2018 Family Travel Survey Reveals the Deepest Wants and Needs of Families

2018 Family Travel Survey Reveals the Deepest Wants and Needs of Families

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FTA members dug deep into insights about the family travel market during a Monday morning session highlighted by Peter Bopp, FTA Director of Strategy. During the session, Peter walked us through the results of the 2018 U.S. Family Travel Survey. The survey was conducted by the Family Travel Association (FTA) and New York University’s Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality with support from Travel + Leisure magazine.

Peter helped attendees understand how families travel and what they seek from the experience, starting off the presentation noting the number one motivation for parents –

“To have my children discover new places and have new experiences” The second chief motivator, Peter pointed out, is to “enhance the bonds between family members.”

The survey also showed that while nearly three out of five American families say they are very likely going to take a vacation in the next two years, about one out of five households will find it a challenge to afford and prioritize travel the next 24 months. He also noted how shorter vacations are becoming more popular for families and how 20 percent of families have used a travel agent in the last three years.

Peter talked about how the industry needs to address affordability and value for money, both in providing products and services, and through marketing to help families understand the existing options available to them.

Research confirmed that affordability is a challenge across most American household income groups.  The total amount spent on family travel per year peaks between $2,500 – $5,000 for most household income groups, while increasing to between $5,000 – $10,000 per year for only the highest income group.

The affordability theme was addressed later on that morning in a panel discussion led by Erin Kirkland, where Caroline Lombardi, Director of Youth / Family, at Carnival Cruise Line, Sally Black, Owner, Vacation Kids, and Michael Gast, Communications Director, Kampgrounds of America (KOA), explored how there are a wide variety of experiences at different price points available to families.

Black commented on how sometimes families have a perception of vacations being unaffordable, and that it is the unique skillset and relationship agents have with families that can help parents navigate the wide array of options and price points that can get families traveling together within their budgets.

For a Canadian perspective, Heather Greenwood Davis and Claire Zlobin, revealed the results from a separate, first time ever, FTA Canadian Market Study (view presentation), which showed some stark contrasts between the Canadian and U.S. markets.

Heather Greenwood Davis and Claire Zlobin

For example, while the household income ranges of respondents from both countries shared many similarities, Canadian families don’t appear to have the same concerns about affordability. Also, Canadian education levels also skew higher than those in the U.S. possibly due to the presence of subsidized college in Canada.

Moreover, Canadian families top international destinations include the warm weather U.S. states, particularly Florida, as well as the Caribbean.  Not only are families attracted by warm weather and beach destinations,  Claire and Heather also noted that it is often more expensive for Canadians to travel domestically within Canada that to travel to the U.S.

Additionally, Michael Erdman, Senior Vice President of Longwoods International presented results from their 2017 Profile of the American Family Traveler study.  It included data that provided important insights into the family market size and family activity preferences.  Key market data includes: “

– Longwoods sized the family market to represent 30% of the total US travel market, with 484 million overnight stay trips, and 718 million day trips.
– The annual spend on family travel amounts to a total of $160 billion, with $106 billion spent on overnight trips and $54 billion spent on day trips.
– Average spend per family overnight trip is $1,014, and average length of family overnight trips is 3.5 days

The FTA issued a press release about the U.S. survey the following day, and will be digging deeper into more aspects of the results over the next few weeks, including how travel agents can play a greater role in helping families plan their vacations, and how parents feel about the impact of travel on their children and themselves.

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