you can engage clients and followers, I think people are willing to share that information. Have an open, honest dialogue with your clients to find out what works and doesn’t.
TP: How is Funjet uniquely positioned to assist with sales to multi-generational groups?
JD First and foremost, we have Groups Your Way, a product that caters to larger groups and is really nice for travel agents handling clients from multiple destinations. So if you have family in New York, Baltimore and Chicago, our tools let agents offer a good value proposition when clients come from different origins to the same hotels. The other benefit with it is that the group doesn’t have to all be traveling for seven nights–grandparents may come for four nights, aunts and uncles for five.
We have the tools and offer a lot of flexibility for agents to cater to the nuances of families coming to one destination from multiple origins. We also have great partner hotels that see the value in multi-generational travel. Karisma Hotels and Resorts is key alliance partner and has a lot of product that caters to multi-generational travel.