Why Specialize in Family Travel? 

By Rainer Jenss, President of the Family Travel Association

Life is full of surprises.

Professionally speaking, I’ve had my share in the last three-plus years since launching the Family Travel Association (FTA). I’ve been astonished at all the amazing products and services this industry offers families that go beyond what I call the Big Three: Cruises, Theme Parks and All-inclusives.  I was stunned when I read in Travel Weekly that 40% of U.S. agents specialize in family travel, surpassing niches like luxury (22%), adventure, (10%), and even weddings (11%).

At the same time, I’ve scratched my head at how relatively little the average travel agent seems to know about what’s out there for families.  Not all of them, mind you, but many.

Too many.

For those who already work in family travel know all too well, doing so is no easy task. There often are unique challenges in working with non-traditional families, kids who have special needs, multigenerational groups, and so on. Agents must be prepared to offer best practices and advice.

For example, perhaps the most important piece of advice to give parents of school-age children is to plan their vacations well in advance. They shouldn’t wait until the last minute — or even up to three months out — to book summer, spring break, or winter recess vacations. Waiting can result in paying higher airfares and finding “no room at the inn” at popular destinations. Tell parents to start planning school-break trips immediately after the kids go back to school. Yes, right now! Parents just returning from a vacation may lack motivation to think about the next one, but they won’t regret it when the time comes. So, don’t wait. Start reaching out to this market, whether you are joining your children’s parent-teacher organization, volunteering to write the school newsletter about travel tips, or donating a free travel consultation to a fundraiser at your child’s school.

But why learn all this?

For starters, this is the largest market segment in the entire industry, representing over 30% of all leisure travel, or $500 billion worldwide (over $200 billion of that in the U.S. alone). Moreover, it’s one of the fastest growth areas of the business. There’s no question the global focus on family travel is accelerating — growing 26% faster than the travel industry as a whole.

And have you noticed that there are more products and services being created for this market?  Look no further than Club Med.  Over 70% of its business now comes from families — quite a change from whom the brand catered to when I was growing up.  Then there are places like Costa Rica, which now attracts families in record numbers, while more tour operators are introducing African safaris tailored specifically for families.

How about river cruising? Thanks to AMA Waterways’ partnership with Adventures by Disney, this product is relevant and appealing to families — something unheard of just five years ago.  Meanwhile, ocean cruising has seen a growth in family travel of 17% in the past 15 years, to about 32% today.

Despite all this growth and innovation, there’s still plenty of room for growth!

According to our 2017 U.S. Family Travel Survey, only 15% of parents used a travel agent to help plan their travels. Fifteen percent!  So just imagine a world where that number grows to 25%. Heck, let’s dream big and go for 50%!

I’m convinced that the more educated and prepared agents become in working with families, the more this growth will be a reality.

So, let’s dream together.

To learn more about the FTA’s recent survey and its findings about this rapidly growing niche, enroll in the Family Travel Matchmaking webinar presented by Sally Black, CTA on September 13 at 2:00 pm (EDT). And for more information about the Family Travel Association, becoming a member, and registering for its Family Travel Certification and Training program, visit www.familytravel.org or contact Rainer at rainer@familytravel.org.