The second annual FTA Summit kicked off in grand fashion today, with three keynote speakers and original research data headlining the Family Travel Association festivities.
The Summit takes place over the next three days at the Westin La Paloma Resort Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona, and brings together more than 100 travel professionals and 50 members of the media to discuss current trends in and important issues pertaining to family travel.
The first keynote speaker, Maureen Miller, heads up marketing strategy for growth and emerging businesses at Disney, and took the stage to celebrate the importance of storytelling in family travel. Miller presented a handful of videos crafted (by Disney) to share the perspectives of different family travelers about what travel means to them.
One video spotlighted a family with same-sex parents and detailed their stay at the Aulani resort in Hawaii. Another video profiled a hearing-impaired family and chronicled their adventures at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim.
These videos – and another about a family with a daughter who beat leukemia and the family’s experience on a Disney Cruise – were moving; at one point, even Miller herself teared up.
The takeaway: When it comes to any kind of travel storytelling these days, authenticity reigns supreme.
A short Facebook Live interview with Maureen Miller
“I think families want to hear from families that are like them and tell the stories that stick with them,” Miller told me in a Facebook Live interview after her talk. “There are moments that happen on your vacation that will live on far beyond the vacation and [those] often are not the moments that you think [will stick].”
The second keynote was delivered by Estee Rivera Murdock, who coordinates the Every Kid in a Park program for the National Park Service. This talk laid out all the different types of family-oriented opportunities in national parks today – everything from education to recreation and voluntourism. (The FTA is a proud partner of the Every Kid in a Park campaign.)
Of course, Murdock highlighted the Every Kid in a Park program, which gives free year-long park passes to fourth graders and their families.
“What makes this program special is that it is an invitation for many kids to visit parks for the first time,” she said. “Fourth grade is when students learn about local and regional history, and is a critical period that you can capture kids if they haven’t ever been excited about these experiences.”
A short Facebook Live interview with Estee Rivera Murdock
Murdock also noted that after the first year of the program, the highest redemption rates of the Every Kid in a Park passes were in July, meaning that most kids utilized the benefits with their parents.
“The program is encouraging families to explore parks together,” she said. “You can’t beat that.”
The final keynote speaker of the day, Ashish Sanghrajka, focused on the best time to expose kids to family travel. Sanghrajka, who is President of Big Five Tours & Expeditions, described the “sweet spot” as any time between the ages of 5 and 15.
“Kids are sponges between these ages,” he said. “They hear everything, and even if we think they aren’t listening, they’re listening and they are curious and engaged because they want to make an impact.”
Sanghrajka went on to outline the importance of providing kids with context for why travel is important, noting that in many cases, the “why” is the most important message parents can pass along to kids when families venture away from home.
A short Facebook Live interview with Ashish Sanghrajka
“Whatever destination you’re going to, you have to ask yourself a key question: ‘How is my being there going to make a difference?’” he noted. “It’s critical to engage your kids that way, too.”
In addition to hosting these great talks, the FTA also released brand new family travel data that emerged from the second phase an ongoing research collaboration with New York University’s School of Professional Studies – Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism. The data, which the organization will release in detail over the next few days, covered a variety of topics, but overall noted that at least among travel providers, family travel is a growing segment of the market that is expected to continue to grow.
Research data also drew a very clear picture of the most popular destinations for families. No. 1 on the list: the Caribbean and Central America, at almost 40 percent. Others on the list were Europe (34.9 percent), the U.S. West (26.7 percent), the U.S. South (19.8 percent), South America (15.1 percent) and Africa (14.0 percent).
As a followup to this full-group session, the afternoon saw the assembly split into three breakout groups with presentations and discussions centered around The Influence of the Grandparent Effect, How to Inspire – Marketing to Traveling Families, and The Rise of Volunteer and Purpose/Impact Family Travel.
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