The 2018 U.S. Family Travel Survey shows that the number one motivation for parents to invest in vacations is “To have my children discover new places and have new experiences.”
Christie Holmes, Co-Founder & CEO, Global CommUnity, began to see this need years ago, and recently launched her company to “provide the tools for traveling families to empower their children to see the world through a more truthfully and empathic lens and hopefully return home to their communities as adults with a more informed perspective,” she said.
The FTA invited Holmes to deliver a keynote at this year’s Summit, and talk about her insights into families and the ability for the travel industry to deliver on amazing discoveries.
The mother of two teenagers, Holmes lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Over the last few years, Holmes came to realize the importance of family travel to her parenting, especially given how most communities “gravitate towards same interests, worldviews, religion and cultural backgrounds.” She wanted her own children to have a broader, global perspective.
So, she started Global CommUnity, a travel company based on an innovative business model that attempts to expand horizons by helping families engage more deeply before, during and after their trip, and make memories that draw families “into the bigger story.”
For example, Global CommUnity begins the engagement process with its family client 90 days before travel occurs, through movies, dolls and storybooks, recipes and restaurant suggestions.
“We are focused on relationship and exchange of ideas. We prefer to partner with organizations that are initiated and sustained by local people, engaged by our suppliers and are supported by long term commitments.”
(Starting in 2019, Global CommUnity travelers in select destinations will be able to visit local entrepreneurs and hear their stories first hand.)
When families return, they receive a welcome home cookbook from the Whole Planet Foundation. “This is the bookend to the recipes that are sent from Whole Planet to our travelers before they travel. This gift allows us an opportunity to retell the story of how the distribution of micro-loans (money raised by Whole planet) is the entrepreneurial seed money for business around the world. These businesses empower families to get out of the poverty cycle and strengthen communities.”
Holmes said that “in order to really give access to today’s young people it would be ideal to have the buy in from school systems and curriculums” to incorporate family travel into a child’s formal education.
Holmes urged the audience to advocate for more partnerships between the family travel industry, school systems and parents, to look at obstacles like excused absence rules and better define the educational value of family vacation time.
There is much the industry still needs to do to engage family members with their destination, and with each other, Holmes said, urging service providers like hotels and tour companies to apply a more holistic family approach to what they offer their clients.
“If you haven’t already, a great idea would be to convert your kids’ club into a family activity center,” she said. “Families are traveling to stay engaged with their children, not check them into a care facility. Teens and pre-teens are looking for ways to get engaged and be social.”
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