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Kids Rule When Vacation Planning

Holiday Inn Resort says kids are influencing vacation decision making more than ever, so you better listen to what they have to say. Here’s how the IHG brand is leveraging family resort travel.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013
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Kids rule when it comes to leisure travel. That might sound completely obvious—and it is – but many hotel companies don’t necessarily realize or cater to this trend. Of course they think of mom and dad, but when it comes to the kids many times they’re an afterthought.

Which is a shame because kids are becoming a hugely influential part of the vacation decision making. And a new survey from Holiday Inn Resort proves that if the kids aren’t on board with the decision making process, then your hotel doesn’t have a chance to win that business. That survey noted 90 percent of parents say their kids are influential when it comes to choosing a vacation destination.

That’s a pretty heady number proving it’s essential to appeal to those influential offspring. So Holiday Inn Resort is looking to take these survey results and turn them into the basis for more engaging experiences for families to share together.

“By winning with families we will also win with a segment of business travelers. They work to live, not live to work and families are at the heart of everything they do,” said Heather Balsley, SVP, Americas Holiday Inn Brand Family, which includes Holiday Inn Resort and is part of InterContinental Hotels Group.

The idea here is if Holiday Inn Resort can create a holistic family experience by giving families what they crave – the desire to reconnect with each other – that will spill into other areas of the business, including when mom and dad travel for work. So Balsley and her team created this survey with the idea that these results will help them ‘amplify’ the resort experience, she said.

And the survey, which interviewed both kids and adults, reinforced a lot of what their collective guts already figured: Time starved families are overstressed and overscheduled and even kids think they need a vacation. Not surprisingly 97 percent of kids believe they deserve a vacation and 98 percent of kids think their parents do too. We’re just wondering who that other three percent of kids are and why they feel they don’t need a vacation.

Top destinations: Theme Parks (29 percent), beaches (23 percent) and large cities (23 percent). Additionally, the top features parents are looking for when booking a resort hotel are pools (85 percent), Kids Suites (64 percent), kids eat free (62 percent) and special on-site activities (61 percent).

“Location is critical and all consumer insight work we have done shows location is number one, not just the resort’s destination but the right location in that market. Also, parents want kids to have new experiences whether it is at a beach, ski resort or theme park,” said Balsley. “In many ways they want a resort to be like a cruise ship experience on land.”

Good observation. You need to have something for everyone to connect with, but also make it so all family members can reconnect. And it all has to be at a price that mom and dad feel are a good value.

At Holiday Inn Resort kids eat and stay free, which is a good start for the families, but Balsley said it has to be more than that even as 52 percent of parents surveyed say saving money is the biggest challenge to planning a vacation.

“You have to create a curated experience with unique ways for kids to learn and have a few surprise moments,” said Balsley.

For example at the Pensacola, FL property kids can create messages in a bottle. At Wrightsville Beach, NC they have a land surf camp to teach kids about the ocean, the creatures in it as well as how to surf; and in Panama City Beach, FL there is a fire dancing troop teaches guests how to hula hoop. Without the fire we presume.

The resort business is really a critical opportunity for a branded hotel company to compete as the resort market in the mainstream space is dominated by independents, Balsley explained, adding she thinks Holiday Inn Resorts can appeal to guests that a branded hotel gives guest confidence in their stay decision.

When it comes to guest rooms, Family Suites have become extremely popular as they offer areas for families to interact but to also have some privacy. That’s very helpful for mom and dad who may want to stay awake longer than the little ones, or older teenage kids who relish some alone time. Holiday Inn Resorts have added interactive games and also fun elements like beanbag chairs to make the rooms more like home.

As for food, Balsley said having breakfast included for kids is key as is during other meal times. There also has to be multiple restaurants on site to give added choices and atmospheres, and healthier food for all ages is critical too.

To help goose families into booking at a Holiday Inn Resort the brand is also offering through November 30th a $75 gift card with three consecutive nights stayed as an IHG Rewards Club member to places such as Maggiano’s, Target, SpaFinder, Regal Cinemas and more. That offer is available here: www.holidayinnresorts.com/75back
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