Winning over millennial and Gen Z consumers may be the sweet spot for travel marketers, but there’s a younger generation on the rise holding increasing sway over travel purchase decisions.
Generation Alpha - defined as those born after 2010 - plays an active role in family travel inspiration and planning, new research from Expedia Group Media Solutions shows.
Although not yet making purchases themselves, the truly digitally native Gen Alpha is expected to be the wealthiest, longest-living and most formally educated generation, reaching nearly two billion in number by 2025.
The Generation Alpha & Family Travel Trends study, unveiled at Phocuswright Europe earlier this month, surveyed more than 9,000 consumers across nine countries who have children or grandchildren aged 9 or younger.
According to the findings, more than 8 in 10 travelers say planning a family trip is a collaborative activity for the entire family, and 60% say travel ideas come from both children and adults.
What families with Gen Alphas want
Keeping their families entertained and happy is of the utmost importance for 95% of family travelers, followed by deals and value (89%), outdoor activities (85%) and planning travel around school holidays (85%) or near major attractions or theme parts (85%).
Choosing somewhere with activities for the entire family and that’s kid-friendly and safe is more important to family travelers than finding the lowest price or a good deal, the study finds, which means travel marketers should consider leading with what’s on offer rather than price, says Andrew Van der Feltz, senior director for Expedia Group Media Solutions.
You don’t want to go down the road of advertising to children, so for marketers, the crucial point is, how do you drive that collaborative process?
Andrew Van der Feltz - Expedia Group Media Solutions
“Experience beats expense,” he says, “so drive with the experience, not with the, deal at the forefront.”
About 28% of family travelers say the type of trip they’re looking for is a family play vacation, followed by a relaxing trip (27%), a trip to visit family or friends (13%) and a sightseeing vacation (11%).
Sixty-eight percent of travelers plan travel within their own country, and the average trip duration is 6.9 days, which means marketers should put together packages in a seven-day range rather than a 10- or five-day window, Van der Feltz says.
Plane is the preferred mode of transport for family travelers at 54% followed by car at 47%; long-distance train (7%) long-distance bus (5%) and boat or ferry (5%) are more uncommon.
Rise of bleisure, accommodation selection and getting around
Travelers with Gen Alphas are taking an average of more than three family trips per year, and almost one of those trips per year is a bleisure trip combining business and leisure components.
“In particular, the millennial generation has changed [the bleisure concept],” Van der Feltz says. “Working from home doesn’t mean working from your kitchen; it means working from international destinations, and as millennials start having children, why would that slow down?”
Accommodation providers, he continues, have the potential to market what family offerings they have beyond what they have for business travelers.
Hotels are the accommodation type of choice for nearly 60% of family travelers, followed by resorts (21%), family and friends (17%) and, lastly, vacation rentals (16%).
Location (41%) and family needs (36%) are the primary rationales for accommodation selection for family travelers, and vacation rentals simply might not be the right product in specific destinations, Van der Feltz says.
“Time will tell,” he says, if vacation rentals become more popular for families, but “for now, it’s dominated by hotels, and hotels are also changing very much to become more child friendly.”
Though price is a consideration for 36% of family travelers, deals and promotions hold little weight at 21%.
In-market, 31% of family travelers prefer getting around by car, followed by walking (28%), rental car (27%) and public transport (25%); just 10% of family travelers opt for ride-share options.
Nearly nine in 10 of those surveyed say planning a trip together can be fun for the entire family, and 80% say they frequently talk travel with Gen Alphas.
“Travel ideas come from everyone in the family, and [ideas coming from children] will probably grow over time,” Van der Feltz says. “It’s about a collaborative unit more than ever.”
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Although travel review sites or online travel agencies (63%) and friends or family (46%) are the most influential in making family travel decisions, young children inspire more than 43% of respondents.
Parents and grandparents believe the travel opinions of Gen Alphas are coming from imagery or information they see that highlights kid-friendly activities or attractions (33%), travel-related imagery or information on TV (30%) travel related imagery or content online (27%) or things they hear from friends or family members (27%).
Although 94% of adults make the final decisions, Gen Alphas have an influence on the destination the adults choose (64%), the activities they do on the trip (57%) and the length of the trip and the hotel selection (both 37%).
“Marketing is done always at the end user - the adult in this case - and the fact that children are so influential makes it a challenge for marketers,” Van der Feltz says. “You don’t want to go down the road of advertising to children, so for marketers, the crucial point is, how do you drive that collaborative process?”
Part of driving that collaboration is targeting family travelers when they’re deciding where to go. Seven in 10 travelers say they’re deciding on two or more destinations when they first decide to take a trip and say they’re open to help and inspiration when planning a family trip.
For travel marketers, this provides opportunity because there’s “so much content out there and families need guidance in order to bring that to a succinct point in order to make a concise decision,” Van der Feltz says.
Adults say influence comes from appealing imagery (54%), deals (53%), informative content (50%), helpful reviews (44%) and simple language (35%), which marketers can use to inform their strategies.