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Insights for attracting Gen-Xers with kids for travel and destination marketing, from VA1 Tourism Conference
One of the themes at the VA1 Tourism Conference last month was the fact that Gen-Xers with young children are rapidly overtaking baby boomers as the biggest demographic in vacation travel. Speakers had much to share about what these parents (like me) are looking for in a great vacation.
Sean McCarthy shared some of the latest research data on travel trends. For the last several years the Virginia Tourism Corporation has built their strategy around targeting the educated female baby boomer. They're seeing new opportunities now though with Gen-X parents (roughly age 27-43) traveling with their kids.
Gen-X parents are looking for a place close by where they can relax and decompress.
60% of the dollars from Gen-X travelers come from those traveling with their kids, even though 55% of Gen-Xers travel without their kids.
When the kids are having fun, the parents can relax. Happy kids = vacation joy.
Top Virginia attributes for young parents:
- Friendly people
- Amusement parks
- Unique experiences
- Great for strolling about
- Beautiful scenic drives
- Low-intensity outdoor recreation
What do you say to attract Gen-Xers?
"Virginia is the best place to take a relaxing trip with your family. Our beautiful outdoors, beaches, amusement parks, and historic sites offer a variety of activities to keep the whole family entertained year after year."
When do you say it?
Start promoting spring and summer trips at the beginning of the year. Continue promoting unti the end of the year.
The myth of the woman decision maker
- Yes, the woman does more often research the trip, but...
- The decision of where to go is very much split between mom and dad.
- Mom plays the role of gatekeeper, collecting the information and deciding the options.
Women are generally in charge of planning the trip:
- researching activities
- creating the itinerary
- comparing prices
- booking reservations
While some women love to plan, others consider it a chore. (For those of you familiar with Myers Briggs personality type, the SJs and NTs love to plan. Everyone else not so much).
They trust writeups in travel publications.
But their #1 way of planning is going online, straight to Google.
What does "kid friendly" mean?
- Is there a kitchen area to make snacks?
- Is there a separate room in case the kids fall asleep early?
- Can the kids stay occupied for the whole trip?
- Will other guests be disturbed?
What about Boomers?
According to the VTC's research, boomers don't need to relax, they want to explore the world. BUT, they often take an annual trip that's important for family and building memories. After age 45, visitors to Virginia are far more likely to have visited in the past 5 years. That means that you have to hook them by age 45 to keep them coming back in later years. So it's doubly important to reach those young families while they're starting their vacation traditions.
The PR Power of Mom
I attended another session with two well-known travel writers, Eileen Ogintz (http://www.takingthekids.com) and Michele Zavatsky (http://www.kidslovetravel.com). They had several insights to add to what Sean McCarthy shared.
- It's about memories. Your job is to deliver the memory-building experiences that families crave.
- Memories are valuable. Give them a memorable experience that convinces them their money was well spent.
Messages that resonate with families:
- Don't miss life's most important moments.
- Give families permission to spend their money and a reason to travel.
It's the little things that count:
- Children's books and magazines
- Bags at the front desk with snacks, juice boxes, bandaids, sunscreen etc.
- Website tips from locals
- Bedsheets designed for kids
- Free kids club
Everyone's looking for deals:
- Discounted second room
- Free or discounted meals for kids
- Family rates on activities
Whatever you do, START YOUR EFFORTS ONLINE!
On your website:
- Offer content for young visitors (11% of teens say they've already purchased travel online).
- Encourage feedback from young visitors.
- Guarantee the lowest price.
- Offer incentives for booking early.
- Offer more family information about your locale.
Some strategies for developing content for your website:
- Poll visiting parents for tips that made their trip especially memorable.
- Get input from local kids.
- Use off-weeks to market to young preschool families.
- Grandma may be planning and paying. Don't forget her.
- Don't forget teens. Find some unused space and create a teen hangout.
Michele Zavatsky then shared her top 10 list of advice for destinations to help attract families. But that's another blog post...