"In a more challenged economic environment, what you find is that people trade down in terms of their experience. In a strong environment, that just broadens the base of families and consumers in general that decide to vacation or stay longer in that area. That is why the middle market in the hotel business has always been a very good business to be in". - Dorothy Dowling, CMO Best Western Hotels & Resorts
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.