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Don't Kid Around With Your Kids Programs

Creating great kids programs will not only make mom and dad happy, but help you fill rooms at premium rates all summer long.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Cherryl Marie
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Another school year comes to a close and that usually means one thing for families…summer vacation! Hotels spend months preparing themselves for the influx of young guests that walk through their front doors, some more equipped and knowledgeable of this audience than others. Learn a few simple strategies on how your property can earn an A in families’ books by keeping their kids happy, and hopefully as a result, winning what all hotels aim for – their repeat business.

While we all know that families travel year-round (since not all schools are in and out of session during the same time), there’s a common thread that many hotels have during these warmer months, and that’s some form of the beloved tradition known as summer camp. Keeping kids active and moving at all times is a must, both to avoid them facing boredom and also to promote overall wellness and daily exercise.

At Terranea Resort in southern California, their rendition of summer camp returns with new programs including junior golf lessons, ecoadventures, arts and crafts and more. Omni Hotels & Resorts implement Camp Omni family packages, which include an advance call from “camp counselors” (concierge desk in disguise) to help customize vacation activities. Upon check-in, kids are given their very own knapsack which contains an adventure letter that features a scavenger hunt that leads kids to a merit badge. Mainly for rainy days, Maui’s Grand Wailea presents Camp Grande, a 20,000 square feet “children’s resort” for kids ages 5 to 12 that includes qualified personnel to keep a watchful eye on the youngsters as they enjoy their own restaurant, craft room, theatre, game room and outside play area which features hikes, nature walks and lei making. Because luxury hotels can sometimes be intimidating for kids, hotels need to make them feel comfortable in their surroundings. Nostalgic programs like camp reinforces a good time in an exciting environment amongst others their own age.

What kid doesn’t want to be the center of attention? At The Beverly Hills Hotel located on the famed Sunset Boulevard, the staff takes “celebrity treatment” to another level with its Little Legends package. Young guests are welcomed with “paparazzi” as they walk the red carpet donning sunglasses, boas and top hats. They are then given a keepsake photo, their own “credit card” good for sodas and fresh juices throughout the hotel and other fabulous extras. “It was created for our 100-year anniversary, with our next generation legendary guests in mind…the reaction to our Little Legends promotion has been so positive that we now leave the step and repeat backdrop up so all guests can take a picture with their family, and the kids have loved feeling like stars as soon as they arrive,” said Public Relations Coordinator for The Beverly Hills Hotel, Jenna Duran. All the lights, camera, action right at the beginning of their vacation provides a solid foundation for a promising time ahead.

One of the things that parents value most is education. Many hotels have mastered the skill of educating young guests while still keeping them interested. At Grand Wailea, team members have created a multitude of activities that stimulate the minds. Located in one of the most tropical destinations in the world, Grand Wailea takes pride in its Hawaiian culture and has been successful in integrating the islands’ unique ways of living in their kid-friendly excursions. The Sea Life Exploration package features an adventure to the Maui Ocean Center for an interactive learning and hands-on experience with amazing sea creatures. As part of Camp Grande, youngsters are also offered hula lessons, orchid lei making and more. Grand Wailea even offers photography lessons with internationally-acclaimed master photographer, Michael Gilbert. Offer as much variety as possible at your resort and kids, no matter how selective they are, will find it hard to turn down all the fun.

Here’s an easy one – give them treats and you’ll create many new best friends. There’s no simpler way to make a kid smile than with their favorite sugary confection. Make a great first impression by offering them something to nibble on as soon as they arrive. At Omni Hotels, the Camp Omni program includes cookies and milk during their first night, Twizzlers included in their knapsacks and a generous serving of “dirt and worms” upon completing the scavenger hunt. Beverly Hills Hotel offers “decorate your own cupcake” activities, which not only challenges kids to create their own unique masterpieces but also offers a satisfying finish for their sweet tooth.

When asked how Omni Hotels came up with such successful offerings, Vice President of Corporate Communications, Caryn Kboudi, expressed, “we are all moms too. Many of us who work at Omni are parents, so more times than not, our best ideas are conceived by moms and dads. The saying goes, ‘when moms are happy, everybody’s happy.’ But only when kids are happy, are moms truly content.” Take recommendations from your colleagues who know what kids want and what they don’t want. Better yet, gather the most honest feedback of all – the children’s.

Sometimes the toughest time for parents in a minor’s life is during their teen years. Director of Public Relations at Grand Wailea, Christina Yumul pointed out the obvious when she said, “when they are in this growing stage of their lives, every teenager’s problem is always the BIGGEST problem” and Grand Wailea does their best to make their young adult guests happy and relaxed. At the resort’s lavish 50,000 square foot Spa Grande, therapists and technicians are experienced in relieving teenagers’ stresses – school, hormonal changes, their parents and even their first heartbreaks. From facials that offer relief from problematic acne of a typical teenager to a soothing massage, Spa Grande knows that parents always want the best for their kids, even with it comes to stress reduction. “Over the last three years, we’ve seen an increase in parents wanting to teach their kids to better keep relaxation and even detoxification, at the top of their priority list.” At Omni, they’ve just started a new program called Teen Connection, which features teenage concierge members who serve as teenage guests’ main resource for tips and advice on activities that will be worth their time. As with any age, sometimes the most reassuring thing is having a one-on-one conversation with someone who knows exactly what you’re going through.

Not sure if your resort can handle more kids on property, due to the amount of business travelers or perhaps honeymooners you currently attract? This might make you feel better about taking the next step to catering kids – in 2011, Grand Wailea saw that their leisure guests were 40% families, and in that same time frame, 37% of them were couples. This doesn’t necessarily mean taking a huge leap of faith and building a larger-than-life tree house in the middle of your property, but with enough strategic programming, staffing and counseling from parents themselves, you’ll discover there are creative ways to make every guest happy. Take if from Kboudi who said, “we are a hotel brand that recognizes that business professionals are a big part of our hotel model, but we also take the same approach in meeting the needs of travelers with kids too…we want to keep everyone happy.”

Cherryl Marie
Hotel Interactive® Editorial Division
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