The FTA recently collaborated with Media Partner Recommend Magazine to bring insights and best practices for professional travel advisors seeking to focus on the family travel market.
Recommend Magazine Editor-in-Chief Paloma Villaverde de Rico moderated a panel discussion that included FTA member and travel advisor, Nicole Thibault, owner of Magical Storybook Travels, and FTA Communications Director, Richard D’Ambrosio.
The webinar, which had 168 participants and 756 registered agents, built on recently released results from a survey co-sponsored by Recommend and the FTA.
Also participating were Mikaela Walker, Franchise Owner and Vacation Specialist with Dream Vacations, and J.J. Kuykendall, who owns and manages a Cruise Planners franchise.
Family travel is very lucrative for travel advisors. Walker said many of her clients are spending about $10,000-$25,000 for a two-week trip with children, and are taking vacations that are more exotic and adventurous, something the other panelists said they are experiencing too.
“It used to be that people would take their kids on something like a cruise, something safer, that they knew very well, and now they are taking them on international travel, to Europe or Asia,” said Walker, who has had a passion for traveling abroad since she started at a young age herself. “They’re starting to take the two-year-olds, three-year-olds, out with them as well.”
Central European destinations and Northern Europe are becoming increasingly popular for a second international trip, Walker said, after families visit the classic Western Europe countries and capitals.
Thibault, who specializes in serving special needs families, said that 90 percent of her clients head to Florida because it has venues like Legoland, Disney World, Universal, SeaWorld and Discovery Cove, which are sensitive to autistic children.
The participants also agreed with Recommend Magazine’s findings that more and more, older adults are looking to pay for and plan multi-generational family vacations.
“They want to take their kids and their grandkids on vacations, particularly cruises, because no matter your activity level, there is something there for everybody. I’m seeing some family reunions being done at sea, as opposed to land,” Kuykendall said.
Kuykendall talked about how complex booking the right cabin can be in today’s market, elevating the importance of a professional travel advisor. Many travelers “think a cabin is a cabin, and when they book it online, they sometimes live to regret it,” she said.
“You don’t know what you don’t know,” Walker said, noting the wide variety of onboard activities on a cruise ship. “Also, we go and travel to different places, and we know the ones to recommend for your vacation.”
Similarly, an educated and experienced advisor working with families on the autism spectrum can be critical to a family’s vacation experience. Thibault recounted how in one online forum a mom discussed a Sesame Place vacation that went awry when their son had a sensory meltdown two hours into their visit. The family panicked and chose to go home.
“If she had booked through me, I could have counseled her about the ride accessibility pass, the quiet rooms,” Thibault said. “It is especially important for families with special needs to contact someone with experience in that area who can help them.”
Walker said that on land, all-inclusives are hot for her and her family clients. “For people who don’t like to cruise, or who are looking to do something different, I find all-inclusive is a very good option,” she said.
The webinar and survey were created in partnership with La Coleccion Resorts by Fiesta Americana and the Palladium Hotel Group.
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