By Alan E. Young
There’s a popular saying that reads, “Identity influences behavior.” This proves to be an especially important understanding of hospitality. As industry leaders work to identify (and cater to) the entirety of the guest journey, from pre-stay to post-stay, we are constantly faced with the question like: What do guests want most, and why? What is their motivation for traveling? What makes an exceptional trip? Modern guest loyalty, after all, is earned, not given. Across each generational group and travel segment, hoteliers are implored to get closer with each guest to gain a deeper understanding of who they are, what they want and why, to provide precisely that experience.
Recently, we’ve spent a great deal of time discussing those unique identities, motivations, and expectations that accompany each generational group when it comes to travel. From baby boomers to millennials, Generation X, and multi-generational travelers, there are no shortage of age-born influences at work to shape what is perceived as the ‘ideal’ trip. But within that discussion, we’ve yet to delve into a rather new, but ever-important, category: Skip-Generation Travel.
Skip-gen travel is a growing segment represented by grandparents taking their grandchildren on holiday with them, rather than their children.
Remember — identity influences behavior. With family playing such an integral role in a grandparent’s identity, it should come as no surprise that the travel bug is being viewed as an opportunity for enhanced family connection. The cultivation of family and deep-rooted connections is, oftentimes, what brings family members together on foreign soil. Not to mention, with many grandparents living notable distances from their family members, a shared vacation represents an exciting way to bridge the gap and inspire closer relationships with young grandchildren.
What Does the Modern Grandparent Look Like?
Today’s grandparents are still movers and shakers. Skewing away from any antiquated perceptions of dessert-baking seniors in retirement homes, the increasingly powerful older demographic is seemingly more open to travel than ever before. Unburdened by professional stress, many grandparents (many of whom are baby boomers) are not only financially stable but lead active, healthy lifestyles in which they often prioritize experiences over material goods.
With this shift, a subsequent rise in multi-generational and skip-gen travel should come as no surprise. In fact, skip-gen vacations are taking the market by storm, with about 40 percent of grandparents saying they travel with their grandchildren, according to a recent survey. Even further, Cruise Lines International Association forecasted skip-gen cruises as a top trend in its State of the Cruise Industry Outlook in 2017, while AARP’s 2019 Boomer Travel Trends report noted that about 15 percent of baby boomers were planning these trips for 2019. The takeaway is clear: hoteliers, don’t skip out on skip-gen travel.
What Does the Skip-Gen Vacation Look Like?
Baby boomers are redefining what it means to be a grandparent, and are more enthusiastic than ever before to travel with grandchildren. These trips represent an opportunity to forge a closer bond despite the generational distance, instill values, share special moments, and observe their grandkids experience new cultures. Without the parents present, grandparents feel a unique opportunity to get closer with their grandchildren, and it lays the foundation for an especially memorable trip. Not to mention, this provides mom and dad some much-needed alone time to rest and recharge while the kids are taken off their hands.
Unsurprisingly, countless resorts and travel companies around the globe are looking to capitalize on the emerging trend, offering special packages, tours and experiences, and amenities based on the “grandtravel” segment. Much like multi-generational travel, hotels have to get creative while assembling packages that effectively cater to both older and younger travelers, ensuring they have something for every activity level and varying interests. The Grand Velas Riviera Maya, for example, now offers two tours for visiting Mexican cultural destinations while staying at the hotel, specifically geared toward grandparents and grandchildren. One heads to the famous ruins of Chichen Itza for a private tour, dining on regional cuisine and swimming in natural sinkholes, while the other takes guests to the colonial city of Merida and ruins of Uxmal for an exploration of Mayan art and culture.
It’s also important to recognize that grandparents often have more time to travel. Unlike their children, who may still be in the crux of a demanding personal career that offers limited time off, grandparents are often retired and likely have a different perspective on life, prioritizing experiences and family. In many cases, studies indicate these trips may be planned around a certain milestone (birthday, retirement, etc.) and usually include one grandchild from one family at a time, rather than all of a couple’s grandchildren. These vacations are also more likely to be educational in nature, and of longer duration (sometimes two weeks), and must take into account the unique interests, ages, mobility and budgets of all parties involved. Cruises, resorts, cross-country road trips are all popular choices for skip-gen travel. With this in mind, many travel companies will offer packages that include meals, lodging, and hands-on, kid-friendly educational events. The budget for these trips also tends to be more substantial, as the grandparents in question are typically financially ‘fit’ and willing to invest in foreign tours and excursions that demand a higher price tag.
The emergence of this family-first attitude towards travel shows no sign of slowing down — and honestly, why should it? When family bonds are cultivated throughout skip-gen trips, everyone wins. Grandparents and their grandchildren are able to take uninterrupted time together to experience new culture or activities which inspires closer relationships, while their parents can relax. The experiences which ensue are unique, memorable, and provide a wealth of opportunity for those hotels who can effectively cater their offering to skip-gen travel.