Sizing, Behavior, Preference: Decoding The Lucrative U.S. Family Traveler Segment

by Luke Bujarski, Dave Montali + Skift Team
Digital Marketing

Skift Research Take

There are over 77.5 million family households in America, with an average size of 3.26 people, and an average annual vacation spend of $3,340. It's a sizeable market and most travel memories are made with life partners, family, friends, or children when taking into account trip composition, but also during the decision-making process on where to go and what to do once there. Travel and tourism professionals should have a keen sense of modern family dynamics.

Executive Summary

In a good year, American families with children living at home spend as much as 150 billion dollars on travel-related services. This report profiles the changing face of the U.S. family traveler to decipher how joint decision-making ultimately impacts travel behavior and preference, given the unignorable opportunity of this market. Here we highlight distinctions between family versus non-family personas when it comes to accommodations preferences, in-destination experiences, and other behavioral and psychographic attributes such as preferences for packaged travel and social media engagement. We also look at the changing face of travel more broadly, in the context of mobile computing and new paradigms such as local engagement and alternative accommodations.

This analysis should give hospitality and other travel marketers a better sense of how to position their products and services, how to better deliver on their brand promises, and how to create more effective experiences and campaigns for family travelers.

In reality, travel decisions are seldom made independently. Just under 80 percent of the U.S. population lives jointly within some form of family structure, either through ties of marriage, blood, or adoption. Shifting societal and economic conditions are also influencing the way families organize themselves. For example, Americans are having children later in life, while average family household size continues to decrease steadily; the ethnic mix of those having children is also shifting.

The changing face of travel in terms of booking channels, technology, and product type is also likely having an impact on family travel behavior and preference. For instance, the rise of short-term apartment rentals has opened up a novel accommodations product line for families, beyond the typical traditional hotel or high-end vacation rental. Companies like Airbnb have also shifted the discussion about travel more broadly, toward a deeper focus on local authentic experiences.

Here we take a demographic deep dive into the American family structure, highlighting the total opportunity in terms of household structure and spend on travel. We also highlight findings from our most recent consumer surveys including our 2016 Experiential Traveler Survey and our 2016 Future of Work and Travel Survey. We differentiate unique behavior and attitudinal differences when it comes to accommodations preference, as well as tendencies in the way family travelers prefer to interact with local communities while in-destination.

What You'll Learn From This Report

  • Size and segmentation of the U.S. family travel market
  • Distinguish between key demographics and unique family travel attributes
  • Behavioral data and trends on accommodations and booking preferences
  • Unique insights from executives at niche and global accommodations brands
  • Insights on marketing strategy and generational branding

Executives Interviewed

  • Dorothy Dowling, chief marketing officer for Best Western Hotels & Resorts
  • Lisa Checchio, vice president of brand marketing and insights for Wyndham Hotel Group
  • Laura Hall, director of communications for Kid & Coe
  • Mandy Chomat, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Karisma

List Of Figures

  • Leisure Trip Composition: Avid Travelers
  • The Modern Family: Smaller in Size, Larger in Numbers
  • Work/Life Balance: Career Satisfaction
  • Obstacles to Travel: Time or Money?
  • Work/Life Balance: Stress At Work
  • U.S. Population: Age Distribution (2014)
  • Age Distribution Among Avid Travelers: By Family Type
  • Estimated Family Trip Spend
  • U.S. Family Household Income Distribution
  • Select Stats: American Households and Families (2015)
  • Trip Frequency Among Avid Travelers: By Age
  • Income Distribution Among Avid Travelers: By Family Type
  • Planning Family Travel
  • Traveler Preference: Pre-Packaged or DIY?
  • Traveler Preference: Long-Few vs. Short-Often
  • Traveler Preference: Accommodation Type
  • Traveler Preference: Have you ever stayed at an Airbnb or similar service?
  • Traveler Preference: Would you ever stay at an Airbnb? By Age
  • Traveler Preference: Would you ever stay at an Airbnb? By Family Type
  • Traveler Preference: Traditional Hotel or Airbnb?
  • Better Amenities or Better Experiences? By Family Type
  • Better Amenities or Better Experiences? By Income
  • Better Amenities or Better Experiences? By Age
  • Local Engagement: Community Service, By Age
  • Local Engagement: Community Service, By Family Type
  • Local Engagement: Environment, By Age
  • Local Engagement: Environment, By Family Type
  • Local Engagement: Exploration, By Age
  • Local Engagement: Exploration
  • Picture Taking: Liberal or Conservative?

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